Lots of fuss has been made about burgers in Bristol over the last few months.
Do we have too many burger offerings? Do we even need this many? Are they over saturating our market? Do we care? There are numerous different opinions and thoughts on these questions naturally and I’ve had lots of conversations both online and face to face about them. I do not believe that anyone is right or wrong, because at the end of the day, if we all agreed then life would be pretty boring…
I never set out to make it my mission to try all of Bristol’s burger places. To put it plain and simply, I just enjoy eating them. I’m not afraid of carbs and I love meat, bread and cheese. I am also partial to the intake of booze, which normally leads to some sort of hangover burger affair the next day. I enjoy getting stuck in and getting messy, that cheese and those sauces that ooze out whilst trying to make a getaway with every bite and that perfectly pink and juicy burger patty (shout out to fried chicken as well).
I often get messages on social media from people asking me where they should go for their next bap… which might sound easy in a place like Bristol where the choices are abundant. But, it depends on what people are after.
I’ve always stood by the fact that although we have burger joints aplenty, I do believe that they all offer something different. For example, I regularly eat the likes of Oowee Diner and Squeezed; however I do see them as more of a ‘takeaway’ option. Admittedly, their restaurants (bar the imminent new North Street opening for Oowee) don’t have much room to swing a cat in, but I see these baps as being a little bit naughty and filthy. I mean filthy in the nicest way too.
Whereas if it’s the weekend and I want to sit down and enjoy an upbeat atmosphere, a few drinks with friends or family and chomp down on some meat, I’d probably choose the likes of Asado, Burger Theory, Chomp or 3 Brothers. Again, these are all burger restaurants, but each menu is full of different creations and combinations. Lucien at Asado cooks his over a flame-grilled BBQ giving it a unique smoky taste, Chomp offers plain and simple burgers done incredibly well, Rory and the team at Burger Theory have a menu jam-packed with buns you probably wouldn’t find anywhere else (plus the Prairie Girl chicken burger is a smash hit), and 3 Brothers is a Bristol institution, who have been long-standing and popular for years.
In the same vein, I believe Hubbox and Burger Joint have a nice angle for families looking for somewhere to visit. I know I always head straight for Hubbox when I am back at home in Exeter, and the younger generations I know seem to love it just as much. The Burger Joint is one of Bristol’s other long running restaurants as well, and I think this is because people like the choice to be able to have exactly what they want and with so many different combinations, it makes it a fun experience.
I know that if a restaurant does well for itself and then goes on to open new sites they can be frowned upon for becoming a ‘chain’ (I’ve read arguments aplenty about this), but surely if something is going strong and the food offering doesn’t become compromised this can only be seen as a positive? Also, believe it or not some people do like to eat at chain restaurants; it all depends on budgets and personal preference. I was gutted to hear about Meatliquor closing its doors in Bristol; I always ate some flippin’ fine burgers in there and the team were always friendly and outgoing. It mustn’t be forgotten that they also started out as a lone burger van up in London. I’ve heard reports from others that it wasn’t their favourite, and that’s completely fine; our taste buds aren’t all made the same.
I wanted to do something to demonstrate why I believe our burger joints are all worth their weight in gold for different reasons, which formed my idea.
I should probably get to the point now shouldn’t I?
A few weeks ago myself and my friend Meg Pope lead Bristol’s first Burger Crawl. We’d discussed the idea a few times over the past six months, going back and forth as to how we could make it work to showcase Bristol’s finest without being too full after the first stop, whilst still making it enjoyable for everybody. The idea is that if it proved popular, we could potentially run tours in different parts of Bristol with all of our burger friends taking part and getting time to shine.
[Photo Credit: @FitWaffle]
We started with our city centre edition, with Squeezed, Burger Theory, Buckland Burgers, Bambalan and Asado all on the agenda, in that order. The plan was to spend an hour at each location, with the chefs serving mini slider versions of their popular classics (I’ll get onto the definition of slider in a minute).
Now I don’t have a problem with meeting new people or putting myself out there, but I was properly nervous when the day finally rolled around. It was like Christmas. I woke up super early and spent the morning fretting. I knew the food was going to be great, that was a given. But what if people didn’t enjoy it? I genuinely wanted the day to be lots of fun for everyone, as well as being an opportunity to showcase just a few of the burger places I love.
[Photo Credit: @FitWaffle]
I needn’t have worried. It turns out that burger lovers, or just food lovers, are people that know how to make a great day.
Admittedly, I knew a few of the faces but the majority of the group I had not met before. Everyone was enthusiastic and up for some laughs, so we got cracking.
[Just for clarity, this is the definition of a slider: a small hamburger or other hot sandwich made with a soft bun.]
Our first stop was Squeezed, where we enjoyed mini Werburgers. I’m not quite sure how Alex managed it, but we had double patty sliders and portions of fries all served with his delectable dips. A lot of the crew had not tried here before, so I was more than happy to see the burgers go down a storm. Feeling well fed but not too full, we marched on to Burger Theory with road beers in hand. Rory and his team explained we could choose from a selection of sliders; some went for the double cheese, others the Korean Fried Chicken, but yours truly had the Prairie Girl (how could I not?) as it was also a special addition slider which was added just for the crawlers. By this point, chatter turned to how we were going to eat three more sliders. This is where I must point out that after Burger Theory, the sliders only seemed to get bigger…
[Photo Credit: @FitWaffle]
Bucklands were next and this time, we ate on our feet, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the harbourside market. Lamb, beef, venison, chorizo and halloumi were all on the menu, giving everyone a variety of choice. I’d not eaten Bucklands before but I enjoyed a venison slider and I must say the crispy onions added to the bap were a lovely touch. From Bucklands to Bamabalan; this is where some of the crew decided to get tactical and order espresso martinis to keep them going. I didn’t blame them; it was surprising how much the sliders filled you up. I suppose we should’ve guessed that the ‘Big Bam’ was not going to compromise on size, however I saw a lot of wide eyes as the burgers were brought out to us; two beef patties with bacon, melted cheese, burger sauce, a gherkin and salad all encased in a soft bun. Everybody gave them a damn good go and after the many options we’d been presented with throughout the day, it was nice to finally be chomping down on a classic, and I realised there hadn’t been a gherkin in sight up until now (I love a gherkin to cut through everything). If you didn’t know Bambalan did burgers, now you do. They are decent as well. Our fifth and final stop was my beloved Asado, and Lucien was ready to play. He sent up packed slider versions of his current special, burgers topped with beef shin marinated in Malbec ragu. We also had mountains of rosemary fries and cheeseballs. This was some finale.
[Photo credit @FitWaffle]
When we were finally defeated, one of our crawlers Rob commented that the burger crawl had been like Glastonbury, in that “everybody has clearly had a good time, but I think we all need a lie down”.
I couldn’t have been more pleased with how the day went. I feel extremely grateful to my first round of crawlers who brought tickets and were so enthusiastic and upbeat. Everybody mingled together and I was so happy to see people making new friends and sharing their love for food and common hobbies. I was touched that some had travelled from as far as Southampton to be with us and I couldn’t have asked for a more cracking bunch of faces. I’ve got to mention my good friend Meg Pope and general eating partner in wine and crime, as this event couldn’t have gone ahead without her (let’s get drunk soon Meg). Lastly, big up to our Bristol burger gods – bringing a group of 26 punters into a busy restaurant or stall on a Saturday afternoon is enough to cause stress at the best of times, but to serve us all sliders so effortlessly too – you guys rule.
[Photo Credit: @AntiMitch]
If you think you are up for the challenge of the Big Bristol Burger Crawl, keep an eye out for upcoming dates and details on @BigBurgerCrawl