28 August 2015

The Burger Bulletin: National Burger Day with Mr Hyde

Caution: the following content may not be suitable for vegetarians!

If you spend even a modest amount of time on social networking sites, it probably feels like almost every day is #NationalSomethingDay, and while I might roll my eyes at many of these tenuous celebrations, yesterday's #NationalBurgerDay is a different matter. Mr Hyde, the UK-based daily email for men and those interested in meat, music and men's fashion, has co-opted the hashtag for several years. They usually arrange a 20% discount for Mr Hyde readers on the day at a whole host of different burger restaurants, which I have taken advantage of before.

This year was the first year I went to the National Burger Day party, which was held in conjunction with Big Eater at Dalston Yard. The event cost £15, burgers not included (a shame), although you did get a free lager, pickleback and chilliback. Dalston Yard — home to Street Feast — is a large, open-plan, warehouse-style space near Dalston Junction. It's mainly undercover, although there are a few areas exposed to the elements. Luckily, the rain held off for the most part last night.

Twenty different burger vendors and restaurants each offered their own special burger du jour. The menu card helpfully listed the weight of the burger as well as the price so that you could try to gauge your appetite. Most of the burgers were smaller than usual, which meant you could try a few. Attendees were advised to eat a light lunch to save room for as many delicious burgery offerings as possible. In my case, this may have backfired because the first two burger joints I targetted had crazy queues.

My first burger of the night was Lucky Chip's Donald Trump Burger (£6), which came with a bourbon and vanilla BBQ sauce, bacon, grilled onions, American cheese and pickles. I've wanted to visit Lucky Chip for some time but am rarely in Stokey, where they are based; also, I love a good political gimmick. The burger was bloody good, actually, and although the 20-minute wait was a bit annoying, especially when my brother and sister-in-law only had to wait a few minutes for their first burgers, it was definitely worth it. The burger was juicy and flavoursome, and the BBQ sauce was top notch. The team also had a pretty good production line going too.

When the three of us parted ways to find our next burgers, I said, naively, that at least I had got the biggest queue out of the way. Not quite. It took me five minutes to find the end of the queue for Burger Bear and when I did, I figured that I would probably be there for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it took about an hour to get to the counter to pay, only to find that I had to then queue again and wait for my number to be called, which took another 20 minutes. One of their two grills had broken, I found out later, and the other had lost one of its four burners. I must have picked exactly the wrong moment in the evening to queue, because later on, things looked more under control.

Anyway, when I finally got my Super Angry Grizzly burger (£6), I was, if not super-angry then at least super-hungry and wolfed down the burger in no time at all. To be honest, even I don't think any burger is worth an 80-minute queue and my grumpiness probably did impact my enjoyment of the burger. That said, it tasted marvellous. The patty was dripping with juices, and the cheese, smoked pancetta, pickled jalapeƱo relish and Holy Fuck bacon jam all worked wonderfully together. I guess it says a lot that in a room filled with some of London's top burgers, people were willing to wait for over hour for Burger Bear's when they could have had almost instant gratification from other vendors.

I didn't think I could manage a third burger, but my brother and sister-in-law both spoke highly of PYT Burger's Pickleback Slider (£5). Philly-based PYT is the self-proclaimed "Home of America's Craaaziest Burgers"; no one could tell me what PYT stood for, but that didn't matter. Their petite NBD burger came with applewood bacon, fried pickle chips and a Jameson glaze. I'm not normally a of pickles on burgers but these crispy ones added an interesting texture to the burger and contrasted nicely with the glaze.

I didn't have room but there was even a vendor selling burger-shaped cupcakes, which looked awesome. I did enjoy the chilliback (shot of tequila followed by a shot of chilli pickle juice) while looking down on burger fans below (most of whom were probably queuing for Burger Bear) and then the Jameson Pickleback.

It was extremely busy at the National Burger Day party but there was a nice atmosphere and it was a great way to try out burgers from a number of different vendors. Many of my old favourites like Honest Burgers and Bleecker Street were there too, but I tried to focus on new-to-me burger purveyors. It would be better still if more of the offerings were slider-size (and slightly cheaper) so that I could try even more varieties. If you live in London, you probably have access to most of these burgers year-round, which makes the NBD party's £15 entry fee seem pretty steep, but it was an enjoyable, sociable night and a must for any burger fan within easy reach of Dalston.

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