Where's the beef? My quest for Ireland's best burgers continues with this delicious dozen for your summer grazing pleasure...
Is this the best burger in Ireland (above)? Bunsen led the country's casual burger charge and continues to reap the rewards. These are brilliantly built burgers, best served a little pink - a smooth, umami-friendly fix that sets a little juice drizzling down the fingers... but not too much. Turnover is quick and space can be tight in its fast-casual spaces, but Bunsen is the standard by which any new burger business must be measured. It's ongoing expansion testifies to a great basic recipe. There are great gluten-free options, too.
Price: From €7.45 for a basic hamburger.
Details: Branches in Dublin, Cork, Belfast; bunsen.ie.
"It's all about the juice," Rory McCormack told me as I bit into a beast of a burger in Caribou, the craft beer bar in Galway's Woodquay. Before he'd finished the sentence, that juice was running down my fingers. Rory and business partner Cathal O'Connor use a 6oz beef blend from Brady's butchers in Athenry (80pc chuck, 20pc short rib), adding brioche buns, pickled cucumber, sticky onions and a secret 'Handsome Sauce' to seal the deal. and they've since moved to a permanent location in Galway's West End, and won Best Burger in Ireland at the 2019 Kepak National Burger Day awards. Oh, and the fries, triple-cooked in beef dripping, are the devil...
Price: From €8.
Details: 49 Dominic St Lower, Galway; handsomeburger.com.
Kevin Pyke is a legend in his own lunchtime. Ditto his LegenDerry burger. Pyke gave the Walled City’s food scene a kick in the pants when he began selling street food from a van by the Foyle a few years back, and today has upgraded to a permanent shipping container (and sit-down restaurant, @57). His signature burger, made with local grass-fed Glebe wagyu beef, has been with him all the way, and alternatives include a hot Jalapeno burger and a ‘VegenDerry’ version… with a chickpea and sweetcorn patty.
Price: From £6.50/€7.30 for the Legenderry Burger.
Details: N124 Strand Road; pykenpommes.ie.
Last year's winner, and this year's runner-up, at National Burger Day is a charcoal-grilled chuck, brisket and short rib patty served by The Hungry Moose in Kilkenny. In a former life, chef Chris Telford cooked for stars like Jay-Z and the Rolling Stones, so it's no surprise to find a touch of rock 'n' roll to his creation. Smoked bacon, dill pickles, Canadian moose cheddar and organic maple barbecue sauce are among the toppings, and the brioche bun is brushed with melted rendered beef fat.
Price: €14.95 with a choice of fries.
Details: 60 Upper John St; facebook.com/thehungrymoosekilkenny
This is a beautiful burger. Stepping into Featherblade, with its subway tiles, minimal lighting and matt black table tops, I expected gourmet overkill. I got the opposite. A simple burger, served on its tod on a small plate. No fuss. Just a lightly smoked patty, gooey bearnaise sauce and a thin layer of caramelised onions. Granted, you need to like tarragon (a strong note in the sauce), and it gets messy, but the 'house smoked burger' deftly mixes strong flavours without them repeating on you all afternoon. It would be rude not to add the beef dripping chips (€3.50).
Price: €9 (lunch menu).
Details: 51 Dawson St, featherblade.ie
I've got two basic burger rules. 1) They should fit in one hand (not to mention one set of jaws). 2) They should not be pinned together with a stick. Both are staples at Box Burger. Burgers start simply, with a moist, brioche-style bun, and follow through with a succulent patty and ridiculously melty cheese. Fancy options include a beef and Clonakilty black pudding patty, and there's a Dublin outlet in Portobello's Eatyard if you don't fancy the Dart ride.
Price: From €9.50 (takeaways also available)
Details: 7 Strand Road, Bray; boxburger.ie
Now for the hunger shot. The Drunken Bun. Rebel red BBQ sauce, Chieftan IPA Battered onion rings, Porter stout cheddar, rebel red beer candied bacon, 2 x 3oz patties, mayo, brioche bun. All served with a taste of Archway lager. Out tomorrow. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/1h1xkCcJEw— Son of a Bun (@sonofabuncork) June 24, 2018
Cork is catching up on Dublin's burger scene, now boasting a Bunsen, as well as sizzling stops at the West Cork Burger Company and Coqbull. Son of a Bun has generated the biggest national buzz, however. Here, burgers begin with the daily baking of brioche buns and mincing of West Cork Aberdeen Angus beef. Several varieties include a burger of the month, a recent 'Drunken Bun', for example, with a riff on barbecue sauce featuring Franciscan Well's Rebel Red ale.
Price: From €9
Details: 29 MacCurtain St; sonofabun.ie
Five Guys gets the nod for its happy-clappy helping of old-school Americana. €13.95 for a cheeseburger and fries is a hefty price tag but there's quality under the hood in the shape of two fresh Irish beef patties that make a moist mouthful, combined with big-ass pickles and nice squishy buns. Everyone from Ed Sheeran to Barack Obama has sung the praises of this US staple, and toppings are free (as are the peanuts). The fries can be insanely salty, so be sure to address this when you place your order.
Price: From €7.95.
Details: Dundrum Town Centre; 56 South Great Georges St; fiveguys.com
Burgers work everywhere, from dive bars to five-star hotels. Marlfield House sits towards the fancy end, and you'll find its Hereford dry-aged beef patty in the new Duck Terrace restaurant. Local ingredients are given pride of place and toppings including Knockanore oak-smoked cheddar, slaw and red onion jam. A perfectly posh stop off the M11.
Details: Marlfield House; marlfieldhouse.com
Bujo is a loud, buzzy, forward-thinking burger joint overlooking Sandymount Green in Dublin 4. The philosophy is bang on-point here, from compostable packaging to family suppliers like Coghlan's Bakery in Newbridge, though the experience feels a lot like an assembly line. Customers order and pay before waiting for takeaway or receiving a pager that buzzes for sit-in collections. The burger itself is a double patty, cooked to medium with a firm, granular feel in the teeth, a hint of pepper and a slight kick to the light pink sauce.
Price: From €8.50.
Details: 6A Sandymount Green; bujo.ie
There was fast food in Ireland before Instagram. We all know cheap 'n' cheerful chippers are capable of unspeakable food crimes, but they can throw up the odd surprise, too. Hat-tips here to the Club Burger at Lino's in Mullingar (above), which local author Ronan Casey describes to me as "a rural Big Mac… but bigger and better with taste, character, size, scent and grease". Other independent chippers getting nods on National Burger Day awards were Raffaeles in Tubberycurry, Co Sligo; Mullen's in Dundalk; Miss Ellie's in Clonmel, Co Tipperary; The Friar's Rest in Letterkenny, Co Donegal and The Chippy in Limavaddy, Co Derry.
I liked the look of this one so much I took a bite before the photo. Look past that cardinal sin of food photography, and you can at least see that this is a heck of a burger for a hotel. Yep, it's a five-star (with prices to match), but I loved the double patty (two 2oz burgers), the mildly mustardy sauce, the soft-yet-crunchy pickles and the juicy squirt when I packed down (watch it doesn't spoil your fancy outfit). Throw in what may be the best restaurant view in Ireland, and you have a burger to remember.
Price: €20 (with fries)
Details: Beaufort, Killarney; thedunloe.com
NB: All prices/details subject to change. This story has been updated.
To be clear, nobody is complaining about the weather. Consecutive days of heat, blue skies and blinding sunshine are a wonderful thing, but the arrival of such unusually warm weather means that we are forced to grapple with certain truths.