Although food trends will come and go, there will always be a place in our arteries for the humble hamburger. Southsiders swear by Andrew’s in Albert Park while northsiders are devoted to Danny’s in Fitzroy North. You could argue that Huxtaburger reinvigorated the craze when it first opened in Collingwood, but there’s been a lot to love since then.
Here are Melbourne’s ultimate burgers, plus a recommendation for vegetarians who don’t want to miss out on the fun. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to summon your stretchy pants. If you've still got the need to feed, check out our wrap-ups of Melbourne's best pizzas, doughnuts, dumplings and milkshakes.
A crowd is a testament to an eatery, and you’ll find one at 3pm on a Wednesday at video game-themed burger joint 8bit. They’re used to the business here, and burgers are made to order about as quickly as you can say “Pac Man”. The burger assembler piles fillings with utmost care, stepping back for a split second to admire his ingredient tower before it’s whipped away, wrapped in pixilated paper and served upright in a cardboard container. The Double Dragon is the way to go: double the beef, double the cheese, double the bacon and double the fun.
It’s called the Double Patty Smash and it’s a decided ‘screw-you’ to your arteries. Two slender prime beef patties sandwich melted Kraft singles, tiny gherkins and special sauce that may or may not be ketchup mixed with mayo. There’s a deliberate lack of lettuce and the whole, gooey mess comes in the softest of sweet, buttery buns. So wrong, but so right.
This remains the ultimate solo dining experience. Where else in Melbourne will the staff let you sample reds to decide which pairs better with your burger? Turns out it's Tempranillo from Adelaide Hills. This pleasant vino refreshes the palette each time you bite through caramelised brioche, thin zucchini pickle (appropriated from San Francisco's Zuni Café), vinegary red onion strings, brittle bacon, tomato relish and a Blackmore full blood Wagyu patty, blanketed in Gruyère and cooked medium rare. Whether you're lapping up alone time or dining at the bar, Rockpool's burger still has it.
Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, unless you’re talking about Ziggy’s ‘the Recovery’ burger. Not even skipping breakfast can prepare you for the mass – especially when the guy behind the counter convinces you to add a mac ‘n’ cheese pattie on top of 250 grams of beef (YOLOs were uttered). Good luck getting your mouth around a seeded brioche bun with double patties, cheese, bacon, caramelised onion, Ziggy’s sauce and the golden, deep-fried cheesy hunk that is the mac ‘n’ cheese patty (also a great option for vegetarians who don’t believe in diets). If you manage to take a bite containing every element, the flavour combination is phenomenal.
These guys produce a mean cheeseburger from their hole-in-the-wall shop. Pulp Fiction fans will recognise the reference to the Royale with Cheese, a balanced combination of everything you’d expect from a classic burger: beef, cheese, onion, lettuce, pickles, mustard, mayo and Royale sauce. It tastes like a Big Mac made from real food, and it won’t leave you with that signature sickly feeling often experienced after visiting the Golden Arches. As Samuel L Jackson would say, “This is a tasty burger”.
A food truck turned permanent store, 1090 started off cruising the streets of Northcote and is now parked in Richmond as well. The Thunderburger has a tendency to result in a Homer Simpson moment, where the eater’s eyes half-close in ecstasy as they mumble, “Mmmm, Thunderburger,” followed by a trail of drool released from the corner of the mouth. There’s double beef, bacon, chili mayo, ketchup and pickles, but it’s the melted cheese flowing over the sides of the bun that really does it for us.
Differentiating your burger from the pack is always risky, but the team behind Lolo and Wren nailed it when they opened Rude Boy Burger next door. The answer? Add housemade jalapeño poppers (picture cheesy, spicy potato gems) and call it Big Popper. The patty – 150 grams of Clover Valley Wagyu – is taken very seriously; a thermometer is inserted into each one to make sure they’re cooked just right. They’re then lodged in a soft, white bun with all the usual suspects as well as extra jalapeños and chimichurri.
Tuck Shop’s Minor burger (with the option of extra egg and bacon) is often cited as one of the best in Melbourne, but those in the know ask for the Bully Burger – the off-menu option that will make you sweat in a good way. Choose one or two beef patties and then turn up the heat with jalapeños and Sriracha (no variations!). The inside of the milk brioche bun is toasted on the grill, adding a satisfying crunch to every bite. Of course there’s some melted American cheese in there as well. And bacon. Let’s not forget the bacon.
Serviettes. You’ll need them. Even the simplest offering here, the Dude Burger, creates a mini river of ketchup, American mustard and aioli that dribbles all the way to the elbows. The enamel tray in which the burger arrives will be an abstract artwork of sauce and shredded iceberg by the time you get through the 160-gram Wagyu pattie, cooked medium and paired with near-fluorescent American cheddar, pickles, caramelised onion and tomato.
An oldie but a goldie, we revisited Nshry to see if their famed umami burger is still a contender for the best. It is. Make sure you’re hungry; this boulder of a pattie is a 200-gram mix of Wagyu and Angus beef, cooked medium rare and slathered with brown mushroom sauce. That meaty, savoury goodness continues with a latticed parmesan crisp, Gruyère and caramelised onion – all on a sweet brioche bun. Served with a side of beer-battered chips, chip dips, slaw, a couple of cornichons and an ocean view.
Would you drive to Epping for a burger? If it’s from Laurie Dee’s, you should. This place is everything that's wonderful about fast food: affordable old-fashioned burgers, beef minced daily and generous serves. It would be an insult not to order the namesake burger. Make it a double. Your Laurie Dee will arrive with two, thin patties – shaped into squares and cooked until caramelised and crunchy – along with caramelised onions, oozy cheddar, pickles, relish, tomato, lettuce and “Special ‘D’ Sauce”. Save room for freshly churned frozen custard.
And one for the vegetarians...
Arbory Bar and Eatery’s crumbed mushroom and haloumi burger is generous, filling and comes with crinkle cut chips. A plump and meaty mushroom replaces the usual beef patty, crumbed, fried and topped with both a cheese slice and a salty, semi-melted haloumi chunk. The sweet and shiny brioche bun is a welcome contrast against the savoury hit of the fillings. We’d eat it again, even if Arbory weren’t perched on the Yarra overlooking Melbourne in all her glory.
And for the home cook
Introducing Castello's new Burger Blue: this wonder of cheese technology has all the bold, umami-intensive blue-cheese taste you'd expect from Castello, but it comes pre-sliced with an easy-peel pack, that makes it perfect for melting over your beef or mushroom burger patty. A first for Australia, this is the end of awkward cheese crumbs and the beginning of a beautiful, blue, thinly sliced square future. Grab it from the dairy aisle of major supermarkets.