21 | Aug | 17

Hugh Thomas

Peak Patty

‘Do not order burgers at restaurants’, says Eater, sounding a bit like the opening to a certain well-versed Dylan Thomas poem. And with similar forcefulness. As we near the finals of the 2017 British Street Food Awards — and the final of the first ever European Street Food Awards, we have to agree with their conclusion. ‘They’re overpriced and overwrought’.

That’s the case over in New York, anyway. Where, apparently, the city has reached peak patty. They’re too big, they’re too rich, they’re overloaded with toppings. Basically, they’re America in a nutshell, where commercialism and over-the-top-ness run supreme. We’ve written about this before, but things have moved on.

It’s not just America’s Empire State who’re turning their backs on the nation’s favourite fast food. Three years ago, 75% of Americans surveyed as part of Technomic’s Burger Consumer Trend Report said they eat a burger at least (at least!) once a week. Now, that figure’s 56%.

Chains are charging more, people are choosing to put their own riff on the burger at home, and there’s a better assortment of hot dogs, burritos, and pizza in the fast food arena. But, significantly, Americans are queuing up for a bit of variety. The classic hamburger just doesn’t cut it any more – according to Technomic’s research, 35% of those surveyed thought it was ‘very important’ burgers were made available with ‘new and unique flavours’.

It’s something we’re starting to see in the UK too. Stickybundits are fresh off a win at the London and South heat of the BSF awards – judges Fay Ripley, Steven Edwards, and Andrew Kay praised the Bundits’ rice burgers for being ‘exciting’, ‘something different’, and ‘full of umami and freshness’.

If there was ever a street food that needed a bit of reinventing, perhaps it should be the burger. Purely because – while this is a testament to its design – traders rarely break the rules of the recipe.

So, as it’s the month in which falls National Burger Day (check out Mr Hyde’s offers, including their Street Feast party here) let’s turn our attention to those taking the risks. Like the Stickybundits of this world. The Patate’s Franco-American creation of rich boeuf bourguignon and creamy raclette, sandwiched in a brioche bun, is fantastique…

All being said, there’ll always be a special place for those who really do a good burger. We mean, the ones who can put A-grade meat in between two slices of bread – the likes of The Flying Cows, Burger & Beyond, Eat the Farm, and Bleecker – without overdoing it. One can only put up with so much brioche bun, mediocre chuck mince, and American cheese in one lifetime.