The humble hamburger is an American classic but from a supposed start in Germany – Hamburg, in fact – it has gone around the world. Here in Kuching, the opening of the first ever Burger King franchise earlier this year saw queues around the block but really the flame-grilled flavour was already well established. From roadside stall to gourmet kitchen, the options are open and they are wider everyday as new burger bars pop up, each with an amazing array of alternatives from pure Americana to exotic Asian. So, hold onto your buns as we count down the best burgers around…
Tag’s – JalanSimpangTiga
Tag’s is confusing – is it a boutique or is it a bar? In genuine Kuching style, it is both, boutique on top, bar down below. While the clothes in the window are decidedly pretty, the bar downstairs tends more towards butch. Industrial eclectic, the décor is all brick and steel and wood and the burgers are equally manly. Great slabs of meat – pork, beef or lamb as you wish – are topped with even more meat in the form of crispy bacon and an onion ring for good measure. Each patty has its own herb flavour, served with fries in a pared down basket. At Tag’s, if you don’t fancy a burger, there’s a range of American favourites on the menu – nachos, chilli dogs, you’ll feel like you are in the movies. So, whether you are dressed up or dressed down, try Tag’s.
Project Burger – 163 Lorong Setia Raja, Tabuan Jaya
Project burger is something of a mission. First of all, it is a mission to find it. Enter the housing estate opposite Giant, twist and turn until you hit a dead end and there you are. It’s easy to miss because, at first glance, it looks like any other house in the row except for the discreet banner and board. But inside there is a man on a burger mission. This mission involves handmade patties on hand-baked buns. There is even a precision to the preparation. Each burger patty is fried on a hotplate oil-free, each bun is lightly toasted, each piece of cheese is pre-melted. The result is a light, bright burger that actually tastes healthy and homemade. It’s worth the effort, so get with the project!
Gim’s Burger – Stutong
Gim’s is a forerunner in the new breed of burger bar – many of the rest are just following in their footsteps. Open for sometime now, it has chosen its location well, ranged across a roadside, giant signage on full display. It begs you to come in. But inside, Gim’s has gone back to basics. Red brick walls, benches and picnic tables – the décor is clever in its ease. More importantly, Gim’s does burgers, basically, and it does them well. Chicken or beef, they stick close to the classic formula. But good for them! The patties are thick and juicy, the toppings well-balanced.What more could one ask; sometimes simple is better. The fries are given a twist of rosemary but, generally, this is no frills, no nonsense pure burger enjoyment. Basically, Gim’s is a gem.
MK Classico – JalanTabuan
This place looks great. A new offering along JalanTabuan draws you in from roadside with its snappy awning and its sleek logo. It is beautifully done – shaded terrace with retro mural, interesting objets and statement furniture. It could be a chic eatery in any long established city in the world. But, when it comes to the burger, this is definitely not the classic the name suggests, but really all Kuching. The patty is delicious and the wedges are crispy. The difference is in the special sauce which is hot, hot, hot with handfuls of Sarawak pepper – it can blow your head off! Tasty, not tasty? It is all a matter of taste! Some will adore it and some will sniff at it, literally! Sadly, the service is not up to the standard of the surroundings – inside at the counter they are adorable but outside they will steadfastly ignore you until you starve to death. But, this place is worth a try, especially if you like to pick a peck of Sarawak pepper!
Mike’s Smokehouse – Green Heights
Mike’s is a temple to meat, and most of the porcine persuasion. As you enter, each plate is piled high with ribs, racks and rumps. When it comes to burgers, however, Mike’s are at the opposite end of the spectrum – three petite burgers on a plate. In fact these babies are not billed as burgers. Instead, they are described as pulled pork sliders and the differences don’t end there. The buns are there but the patty has been replaced with tasty shredded pork served with a sweet spicy barbecue sauce. Even the fries are out of favour but the potatoes in a warm mustard mayonnaise are a welcome treat. Every dish seems to have an unexpected twist – try the pork belly with a hint of jintanmanis. For once, the service is attentive. Actually, the first set of sliders was sent to the wrong table by mistake, but the staff were so sweet and so apologetic that all was forgiven in an instant. You’ll be patty in their hands! Mike’s – it is smoking!
Cosmos – Song Plaza, JalanTunJugah
This is as close to an American diner as Kuching has to offer right down to the booths upholstered in red vinyl lining the turquoise walls. It is fitted out with some eye for detail with its chrome bar and chessboard checkered tiles though the lights are just a bit too bright and attended by a faint, eternal hum. However, the burger range is incredibly impressive. It has the basics all the way up to the decidedly weird – peanut butter or spaghetti sauce, anyone? Shades of Elvis in there. The beef patty is slimmer than some of the others on offer but tasty nonetheless. The bacon is beef, good for some, not so for others. Actually, Cosmos even have a vegan burger on the menu made of mushroom though for the truly devoted, you might wonder about the cheese! But overall, at Cosmos, the burgers are stars!