But what makes a burger stand out? Food buffs will cite the quality of the ingredients and the originality of the fillings and toppings.
The bun could be an artisanal brioche, sourdough or seeded bun. The meat patty is usually made from fresh, organic beef and comes from the best cuts — the upper or inner shoulder of the animal, for example. The meat might be served in an unusual style, like a brisket or steak with chorizo sausage sandwiched between layers. The toppings and sauces take it up a notch, ranging from the usual lettuce and tomato combo to more unusual offerings such as sunny-side up eggs, grated parmesan, Monterey Jack cheese, mustard aioli, mango and beetroot.
International chains — such as BurgerFuel from New Zealand and Five Guys and Shake Shack from the US — have infiltrated the Middle East and garnered fans, but what about homegrown options?
Aloft Hotels across the country run a gourmet burger customization station as part of their weekly theme nights. Chef Rasheed Badharudeen at Aloft Dhahran told Arab News that the most unusual requests so far have come from customers who want cream cheese, labneh and pineapple slices on their burgers. The hotel chain also bakes za’atar and turmeric brioche buns in-house, offering traditional Middle Eastern flavors to their guests.
A food blogger and critic based in Saudi Arabia, who goes by the online name @foodwithshayne, told Arab News that, despite the rise of gourmet burger restaurants in the country, it could be an even “bigger, bolder and better trend.” The veteran foodie pronounces the “American Muscle” burger from BurgerFuel as one of his all-time favorite burgers in the Kingdom, saying: “The whole combination of mustard aioli, pickles and sweet relish with cheddar cheese adds flavor to the meat and the patty is done just right. (That is) why the ‘American Muscle’ is one of my top burgers.”
Ingredients aside, “another factor that plays a role in the burgeoning popularity of gourmet burgers is branding,” Shankar Sivanander, head of marketing for Aloft Hotels in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.
“The value that an iconic brand like In-N-Out offers creates hype among new customers and is one of the reasons why people are willing to wait in long lines to try out the much-hyped classic In-N-Out burger and milkshake combination,” he said of the US-based burger brand.
Wow factor also plays a major role in encouraging hungry consumers to take a bite. Instagram-worthy burgers around the world have made headlines in recent years, with Burger King’s black Whopper in 2015 sparking more than a few shocked headlines.
Earlier this year, a record-breaking burger sold for $10,000 in Dubai. Dubbed “the world’s most expensive burger,” the “Seven Emirates Burgerstack” was stuffed with veal bacon and aged cheddar placed between two saffron brioche burger buns.
Instagram is brimming with shots of creative burgers, from sushi-style offerings — where mounds of compacted sushi rice replace the buns — to the bizarre spaghetti burger created by the now-closed PYT outlet in Philadelphia. A mozzarella-stuffed meatball was sandwiched between spaghetti noodles that had been constructed into a bunlike form. Strange? Maybe. Worth a try? Definitely.
From the whacky to the classic, this food category is unique in that it can be reinvented time and time again. Now, be it beef in brioche buns or chicken in a powdered roll, it is time to head out and sink your teeth into a flavorful, juicy burger.
Where to get your burger fix in Saudi Arabia
Feed your cravings by giving these worthy burger joints a try. Be sure to visit on an empty stomach!
FireFly Burger, Jeddah
Known for its big buns, this burger joint has a loyal following and offers a particularly delicious “Kamikaze Burger,” consisting of a 150g beef patty and sweet chili sauce topped with pickles and tomatoes.
PIN Burger, Alkhobar
This food truck has garnered fans for its culinary offerings. The menu is simple but each dish is made to perfection, with the rosemary fries and classic burger being especially sought after.
Ranch Burger, Dammam
For the freshest burgers in town, head to Ranch Burger in Dammam. From the fresh meat patty to juicy toppings and the side of crispy, crinkle-cut fries, this meal is sure to satisfy your burger cravings.