Berlin, Brussels: The Burger Quest

Meatlover, copyright Ellis
Meatlover, copyright Ellis


Burgers. I used to have this love-hate relationship with them as they smell good, but taste like nothing. Until I realised that fast food restaurants completely ruin the concept of a decent burger, thanks to my boyfriend. His take on burgers is simply amazing. He mixes quality meat with spices, onions or other great fresh ingredients which results in really tasty burgers. Especially his Indian style one is delicious and #nomnom.

The BF also taught me that the burger goes way back to the 13th century (dating a historian is just wonderful). A common misconception is that hamburgers come from Hamburg in Germany. Surprisingly, it were Mongolian warlord Genghis Khan and his cronies who ‘invented’ them. They used to put raw meat under their saddle, which would get tenderised while riding their horses. Multitasking avant-la-lettre, and true Masterchefs, not minding that hairs were ending up in the meat that way …

When Ghengis’ grandson Kublai Khan conquered Moscow, he introduced this way of preparing food in Russia. But Russian cooks, who were a little more sophisticated than the Mongolian warriors, soon added onions and eggs to it to enhance the flavour of the meat. They also gave it a fancy name: Steak Tartare (somehow an ‘r’ ended up in the name whereas the people are called the Tatars). Then trade made it happen: the hamburger made its way to Hamburg. From there, German immigrants took the Hamburger steak to the United States. Which American decided to put it between a bun, remains uncertain. If you want to know more about the history of the hamburger in the United States, the History Kitchen will tell you all about it.

So back to Quick and McDonalds: for me it’s ethically wrong that they call their tasteless shit ‘burgers’. Frankly my dears, one can’t help but wonder what they use as ‘meat’ … Luckily decent burger restaurants are popping up everywhere these days, even providing you with delicious vegetarian versions. Let’s serve you my favourite ones.

Ellis Gourmet Burger (Brussels)

The people at Ellis serve great burgers. I already tried the Rossini with duck liver and delicious onion marmalade, the Dierendonck meatlover and the Louis Cheese. The meat is just amazing. The portion isn’t huge but with a few side dishes (mmm, the jacked potato with butter and sour cream), you will be fine. We already went to Ellis Gourmet Burger in Brussels and Antwerp, but there are joints in Knokke, Ghent, Bruges … as well. Sometimes you have to queue as they don’t take reservations unless you’re six or more. In Brussels Ellis Gourmet Burger is at the lovely Saint Catherine Square in the Dansaert neighbourhood. Especially in summer this is a really nice neighbourhood. The square always reminds me of the Provence.

Food with a story tastes better. Ellis refers to the enormous amount of European immigrants boarding a steamer to America and arriving at Ellis Island. Restaurant owners advertised ‘Hamburg steak’ hoping newcomers would decide to have their dinner at their restaurant. Even though historians don’t agree about the birthplace of the hamburger as we know it today, the people at Ellis believe Louis Lunch was the first the one to do so: “According to insiders it was Louis Lunch in New Haven, who, in around 1900, served a hamburger between two slices of toast to a customer who was in a bit of a hurry and that was when the hamburger was born as the comfort food we know today.”

Room 77 (Berlin)
My boyfriend claims to have been served the best burger in his entire life here. Room 77 looks a bit like a cosy pub with second-hand furniture, couches and lovely old-fashioned wallpaper, but they serve great inexpensive delicious food. We would never have ended up there if the blog Berlin Food Stories wasn’t so enthusiastic about the place (check it out, it almost never disappoints). Room 77 does not only serve burgers, but great fajitas too. And the staff was great, relax … everything we look for.

Shiso (Berlin)
The Korean fusion style burgers at Shiso Burger in Berlin are great! Burgers with an Asian twist cannot but appeal to me, I admit, but these were great (I took the cheese burger and the salmon burger)! The good news is: they are rather small, so you can try at least two different kind of burgers. We had dinner here in the evening, but I’d rather visit this place at lunch again.

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