There really aren’t a hell of a lot of options when it comes to cheeseburgers in Melbourne. It’s not like the USofA where there is a plethora of good franchise options – Wendy’s, Checkers, Five Guys, In and Out burger just to name a few. In Australia there seems to be a lot of fast food chicken outlets, but only a handful of real burger options. On Saturday, Chris and I decided to head out into the burbs and hunt down Melbourne’s best fast food Cheeseburger from some of the franchise’s that are available around town- all for the sake of research… We wanted to know if you can actually get a good, reasonably priced Cheeseburger from a franchise in Melbourne. For research purposes we included the two main options – Hungry Jacks and McDonalds. After that we discussed a number of options including TGI Fridays – However we decided that it really needed to be a place where you can take out rather than a restaurant. We finished with a list that included Burger Edge, Huxtaburger (Three locations around Melbourne now) Grill’d and Ribs and Burgers – I went to Grill’d on the Sunday as 6 burgers on one day regardless of how much exercise preparation you do is still probably not a great idea… Other that these 6, there’s not a lot of options – sure there are a heap of one off burger bars around town that do some amazing burgers, but my goal was to find places that are more accessible – franchise options like you might  find in the States. The prices of the burgers ranged from $1 to $12. Ok – so the McDonalds Cheeseburgers aren’t normally $1 but we got there at 12:30pm and they had a deal – normally I think they are about $2 something – probably about the same as the HJ’s burger which was $2.35… Anyway, all of the burgers except for Ribs and Burgers were under $10 (Although my additions to the Simply Grill’d brought it above the $10 mark…). Each of the places we visited have at least three locations.

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Hungry Jacks:
Burger 1 – We started early around 11am, Chris went for a BBQ double Cheeseburger and I opted for the plain Cheeseburger – Both were around the $2 mark.
Tasting notes were pretty much the same – sweet, cakey, soft bun, flavourless microwaved beef patty – far too much bread to meat ratio. The cheese was more of a texture than a flavour, the sauce was overpoweringly sweet – even the pickle was sweet with no sharpness. If there was mustard in there then it tasted far too sweet – no contrast. The overall burger experience wasn’t unpleasant, but it wasn’t good either. Finished the burger so at least that’s a positive.

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McDonalds:
Burger 2 – We arrived during the special $1 Cheeseburger hour. There was quite a rush so I actually had to wait a good 5minutes for our to Cheeseburgers.
The tasting notes here were the same – Not good, neither of us could finish our burgers, they were not good – I don’t recall the cheeseburgers here being that bad – I know the quarter pounder I had a few weeks back was ok, so I’m not sure what happened. My Cheeseburger tasted a little sour, the onions tasted weird. Again the bun was super sweet, but there was a better ratio of bun to patty in the McDonalds Cheeseburger. Sauce is really sugary, too many onions in this burger, the cheese is tasteless and really just adds a texture, and the patty had no flavour. My Burger had no mustard. You just can’t trust a 15 year old kid who’s on minimum wage to get your burger right if there’s a rush. Let’s be honest, they DON’T care. The end result was two terrible burgers for $1 each – I threw out half of mine, Chris probably only had two bites. Thing is, I’ll probably be back – I go past at least 3 McDonalds on my drive to and from work – sometimes it’s hard to say no to convenience, and sometimes the burgers here aren’t that bad… Sometimes…

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Burger Edge:
Burger 3 – First of the non-majors – We went to the one in Brighton on Bay street. This Burger was $8.90 and we got them to cut it in half. I ordered the Feel the cheese with no lettuce or tomato as they don’t have a plain Cheeseburger on the menu. The bun was a sourdough – far too doughy in my opinion, however it did have lightly crispy crust that worked well. Chris like it more than I did. The patty was a bit sausagy but at least it had some flavour. I liked the pickles in this one and the onions gave the burger a nice bite. The cheese seemed to be the kind you get pre-sliced in the supermarket, not the processed cheese, but the pre-sliced tasty cheddar like Mainland or Bega etc… The overall eating experience was nice. I wouldn’t be upset if I had to have another one of these.

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Huxtaburger:

Burger 4 –I’ve been to Huxtaburger before and been disappointed – this time we tried out their latest location just off from Chapel street in Prahran. Chris ordered these as it was his shout – apparently he made sure to ask for no lettuce or tomato but clearly they thought that was a stupid request and put them in anyway… Oh well. Once again we got the burger cut in half so we could share it. At $9 this burger was the most expensive we had tried, and you could taste the difference. The bun was a fantastic, classic burger bun, soft white bread, with a sesame seed covering, nicely toasted – a classic style that always works. The sauces were nice – you had the holy trinity of mustard, mayo and ketchup. The mayo was quite sweet – almost like that kewpie Japanese style mayo, although it was balanced nicely by the mustard and ketchup. The pickle was lovely and created a sharp contrast and even the cheese in this burger was good. A shame about the lettuce and tomato – more from the point of view of the research and the ability to compare the burgers – I mean, personally, I like these elements in  a burger… The main downside with this burger is the patty, honestly, it’s not good. You can see in the photo that the texture is off – too meatloaf like. It clearly has a bit of filler in it, and it’s been frozen and then cooked all the way through. Like I said in the past, it reminds me a lot of the frozen patties you can by from the super market… If they could get this right they’d have an amazing burger, as it stands, it’s still good, just not great.

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Ribs and Burgers:
Burger 5 – The final stop for the day – a place that holds fond memories for me – Chris, Katie and I had adventured off to the Craigieburn Ribs and Burgers a while back and thoroughly enjoyed their offerings. This time around I was ordering their standard Cheeseburger – not the delicious, but much more expensive Wagyu burger. The Cheeseburger here is $12, you get the choice of American or Swiss cheese – I chose American as I think it’s more traditional. The tasting notes would have been the same except Chris cheated and ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger – cheeky bugger. Damo joined us in Northcote as he lives around the corner now, and he got their delicious Wagyu burger  – which he thoroughly enjoyed- Yhus I was left to sample the Cheeseburger: Their Cheeseburger come standard with a choice of cheese and a “Beef mince patty, grilled, basted and served on a sesame seed bun with iceberg lettuce, tomato, Spanish onion, dill pickles and… pink & BBQ sauce”. Their standard bun is terrific, not quite as good as the Huxtaburger bun, but delicious none the less – a soft white affair with a multitude of sesame seeds on top, lightly toasted on the grill. The cheese was standard American cheese – Kraft burger slices to be specific – giving a salty cheesy note, combined with the sauces and meat juices, you get a great juicy, saucy texture. The pickle were lovely, nicely sharp but not over the top. All of the elements worked well – but it is the meat the sets this burger apart. Cooked to medium well – a light pink in the middle – juicy, well seasoned, smokey note from the grill, beefy. This is a quality patty. You can taste the difference – this is the first patty all day that tasted like beef and not some sort of meatloaf/sausage concoction. The down side is price – your talking 6 times the price of a McDonald’s Cheeseburger. Although to be honest, the fairer comparison would be with a Quarter Pounder – still, at least twice the price of the McD’s Quarter Pounder.

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Grill’d:

Burger 6 – No Cheeseburger challenge would be complete without a stop at Grill’d – the original gourmet burger chain in Melbourne. Thankfully there’s a location near by so I stoped in for a sneaky Cheesy. I ordered the Simply Grill’d sans lettuce and tomato on the standard bun with pickles and cheese added of course. I didn’t have to wait long since it was about 11:45am and I was the only one waiting – I grabbed a seat outside and waited. The bun today seemed really soft – I don’t know if it was because it was really fresh or I just got lucky, but regardless – it really worked with this version of the burger – the fact that there was not lettuce or tomato gave the burger a lower profile and it was easier to eat – it was also less juicy – no tomato juice – and so it didn’t fall apart or get soggy. Without all the extra’s that I normally get I was able to get more of the meat flavour coming through – the smokey grill note comes though really strongly and just makes this burger so much better. I still think they should leave the meat alone and just keep it simple – but at the end of the day it was pretty damn good. The light herbaceous flavours from the mayo added a nice freshness and lightened the burger, and the sweet relish contrasted nicely with the sharp tang of the pickle. All in all this is an impressive Cheeseburger. They charged me $15 with a 600ml drink so about $11 something – Not the most expensive but still on the pricey end of things.

 

Findings:

I decided to score on 4 key criteria – Price, Speed and Quality of ingredients – all out of 5, and Taste – out of 10.

This was a tough one to call – the ribs and burgers cheeseburger was clearly the winner on taste alone, but as it was the most expensive you have to expect that. The clear message here is to avoid McDonalds if you can – or get a Quarter Pounder if you can’t since they are much nicer than their flaccid, grey, flavourless cheeseburgers…

Franchise Price Speed Quality Taste Total
McDonalds 5 4 1 1 11
Hungry Jacks 5 5 1 2 13
Burger Edge 3 3 3 5 14
Huxtaburger 3 2 3 7 15
Ribs and Burgers 2 2 5 9 18
Grill’d 2 3 4 8 17
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