David Chang is the semi-legendary owner of the Momofuku string of restaurants, a co-founder of Lucky Peach magazine and a man who makes his opinions known. In a new “Burger Manifesto” published on Lucky Peach’s website, he has taken a swing at Australian-style burgers, lambasting them as “mostly terrible”, save Mary’s in Newtown. “You know who fucks up burgers more than anyone else in the world? Australians,” he says. “Australia has no idea what a burger is. They put a fried egg on their burger. They put canned beetroot on it, like a wedge of it. I am not joking you.”
We’re not joking either, Chang. Australian burgers are not just about beetroot nowadays. We’re not joking when we put double eggs, crisped-up bacon and hash browns, or hundreds and thousands on our burgers, and eat them for breakfast. Sometimes, we’ll eat one 20cm high, stacked with two meat patties, pork belly, a chicken fritter, cheese, pickles, chilli compote and jalapeños. It's called burger Jenga. Sometimes there’s kimchi and spicy Korean sauce involved, or if we’re feeling rash and really unconcerned for our health, we’ll replace the buns with two slabs of fried lasagne.
Of course, there’s always time for the classics, but in Australia, that means beetroot, and we're not making apologies. We grew up on burgers with beetroot juice dripping down our chins after long days at the beach. Why bend to the American model?
Paul’s Hamburgers in Sylvania has been open since 1957 and is widely claimed as the home of the original Aussie burger. Their recipe hasn’t changed since day dot. Paul’s most popular menu item? “The Works,” says co-owner and manager Chris Sinesiou. The Works is a 5-inch sesame seed bun with a Macleay River beef pattie, egg, bacon, cheese and, heaven forbid, pineapple. “It’s the most popular burger, and it’s what the people like. If the Australian people didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be there. There’s no need to change something that’s not broken.”
Chang, who couldn't be reached for comment this morning, says his ideal is “bun, cheese, burger. Sometimes bacon.” But according to Sinesiou, there must be options. His burgers are “Hearty, filling and substantial. In burgers and in life, options are a good thing.”
To piss off Dave Chang, put these burgers on your list:
The Works at Paul's of Sylvania
Lasagne burger at Bertoni Casalinga
Korean burger at Burger Project
Primo burger at Danno's Cafe
If you’re a disciple of Chang’s burger school of simplicity, try these (tell them to hold the mustard):
Cheeky Cheeseburger at Cheeky Burger
A Manhattan at Five Points Burgers