Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published December 7th 2011
Andrew's Hamburgers is at 144 Bridport St, Albert Park. It's one of the very few burger places in Melbourne that beats Danny's Burgers in terms of reputation – Danny's Burgers is a Fitzroy institution, sure, but Andrew's Hamburgers is a Melbourne institution. Danny's Burgers was established in the fifties, but Andrew's Hamburgers was established in the thirties (albeit the late thirties). You might have to wait fifteen minutes at Danny's Burgers for your food, the place is so popular, but at Andrew's Hamburgers you wait thirty, and locals know to pre-order over the phone. Is the reputation deserved? It depends what you're looking for in a burger place.
From the outside it looks pretty unassuming – just another burger joint – and the inside isn't much fancier. The only thing that might clue in a tourist to the fact that Andrew's Hamburgers is so famous is the area of newspaper clippings on the window, with excellent reviews and celebrity endorsements side-by-side. A savvy tourist might also spot the packed interior and compare it to the general emptiness of most Melbourne cafes.
The famous logo.
Let's consider the two elements of a successful burger place: the burger (of course) and the steak sandwich, which is almost as important. A good burger can be faked – the taste of a mediocre beef patty can be muffled by fried onion and salt, and a thick, good quality bun can hide the fact that the juices are all outside rather than inside the meat. It's much harder to disguise the quality of a steak sandwich. If the steak is overly thin, too chewy, or underdone, it'll be obvious at first bite. The thin bread of a sandwich gets soggy quickly, and unless the whole thing is skilfully constructed, becomes impossible to eat without a knife and fork.
Andrew's Hamburgers makes good burgers. They're hefty, big enough to hold with two hands, and the crispy outside of the meat seals the moistness in. The bacon is meaty and not overdone, and the general impression when eating is just the right slightly messy layering of tastes that defines a good burger. The reasons that go into this impression are probably too many to list – you could write a four hundred page thesis on what a good burger is – but a few things are instantly noticeable. The tomatoes are ripe and juicy, rather than crunchy, and the slices are thick enough so that the taste of the meat doesn't overpower them. The lettuce is deliciously crunchy, like a cos lettuce heart, and includes just the right amount (that is, very little) of cabbage.
The steak sandwich is also fantastic – again, there are too many things to mention all of them, but one noticeable feature is that the steak actually tastes like a steak. Sure, it's not the quality you'd expect from Vue de Monde, but it's a welcome change from the tasteless beef rectangles that pass for steak at most places like this. The bread is also perfectly toasted: not so much that it's dry and crunchy, but enough so that it seals the moisture within the sandwich.
All in all, Andrew's Hamburgers is amazing. Is it better than Danny's Burgers? It's certainly a few dollars more expensive. You'd need to be a real hamburger aficionado to answer that question – as a general rule, if you're near Danny's, go there, and if you're near Andrew's, go there. The two burger places aren't close enough to make the decision too difficult, and if you stick to one of the two whenever you go out for some fast food, you'll be doing better than the vast majority of Melburnians.