HBC – normally it stands for a Yongsan-gu neighborhood boasting a population of foreigners rivaling that of any other neighborhood in Korea outside of a US military base, but is it rapidly becoming HamBurger Challenge territory?
Many of you old Korea hands will have visited Jacoby’s Burger, which has been around HBC for years, delivering quality burgers that brought in great crowds. Recently though, long-term resident Le Vert restaurant decided to give up the rest of their brunch, pasta and other menu items and become Two Hands Burger and to everyone’s surprise (and probably both owners’ dismay) about a week after the change another burger specialty restaurant decided to enter the fray, and Burgermine was born, opening up for business only a couple of weeks ago. This led to none less than 3 burger joints in a run of 4 consecutive buildings – and an irresistible burger crawl for us.
Burger conneseur and buddy Stuart Nyman and myself decided that it was about time someone definitively determine which of these burger specialty places was the best, so we devoted our August 16th, 2012 Sunday evening to eating burgers as a sacrifice for you, our reader, so that you could definitively know which of these three locations boasts the best burger.
We ordered the “representative” burger from each location – the basic burger or the one they said was their most ordered. Ratings given are based on a scale of 1 – 10. The rest are some basics for any good burger joint – you have to ask how we want it cooked, you have to have a good-sized burger, and you have to grill the bun. Finally, if there”s a piece that you can’t chew into mash, then I’m not going to swallow it. Gristle or anything else that must be removed while eating a burger is a mark against it.
Stop 1 – Two Hands Burger
Steve’s Rating – 7.5 Stuart’s Rating – 6
Burger ordered: The Two Hands Burger
Asked how to cook? – No.
Patty Size – Medium
Grilled Bun? – Yes
Number of inedible gristle pieces: 2
We both enjoyed this burger, but myself more than Stuart. I thought the bun was particularly good and the entire thing well proportioned. The meat was a good quality, but Stuart found the patty to be a bit small. We were both happy with the fresh lettuce and tomato and the perfectly cooked egg that dripped it’s yolk when we cut it in half. It could be said that this burger had a bit of an advantage because it came with an egg and bacon while the others did not – but the price was similar, so it seemed a fair comparison.
Stop 2 – Burgermine
Steve’s Rating – 4 Stuart’s Rating – 4
Burger ordered: Bacon Burger (but we were served a chili burger, which we just ate anyway)
Asked How to Cook? – No
Patty Size – Small
Grilled Bun – No.
Number of inedible gristle pieces: 10ish – about one in every bite.
The newcomer in the crowd has a lot going for it – just not it’s burgers. Nice atmosphere, cool artwork, friendly, English-speaking staff, beautiful outdoor patio. Prices are good too – but then again you get what you pay for. This was certainly the weakest burger of the bunch, but you can guess why – they do an all-you-can-eat set up for 2 hours for only W15,000. They’re also very unique in that they have a condiment/veggie buffet so you can pile the burger high just the way you like it. At those prices, you have to skimp somewhere though, and they’ve apparently decided to skimp on the meat quality and quantity. But then again the bread didn’t impress either – think plain white bun from the supermarket. The staff was nice though, and they did pay attention when we told them on the way out that the burger was pretty weak. Hate to give a hard time to a place when they’re just getting started, so let’s just say we need to stay tuned to see if they pick up their game.
Burger Ordered: The Jacoby Cheeseburger
Asked how to cook? – Yes – or made us write it down anyway.
Patty Size – Large
Grilled Bun – Yes
Number of inedible gristle pieces – Zero
The veteran impressed. Their systematic ordering process makes sure that you get it just the way you like it, with a half-dozen questions to answer just to order. This included, for the first time, asking how we would like our burger cooked, and even asking the type of bun we wanted (white or wheat) and how we wanted our onions (grilled or raw). We were able to choose our cheese too and even whether we wanted a garlic or rosemary-infused patty. It’s not very personable, and the staff were too busy to even think about being friendly, but the system works. Stuart, a former resident of New York, thought the burger was on par with some of the best he had ever had in NYC – and he had plenty. The Jacoby’s people pile their burgers high though, and there was so much lettuce, bun and accouterments that I found myself fighting to taste the actual burger, which was the only thing that gave Two Hands Burger the edge in my book – the Jacoby’s patty itself was probably actually better quality and seasoning than Two Hands. They claim they serve Australian, never-frozen Waygyu beef, but when doing the math on delivery from cow to table in the 20 days necessary to do this we found it a tad hard to believe it was never frozen and the term Waygu is always suspect. Regardless, great burger!
And now you know. Certainly if you like a burger piled high with all kinds of exotic ingredients, Jacoby’s is the way to go. Great, creative burgers with a good quality beef patty. If you’re interested in a little more laid back atmosphere and some more personal service and a great burger, head over to Two Hands. Hold off on Burgermine a bit until they work out some kinks. Give them a go later and see if what we found just after their opening still holds true or they really listened and brought up their quality.