Original Burger. Vintage Burger. General Prime Burger. Butchers’ Market. Rock ’n’ Roll Burger. St Louis Burger. If there’s one thing paulistanos adore, it’s a good hamburger: the simple perfection of a hot meat patty sandwiched between two buns. Search and you’ll find all manner of variations on that formula, from steamed burgers to duck burgers, prawn burgers and veggie burgers. Broadband connected? Make it iBurger. Then there’s the ones that fell by the way side and closed, like Dim Burger. Perhaps the clue was in the name.
The city’s worship of the humble patty seems to know no bounds, peaking last month with a fortnight dedicated to hamburgers in the second SP Burger Fest, with 42 eateries taking part, each serving a limited-edition burger. Just one of a constant parade of trumped-up ‘celebrations’ of this or that food, the burger festival nevertheless touched a nerve on my timeline, popping up on Facebook and Instagram regularly for the duration.
Riding the wave deftly is Meats, a gourmet burger joint that opened at the end of 2012. It joined a profusion of burger restaurants on the same street, bustling Rua dos Pinheiros, and launched just a few months after its gourmet burger neighbour, Meat Chopper, on the opposite side of the road.
Like the very New Yorky Butchers’ Market, which opened in Itaim Bibi to much acclaim in 2011, Meats has a funky vibe – and a sense of soul that many of SP’s formulaic American diner replicas seem so short of. With soft-lighting, its name writ large in naked bulbs behind the bar, a decent wine menu and a selection of cocktails, Meats clearly aspires to restaurant rather than casual diner status.
The burgers are fat, juicy and pink on the inside, just as they should be, with prices starting at R$19 and going up to R$29 (not including side orders). Gourmet combinations include the ‘zucchini’, a beef burger with goat’s cheese, courgette, bacon and mint sauce, or the ‘hooligan’ with cheese, bacon and horseradish mayo (both R$29).
The fries (R$19) – a tasty mix of regular and sweet potato chips – were perfectly crispy, as were the delightfully sweet thick onion rings, fried with panko breadcrumbs (R$19). Less good were the chicken hot wings (R$24) – nice and spicy, but greasy rather than sticky.
The steak tartare, served with a slice of crispy Guinness bread and a slice of olive-oil bread, plus coin-shaped fries, came artfully presented on a wooden board, but lacked a depth of seasoning.
Are these the best burgers in the city? They might be: they’re good. But how many burgers do you need to try to be sure? I’ll leave it to the confirmed burger addicts to fight that one out.