Birmingham’s culinary finesse has traveled a long way since Cliff Richard’s Brumburger Duet with Debbie Watling in 1973 on Take Me High – click here to watch). Possibly the only city in the world to have an album charting burger song written about it (two songs to be precise with the Brumburger Finale – click here to watch).
Burger patties have been around for several hundred years in one form or another. It is generally accepted the hamburger originated in 1758 in Hamburg (not made of ham), but in modern day terms the humble burger came to prominence at the 1904 World Fair in St.Louis, USA. A burger craze took place between 1921 and 1969, and by 1985, it was reported that 1 out of every 6 visits to any restaurant in America was to McDonald’s. The oldest surviving burger chain in America is White Castle which opened in 1921.
The basic ingredients of a burger still remain as grilled mince meat in between a bun – the tasty Cheeseburger popped up around 1934. This same year Wimpy first opened in the United States and was based in Chicago. The brand was introduced to the United Kingdom in 1954 as “Wimpy Bar” and eventually gave way to McDonald’s which opened in Woolwich, London, November 1974. McDonald’s opened on Broad Street Birmingham the following year, with Burger King entering the UK in 1976 as a higher quality market than McDonald’s.
McDonald’s preferred to source ingredients locally, but until it reached scale the company was unable to convince British suppliers to meet its exacting product specifications. An exception was Hawley’s of Birmingham, who won the bread bun contract in August 1974. When the first UK McDonald’s opened, the beef and buns were British, onions imported from California, cheese and paperware West Germany, milkshake mix from the Netherlands, fish from Denmark, potatoes Canada, apple pies Oklahoma, sauces and pickles from New York. Much of the machinery and interior fittings were imported from the United States.
Discounting the UK-wide popularity for the simple Burger Van, which was synonymous with late-night clubs and pubs, Brum’s first real burger success story was the Handmade Burger Co, founded in Brindleyplace in 2006. The burgers are made by hand using 100% prime Scotch beef and hand pressed – there are presently 19 venues in existence.
Brum Tings really started to hot up though in 2012 with the inconspicuous launch of Digbeth Dining Club. This offered local street food vendors the chance to strut their stuff to a cool crowd of foodies and musos giving rise to several burger vendors who would go on to open their own permanent premises.
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at some of Birmingham’s finest burgers today:
Original Patty Men
Original Patty Men, started off life in Digbeth Dining Club as a street food vendor. After wining a British Street Food Award for ‘Best Burger 2014’ the next step was a permanent home for their beautiful burgers to bloom. Inside is a bare, minimal interior, serving burgers made with aged beef patty, inside a yoghurt and buttermilk bun, unless of course you opt for the equally delicious vegetarian option. You can choose from the classic Cheese Burger to a Bacon Layered Cheese Burger, or a Maple Coated Bacon Burger, Chicken Burger and of course the vegetarian option ‘Po boy Style Breaded Mushroom Burger’. All the meat is free range. Open Wednesday – Sunday.
9 Shaw’s Passage, Birmingham B5 5JG
The Meat Shack
EST 2012 The Meat Shack were big boys at Digbeth Dining Club and took the same route as OPM by setting up a permanent home in the city. As with OPM and Bonehead these folk also serve some fine craft ales on tap and by the can/bottle. Diners will be greeted with a cool modern burger joint which uses well aged grass fed beef, hand ‘smashed’, creating the best, crispy caramalisation of beefiness on the outside, leaving all the dripping filthy goodness on the inside (there’s a Deep Fried Halloumi Cheese and Mushroom Duxelle vege option). For those in the know, there are a few secret specials to try… and for the grockles, there’s the Hell Shack (aged beef patty, fresh green chilli relish, Rib Man Holy F*ck Sauce, American cheese, ketchup, mustard, onion and lettuce) and the RnB (aged beef patty, red Leicester cheese, Dutch gouda cheese, candy bacon crumb, black pudding, gochujang mayo and ketchup) are to die for.
17 Thorp Street, Southside, Birmingham, B5 4AT.
Indico Mailbox brings the bustle, spectacular artistry, and vibrant Punjabi flavours to Brum. Indico is a boutique fine-casual Indian Street food restaurant & Cocktail bar. Indico’s menu consists of a great variety of Indian street food dishes and some superb specials such as their Paaji Burgers. These North Indian inspired burgers come in the form of a Crunchy Pandey (Crunchy, Gully-style pea and potato samosa crushed into a soft brioche bun) and a Dirty Malai (24 hour paprika, fenugreek, Greek yoghurt, garlic and spices marinated chicken breast cooked it in a clay oven, finished with a cardamom scented Malai cream sauce, tossed with salad leaves, pomegranate, rose yoghurt, and roasted onions. Open 7 days a week.
113-115 Wharfside Street, Level 3, The Mailbox, Birmingham B1 1RF (open in Shirley also).
The Rebel Chicken is set out over two levels, downstairs is taken up with a bar serving a great range of spirits and craft beers and a modern rustic seating area with a backdrop of chilled out jazzy vibes. Rebel Chicken do one thing and they do it well, Chicken. They steam it, marinade it and finish it on a bespoke built charcoal rotisserie. The coal is imported from Cuba and the wood is Sweet Cherry, this makes the chicken succulent and charred to perfection. Worth a squirt is the Dirty Bird (melt in the mouth buttermilk chicken served with chips) and Yard Burger (buttermilk chicken stacked in a burger served with chips). Rebel Chicken use only the finest cuts of 28 day aged Chuck Steak & Short-Rib mince to create the Burgers, all of the meat comes from outdoor reared, grass fed cattle. Brioche Buns are delivered daily from Peel & Stone’s bakery where they are hand made fresh each day and the chicken for the burgers come from a butchers within the Bullring indoor food market.
5, 19, Pitsford Street, Jewelerry Quarter, B186LJ
The Indian Streatery is home to a family of foodies who started as street food traders working at Digbeth Dining Club under their street food name The Indian Rasoi. Serving up a traditional, authentic, menu with a concept that bridges the generations the all female team of all chefs have created their take on the Pav Bhaji (Indian burger served in a brioche bun). Topped with their unique handmade fresh mint and coriander puree relish choose from tasty titles like the Minted Lab Pakora Burger (a succulent Indian spiced lamb patty topped with chilli cheese, crispy Pakora bites, tamarind and mint yoghurt sauces and streatery slaw) or the Lentil & Chickpea (a mixed lentil and chickpea burger lightly grilled, topped with chilli cheese, tamarind and mint yoghurt chutneys and streatery slaw). Open 7 days a week.
Bennetts Hill & The Bullring Birmingham
Bonehead is a specialist gourmet fried chicken joint just off John Bright Street. Decor is cool and funky, with trendy craft ales and a menu which is short and sweet, and mainly caters for chicken lovers – wings, legs, thighs, and burgers. Bonehead offer free range options and they also do a chickpea veggie burger. The ‘Hothead sauce’ are a force to be reckoned with. Try the Hothead Burger (fried chicken thigh in Nashville hot seasoning, lettuce, comeback sauce and gherkins) or the Buffalo Soldier (fried chicken thigh in buffalo hot pepper sauce, lettuce, gherkins and blue cheese sauce). Open Tuesday – Sunday.
8 Lower Severn Street, Birmingham, B1 1PU
The Plough Harborne
Voted one of the “Top 20 Pubs in the UK” by The Morning Advertiser, The Plough in Harborne has a villagey vibe. Filled with quirky details, and Winner of the Northern design awards best restaurant and bar design, customers will have high expectations the moment they walk through the doors. Renowned for homemade stone-baked pizzas and silky flat whites, there are plenty of food accolades to inspire confidence. The Plough serve fantastic chargrilled burgers on homemade brioche buns such as the Smoked Streaky Bacon Burger (with Caramelized Red Onion, Cheddar and Bourbon BBQ Sauce) and the Buffalo Chicken Burger (with Blue Cheese Sauce, Pickled Chilli and Iceberg Lettuce). For regulars there is the brilliant Plough App, which offers discounts, and special offers throughout the year. Check it out here. Open 7 days a week offering 2-for-1 burgers all day Tuesdays.
21 High St, Harborne, Birmingham B17 9NT
Founded in 2017, BA-HA provides delicious food that’s both healthy and aligned with vegan. BA-HA source all organic produce locally from farmers and local community businesses, creating products with 100% love to provide the experience of homemade goodness. BA-HA started as a pop up/ kitchen Takeover in 2018 and now reside within Churchill’s Wine Bar on the canal. Well know for their King Kentucky Burger (pictured). Open 7 days a week.
Churchills Bar, The Mailbox, 171-172 Wharfside St, Birmingham B1 1RL
Fargo first opened in February 2012 with the goal of serving a family style menu of fresh but bold flavoured global dishes. Food is prepared fresh to order from cutting fries, hand pressing burger patties through to smashing the guacamole. A strong relationship with local and national suppliers ensures Fargo obtain a high standard of produce such as freshly baked buns, seasonal potatoes and HMC Halal Aberdeen Angus beef. Frequently championed on review sites are the wide selection of Fargo burger. Try the Bo’s Beef Classic Burger (Aberdeen Angus beef patty, mature cheddar cheese, Bo’s burger sauce, leaf lettuce, tomato and red onion Codwala Burger (lightly spiced battered strips of cod, mozzarella cheese, shoe string fried onions, mango tartar sauce, tamarind drizzle, leaf lettuce, red onion and fresh coriander). Open 7 days a week.
337 – 379 Ladypool Road, Birmingham, B12 8LA
Buffalo & Rye
Buffalo & Rye offers a taste of Americana in the centre of Birmingham. Food-wise we’re talking dirty burgers, gourmet dogs, house smoked meats and all-day brunch. Whilst with the drinks they cover milkshakes (with or without alcohol to accompany), in-house cocktail creations and US imported beers. All burgers are served on a locally made artisan buttermilk bun. The chicken is Red Tractor assured and pork and beef is all from outdoor reared animals. Top tip for meat lovers is the Buffalo Black (Double Herefordshire beef patties, black pudding, American cheese, burger sauce & sautéed onions). Open 7 days a week.
11 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham B2 5RS
The Old Crown Digbeth
The Old Crown is one of Birmingham’s oldest buildings. Originally built in the 14th century almost all of the present building dates from the early 16th century. The Old Crown has reinvented itself whilst maintaining that true ‘old boozer’ feel. Food served here is far more than simply pub grub, with a substantial selection of burgers on the menu such as the OC Burger (beef patty, streaky bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, gherkins, mayo, French mustard) and the Scorched Halloumi (v) (fried halloumi, pickled chillies, lettuce, tomato, red onion and thousand island sauce). Open 7 days a week.
188 Digbeth, Birmingham B12 0LD
The Head of Steam
The Head of Steam opened on Temple Street in 2018. There is an extensive selection of Craft Beers, Cask Ales, Cocktails, Wines and spirits with a great bar menu featuring a bewildering array of burgers. With blinders like The Bourbon Smoker (triple stacked beef patties, maple candied bacon, U.S. cheese sauce, with hickory and bourbon smoke infusion), the Teriyaki Chicken (Teriyaki chicken, grilled pineapple, rocket and pink mayo) and The Super Green (quinoa, spinach, ginger and chilli burger with guacamole, rocket and vegan mozzarella), it’s well worth making the most of their Happy Mondays any burger deal and Burger Club Thursdays. Open 7 days a week.
36 Temple St, Birmingham B2 5DP.
Digbeth Dining Club
No article on the best burgers in Brum would be anywhere near complete without a big fat mention of Digbeth Dining Club. DDC started out life in 2012 as a street food event which was designed to pull together some of the best street food vendors in the region. It has since risen from strength to strength and is now a multi award winning weekly carnival of food, that has placed Birmingham firmly on the alternative food map and even draws in food stalls from other parts of the UK. Their burger prowess is unstoppable helping the likes of Original Patty Men (winners of ‘Best Burger’ 2014 at the British Street Food Award), The Flying Cows (Britain’s Best Burger winners at the 2017 British Street Food Awards), Meat Shack and Indian Streatery rise to flame. There are too many DDC burger vendors to mention, but present patty highlights must surely include www.onlyjerkin.com, www.facebook.com/LowNSlowStreetFood, www.dicks-smokehouse.com & www.facebook.com/thepattyfreaks. Open Thursday – Sunday in Digbeth. Check website for other events around the West Midlands.
Lower Trinity Street,Digbeth,Birmingham,B9 4AG
Article by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham
*all images used from official pages – please contact us for any photo credits and will happily link out.