The rise of the gourmet burger

According to many, the story of the hot dog begins in America in 1902 during a Giants baseball game at the New York Polo grounds. It centres on an English man called Harry Stevens who on that cold April day was losing money trying to sell ice cream and ice-cold sodas. He wanted something that could be eaten out of the hand and would stay warm, and decided that German dachshund sausages wrapped in long buns worked best. Stevens called them 'red hots'. An American cartoonist who could not spell dachshund renamed them 'hot dogs'.

The snack was a big hit with baseball fans and made Stevens a very rich man. Nice story, but probably not true, even disregarding the fact that no copy of the said cartoon can be found. A different story credits Coney Island vendor Charles Feltman with selling the first hot dogs in buns there in 1867.

Burgers come from the same school of practical ideas embraced by convenience-loving Americans. The meat is kept warm in the doughy jacket of the bun, which also soaks up any juices, and the whole thing can be eaten with one hand. We associate burgers and 'dogs with the barbecue, festivals, and summer time even though our idea of barbecues is nothing like American barbecue culture, where whole animals are slow-roasted for hours in wood smoke over glowing fire pits and custom built grills.

One place where they take their hot dogs and burgers just as seriously as our US cousins is Handsome Burger. The Handsome D-O-Double-G is a specially developed beef sausage, with crispy onions, diced pickles, siracha mayo, and Handsome sauce in a soft brioche roll. The burgers start out simply, with brioche-style bun, followed by a juicy patty, sticky onions, house pickles, and signature Handsome sauce, topped with melting cheese. Fancy options include chorizo, guacamole and salsa, and paprika mayo. These burgers are not all about the beef — Handsome's first chicken burger is the Handsome Roost, organic buttermilk and Earl Grey brined, crispy-fried chicken breast, dunked in fiery Buffalo sauce. This is paired with umami pickles and crisp romaine lettuce, before it is drizzled in Handsome Caesar and nestled inside a buttery bun.

All the burgers are cooked to order and of course there are sides — slaw, potato salad, or beef dripping fries (for the veggies, rapeseed oil chips ). These can be loaded up with parmesan and bacon or served plain with a choice of dipping sauces. Vegetarians would do well to try the smashing veggie burger, the Bad 'N' Bhaji, a spinach and chickpea bhaji, tandoori onions, feta cheese, cucumber and mint raita chillies, and house chutney, perfect with the rapeseed oil cooked chips and a cold IPA.

Very much in the spirit of the Dough Bros and their vast success in reinventing the wheel in the world of pizza, two years ago Rory McCormack and Cathal O’Connor took burgers up a notch in Galway with one simple idea. That idea was to treat burgers with more respect, using better meat and cooking them with quality and taste in mind. The duo behind Handsome Burger have grown their pop-up business from Rory's home kitchen (God bless Mrs McCormack ) to its first home in Woodquay.

Caribou is a craft beer pub, opened in 2016 in the premises previously known as the Goalpost and now a permanent residence for Handsome Burger.

Handsome and Caribou combine to do casual dining very well as Caribou shares many of the same exacting standards. There is a large selection of craft beers, wines, whiskeys, and gins. The selection of beers is rotating and they have a number of mainstream beers on tap too. The Handsome Burger team are great ambassadors for our local produce and the undoubted leaders in Galway in terms of their high quality burgers. They are all about positivity and hard work and they are immensely proud of where they come from — and Galway should be proud of them too.

Handsome Burger, Caribou, 31 Woodquay Galway, phone 085 8016804.

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