Kampala, Uganda | By Ole Tangen Jr. | For a country that produces some of the best tasting beef on the planet, it might not come as a surprise that the good old American hamburger has become a staple meal. It might even be rivalling the supremacy of fish n’ chips. Sorry tilapia.
Living in a foreign country, one wants to taste local flavours and meals. But, no matter which restaurant I visit, I keep finding myself glancing back at that little piece of home: the hamburger. What started out as an informal survey, quickly turned into a quest to find the best burger in Kampala.
Now simple as a burger seems, it is actually only as good as the sum of its parts. The beef has to be well ground and cooked so that it is not too well-done or dry. Any toppings (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, etc) need to be fresh. Plus the bun must not only be fresh, but moist enough that it does not fall apart after a few bites.
Finally there is the cheese and cheese is a funny beast. It can either make a burger or in many cases ruin it. Most cheeses available here are not tasty when melted and some restaurants use poor quality cheeses that turn into chewy messes.
For this ‘burger-test,’ I went to some of the best restaurants in town that friends of mine recommended for a good burger. Unfortunately some burgers were just terrible and will not be included in this article. Others resembled a burger in name alone. Here’s the line-up:
Café Javas: Over at Café Javas (Oasis Mall), one of my favourite eateries in town, it was the dry, chewy beef patties (I ordered a double) that hurt this beautifully presented burger and put it in last place. Introducing a handmade patty onto this fine bun would elevate this burger to the level of the other exceptional meals they offer. Score: 5/10
Café Pap: Café Pap’s burger was one of the larger burgers that I tested, but its size could notmake up for its lack of taste. This is surprising given that the restaurant offers some of the best sandwiches and chips in town. The beef, while moist, was tasteless and the bun was dry as a bone causing the burger to fall apart halfway through the meal. Finishing a burger with a fork and knife is never a good sign. Score: 6/10
Kabira Country Club: While most of the burgers I tested (read tasted) for this article cost between 10,000 and 12,000 shillings, this one tipped the scale at a whopping 22,000 shillings. While not my favourite burger, this one came in a solid third place. The patty was obviously hand made and was still quite juicy even though it was a bit too well done. Surrounding the beef was one of the best buns of the test so far: thick, seasoned and moist. Unfortunately I did not realize until after my first bite that the cook had forgotten my cheese. Score: 7/10
Silver City Spurs: In second place is the burger over at Silver City Spurs (Golf Course Hotel, Road). While I would have to say that the restaurant’s strange décor gives it a cheap feel, the burger was decent. While it looked plain and the presentation was dry, their moist and tasty beef made up for it. A little more imagination and this one could be a contender. Score: 8/10
So without any more suspense, here is my nomination for the best burger in town: the Beef Burger with Blue Cheese at Ranchers (Garden City). I discovered this burger after hunger pangs hit me while waiting in line at Uchumi. I glanced across the lobby at and decided to give it a try. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the restaurant also contains a butchery and cheese shop, but this burger rocks. The beef is perfect and the cooks are great: I asked for medium well and that’s how I got it! The tangy kick of blue cheese and a perfect bun completes this culinary masterpiece. I now have to limit myself to only two burgers at Ranchers a month. Score: 9/10