The fight for fast food burger supremacy is a fierce one. We’ve got BK, Maccas, Wendy, Carl and Sanders battling it out on our turf, along with Burgerfuel, Eat Burger and Goneburger dishing up three very different renditions in the made-to-order fast-casual space. Burger Wisconsin is a precariously missing player here; a homegrown chain of grills with history spanning almost 30 years, they claim to be the first burger kitchen to serve bacon and avocado in a sandwich, which is no small claim. They have branches and franchises located in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, The Bay, The Other Bay, and Gisborne, (Yeah, Gisborne,) but it’s been many a years since they’ve closed down in the City of the Future, long before I ever moved here, and no news on if or when it will be returning.
So on our recent excursion to Auckland, we decided to have a crack at their burgers and see if it’s all the hype is real, and whether we need to start stopping people on the street to gather signatures for a petition to bring back a BW to Hamilton.
The main street in Ponsonby has started to simmer down by 8:30pm when we arrived, and the empty floor betrays the rush we’re told we’d missed by a few minutes. The menu isn’t huge, but it covers most bases. There’s six beef, five chicken, and a couple of vege burgers. A couple of the options might be a bit redundant, but overall a nice selection. It just needs to be studied closely, as it’s not the most clearly written menu.
The bun is a soft, plain kind that doesn’t get in the way of the rest of the ingredients, but still does an admirable job of holding it all together. There’s a hint of sweetness, and the dusting of cornmeal is always appreciated. The first bite into the cheeseburger, made with angus beef patty, is a study in freshness. The lettuce, onion, tomato and the accompanying relish is not only the platonic ideal of a salad in a burger, but it’s balanced well with the other elements. The angus beef patty is really soft, and it’s a different experience to the substantial, firm and crumbling beef of Goneburger, or the more flavourful and steak-like offering from Eat Burger and Burgerfuel. In comparison to those, the Wisconsin beef fails to make a significant contribution to the ensemble, especially when it’s thrown shade by the cheese and sauce. It would work in a double pattie configuration, but as it is, the beef pales in comparison to the other components. Not the highest compliment for a burger, unfortunately.
They use tenderloins for chicken burgers like so many other joints, and I have no idea what this obsession with tenderloins are coming from. It’s easy to overcook, stringy and chalky even when it’s done properly, and just generally not a great cut of chicken. Wisconsin’s breaded tenders, however, are awfully good, and has a really crispy breading that at the same time isn’t too heavy. The chicken remains as moist as it can be, and contrasts well with the aforementioned soft bun.
Since they’ve been taken over by the Mexicali guys, BW has expanded their franchise operation, which could well mean that the Tron is now in their sight. But then again, Mexicali itself got punished when they opened up in Centre Place, and that may well have left a bad taste in their mouth for the town as a whole.* So we don’t know if Wisconsin is coming back to us any time soon; if they do, it would certainly be able to offer something that’s a little different and unique. But then again, I think our local hangouts would be more than up for a little challenge.
* If any Mexicali people are reading this, I think the Centre Place location didn’t fly, not because Hamiltonians are stuck-up and aren’t open to new places, but because the food at that particular branch was just a bit poop. I’ve been to some of your other locations in Auckland and they were actually pretty great, a far cry from the soggy mess I had back home. Kthxbai.