In search of the perfect burger, The National staff taste-tested the country's many burger joints. Which ones stood out from the pack?
Your guide to the UAE’s best burgers
The Burger Joint
Atlantis, The Palm
Value: A pricey option — the cheeseburger is Dh62. Our favourite, the Outback burger with beef ribs, is Dh77.
Meat: Behold what may be the best in town — a wonderfully dizzying experience from the first exquisite bite to the last. One bite of TBJ’s succulent beef and you’ll be exclaiming “Holy cow”.
Mess: The burger’s too thick, so it’s impossible to eat without the aid of a knife and fork.
Bun: The softest bun I’ve encountered. The downside: with the meat’s juices, it quickly turned soggy.
Toppings: The beef is cooked so well, there’s no need for any ketchup or mayo, which will only take away the flavour of the juices. And that’s only the tip of the French fry — the lettuce was so crisp it bit like a potato chip. The relish deserves props, too.
* James Gabrillo
Wafi Mall, Dubai
Value: I ordered the Tijuana Sliders for Dh55 a plate (no fries) and ended up having the most delicious burger experience of my life, so my conclusion is “expensive, but worth it”.
Meat: I don’t normally order sliders because the patties are usually like tough little hockey pucks. These three were tender, moist and full of flavour, made from meat freshly ground in Burger Rebel’s kitchens.
Mess factor: The perfect amount.
Bun: The buns were what really made this experience. They were so fresh, I felt as though they were melting in my mouth. As I later found out, they are baked on-site and lightly grilled before serving.
Toppings: The mixture of leaf lettuce, melted Monterey jack cheese, homemade guacamole and chipotle sauce was spicy, but not overwhelmingly so.
* Ann Marie McQueen
Burger Fuel ??
Various, Abu Dhabi and Dubai
Value: Dh20 for a Hamburgini with cheese. Great value for a smaller burger which was more than adequate to satisfy my small appetite.
Meat: A chargrilled juicy, tasty patty, not too thick or thin. The meat is 100 per cent New Zealand beef flown in to the UAE.
Mess: No mess.
Bun: A fresh sesame bun.
Toppings: The standard toppings of melted cheddar, bread and butter pickles, Burger Fuel’s natural ketchup and house aioli complemented the meat perfectly and didn’t overpower.
* Sarah Ferguson
South Street Burger Co
Ibn Batuta and Media City, Dubai
Value: At Dh36, not big and not cheap.
Meat: I enjoyed their Cheese N Bacon Burger, which wasn’t too greasy. The meat is Canadian beef raised without hormones.
Mess: Quite clean — depending on how many toppings you put.
Bun: Fresh from a Modern Bakery wrapper! Whole-wheat and white options available.
Toppings: In the same vein as Subway, you watch your sandwich being prepared and exactly how you want it to be filled. Good range of sauces and relishes — definitely a plus point.
* Anna Seaman?
Various, Abu Dhabi and Dubai
Value: Regular burger is Dh37.
Meat: Made of 100 per cent Angus beef, the patty remained juicy throughout.
Mess: Despite the big, juicy flavours on offer, the mess was minimal.
Bun: A fresh and soft white button bun that doesn’t get in the way of the patty and cheese.
Toppings: The big surprise is the vegetarian mushroom burger patty. Filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheeses, your first bite unleashes a torrent of gooey cheesy goodness.
* Saeed Saeed
Various, Abu Dhabi and Dubai
Both grain and grass-fed
Value: The size is great for the cost (Dh31). It’s big, and I was stuffed.
Meat: I asked for it to be medium, but the meat was well-done, which was a disappointment. But it still tasted good.
Mess: Surprisingly not messy, given all the toppings I piled on there.
Bun: Fresh and just the right level of softness.
Toppings: You can make your own burger, which made me feel more in control. I piled on lettuce, tomato, onions, relish, pickles, jalapeño peppers, cheese and tomato salsa.
* Marie-Louise Olson
Latifa Tower, Sheikh Zayed Road
Value: Burger was expensive (Dh35) and pretty small — even the Vertigo burger which contains between three to 10 patties didn’t seem massive.
Meat: To rate this burger on just the meat, it would have definitely got a higher rating. The patty itself was very tasty, the meat being 100 per cent organic, grass-fed and free-range beef.
Mess: Extremely. Not easy to eat.
Bun: Nothing special.
Toppings: What let this burger down was the cheese. It was almost like a congealed liquid that covered everything and it was an oddly lurid colour. It didn’t have much taste but it made the burger very messy along with the Elevation sauce, which wasn’t great. However, the range of toppings was excellent; so my advice, skip the signature sauce and the cheese and just add ketchup. The caramelised onions were also a winner.
* Anna Seaman
Muroor Road and Dalma Mall in Abu Dhabi; Khalifah Street in Al Ain
Value: An average-sized cheeseburger and fries will set you back Dh50. What makes Grand Central worth a visit is the option of getting yummy sweet potato fries which not every burger joint has.
Meat: To western taste buds, meat patties in the UAE can sometimes have an odd taste. But this burger tastes like 100 per cent beef.
Bun: A whole wheat bun, soft and tasty, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Toppings: The burgers come with a special Russian dressing-like sauce, but you can get almost anything on them — lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, mushrooms, jalapeños, beef bacon or an egg.
* Olga Camacho
Guardian Towers, Abu Dhabi
Value: Dh30 seemed a hefty price to pay for a burger that was definitely on the small side. We’d still be hungry if it wasn’t for the sides we ordered.
Meat: Best part of the sandwich, hands down. The beef patty was juicy and crumbled just right in your mouth.
Mess factor: High.
Bun: The menu prided itself on the “buttery brioche bun” used in constructing each burger, but to us, it just tasted like any other burger bun. It could have done with some toasting.
Toppings: The burger comes with your choice of three toppings — we went with the pickles, sautéed onions and tomato — and one choice of sauce. The sauce options are aplenty; the BH Special sauce seemed to be a combination of Thousand Island with a hint of herbs and garlic — and proved a little overpowering.
* Hala Khalaf
various Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah
Value: Dh30 burger, but the taste and size wasn’t worth the price.
Meat taste: It was grainy and tasted fried. There was nothing exciting about the meat.
Mess: No mess at all.
Bun: A bit dry, and it tasted like a frying pan.
Toppings: You can get extra toppings like a fried egg and beef bacon, but I opted for a straight-up cheeseburger with the usual suspects. I didn’t like the fact that the lettuce was shredded, and there was not enough ketchup.
* Marie-Louise Olson
Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi with more locations imminent
Value: Any burger that costs Dh40 has to blow my taste buds, and this one didn’t.
Meat: A burger is pointless without a sensational patty. This one is lifeless and dry.
Mess: It’s a big burger — I had to smush it down to fit my mouth around it.
Bun: The whole-wheat bun tastes wholesome enough, but it’s also slightly soggy, because the healthy leaf lettuce is wet.
Toppings: I have no, err, beef with the smoky BBQ sauce and the thin slices of red onion and ripe red tomato, but I have to lift up the bun to find the smattering of blue cheese. Burger Bureau offers other creative toppings like guacamole and Boursin cheese, but these will likely only mask the bland beef beneath.
* Mo Gannon
various Abu Dhabi and Dubai
Value: At Dh21 a pop for the cheeseburger, it’s more bang for your beef.
Meat: Dubbed “Sweden’s tastiest burger”, the meat itself tasted delicious, but the thin patty got lost in the mix.
Mess: Usual fast-food mess.
Bun: Tasteless — and overpowered the meat.
Toppings: On my two visits, there was way too much mayo on the burgers. Tell the server to forgo the mayo and put BBQ sauce instead. Console yourself by ordering some fries on the side — it’s calorie hell but oh so worth it.
* James Gabrillo
The Beach, JBR, Dubai
Value: From the build-your-own burger concept, I ordered the 1/3lb Angus beef burger for Dh39, plus an extra Dh3 charge for the smoked beef bacon topping. You can choose one from 12 different cheeses; four from 20 different toppings, and then a choice of 20 different sauces. At Dh42, and given the sheer size of the burger (I couldn’t finish it), it’s good value.
Meat: The Counter prides itself on its naturally raised, hormone and antibiotic-free Angus beef. The meat patty was juicy, moist and freshly prepared on site.
Mess factor: The vast number of choices of toppings — plus the large size of the burger — means this got pretty messy.
Buns: The hamburger bun was flavoursome and buttery. You can also opt for a wheat bun, English muffin or pretzel bun.
Toppings: I opted for a rather conservative combo of savoury Swiss cheese, green onions, lettuce, onions confit, beef smoked bacon and mayo, which worked very well for me — the tasty cheese was perfectly melted and the beef bacon crisped to perfection. For the adventurous, there are choices of spicy pepperoncinis, roasted corn and black bean salsa, apricot sauce, Russian dressing and tzatziki.
* Sarah Ferguson
Best Burgers Forever
Value: At Dh37, the B-Double Cheese Burger is pricey for its standard size.
Meat: It only took one bite into this burger before I knew something was wrong: the meat tasted like garlic. It turns out it wasn’t garlic; it was raw onion added by the chefs to the Angus beef that they grind in-house every day. But, whoa, was there way too much. It totally ruined the taste and sent me packing, tail between my legs.
Mess: Pale-coloured cheese oozed out over my hand, making it pretty messy.
Bun: The b-shaped bun is the kitsch element for this chain — sadly it was stale and didn’t make the experience any more enjoyable.
Toppings: Too many gherkins, which were overpowering.
* Anna Seaman
Gourmet Burger Kitchen
Dubai Marina Mall
Value: It’s a burger, and as such I’d say it needs to do something pretty special for Dh38. It didn’t, really.
Meat: The Angus beef was pleasant enough, without being exciting.
Mess factor: Quite messy. I had to ask for extra napkins before I’d actually got it in my mouth as the sauce was diving everywhere.
Bun: Pleasant in taste and texture, but made the cardinal error of collapsing into several pieces as I ate. Great for tapas, not so much for a burger.
Toppings: The chilli mayonnaise and ranch sauce had a decent kick. The crispy beef bacon was basically just fat (in some people’s eyes that would be a good thing). The cheese was visible, but I couldn’t taste it — possibly the chilli’s fault.
* Chris Newbould
Value: An average-sized hamburger costs just Dh21 while a meal (with fries and a drink) costs Dh40.
Meat: With the meat being shipped from the US, the hamburger was cooked to near perfection and made for a tasty meal.
Mess factor: Average.
Bun: A soft roll that perhaps broke apart a little too easily while eating, but delicious nonetheless.
Toppings: Customise your toppings with choices including coleslaw, chilli, grilled mushrooms and bell peppers.
* Evelyn Lau
Burger Joint NY
Nation Galleria, The Corniche
Value: That depends on how hungry you are – a regular burger is Dh35, but you can blow Dh55 on a double cheeseburger.
Meat: There's a real homemade vibe in the fall-apart goodness of the top shoulder certified Angus beef – it tastes more like it's been grilled on a back-garden barbecue, rather than in a burger restaurant. You're asked how you want it cooked, too, which is always a nice touch. We opted for medium.
Mess: Semi-significant. That aforementioned fall-apartness does mean that the whole thing begins to disintegrate under the weight of its own juiciness after a few bites, especially the double burgers, but with no cutlery on the tables, you just have to get involved.
Bun: Nothing to write home about, but just about maintained its integrity long enough to hold in the majority of the meat.
Toppings: These are kept simple at Burger Joint NY: a choice from lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mustard, ketchup and mayo (at no extra cost). We went old-skool with just lettuce and ketchup – a wise selection, as the burger speaks for itself, without being slathered in toppings.
* Adam Workman
Click here to see our map of the UAE’s best burger joints.