THERE are few enough things in our world as ubiquitous as a beef burger — they are everywhere. One of those fiddly ball-and-stick games or soccer might be as universal but then they are utilities of an entirely different nature, serving a very different purpose — but often provoking an appetite for a burger (or two) après match.
There are as many variations of burgers as there are places to buy them and, as anyone who has eaten a late night, roadside burger at one of those summer beer-and-sex festivals dressed up as a cultural event will testify, there can be pretty spectacular variations in standards too. Just like the beer and sex — as far as I can remember, it was so very long ago...
Some burgers are grand — what a flexible, all-encompassing and useful word that is — others are good because someone actually made an effort and used meat other than boning hall scrapings. Others, probably the majority, are vile patties of gore and gunk made edible only by some overpowering sauce or other.
Unfortunately these — and many other processed meats including bacon — are the kind that this week’s World Health Organisation report suggested were as carcinogenic as alcohol, nicotine, asbestos, or arsenic. Sad but true, it seems, especially as cancer is as ubiquitous as mass-produced, industrial burgers are.
Like ourselves, burgers come in all shapes and sizes and have many first cousins too — ’shure what is a sausage only a burger in a different suit? Meatball anyone? Lamb koftas? Hamburger? Breast in a bun? Those lovely rings of spicy black or white pudding?
And, if South Africa had beaten New Zealand in last weekend’s rugby World Cup semi-final there would be a Burger playing in today’s Twickenham final — the impressive man and player Schalk Burger, as fine an example of beef on the hoof as South Africa can offer.
Son of a Bun is a project set up and run by husband-and-wife team Niall and Amanda O’Regan in what was once Crowley’s music store on Cork’s MacCurtain St — the departure lounge for many a happy summer festival in its day.
And it is still a departure point — Son of a Bun is the first restaurant in Ireland to get HSE approval to serve its burgers pink.
This is made possible by a transparent supply chain from farm to table and a policy of using only Aberdeen Angus beef, minced daily. This cherish-the-meat victory acknowledges our unfortunate national habit of cremating good meat — and even if “well done, very well done please, no blood at all” is an expression of free speech on a plate, it is an absurd anachronism. Get over it and taste the meat!
The menu at Son of a Bun is a mix-and-match affair with around a dozen variations of burgers (they run up to €10 a pop) on offer with all sorts of permutations and extras. They offer a range of salads too, but if you want some French fries and and side salad you’ll be heading towards, if not beyond the €20 mark pretty quickly.
Add a beer or two (mine was €5.75 though it came with a slice of orange stuck on the lip of the glass as if it was a Harry’s Bar cocktail), and you’ll cross the €20 threshold. Your moola, your call.
I was joined by a very old friend — also DW — and we ordered two different options, the SOB — a dickied-up cheese and bacon burger — and another with chillies and capers.
They were not served as ordered, DW got mine and I got hers — our fault, not the server’s. By the time we had discovered this — remember, it’s a meat pattie heavily dressed in buns, sauces and other odds and bobs — it was too late, but it made little or no difference.
Each of us enjoyed it for what it was, which is a decent use of decent meat enhanced by a spiky supporting cast. It did what it said on the tin.
The restaurant space is straight out of the Norman Rockwell Catalogue of Burger Diners, if there is such a thing. Americana writ large, stressed pine re-used, creating a specific, widely recognised code for diners.
Even the graphics on the menus are a nod to an America long gone, but then we go to places like Son of a Bun to wallow in these things. Nostalgia for a time we never experienced.
There may not, however, be much wallowing of any kind. The background music — even if Ray Charles, who I was introduced to by DW’s father decades ago, featured prominently — was so loud it made the lingering and chatting impossible.
This is not an accident, as this is a get-em-in-and-get-em-out sort of a place that does not take bookings.
There was, however, a great, buzzing atmosphere. I’ve passed the place twice since we ate there and each time there was a queue for tables, so the package is already a hit with city diners.
Joy and hopefully success in a bun.
Two burgers, two portions of fries, three beers and two coffees came to €44.25, tip extra.
Noon to 10 every day.
Striking a blow for decent burgers in a lively, gutsy atmosphere, it is not pretentious or pushy and a fine place for an in-and-out meal on a busy day — if you can get a seat.