an American fish in & out of Estonian waters

Tallinn’s Best Burger

 

Grillburger. There. I said it. Without beating around the bush. Or plotting an indirect course by going off on multiple tangents. Or heading on a long, meandering trip down memory lane. Grillburger makes Tallinn’s best burger. They’ve upped the bar and gone beyond the simple burks.

If you want to try one of their burgers for lunch, look for Grillburger’s Red Food Truck (also known as the King) parked behind the Olerex Gas Station on the large traffic island between the two halves of Ahtri Street. If this location seems rather strange at first, you’ll soon figure out why they are where they are if you sit down at their only picnic bench to enjoy your burger. The King happens to have staked out the main crossing between Tallinn’s ferry terminal and its Old Town. Grillburger open from Monday to Friday from 12 noon until 6 PM – not exactly ideal for those who work from 9 to 5 in other parts of town.

The last time I wrote about Grillburger (AKA Grill & Prull) in August’s The Best is Still to Come, their main shortcoming was their meat as they’d pretty much nailed down everything else. Maybe they read my review – or even followed up on my Five Easy Steps Towards Better Burgers. In any case, Grillburger has either changed their butcher or learned how to pimp up their meat so that you can barely tell that they’re still using chewy Estonian beef. After trying their burgers three times over the last three weeks, I have to say that Grillburger are now the makers of Tallinn’s First Proper Burger and so have become the official winners of the flatfish favorite prize or FFP.

As you may have noticed, I’m claiming that Grillburger is now Tallinn’s best burger and not just my favorite one. I make this bold leap from the subjective to the objective because their burger ticks every item on my burger check list. So, let’s give the list a quick run through to make sure that I’m not missing anything:

Bun: Grillburger’s sesame seed bun is buttered and then toasted. After all, it’s the bun that makes the burger a burger to begin with. Right on!

Fixings: Grillburger offers the basic burger fixings – lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. True, the onions are the fried German kind that you can get from Vürstid but that works just fine for me. As does their special sauce made from spiced mayonnaise mixed with a sweet and seeded mustard. Even though I’m more of a tangy Heinz ketchup guy myself, I have to give them another thumbs up!

Umami Kick: Grillburger uses a decent cheddar cheese – even if it is pre-sliced – for that extra savory flavor. Yeah, they could use a better cheese but I’ll still going give them a Check thanks to the support provided by their savory sauce and those crispy onions.

The Beef: Grillburger’s beef patty finally delivers even if it is fried on a griddle rather than grilled over charcoal. It’s been loosely hand-shaped and so has clearly not been manhandled – I just hope that they grind their own beef rather than buying it pre-ground from a butcher who might sneak in unknown fillers. In any case, their jazzed-up meat finally passes inspection even if it might not be USDA Grade A.

What really makes their burger click, however, is that everything is in now balance. Everything finally works together – all the flavors complement one another – to create a single whole. Yes, the taste of their savory meat patty is front and center – hitting your palate right where it should. And then everything else involved – bun, fixings, and cheese – provides that extra assist to help Grillburger score.

As I was waiting to see if Grillburger was going to make it across the finish line first, I took time to revisit their closest Tallinn competitors – and even tried what is supposed to be Riga’s best burger. Sadly, those other places still haven’t made the cut – instead, they may have even slipped further behind. So it goes. To place Grillburger in the context of greater London burgers, they’re now up there with the crowd-pleasing Bleecker – although without the variations or the fries. Grillburger still has some work to do to reach the heights of London burger legends Burger Shack (RIP) but, hey, no need to fix it if it works.

And yet, to pump things up just another notch, Grillburger needs to find a signature side to accompany their burgers – something other than their alternative offering of a grilled shrimp salad. For me, a burger still works best in combination with the potato. After all, there is a reason why meat & potatoes are such a well-known pair. One way to complete that culinary loop would be to offer some high-end potato chips (or “crisps” for those in the UK) under the assumption that French fries (“chips”) would be too much of a hassle or a bother. Or perhaps even a nice potato salad would do the trick. At least when the weather is warmer, Grillburger has been known to brew up some of their own kaali (a slightly fermented drink made from rye bread) and thereby live up to their full name of Grill & Pruul (Grill & Brew).

At long last, it looks like my quest for Tallinn’s best burger is over – at least for now – or at least until some new competitor surfaces who wants to usurp King Grillburger’s throne. Me, I’m happy as now I know where to go whenever I’m jonesing for a burger and don’t have the time or energy to charcoal grill my own in the backyard. But don’t just take my word for it – go and give Grillburger a try. Just be sure to tell them that flatfish sent you!

 

Image: The flatfish favorite prize – a flat wood fish made from northern Karelian birch by Åland jeweler and wood carver Peter Lindberg (www.trabiten.ax).

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