Everyone loves burgers, even here in Taiwan a few thousand KM across the Pacific Ocean from the birthplace of the great American classic. Some like it just once in a while, some view it as a religion. I love me a good juicy cheeseburger any day.
But I also take things relatively, especially when it comes to food. There is the fast-food burger, which I will personally say my top 2 favorites are In n Out and Shake Shack, the fancy-smancy gourmet burgers (one of my favorites is the DB Burger by Daniel Boulud at DB Bistro Moderne), and then there is the the great American backyard BBQ burger, which to be honest is really the best kind of burger out there. But what makes a good burger? What is one’s favorite burger? These are very subjective and hotly debated questions from New York to Taipei.
In recent years, Taipei has seen many American style burger joints spring up across town, taking burger meals to new heights beyond McDs or Burger King. The first few places went for more creative takes on the American staple, and later came places that focused on simple 4-5 item menus with fried and shakes.
Having spent the last 9 months in Taipei and finally moving beyond my usual spots that I frequented during my winter and summer breaks in college, I began to explore more of Taipei and Taiwan’s food scene. One of the first goals I had was to eat at some of the most popular and recognized burger joints in Taipei and to offer my own ranking of these places.
Note: There wasnt really a metric here, but for me I ranked this based on what came closest to a burger at say Shake Shack, In n Out or just your corner greasy diner in the United States. Coupled with price, wait time, ambiance, and whether it was worth the hype.
[August 2020 Update] I have to say, there is now a new #1 for me.
#1: Taihu Craft Beer Tasting Room’s Motz Burger
Taihu Craft Beer has made a name for itself in Taiwan for being one of the first to offer a real craft beer experience in Taiwan. Their craft beers on tap are fantastic. But recently I returned to their Tasting Room by Zhongxiao Fuxing in Taipei and had their burgers. It was simply fantastic, so good I ordered a second one immediately. The best one is the “Motz” Burger, and I’d add jalapenos at no additional cost to it. Its a double patty cheese burger with mustard grilled, “stack sauce”, and smashed onions for NT$275. It comes with crunchy fries as well. This burger is like a marriage between an In N Out Burger and a Shake-Shack Burger. But it is juicy, mildly smoky, melted cheesy goodness, and not complicated. It is a cheeseburger at its purest essence and is so delicious.
#2: Burger & Co.
They have the best wings in town (at least of the ones I’ve had), great smokey flat top grilled bacon cheeseburgers that in my opinion had a very Shake Shack-esque taste to it, the fries werent the best but still decent. Honestly my favorite burger joint in town. Its also a small space, quick and friendly service, almost no waits, and they do takeout.
#3 (tied) Mary’s Hamburger (Now called Mary’s Diner) and H.M Burger Hometown
The reason they are tied is because they are very similar and I still havent figured out if they are the same owners or not. Mary’s Hamburger has been a classic establishment in Tien Mu, right next to Taipei American School, and has been serving more than just a good diner style burger, its basically one of the closest things you’ll find to your neighborhood greasy spoon diner in Taipei. They not only have American classics (burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken), they also have Taiwanese-American classics like fried rice and curry rice. This was my childhood favorite for classic American food that wasnt from a multi-national chain like TGIF or Chili’s. Mary’s Hamburger closed for a short period of time and has since moved down the street on Zhongshan North Road and is called Mary’s Diner now, the owner’s brother has since opened a Mary’s Hamburger on Tian Yu Street, but people have said its not the same.
No. 470, Chung Shan North Road, Section 6, Taipei
H.M Burger Hometown has a simpler menu than Mary’s Diner, and is in XiMenDing. The Chinese name is also Mary’s Hamburger which is why I was confused. Regardless the cheese fries here are simply amazing (some honey-mustard, melted cheese, caramelized onions, and small bacon bits). The burgers are good and so are the hot dogs! It also happens to be on “American Street.”
#4 (tied) Bravo Burger and 1885 Burger
These two places are tied because they have very similar menus and are located very close to each other (although 1885 now has 2 locations). Their popular and signature burgers are more creative and fusion burgers, which is also why they arent exactly ranked at the top. But their Peanut Butter Bacon Cheeseburger are both amazing, and different. I love peanut butter and both these places lather that peanut butter like its nobody’s business, which is fine by me, but if you want to taste the burger, then dont order this. The sides here are also decent, fries and onion rings are crunchy.
#5 Burger Ray
Very simple menu. Their signature is their “Heart Attack Burger” which is a hamburger topped with foie gras with your choice of either caramelized onion or pineapple on either a brioche or ciabatta bun. You can also decide if you want medium-rare, medium or well done beef. There is a condiments buffet for you to add lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, jalapenos and salsa to your liking with chili, cheese-sauce, ketchup, mustard, BBQ Sauce, Russian dressing to add as well. Its one of the slower places that also gets real busy. The nice thing is that they provide plastic gloves to eat with so you dont get greasy hands. The burger itself was ok, once I finished the tiny part with the foie-gras there wasnt much flavor left. Fried are good and shake not too bad.
Honorary Mention: L’Bar at the Palais de Chine Hotel (burger L’Bar now closed) and KGB Kiwi Gourmet Burgers
Its not exactly a burger joint, but the burger menu at L’Bar at this hotel next to Taipei Main Station is quite good and creative. The beef patties are fat and juicy and the lamb burger is unique and delicious. The burgers here lean more towards those gourmet burgers at fancy restaurants. But nonetheless I enjoy their burgers from time to time.
Another great burger joint, that for me is a bit far, but good is KGB Kiwi Gourmet Burgers, one of my favorites here is the burger with Cranberry sauce. The burgers are New Zealand style and quite good. If you’ve ever been to Fergburger in Queentown, NZ (which is amazing by the way), this places comes close and is popular with many expats. I kind of forgot about this place until I was recently reminded of it!
Another popular place which I did not enjoy at all was CaliBurger. It is in my opinion a fair attempt at bringing the In n Out experience to Taiwan. The menu and atmosphere is almost identical. The flavors of everything however were very much not identical, except maybe the animal fries which came close. But everything else fell short, and its quite sad when a burger join serves a burger whose patty and lettuce and everything is already slipping out the back of the bun even before you pick it up!
Again these are just my personal rankings and favorites, there are a ton more burger joints and places out there in Taipei.
Would love to hear people’s own rankings or personal favorites around town.