The man who ate Lincoln Rd wishes to give a warm welcome to the latest, and 55th, food joint on Lincoln Rd - the quaintly named Mr Burger, in the same block as Sal's Pizza and Bruce Lee Sushi & Roll. It's a good place. I ate there the other day and it may've been the most meat I've eaten in a single meal since the last time I chowed down at Angus Steak House.
Mr Burger opened in January. There's something shy about it, something unfinished. It doesn't exactly scream COME ON IN AND EAT, YO. It doesn't have a sign out front and the walls are completely bare and the ceiling lights are very bright. As such it hasn't exactly set the street on fire. I popped in for lunch the other day and I was the only person there, but only for a second - I got followed in by a man who said, "Excuse me, are you the man who ate Lincoln Rd?"
"I am he," I said, "and I am here to eat Lincoln Rd."
"Well, me too, in that case," he said.
The pied piper of Lincoln! We ordered our meals, and got to talking. He works in housing for the intellectually disabled; as well as a mecca of fried chicken, Lincoln Rd operates as a medical mile, with many and varied health services. The sick and the lame always have plenty to eat.
• Episode 8: The man who ate Lincoln Rd rates Eves Pantry
• Episode 9: The man who ate Lincoln Rd rates Burger King
• Episode 10: The man who ate Lincoln Road has a bad time at Burger Fuel
Service was fast at Mr Burger. Our orders arrived in 10 minutes. My friend got The Vege Burger ($12.50); I went for the giant Westi Burger ($16.90) with Coke and fries. The bill: only $20.40. How come so little? Ingeniously, Mr Burger throws in a free side of 200gms of fries free with all orders over $11.
The fries were like chips from a fish and chip shop. I like chips from a fish and chip shop - brown, salty, spuddy. The immediate thing to say about the burger is to remark on its size. It was the Titanic, and no iceberg would ever dent it. It was decked out with two Angus beef patties, bacon, cheese, a fried egg, a slice of beetroot, a hash brown, red onion, relish, and BBQ sauce, pinned with two toothpicks to soft white buns.
It was delicious. The export quality Angus is from Angel Bay, wherever that is. The red onion was a nice touch. I didn't mind the fact the hash brown was one of those frozen ones - who's got time to make a real one? - or that the cheese was one of those slices wrapped in plastic. I took a break from eating it to scoff the chips and swig the Coke; when I returned, the bun was still in one piece, and hadn't dissolved into a pulp, unlike my dismal experience last week at Burger Fuel.
I got to talking with the manager. Grant Wilson is in his 60s and has a moustache. "I'm not a foodie," he said, "but I know what good food is." This statement was based on his previous job - he ran the Chipmunks playground in west Auckland, "and we did some interesting things in the café".
Such as? "Wedges and cheese, bronco chips, and a nice range of pizzas," he said. "Plus I put things like beetroot in the burgers, and people said that was a bit different.
"So that was the catalyst. But the inspiration for Mr Burger is Fergburger in Queenstown. Have you heard of it? It's an icon! Very large burgers, value for money, fresh food. I thought, 'Why can't you do that here?'
"If you're any good, you put your toe in the water and you'll soon find out whether you're good or not. I think we're making a connection. We're getting repeat customers, and there's a web page to order online. Today's a bit quiet...We tend to be busier in the evenings."
He went to serve a Pacific Island couple, and a teenager with the brightest green mohawk in the world right now. When he came back, I said to Grant that it was either brave or insane to compete with the giant franchises on Lincoln Rd - those empires of fat and salt, Burger King, McDonald's, Texas Chicken, etc.
He said, "Well, yes, there's always a risk. So was taking over Chipmunks. Crazy! I'm an engineer by trade. I was living in Queenstown and came to Auckland when the Chipmunks franchise became available. I made it work, and I'm determined to do the same with Mr Burger."
I said it might help to have something, anything, on the walls. He pointed out a wall bracket, and said, "That used to hold a 70" TV. But it got stolen. The cops said, 'Don't put another one up.' Insurance are going to replace it, but I'm not sure whether I want to.
"All this," he said, gesturing at the 10 tables, "just sort of came with the place. It used to be an Oporto Chicken. All I really wanted was a takeaway. A burger bar."
It could do with maybe a bit of atmosphere, or any kind of atmosphere, but it's a very good burger bar. Rating: 8 out of 10.
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•All views expressed are the author's.