Sunday, 26 January 2014

Pop Up Series - Howzat Burger

A funny thing happened during the week, one of Brisbane's best known and well loved chefs tried his hand at something a little different, and pulled off one of the successes of the decade. You could expect Philip Johnson of E'cco fame to be a little gun shy after the unfortunate end to Bistro One Eleven but it seems as if the opposite is true.  After an extremely well crafted social media campaign that was eagerly picked up by foodies and online magazines around town, Howzat Burger was on the tip of almost everyone's lips in Brisbane.

I think everyone understands the concept of a 'Pop-up' - you find a space and for a short period of time, a restaurant or cafe takes over and you have an instant restaurant.  I first saw a little banner for Howzat Burger a couple of weeks ago and was instantly on alert, I love burgers and since my trip to New York, have been on a mission to replicate some of the tastes and flavours of genuine USA burgers.  As the social media campaign picked up and more information was 'set free', I found myself caught up in the hype, so much so that I couldn't help 'like' and 'share' and 'repost' all that I could see.

As the information and details emerged, it became clear that Howzat Burger would only be around for a short time, open on the last two Thursdays and Fridays in January.   Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get along on the first Thursday and could only watch the day unfold on Twitter and Instagram, all the time wishing I was there, enjoying a burger.  I did learn some valuable tips by looking on from the social sphere.  Firstly, the day had been incredibly successful, with over 235 burgers on the first day of trading.  To put that in context, thats over 58 burgers an hour, or just under one burger a minute!  (it would end up being over 600 for both days - even more amazing). Secondly, I had to plan carefully to avoid waiting in a queue for over an hour to get a burger, which many patient and happy campers did on the opening day.

I'd definitely learned my lesson from the previous days pandemonium and had left work with enough time to arrive at Howzat nice and early, in fact, I timed it too well and was there just before opening at about 10:50.  Incredibly, I was not the first person there!  In a stroke of luck, I bumped into the man himself and was pretty thankful that Philip let me wait inside and get a bit of a jump on the opening time of 11am. It also gave me a little bit of an opportunity to get a good look at and some photos of the space that Howzat had taken over without a crowd to get in my shots!

Howzat had taken over the E'cco Bar underneath one of Brisbane's best restaurants E'cco Bistro (see post here) and while the space hadn't completely transformed, it certainly had taken on the feel of a burger joint.  It was all familiar, yet so very different at the same time.

The menu at Howzat is pretty focussed on burgers, with five quite different and interesting looking burgers on offer, ranging from the Mexican Wave, with roast pork belly to the Square Leg, with cumin spiced lamb. There was only one burger that was going to interest me though.  The Don, with grain fed beef, cheddar cheese, vine ripened tomato, iceberg lettuce and mayo, which I quickly ordered with a side of onion rings and a banoffee flavoured milk shake.

Once my burger arrived, I knew I was in for a treat, it just looked right, it looked just how a burger should look and most of all, it looked like it needed to be eaten!  I picked up the burger, it was a two hand job, and took my first bite......  Yum, the fresh and light bun was not overly sweet but there was some sweetness from the mayonnaise and fresh tomato.  The grain fed meat patty was thick and juicy and cooked a perfect medium, so I could see just enough pink through the middle - perfect.  The overall combination of ingredients really hit the mark, but the thing I loved most about this burger was the meat juices soaking into the bun and the overall meaty goodness.

I could spend a little time explaining how delicious the banoffee milkshake was and how crisp and tasty the onion rings were, but I won't, you'll  have to get into the Pop-up before it closes to check these out for yourself.  For me, Howzat Burger was about one thing, and one thing only, trying to replicate the taste and feel of the burgers I had in New York (see NYC burger post here).

Yes!  The Don burger from Howzat Burger is as good as any burger you will get in New York, and that is very high praise indeed.  The flavours were just right and the burger was almost perfect in every way.  I say almost perfect with the only very minor change I would love to see to really hit that USA standard....   the size of the bun.  The buns are a little smaller in New York which allows the meat patty to spill out over the side - a visual change as much as anything else.

I think that over the space of two days, Philip Johnson and Howzat Burger has changed the game in Brisbane for the humble burger, completely redefining the idea of the burger.  The most amazing thing?  While I was sitting waiting for my burger to arrive, I was able to listen to and chat with some of the customers waiting in the queue.  Many were back for a second day in a row and were clearly excited to be at the front of the queue and couldn't wait to get into their second bite of the burger.

At this stage, the Howzat Pop-up only has one more week to run, but based on the 600+ people that enjoyed the best burger in town over a two day period, I'm hoping that it will become a permanent fixture on the Brisbane casual dining scene.


**Update - Howzat has now become a permanent fixture open Tuesdays to Fridays for lunch

**Thanks to Philip Johnson and Howzat Burger for covering this meal for me

Some gratuitous burger shots - enjoy
I loved the fresh ingredients and wonderful flavours of The Don
Finally, a thick meat patty with juices flowing - its what I loved about my NYC burgers
My Banoffee milkshake was delicious and thanks to the team for the recommendation, I almost went with Vanilla!
There were lots of fresh ingredients on the burgers
Look for the Howzat Burger sign to enter burger heaven
The transformed Ecco Bar is the new Howzat Pop-up location
Mmmm, I think I want one of these T-shirts!
And the queue forms.  This was at 11am on the dot, by 12:30 the queue was 50 meters long!
There were a lot of peeps working at making Howzat a great experience and thanks to you all :)
Burger Selfie 

Howzat Burger on Urbanspoon E'cco Bistro on UrbanspoonEcco Bistro


  1. Nice, work, why cant all burgers be that good, most these days should be ashamed to all themselves burgers...

    1. Good question, there are some OK burgers around, but they just dont hit the heights of these bad boys :)


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