Photos: Ronen Malchen, Anatoly Michaelo and Shirley Suissa
Israel has long had fast food chains turning out mass-produced hamburgers. Recently, however, Israelis have become more particular about the quality of this popular menu item. Restaurateurs are responding; there is even an Israeli “Hamburger Community” Facebook page.
What follows is a list of restaurants becoming increasingly known for their excellent hamburgers. They are not ranked, but listed in alphabetical order. What is different from the last “10 Great Places to Enjoy Brunch” list is an increase in the number of kosher options: while virtually all of these restaurants use only kosher meat, four of them meet all the requirements to be certified kosher.
Editorial board member Shlomo Liberman contributed this entry.
Brasserie Kazan, a relative newcomer to downtown Raanana, boasts a modern, tasteful décor, with lots of mirrors imparting the feeling of a space even larger than its sizable capacity. The ambience is decidedly upscale, with excellent service and a wait staff that is by and large trilingual.
Surprisingly for a French restaurant, Kazan’s main courses include four different choices of burgers, ranging in price from NIS68-98. The Classic is 100% beef, ground on the premises, while the lamb is served with roasted eggplant, tahini and toasted pistachios. Our choices were the Kazan, crowned with Portobello mushrooms, truffle aioli, duck breast and a fried egg, and the Bossini, topped with foie gras in a red wine sauce. The former is served on a toasted bun with a square bottom, while the latter is sans bun altogether.
All burgers come with a choice of one of four side dishes: French fries, mashed potatoes, a green salad or grilled vegetables.
My companion and I agreed that these were the best kosher burgers we had eaten in Israel.
We also enjoyed the complex desserts. As behooves a French restaurant there are 15 different wines on the menu, as well as cocktails.
Kazan offers a business lunch on weekdays from noon until 16.30, when the price of your burger will also entitle you to an entrée and a non-alcoholic drink.
71 Ahuza St., Raanana
Tel. (09) 779 7300
Buckaroo, which specializes in gourmet smoked meats, is also known for its Cowburger, ranked by Chef Yoav Bar in Yediot Ahronot as one of the country’s 10 best. Since dinners here are reserved for tasting menus of the restaurant’s prime cuts of meat, the burger is served only at lunchtime. The good news is that Buckaroo’s business lunch offers good value -- and its hours extend until 17.00 every weekday.
The Cowburger is 250 grams of entrecôte and short rib ground fresh daily on the premises. Uniquely, it is grilled over coals in the restaurant’s smoker. The result is distinctive grill marks on the exterior, while the interior is full of flavorful juices.
Like Buckaroo’s prime meats, the burger, on a plain white bun, is served on a wooden platter. The Cowburger comes with lettuce, tomato and red onion on the side to build your own; no other toppings (like mushrooms or fried egg) are offered. There is a plentiful assortment of condiments: chimichurri, homemade bbq sauce, spicy sriracha and a garlicky house aioli.
A great variation on the Cowburger is Buckaroo’s Sloppy Joe, made from ground flank steak and short ribs, slow-cooked in the restaurant’s thick bbq sauce, and not as runny as most American versions. There is even a vegan burger, (Portobello mushroom and imported soy, that looks remarkably like the real thing.
Burgers come with a choice of side dishes (baked potato, rice or green beans), as well as another course (soup, coleslaw, potato salad, house salad or pickled vegetables. The price for the entire burger lunch -- including a soft drink or fruit juice is NIS69.
13 Zarhin St., Raanana
Tel. (053) 936 5717
Le Bistro Bar
The central plaza of the Azrieli Center in Holon has become a hot dining spot in that suburb, with Le Bistro Bar, a veteran eatery, at the venue. Owner Moshe Shrem, who was a restaurateur for many years in New York, considers his years in the United States the inspiration for LBB’s special burger menu, consisting of five beef burgers and a schnitzel burger.
We started off the evening with The Classic - 250 grams of entrecôte ground freshly on the premises. It is spectacularly juicy, as we discovered upon the very first bite. Shrem says the secret ingredient in his ground beef is horseradish. It also helps that he keeps the prices reasonable: the Classic is NIS60, and the upgraded versions NIS64.
Among the latter we enjoyed were the Normandy, which was smothered in yellow cheese and shaved Parmesan, with a thin goat yogurt as a dip that keeps it moist, and the Fat Bob - what LBB calls a Texas burger, with Heinz bbq sauce, a fried egg and fried onions and mushrooms. Also available are an Asian burger and a Mexican burger, although guacamole and spicy chipotle sauce can be ordered with any burger.
Burgers are served on sesame buns baked on the premises and come with a choice of roasted potato wedges or thick-cut French fries, as well as a small green salad. The burger menu is available at all hours that the restaurant is open, which is 07.00 until the last customer; there is a daily happy hour on alcoholic drinks between 17.00 and 20.00.
LBB takes pride in being the first and only restaurant in Israel to serve Vergnano 1882 coffee from Torino, Italy. It is not only delicious - it pairs nicely with the desserts here, which include no fewer than five chocolate options.
Le Bistro Bar
26 Harokmim St., Holon
Tel. (073) 782 9020
The steakhouse, formerly known as Shine and Sharp, recently underwent a major transformation - becoming kosher, and changing its name to Meat Kitchen. It has also introduced an innovation: Big Sunday, featuring a special burger menu starting at 19.00.
In addition to comprising six intriguing burgers, the Sunday menu comes with an attractive bonus: the restaurant’s regular 250-gram entrecôte burger is reduced from the usual NIS79 to only NIS51. Moreover, any order of a special burger comes with a complimentary draft beer and a chaser.
In addition to a Mexican and Moroccan burger, the special menu features a French burger and a Bonfire burger. The former is Meat Kitchen’s prime beef patty enriched with beef stock, topped with goose liver and served open-faced on brioche that is baked in-house. It even comes with an Amarena cherry on top, and is accompanied by roasted potato wedges and a small endive salad.
The Bonfire burger, served on top of a baked potato instead of a bun, is part of a burger extravaganza comprising Portobello confit, poached egg, beef stock and mustard gravy, smoked salt, arugula and charred tomato. The over-the-top presentation includes a flaming sprig of rosemary.
Even if you can’t come on a Sunday, Meat Kitchen’s daily burger ground from premium steak is available with optional extra toppings of Portobello confit, blackened onions and/or a fried egg, plus aioli chili. And the desserts here are every bit as complex and inventive as the restaurant’s excellent burgers.
65 Yigal Allon St., Tel Aviv
Tel. (03) 536 4755
According to Menachem Samel, the American-born manager of Mike’s Place opposite Sarona Market, he runs the only kosher sports bar in Tel Aviv. And there are many things about the place that will remind you of the USA, from the pub food favorites and Tex-Mex dishes to the NFL football games that are screened to full houses every Sunday night. One of its other claims to fame is the Big Mike, modeled after the Big Mac, and the only double-decker burger I found with two patties separated by a layer of bun.
As Samel explains, instead of using kosher substitutes for non-kosher items like bacon and cheese, Mike’s Place’s philosophy is to use good-quality kosher ingredients to create something original. And they came up with a masterpiece: two 200-gram patties topped with corned beef and fried onions, with lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickles. The Big Mike (NIS89) comes with a side of French fries and coleslaw in an Asian dressing.
Mike’s Place burgers are ground from choice cuts of beef and pressed on the premises. Mike’s Mega Burger is either a 200 or 300-gram patty, available with a variety of interesting toppings, such as chili, goose pastrami and/or a fried egg. Amazingly, the Mega Burger (like most sandwiches) is half-price daily until 17.00 - meaning it starts at a mere NIS22. Fortunately, this also overlaps with happy hour (daily except Friday 15.00-20.00) when alcoholic drinks are two for one.
Mike’s Place also offers a vegan burger, made with a proprietary blend of buckwheat and lentils, available with optional melted cashew cheese. All burgers can be ordered with gluten-free buns, which are also kosher for Passover.
Note: While there is another kosher Mike’s Place in Jerusalem, there are also non-kosher branches with the same name.
14 Ha’arba’a St., Tel Aviv
Tel. (03) 507 5559
NG has a well-deserved reputation for its meat: it has its own suppliers, and ages its beef for 21 to 45 days. Its burgers are ground from three cuts of beef: entrecôte, rump steak and short ribs.
The regular burgers come with some exotic ingredients that can be added as toppings - such as quail egg or bone marrow - but NG has also promulgated a special menu of “farm-to-table” burgers. (Although the main menu is in Hebrew and English, the dedicated burger menu is in Hebrew only; fortunately, the wait staff speaks excellent English.)
The special menu burgers reflect some alluring combinations: pineapple, bacon and Gruyere cheese; mushrooms, blue cheese and oregano; shrimps, garlic confit and aged cheddar cheese; and goose liver with Valrhona chocolate (a whopping NIS125 - other burgers start at NIS84).
We sampled the shrimps, garlic and cheddar burger, as well as the goose liver and chocolate variation. The former is labeled spicy, but only if you eat the garnishing slices of red chili pepper; the shavings of chocolate in the latter are barely visible, but one can definitely taste the accent they give to the overall rich flavor.
The burgers are too fat to eat even without the top of the bun; they come with tomato, onion and lettuce on the side, as well as an NG speciality, sweet potato crunch. The most prominent condiment is the house mustard, which is based on Colman’s.
The standard side is a small roasted potato, although possible substitutes include a green salad or garlic spinach and green beans.
A nice bonus is a beer special: with every order from the special burger menu, you can have a third of 7.9% Maccabi draft for only NIS10.
6 Ahad Ha'Am St., Tel Aviv - Jaffa
Tel. (03) 516 7888
Porter & Sons
The decor at Porter & Sons brings to mind an upscale London pub or a gourmet steakhouse. Its claim to fame is no fewer than 50 draft beers on tap, plus another 70 or so domestic and imported brews in bottles; the total of 120 brands is the highest served by any place in the country; moreover, Porter & Sons has a rich tradition of pairing beers and ale with food.
Porter & Sons’ burger par excellence is the St. Maure burger (NIS74) served not on a bun but on a bed of spätzle. The thick and juicy 300-gram burger is smothered in the savory cheese fondue that enhances the beef without overwhelming it. The crispy mini-dumplings round out this superb dish.
There is also a classic burger - 300 grams of beef served on a toasted sesame bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickle (NIS66). The upgraded version is the BBQ burger, with barbecue sauce brushed on the bun and the patty topped with bacon and fried onion (NIS74). Both include a choice of a side of French fries, mashed potatoes or a simple green salad.
The waiter paired my burgers with an IPA from the Israeli brewery Srigim, and a dark Belgian ale. There is a happy hour daily from 17.00 to 19.00 (Fridays until 17.00), offering all the beer you can drink for NIS59 (or a 200 ml glass for NIS15).
The dessert menu features seven tempting choices prepared by Porter & Sons’ dedicated pastry chef. There are even dessert beers.
Porter & Sons
14 Ha’arba’a St., Tel Aviv
Tel. (053) 427 2561
This steakhouse in the capital has an impressive triple pedigree: it is owned by a family which knows its meat; its sister restaurant is Wolf & Lamb in New York. The chef, Levi Laine, earned his bona fides by serving as grillmaster at the King David Hotel’s exclusive La Regence. And the kashrut supervision is badatz mehadrin, under the supervision of Rav Rubin.
The restaurant has built its reputation on quality steaks, and that is exactly what you get when you order the burger (NIS105). The kitchen grinds fresh ribeye, grills the generously sized burger to your exact specifications, and serves it on a toasted white bun with caramelized onions, garlic aioli, and dill pickles made in-house.
There is an optional topping of pastrami (NIS19) or you can request that the pastrami be cooked into the beef. The smoked meat adds a whole extra dimension to an already superior burger.
The burger comes with skin-on French fried potatoes, but you can ask if they will substitute mashed red bliss potatoes. There is an exclusively Israeli wine list that is subject to the same strict kashrut standards as the food.
For dessert lovers, there is a dynamite gourmet version of a Snickers bar, as well as a rich fudge cake and apple pie. The restaurant is open for dinner only, five days a week. The guesswork is taken out of tipping here, as a 15% gratuity is added to the bill.
Red Heifer Steakhouse
26 King David St., Jerusalem
Tel. (02) 624 0504
Rio Grande, a modern yet intimate steakhouse in the heart of Tel Aviv’s financial district, serves some of the best steaks in the city. And it treats its signature 250-gram burger (NIS84) just like it does its steaks: served on a wooden platter, and with (in addition to ketchup and mayonnaise) a full complement of the house’s premium condiments: horseradish aioli, brandy mustard and chimichurri.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the Rio Grande burger tastes like chopped steak. The chef was good enough to reveals his secret: he grinds lean steak, then adds fat to achieve his desired ratio.
The burger comes on a toasted sesame bun with lettuce, tomato and red onion, plus a small serving of coleslaw. It also comes with the same choice of sides as the steaks: baked potato, smoked pumpkin, or fried mushrooms.
There are four desserts on the menu, and they cover all the bases. In particular, Rio Grande does amazing things with chocolate.
4 Herzl St., Tel Aviv
Tel. (03) 573 7277
Truck Deluxe derives its name from the restaurant’s unique decor: an interior dominated by a kitchen and serving counter designed to resemble a food truck. The no-frills ambience extends to the al fresco area, where basic metal chairs and tables are set out just steps from the Agam fountain in Dizengoff Center.
The one-page menu is no less distinctive, beginning with specialty cocktails infused with such strange ingredients like popcorn, butter and goose fat. But what drew us here was the buffalo burger - to our knowledge available only here and in one other place in Tel Aviv. The 250-gram buffalo burger (NIS88) is thick, hearty and slightly gamier than its beef counterpart; it is also said to be more healthful. It is served on a toasted white bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion and American-style hamburger pickle slices; the house condiment is mayonnaise with Dijon mustard, but ketchup, horseradish, mayonnaise and bbq sauce are also available. The buffalo burger is usually available, but it is advisable to check first.
Other burger options are the Trailer Trash and the 50-50. The former is a 160-gram burger topped with either lamb or pork bacon and a thin film of melted cheddar cheese; the smoked lamb is a nice enhancement, as is the relish spread of sour cream and cornichons. The latter is a burger consisting of half ground beef and half ground pork.
All burgers come with a choice of good side dishes: French fries (plain or with Colby Jack cheese), baked beans with chuck roast, or coleslaw. Truck Deluxe meals are served on metal trays, the sides in disposable containers.
Desserts follow the restaurant’s Southern USA street food theme, especially when it comes to the crack pie, which tastes like pecan pie without the nuts.
13 Ben Ami St., Tel Aviv
Tel. (03) 629-6363