Featured image by Lauren Hom.
As an American I kind of have a thing for burgers. Hamburgers come in all shapes and sizes, but I find the best way to judge a place on their burger prowess is to get a nice, classic cheeseburger. If a place can’t make a nice cheeseburger, then I don’t consider it a very good burger place at all. If you all remember my despair over missing real ‘American’ food, then you’ll be happy to hear that I’ve found some great (and, unfortunately, some not-so-great) restaurants and pubs in Oxford where you really can get some delicious cheeseburgers.
I always get the same thing: a beef patty with cheese. What comes on it and with it is for the most part up to the establishment (a lot of pubs offer burgers with bacon, but this would be both against my judging criteria and would, in general, ruin the burger for me with its mere presence). Sometimes I take into account the atmosphere of the restaurant, whether or not you get side dishes, etc. Any additional comments on other dishes don’t really have any relation to the score.
So, if you’re an American looking for a pretty good hamburger while you’re visiting or living in Oxford, let me be your guide….
1. Gourmet Burger Kitchen – A+
Hands down the best burger I’ve ever eaten in this country, let alone Oxford. It comes in the perfect size, with the right amount of toppings. Cheese always covers the patty. You get free lettuce and tomato. The downside is that you have to order side dishes separate, but I’ve gotten used to that living here so it doesn’t phase me as much. The burger itself is well worth the money. Make sure you get yourself a frequent flyer card while you’re there as multiple visits yield free side dishes, burgers, and more. The set-up is a bit different. It’s a sit down restaurant but with a pub-style ordering system (you have to go up to the counter to order your food and they will bring it out to you), which is great when there’s only 2 of you, but if there’s a large group it can be difficult to time it so everyone gets their food on time.
2. Cape of Good Hope – A
Bottom of Cowley Rd/Iffley Road
A really delicious burger. Might have been a bit too big for me, but it came with the right amount of toppings and a side of chips as well. Not too bad for pub fare, in general. My friends and I love visiting the Cape for a pint or a party, so this place always holds a bit of a special place in my heart. As far as other food goes, my visiting American friend got the fish and chips, which she said was really great. I’d stay away from the dessert platter though, it was expensive and you don’t get much for your money.
3. The Eagle and Child – A-
Again, a really good burger from this Nicholson’s pub. It tasted great, but was too big and did not come with enough cheese — I had to ask for more! The staff were happy to oblige, but it would have been nice to have it melted on the first time. Also, the burger was slightly more dense than I would have liked. Good portion of chips with this too, and with the extra cheese they provided, I had enough to make cheesy chips! I’m a big fan of cheesy chips, so before I leave Oxford you can look forward to a post on the best places to find them.
4. Atomic Burger – C
What a disappointment! Atomic Burger is saved from a lower grade by the fact that it’s small, independent and has a unique motif. And it serves Root Beer. The burger, however, was a total fail. My cheeseburger was bland and expensive! It did come with a free side dish, but I had to pay a pound for the cheese. I could even have lived with that, but I didn’t get any lettuce, tomato, onion, or ANYTHING to put on my burger. Upon further look, the toppings all cost extra.
My friend bought a veggie burger and hers fell apart in her hands. She ended up eating it with a fork. Her food wasn’t well seasoned either. From a specified burger joint I would really have expected more and, to be honest, I don’t think I’ll be going back there again. They might make a good novelty burger (there’s one that has nacho toppings), but I’m loath to try any more food.
5. Byron (London branch, but I’m sure the Oxford one is similar) – A-
Now I know, technically, this is cheating because I didn’t eat in the restaurant in Oxford, but Byron in Oxford is relatively new, so I instead tried out the London one while my dad was visiting from the States. He loved his burger, and mine was good as well. Again, good portions, good toppings. Had to order chips separately, again. I wasn’t too keen on the atmosphere. It was an odd mix between a restaurant and a ‘diner’ style eatery. I’m not sure if the Oxford branch is the same, but I assume so. Points for full table service.
6. Port Mahon – A-
Delicious, homemade burger and handcut chips. I ate here a while ago, but from what I remember the portion sizes were good, and there were definitely enough chips to go around! The Port Mahon loses some points because I’m not entirely sure when their kitchen is open. There are times we’ve gone in and were unable to order food. From a family establishment, I know there are some limitations, but I just wish they were a bit clearer. Food itself gets an A+, just make sure you figure out a plan B in case the kitchen here is closed. On another side note, they don’t serve sides of chips on their own, which is just irritating at times.
7. Maxwell’s – B+
I can’t remember what night I went here with my good friend Jenny, but it was a quiet night. There wasn’t much of an atmosphere to the place, it felt really big and, as a result, empty at the time. That said, the food was pretty decent. I got my usual cheeseburger. The meal came with a side of chips as well. So, you know, bonus points for that. The experience wasn’t really a memorable one and I don’t really feel a pull to return, but if looking for a quick meal, you could certainly do worse!
That’s it for this round of The Quest for the Perfect Cheeseburger. To my fellow Oxfordians, I hope this proves helpful! I need to remember to start bringing a camera with me wherever I go. I don’t have many pictures because these are mostly spur-of-the-moment trips.
[Edited to include photo credits and a title, which I had forgotten… woops!]