Category Archives: Burgers

Speaking Truthfully about Spikisi

It was the third and last stop on our Jeune Genevois cocktail-bar-hopping night. Walking down the cobble stone street to Spikisi, with a few cocktails already down the hatch, the mood was giddy: we had left Geneva and were projecting ourselves onto the late-night streets of Milano (without the mess of limbs and the clattering of voices). It seemed like Geneva might finally have the critical mass of cool bars it needs to foster a night life fit for those of us who are neither students nor bankers!

First let’s debunk the expectation that the Spikisi is a speakeasy- sadly, it is just a fun misnomer. The bar/restaurant sits on a small street behind Plainpalais and not in anyway concealed. But, when I stumbled across this place on a website advertising it as a bar, it seemed promising. From there, I perused their Facebook page, where visions of cocktails and burgers danced in my head. What a cash cow, I thought to myself: nightcap AND preventive hangover remedy in one go? Why hadn’t anyone else thought of that yet?

The bar has that neighborhood café feel

The bar has that neighborhood café feel

The setting is perfectly attuned to my taste: small, warm, café style seating with a romantic twinge, but very much still feeling like a bar scene. Reggae/ska/ragga over the loudspeaker gave the place a cool and comfy vibe. My anticipation grew, despite myself: had we reached the promised-land?

I started fearing I built it up too much in my own head. I mean look at the competition: Geneva is now graced with some internationally competitive burgers thanks to Inglewood and The Hamburger Foundation, and Apothicaire still boasts my all-time favorite cocktail (and no, it’s not on the menu).  Spikisi had some tough acts to follow.

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The restaurant spreads out to the basement, for more whimsical seating

The restaurant spreads out to the basement, for more whimsical seating

Let’s get the tough part out of the way: the cocktails were downright undrinkable. The Italian owner, mustachioed and as hipster as they come, was super friendly and asked me what kind of alcohol and flavors I was into. I told him my standard: gimme something tart and tangy, not too sweet, not “tropical”, not bitter. That usually results in a gin with some kind of citrus, a cucumber and/or mint, and some signature flavor to make it stand out. In this case, he arrived with a dark orange sample for me to taste what turned out to be a Negroni, a classic Italian cocktail that to me is squarely in the “bitter” category. I declined. Second sample: the liquid was bright yellow this time. It tasted like liquified lemon cough drops; I diplomatically told him it was just too sweet. Third try: a fluorescent blue-green liquid, which I tasted and accepted because it was the least offensive so far. If memory serves, it must have been a kamikaze. Whatever it was, it did NOT match the pictures of the cocktails I saw on their FB page.

Funky menu from which decade, i don't really know

Funky menu from which decade, i don’t really know

The burger combos they proposed sounded great and spoke to the 20s-30s theme: “Frank Me!” “Al Capone” and the “Borsalino” to name a few. I chose the Metropolis, which came with mozzarella, caramelized onions, and barbecue sauce. THF and co. can rest easy, there was no competition there. The burgers were all bun, no patty. Undersalted/uderseasoned. The meat was on the dry side. My caramelized onions were tasteless (an accomplishment indeed). And the fries were simply forgettable.

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Sadly, I loved the place, but wouldn’t be able to justify going back for either the food or the drinks. It’s got a great space, cute decor, laid back vibe, and very warm and whimsical staff. Now, if they would only invest in a decent cocktail shaker behind the bar and a burger flipper in the kitchen…

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UPDATE! The Hamburger Foundation Restaurant, Paquis

A few weeks back I wrote a review of the new THF restaurant in the Paquis. In short? I said it was incredible and awesome, but that their “brunch” menu didn’t have what it took to get me out of the house on a sunday, and I also wasn’t sold on the iceberg salad with the slightly too sweet dressing.

Happy to update that on a return visit I discovered a huge improvement in the salad, which now included dark greens, and a tangy dressing that hits just the right balance of acidity before you attack that cheese and bacon burger. Yum.

Moreover, they’ve made the wise decision of putting brunch on hold. You can still get your basic breakfast though, which, I maintain, is still a welcomed arrival to Geneva’s food scene.

So in case you ever hesitated, head on over and enjoy the food and tunes!

 

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The Hamburger Foundation has kicked off its training wheels

It was a big weekend for this little foodie. For the first time in months, I had a whole weekend in town, so I was finally able to dig into a few activities I couldn’t have enjoyed otherwise. I planted my special tomato seeds, I lazed around in the sun, I went to FestiChoc in Versoix (stay tuned for more on that), AND I made my first hollandaise (and the sauce didn’t even break!).

To kick things off, Friday evening I finally dropped in on The Hamburger Foundation‘s new digs. I was nervous at first: what if they make a mean burger, but underneath it all are no different than the putz’ who run most Geneva restaurants? Another uninspired decor with the same menu at exorbitant prices? No thank you, I’m full.

To my delight, THF came through. Stepping into the restaurant sends you through some kind of warp zone: you’ve left Geneva and have landed in London, NYC, Madrid, or Oslo. The difference between this and other restaurants is simple: no pretense, design with flair, and a relaxed ambiance. Oh, and of course the standard, 100% reliably fantastic, simple burger.

It seems clear that the THF team is still testing waters. They have a cocktail bar going, which is super exciting for those of us who really need a fix after work. Since they didn’t have cranberry juice in stock for my usual “test” drink (the cosmo) I tried another old favorite, the whiskey sour, which I ditched years ago because the first thing bartenders do is reach for the sour mix… The THF bar seems to have avoided this basic mistake, BUT, still a little over-the-top sweet, and as much as I love sweet, at the end of the day, I’m more of a sourpuss than a sugar mama. The highlight: an artisanal blonde beer by Haute Savoie producer Mont Saleve: flowery, herby, with honey tones bringing the depth, it had enough complexity to stand up to a nice red wine.

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not a real sugar cane in there, but still a little too sweet for a sour

The burgers? Just as awesome as when you get them from the trucks. The fries however seemed a little less fresh than when they’re served at the truck, and their usually distinctive rosemary aroma wasn’t as present. Maybe just got a little unlucky and got fries from the end of a batch. One addition to the menu is an iceberg salad with a maple syrup dressing, which we wouldn’t have missed had it not been served. And at long last, I tested their cheesecake – PHENOMENAL, relatively light with a a beautiful creamy acidity, and the graham cracker base coming in with just the right amount of cinnamon, ginger and sugar to balance it all out. The apple crumble on the other hand, less exciting: it seems like they went a little heavy on the corn starch and sugar, giving it a syrupy consistency that reminded me a little of the McDonald’s apple pie desserts…  truthfully, its not bad, but I would go for the cheesecake every time.

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desserts

Come Sunday, I was trying to mobilize to test they’re brand new brunch menu. Sadly, it features more of a breakfast than a brunch: the morning burger sounds like your typical egg cheese and bacon sandwich (on a burger bun), eggs and bacon or sausages are a classic for Brits, Americans and beyond, and for the Swiss among the clientele, they have cereal, soft boiled egg, half a grapefruit….

Now, there are things I can really appreciate about this menu. First off, it’s great there’s a new ‘brunch’ place in town. And THF built its success on mastering simple things that appeal to a wide audience – but are they falling victim to that formula?  When push came to shove on Sunday  morning, it just wasn’t the menu that would get me out of bed and into the diner booth. Why drag myself across town when I can make all of the above plus eggs benedict right here at home?

No doubt I’ll be going back to this latest and greatest anytime I want a burger and a cocktail. And here’s hoping they keep the existing brunch menu, but tack on an item or two that will get me on my feet.

 

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Le M.

Le M. What to say, what to say about Le M. This has been a tough post to write, given the popularity of the restaurant and the burger.  I can see why, to some extent: it is centrally located, the decor is trendy-yet-cozy, and it’s buzzing energy level is a perfect pick-me-up to the weekend.

Still, I expect readers of this blog to be good quality food appreciators, and not (just) scenesters. So, here it is, the raw story:

Our party arrived at the restaurant on time for our reservation, Thursday night, 21h30, after a nice long apéro at l’Apothicaire (incidentally, their cocktails are truly the best medicine).  Right off the bat, the host/bar tender/ waiter see us, avoid eye contact, bustle along busily, and try to pretend we’re not there. Eventually, someone acknowledges us, and tries to put on a friendly, humorous face as he explains that our table won’t be ready for awhile still.

GREAT! That’s just my favorite thing, arriving tipsy and starving at a restaurant just to be left to languish in the corridor, drooling over the food on the surrounding tables.

We finally take our seats, after being pushed around for 20 minutes in the narrow passage way between the bar and the tables. Our next challenge? Getting menus (because yes, menus are usually helpful, even in a burger joint).  When THAT finally took place, we had a nice long long long while to decide what we wanted. Meanwhile at least three waiters were flailing their arms about giving air kisses to their ritzy friends seated left and right of us. We tried to order wine, and when it finally came, we were halfway through with our meal and it was warm. Bref, I think you are getting the picture here: the service is TERRIBLE.

Eventually, our waitress accidentally came to see if we were ready to order, at which point she announced that they were OUT OF FRENCH FRIES. Which is just. I just. I mean. No words. Instant disqualification. Is it even worth staying at that point? Needless to say, we did stick it out, so here is the low down on the rest:

The starters:  At the outset, I was very happy with the starters menu, and thankfully on this we were not disappointed. You cannot go wrong with a lump of goat cheese in a crisp phyllo pastry shell with a drizzle of honey on top, and a poelee of chanterelles fried in butter, garlic and tossed with parsley.  The tuna tartare was also fresh and well prepared.

goat cheese pocket with honey

goat cheese pocket with honey

chanterelles, elevated to their best selves with butter, garlic and parsley

chanterelles, elevated to their best selves with butter, garlic and parsley

Tuna tartare

Tuna tartare

The burger: The greatest appeal of this place is the burger menu, which offers you the most extensive choice of toppings that I have seen in any European burger restaurant. From caramelized onions to foie gras, with a little creativity you can create a veritable chef d’oeuvre.

Except, any cook will tell you that if the basic ingredients are not in perfect condition, it hardly matters what bells and whistles you put on them. In this case, the bun was dry, and fell apart like castles made of sand the moment you tried to lift the burger.  And the patty itself, while nice in shape and size, was cooked to death and dry. Turns out, the foie gras will cancel out that problem, if you order it. But I ordered a simple cheese and bacon burger, and that level of fat was not enough to counter the dryness of the bun/patty combo.

Would you like fries for that? YES THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE!

Would you like fries for that? YES THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE!

The fries: oh wait, there WERE NONE. They claimed they have truffle fries as well, but I will believe it when I see it.

The dessert: we ordered a tiramisu and a fondant au chocolat, both of which were definitely good enough to eat, but not so spectacular that they were memorable.

Fondant au chocolat

Fondant au chocolat

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

The green factor: needless to say, the waitstaff was so absent/busy kissing their fabulous friends that it was impossible to ask them about anything on the menu. Between you and me, I kind of get the impression they wouldn’t much care about the green factor anyway.

Price/Quality: Maybe it was the wine, but I feel like we ended up paying a MUCH heftier price for this burger that is nowhere near the top three in town. Then again, you do get toppings like foie gras and sides like truffle fries. You be the judge.

In sum: a good starters menu and a make-your-own burger menu with pretty impressive ingredients are good reasons for the popularity of this restaurant. Maybe try asking for them not to cook the burger so long?  And keep in mind, the restaurant is highly stylized: lots of energy of the fur-vest, air kisses, catch-you-in-Megeve-on-Sunday kind. If that’s your style, you will love this place, and you too will probably end up getting a kiss from the staff.

Stay fabulous now! Mwah, mwah mwah!

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TFGI THF = Yay Burger Truck!

You’ve probably heard the purr of its engine as it lands in one of its favorite spots at Plainpalais’ Sunday market. The truck stops, the stove goes on, and as the sweet smell of fried beef patties and french friends fills the air, you know: The Hamburger Foundation (THF) has landed.

I’ll cut to the chase, I am a BIG fan of these bunch, if for no other reason than for their success in pushing Geneva past its comfort zone. Not only have they launched Geneva’s first official food truck though, they have also created what could just be the city’s best burger. In the words of a fellow foodie, THF serves up an American staple accompanied by Geneva’s classic fries. The result is cosmopolitan bliss.

The burger: Simple, classic, perfectly executed. Good quality, freshly ground beef, patty about 2cm thick, always fried perfectly medium rare, with a sesame seed bun that lends a beautiful hint of sweetness. If you order the cheeseburger, you get a nice, subtle gruyere, and if you’re hungry for the bacon cheeseburger, the bacon you get is crisp and tender. There is no special sauce of note – just ketchup, mayo and mustard apparently, but it is remarkable nonetheless, and the lettuce, tomato, onions and pickle are wonderfully fresh and crunchy. It’s like the best, non-barbecued, homemade burger your parents never made.

Deceptively delicious - I know the picture doesn't sell amazingness, but trust me, it's waaaay better than my camera phone was able to portray.

Deceptively delicious – I know the picture doesn’t sell amazingness, but trust me, it’s waaaay better than my camera phone was able to portray.

The fries: Then there are the fries. Also brilliant. Light, crisp, and I would put money on the fact that they infuse their oil with rosemary – or maybe mix it in with the salt they sprinkle over the fries. In any case, it makes you feel like you’re eating provence style roasted potatoes in french fry form. Unbeatable my friends.

Bacon cheeseburger and fries in the now iconic bare cardboard box

Bacon cheeseburger and fries in the now iconic bare cardboard box

The dessert: I have to admit, I have not yet tried their cheesecake. But I hear it’s classic and wonderful, and given the rest of the menu, I wouldn’t doubt it. So try it, and you tell me.

The menu: Again, THF wins it through simplicity. Hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger. Fries, coleslaw, cheesecake. Beer, sodas, water. It’s as simple as the Beatles once said: all you need is love.

The green factor: True to their generation, THF stands for local, organic, wherever possible. Their packaging – the quintessential, blank cardboard burger box – is even fully recyclable.  In their own words:

“We love burgers and we love the ingredients we use to make them. Our beef is 100% Swiss all natural. No hormones and no antibiotics ever. Our very own blend is ground fresh everyday. Our sweet buns are made freshly and locally. All the vegetables we use are fresh and as often as possible from local farmers.”

The setting: Surprise! It’s a food truck, so they move around, most likely according to whatever kind soul will let them squat their parking lot / side walk / courtyard. Their website will keep you posted on their whereabouts, but you can count on Sundays at the Plaine de Plainpalais (Unimail corner), more recently Saturdays in Eaux-Vives on rue des Photographes, and at lunch time in places only UBS would know of (ie, Acacias). Sign up to their newsletter and get a regular reminder that you must have burger NOW! You’ll also get some tips on their light-hearted playlist, running from reggae, to Beach Boys to hipper tunes I know almost nothing about – nice touch guys. Nice touch.

The Hamburger Foundation - coming to a street corner near you

The Hamburger Foundation – coming to a street corner near you

Price/Quality: 14chf max for the burger, 4chf for the fries, 5chf for a cheesecake, 3.50 for a drink = cheap enough not to care too much.

In sum: pledge to the Foundation immediately.

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Pauly’s Hamburger and Milkshake: Where’s the Beef?

There’s a new kid in burger town folks, this time in lively Eaux-Vives! But before you get all hot and bothered about it, be warned: even a tasteless book cannot be judged by it’s pretty cover. Pauly’s: Hamburgers and Milkshakes opened up not so long ago in the old Mairie des Eaux-Vives, boasting a 1980s video game website and an Americana diner theme… but let’s be honest, a highway trucker would have a hard time locating the patty. Here’s the biopsy:

The menu: Off the bat, a reading of the menu illustrates some novice mistakes: first in line is a fancy-named simple hamburger or cheeseburger, and right behind it comes Pauly’s Senior, a “double patty double cheese bacon coleslaw onions”. No option for the all-time classic bacon cheeseburger. Ok fine, you can ask for the Pauly’s junior with bacon (but then that doesn’t come with coleslaw) or for the Pauly’s Senior without one of the patties… but let’s face it, Geneva’s restaurants are not known for their flexibility. After some longwinded explanation of what I actually wanted, they granted me my one true wish (see description below). Other than that, a nice variety from “italian” style burgers with zucchini and mozzarella to a more alluring “Chuck Norris” chicken burger with philadelphia and crispy bacon… And of course, the milkshakes.

The burger: I was somewhat satisfied that the waitstaff got my “complicated” order right, so imagine my shock when they brought me what looked like a plate fries with a huge, dry looking bun on the side. It was only after I lifted off the colossal bun top that I found some fixings smeared over something thin and brownish underneath… ah yes. The hamburger patty! Because that’s what we’re here for right?

Spot the bacon

Ok, the patty was puny, we get that. But it was also unpleasantly fatty. Not the good kind of fatty, no no. The cheap, badly grilled meat kinda fatty. As for the taste? To be completely honest, the quantity of bread was so overwhelming that I had a hard time sussing out any kind of texture or flavor to the beef. The bun was dry in texture, absorbing a lot of the flavor from the meat, and covered in toasted sesame and poppy seeds… too much even to capture any kind of cheese or bacon or coleslaw flavor. Basically I ordered burger flavored bread. Maybe it was my fault for ordering just one patty, but puhlease.

The fries: I can’t quibble as much about the fries… they were fine. Nothing to write home about. They seemed to be fried in peanut oil, which I usually like, and they were the right thickness (no thicker than a pinky finger) but they were too oily to my taste, and lacked a little in salt. Of course, I might have just been suffering from the barely-there-burger blues.

The green factor: I whisked out of there too quickly to interview the waiters about the origin and quality of the products. Something I’ll have to fill in some other time, but in any case, they do not bill themselves as particularly local or sustainable or organic.

The setting: Contrary to the food, the decor is delightful! Clear plastic chairs and very streamlined tables surround a very slick wood and metal bar with a slated rock base. The lighting is dim and modern and they show a slight sense of humor with backlit bottles of dishwashing soap against the back wall. But hang on a sec, wasn’t this supposed to be a burgers and shakes joint? Rumor has it though that the minds behind the restaurant just stuck with the decor from the restaurant that was previously at this location… a little lazy perhaps? But I can empathize. Only question is, with a decor like that, why go with menu and theme that’s just gonna come up flat?

Price/Quality: Burgers start at 18chf for what are usually 120g burgers, making it just a bit more expensive than the city’s best, for 40g less burger… not to mention quality and taste. But hey, it’s a scene! We’re ok with paying for a scene, right?

In sum: 1980s videogame website, burgers and shakes theme, classy contemporary decor.. all the ingredients there, but I beg of you, where is the beef?? Next time in Eaux-Vives, you’d be better off checking out Inglewood’s new location on rue de Montchoisy…. mmmmmmmm…

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Highway to Burger Heaven: Cindy’s Diner

At some point, we have certainly all asked ourselves how far we would go for a burger. Down the street? A 20 minute walk from home? Come rain or sleet?

How about a 2 hour drive up the highway? If you’re reading this from the United States, this idea may seem positively nutty. Why on earth would you need to drive for 2 hours for a burger? But here in Switzerland, where good burgers are scarce, a 2 hour drive all of a sudden sounds reasonable.  And if you find yourself driving on A5 around Bern, make a point to stop and try out a burger from Cindy’s Diner. This weekend, after months of hearing about this place from fellow burger lovers, I finally found myself in that neighborhood and wasn’t going to miss out on this tasting for the world. The verdict? The burger will help fulfill your need for gooey decadence and has the added bonus of being served up in a truly 50s diner setting (well, as authentic as you can get outside the US).

The burger: Needless to say, I had to test out the classic: a cheeseburger with bacon. It came served with lettuce, red onions, their “special sauce” and an additional sauce that was kind of a cross between coleslaw and relish. The overall experience was a flavor bomb of messy. Don’t expect to get out of this meal without asking for a second and third helping of napkins.

The beef patty they served was quite a large disk, about 2cm thick, slipped into a homemade sesame seed, square bun. The beef was of pretty good quality, and certainly tasted fresh. The taste of the burger was great, but it was a bit dry, and very well cooked. The bun was very fresh and held together pretty well against the rest of the very sloppy ingredients… but I would have preferred it if the bun were slightly more toasted (which would also help the sauces from soaking through the bun).

Next up, the toppings: the bacon tends to be disappointing in Geneva, but this bacon was tasty, cut pretty thick, and not oily or greasy.  The cheese disappeared under the influence of the “special sauce”, which was exactly what I look for in a hamburger sauce: a warmly spiced mayo-ketchup mix. And if that wasn’t enough, they had this slaw/relish sauce that seemed to be made of a mix of relished cabbage and mild pickles. It added the prefect amount of slightly sweet acidity that we all love slaw for, though it admittedly contributed to the sloppy experience. Finally, honorable mentions go out to the lettuce, which was very green and fresh, and the onions that were equally irreproachable.

One bacon cheeseburger with fries, coming right up!

The fries: Looking at the photos of the fries on the menu, I hesitated to order them at all. I dislike steak fries in most cases, and this is what they looked like to me. But for the love of the blog, I wound up tasting them anyway, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. These fries were cut thick, yes, but they were not soggy or soft at all. In fact they were light and crispy and not oily at all! And with a little paprika and pepper dusting, they tasted almost like a cross between a french fry and a country fry. Definitely worth a try.

The menu: Gonna keep it short: the menu has a good selection of a few classics, and a few twists, with the quintessential “burger of the month” to keep things interesting. All in all, very accessible and simple, in staying with the diner concept.

The green factor: being that their website is in German, and my German is completely rusted, I actually cannot figure out  anything more but that the products all come from “the region”. Sound suspicious? Could be, could be. They do however boast that their products are extremely fresh, ground fresh, pressed fresh, and eaten fresh. I can confirm, they tasted fresh too.

The setting: Perhaps one of the most attractive aspects of this place is its appearance and decor. Short of being a fully authentic US diner, this place does an admirable job of recreating the diner setting, from the booths to the S shaped bar winding its way back and forth through the restaurant.

Price/Quality: Most burgers alone are about 12chf. Add fries for 5chf. A big glass of soda is 4.50chf.  So in short, you can get out of there for just over 20chf. Again, good for Switzerland! And for the price, you get quick and friendly service, a clean environment, and a really unique setting.

In sum: One of a kind in Switzerland to my knowledge, serving up an old school diner burger the likes of which I haven’t found around these parts. Although not the best patty I’ve had, the sauces make up for it in kind. Only thing missing to complete the experience are the milk shakes!! And the bitter sweet, overworked waitresses serving day old coffee… but let’s face it, beggars can’t be choosers!

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Brunch (and a Burger) at Les 5 Portes

The popularity of Les 5 Portes as an after work spot for a glass of wine and a round of light tapas would suggest that the place has it all. Much as I count myself among the throngs of Thursday-nighters heading down to the Paquis to fight for a table at this place, I also have a few reservations about it – namely the usually blasé, too-cool-for-school waitstaff – but then again, it just wouldn’t be Geneva if the waiters didn’t come with attitude! And when it comes to dinner and drinks, it never really disappoints. Still, in the years I’ve been in Geneva, I had yet to try their brunch. As a Paquis local, a food fanatic and most of all a devout bruncher, this needed to be rectified, stat.

The menu: While the brunch menu may not satisfy everyone’s brunch craving, it’s 5-10 menu options just about do it for me. Most importantly, this is not your traditional Swiss/Geneva brunch (read: no bircher muesli here!) Instead, dishes include a variety of eggs, potatoes, pancakes, salmon, salad and even hamburgers (for those Sunday brunches that lie a little more deeply in the shadows of a Saturday night out.)  Sadly, still no poached eggs to speak of. One day Geneva, you and I will make it happen..!

The meal: At this particular sitting, I got to sink my teeth into the bacon burger dish (make sure there’s cheese on that, d’accord??), and a dish (hunnel…something or other) that included  scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and herring served with a touch of sour cream, a knife point of caviar, and two blinis. With this came boiled potatoes, and of course, salad. Pretty simple, but just right for a brunch on the lighter side. The salmon was of decent quality, though really nothing special. The scrambled eggs were very airy and on the undercooked side (like it or not?) The two blinis, though a nice touch, were a bit of a joke to eat with so much salmon and sour cream, but the touch was still appreciated.The potatoes were cool – hard to tell if it was intentional or not – but in either case were very nicely flavored with a little butter, a little salt, and a little seasoning to bring them to life. The nicest surprise on the plate was most likely the herring, which is a rarity on brunch plates and was really quite good.  Although the salad dressing was a bit weak, overall it was a nice plate to work through.

Ok ok ok! I get it, we want to know about the BURGER! Well here’s the burger deal. All the different components of it were really good, but like many places in Switzerland, they just don’t understand the philosophy of the burger. (YES, there is such a thing as burger philosophy!) For starters, the bread. Fresh and tender, perhaps, but have you ever tried eating a burger on a long rectangular bun? When we tried placing the top bun on the burger, it looked something like two planks of wood with a ball in the middle. Awwwwwkward! To make matters worse, the bacon,which was totally overcooked – and cold -, sat on top of the burger like a crab carcass – more awkwardness. And the lettuce and tomato seemed to just be placeholders for propper lettuc and propper tomato. So, lose points for being able to squash it down and eat it like a real burger. With all that negative bit said though, I have to hand it to them, the rest was burger worthy. The patty itself was well cooked (still pink in the middle), plump and juicy, and ground from a good cut of meat with very little trace of fat. The barbecue sauce was tangy but subtle enough not to overpower the other ingredients. It blended particularly well with the caramelized onions. And it came with a side of roasted potatoes, which, although tasty, seemed like they had been sitting around the kitchen for a good few hours already.

The green factor: The 5 portes does not seem to advertise its “green” policy, so some investigation has been necessary. As I’m still in the midst of my investigations, stay tuned!

The setting: I think the setting is half the charm of this place. The walls are warm red with big beautiful brass mirrors hanging around, couches in the background, some family style long wooden tables… Overall it feels like a french bistro meets Seattle coffee shop meets wine bar. And what’s not to love in that?

Price/Quality/Service: Though the dinners can be on the pricey side, the brunch I found to be decently priced, averaging around 20-30chf. Probably no need to comment on the service again, though I have to admit, the waiter we had on this particular Sunday was very sweet! Not sure why, but it seems like the men are nicer than the women at this place.. The other standout factor is the plating, which is always attractive – though sometimes practicality falls victim to creativity.

In sum: If you’re a bit sick of Geneva’s standard cereal and tartines for brunch, don’t hesitate to check this place out. I’d take it over Halles de l’Ile any day for its comfort and price/quality, though les Halles has a broader spread. It also has the bonus of serving a delicious chocolat chaud a l’armagnac (or grand marnier if you prefer)….. you know, since a brunch just ain’t a brunch without the hair of the dog on the menu…!

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Inglewood

Such a young establishment and already impossible to get a table. Is this kind of popularity even sustainable in Geneva?? The only other place I can think of that demands to be reserved a week ahead of time is my favorite fondue place… and that’s been around for years already!

So, overrated or worth the hustle? In this gourmande’s opinion, Inglewood brought to us a heavy weight champ in the Geneva burger ring. Though they still have some work to do to clean up their service and floor management, their burgers (and their fries) are truly scrumptious and are brought to you in a dynamic and casual setting. Here’s how it breaks down:

The burger: In this sitting, we got to try the Cain Cain (bacon, cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato and BBQ sauce) to try some of the basic components and compare to the equivalent at Holy Cow, and the Honey Goat (bacon, goat cheese, honey, lettuce, mustard) to try one of their creative menu options). The overall experience in both cases was wholesomely delicious, from bun, to patty, to freshness and preparation of ingredients.

The beef patty they served was about 3cm thick and fit nicely tucked into a homemade poppyseed bun. The beef was of very good grade Swiss cows and cooked medium rare = exactly as a burger should be in my mind! The bun (pay attention now) possibly made the whole burger though. It is perfectly sized to fit all the ingredients into it, and it is soft and airy in the middle, while the crust is structured juuuuuust enough to keep the whole mess of sauces together without falling apart. Though I usually prefer sesame seed buns, this poppy seed topped one just might have converted me, as it lends a slight bitterness that, for whatever reason, makes these burgers distinctly Genevois 😉

Next up, the toppings: the bacon tends to be disappointing in Geneva, but this one stood out as being both tender and crisp, which they seemed to achieve by grilling the bacon rather than frying it. Bonus points on the health factor (ok ok ok, it’s still bacon. We get it. Live a little!) The cheese provided a tasty counter point to the bacon on the Cain Cain, though I wouldn’t rave about it. What was nice, especially for a tepid BBQ sauce appreciator like myself, is that the BBQ sauce was subtle. Unlike at the Holy Cow, I find it did not overwhelm the other ingredients.

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Turning to the Honey Goat, although honey, goat cheese and mustard may seem like a crazy idea to locals, it is actually a New York deli staple (and yet another combo that I was never a big fan of!) In this case though, the grilled bacon and the goat cheese married beautifully. I found the mustard they used to be too acidic though and found myself wiping off some of the excess… at which point the honey was able to step up and show its true flavors, serving as a titillating counterpoint to the salty bacon and goat cheese. But then it was a bit on the dry side. My advice would be to find a slightly sweeter mustard that marries a bit more smoothly with the honey…. but really, an overall great alternative to the normal bacon and cheeseburger.

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The fries: Alright, I am a french fry fanatic (how original, right?) My standards when it comes to this are…. shall we say….. exacting 🙂 These fries were an absolute joy to eat. They are so light, crisp and flavorful, you almost completely forget you are eating fries. They are cut “a l’ancienne” with the skin still on, and about the size of a MacDonald’s fry. The combination of the skin, the oil they use (peanut maybe?) and the perfect balancing of salt gives them a wonderful earthy flavor and a light, fluffy yet crisp consistency. Really, is there any more one could ask of a fry? Give me potato…

The dessert: Sorry folks. To be avoided. Dry brownie with store bought custard poured over it, or a dry looking cookie of some sort.. a real shame for a place that hits such high notes on every other scale! I am considering talking to the owners about rectifying this problem… until then, BYOC(hocolate)!

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The menu: Inglewood made a smart move in designing their menu. The selection consists of 9 beef burger options, 4 chicken and 3 “special” burgers (including veggie, bison and salmon burgers), which gives them the opportunity to cover the classics, and throw in some well thought out creative concoctions. What I like is that their creative options all use somewhat classic flavor profiles. The Camorra gives roquette lovers their mozzarella/tomato/mayo pesto and balsamic combo, the diehard Swissies can have their raclette cheese and cornichons on the Valaisan, and if you’re travel bugging you can dip into the guacamole of the Mexicano or the feta, aubergine and tzatziki of the Ouranos. The chicken burgers have the Mexican corner covered as well, and also propose the Frobleu that just might convert the beef extremists with its roquefort, pear, grilled bacon AND mayo! Definitely one to test out next time around. Lest I let myself be tempted by the Nordique salmon/caper/dill mayo and lemon mix….. Yeah, I think I may have to go back once for each of these after all. AND (and and and and) don’t forget to try their burger of the month! They seem to use it wisely 🙂

The green factor: If the Holy Cow prides itself on 100% Swiss, Inglewood clearly came in through the back door to make their products 80% GENEVA (whose the patriot NOW, huh??) Beyond the meats, they don’t give a break down of what’s from where. I would be specially curious to find out where the salmon comes from. Though they don’t pretend that the products are grown sustainably, the fact that they are so local definitely supports local economy and dramatically reduces energy that would have been spent on shipping/transportation. I would also be curious to find out who makes the buns and with what flour… because seriously, those buns are just….

The setting: With rustic inspired but modern looking white tables and chairs, the place could be seen as a bit frigid… but it’s not, mostly because of the colorful and eclectic decor. Since we didn’t manage to get a reservation, we sat at the bar, which I usually don’t like doing… but in this case it felt right. The food is not particularly fast, so having a few beers and making it a bar experience is really quite nice.

Price/Quality: It’s very simple. For 15chf-20chf, you get 160g of meat served up in all sorts of delectable ways. They probably top up their income on the bar – a beer (also from Geneva) is 9chf and a glass of wine runs about 5chf. The service is youthful (read: 20 year olds) and very friendly (read: very casual). If you’re ok with a hint of unprofessionalism as a biproduct of being young, friendly and new to the business, then you’re in good shape!

In sum: Excellent for a delicious burger and fries in a casual, dynamic setting. Calamar, don’t even be trying to compete, you’ve been knocked out of this race. But word to the wise…. call at least one day in advance to reserve. This place is still a bit of a victim to its popularity, and until they get the floor management back in gear, be prepared to exercise a bit of patience. Oh, and consider staying healthy for once – skip dessert!

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Holy Cow

Holy Cow, the burger joint of Lausanne fame, finally arrived in Geneva! With its Elvis Blue Cheeseburger ranked Best Burger in the Burger Blog 2010 Burger Awards, and after months of hearing about the awesomeness of this place from blood relatives and friends alike, it was imperatively on my list of burgers to test out.

Well, after all the hype, here’s my honest assessment of the place: it’s a great alternative to McDonalds, but don’t go expecting a gourmet burger.

The burger: I ordered Smokey Big Cheese and Bacon, to get an overview of the different burger elements. It comes with cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce, and caramelized onions. It was altogether a fine quality burger, although the flavors of the individual ingredients just kind of blended together, rather than standing out and complementing each other.

The beef patty that came out was relatively flat on a very large, homemade sesame bun (or at least what was trying to be a sesame bun). The beef held up to its reputation as being of very good grade Swiss beef – the Holy Cow President seems to know how pick ’em! The meat was very thoroughly cooked, too much so to my taste. Then again, as it is a fast food burger joint, I can’t imagine them asking each customer how they want their meat cooked.

Next up, the toppings: the cheese was essentially tasteless (which, in a place like Switzerland, is a real shame). The onions just got soft and lost in the BBQ sauce. And the bacon didn’t really stand a chance against the strong flavor of the BBQ sauce. But then again, I’m not the biggest fan of BBQ sauce to begin with, so I may be biased there.

No, really, I apologize for the horrible photography.

The fries: I don’t have a picture of the fries unfortunately, but they are relatively wide cut fries that are quite “meaty”. Kind of like steak fries, but not quite as fat. They were crisp and not too oily, which was nice. My personal preference is for thinner fries, but I must say these were pretty good too.

The menu: with over 20 options to choose from beef to chicken to veggie burgers, the Holy Cow is certainly not lacking in diversity. Their prize winning Elvis Blue Cheese creatively combines melted gorgonzola, bacon, cajun mayo and caramelized onions! But you can also go for the pineapple/mint combo of the Maui Maui, or the satay/lime/basil mayo combo of the Satay Burger (just pick your pleasure, why don’t ya!) Chance that the expansive menu is full of options the chef hasn’t really mastered? Well, we’ll just have to go back and do some more tasting!

The green factor: This is where the place wins out in my book. All the products are from around this part of Switzerland. The buns are homemade, the beef is selected by the President of the company, and all the produce is grown regionally. I just want to have a word with their cheese producer and find out what’s going on there…..

The setting: The place has a bit of a Swiss chalet meets cafeteria feel. After ordering your burger at the counter, you have a seat at long, communal wooden tables with benches. There are about 8 of these in the restaurant, which is painted a sort of creamy mint green. The tiled floors and solid concrete walls make for a pretty noisy environment, so just be prepared for that.

Price/Quality: Burgers range from 10chf (for a simple burger) to 20chf (for a 330g burger with toppings). Add 6chf for a menu that includes fries and a beverage. This puts the Holy Cow on the low end of the price spectrum for Geneva, generally. However, for that price you would also hope for a somewhat cozier setting, rather than the fast food/chain restaurant feel you get from the Holy Cow. A little more attention to the decor would go a long way towards making the overall experience more comfortable.

Bonus: They really went all the way with their local  theme: they even have their own beer! I’m not a big beer drinker, but this was quite nice with the burger. It’s light, and a bit sweet with some caramel like flavors. To the connoisseur sitting across from me, the beer should have had a bit more acidity and a leaner body to cut through the heaviness of the cheese and BBQ sauce. What’s nice though is that it’s not too fizzy, so you can work your way through that burger and fries without put your stomach through too much extra hell!

Holy Cow Beer!

In sum: Go! Try it out for yourself, it’s a great initiative, worth supporting.. But go especially when you’re craving MacDonald’s or some other, much worse, fast food equivalent. If it’s a thick, medium-rare burger you’re looking for, skip it to save yourself the disappointment.

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