The last two years, burger restaurants have been popping up all over the place in Leuven (Belgium). I’ve never really been a burger fanatic, can’t remember the last time I had a MacDonalds without being slightly drunk on my way back from a party way after midnight. But these places don’t just sell your average burger. They call ‘m Gourmet Burgers. High quality ingredients, your meat baked medium or even rare if that’s how you like it, and the proper restaurant experience. By now, two burger restaurants are amongst my favourite places to eat out in town. So: time for a comparison review!
To start off, let me say I don’t have a favourite. And it’s not even that some things are less good in one of them than in the other. It’s more like it’s good in both of them, but just even better in the other. I’m talking about Ellis Burgers, a chain with restaurants in Brussels, Antwerp, and other cities in Belgium and the Netherlands; and the last one we’ve tried: Het Huis der Burgers (The House of Burgers). Both of them are located right in the centre and also, good for us because we often go eat out when everything is still closed: they are open before 6pm!
Let’s talk restaurant experience first. Ellis has its typical set-up, the same in any city you visit one. Quite modern, wooden interior with dark finish, and the lighting is very modern and just finishes the picture perfectly. The waiters are friendly and efficient, and you feel taken care of very well. Huis der Burgers is actually rather similar, modern set-up, amazing staff. It is slightly bigger and often you see bigger groups in there, everyone happy and satisfied even though the menu is limited to burgers and salads. The people who come here are not your average ‘on-myway-home-from-work-grabbing-a-quick-bite’. People dress up to come here, it counts as a night out.
Drinkwise, they both have a limited selection of beers, which in a city like Leuven could easily be expanded. But they also both do homemade lemonades which I am always a fan of. And when you ask a glass of wine in Huis der Burgers, you definitely get value for your money. Very decent red wine for a very decent price, in a particularly decent serving size.
But really I want to tell you about the food. Oh the food. (Just the thought of it is is making me hungry. I’m just gonna grab a quick snack and then continue.)
The best thing about Ellis is by far its mayonnaise. I know this might sound silly, but if you are Belgian you know what I mean. If you are foreign and you think you don’t like mayonnaise, I can tell you you are wrong. I would even dare promise you, you will like Ellis‘s mayo! It’s homemade! The chips are excellent as well, in case you were wondering.
The burger I usually go for is the standard bacon and cheese one. For me, those are still the best ingredients to put on a burger. The burger itself is baked medium-rare unless you specify otherwise. But even for someone like me who doesn’t like my food bloody, the meat is just such good quality it really works. They do have some other interesting burgers but I have to admit, I like my usual so much I haven’t really tried anything else, except for this one special I wish they would bring back. A lamb burger with sheep cheese and grilled peppers. Oh my, paradise! Next time I might just go for the Blue Cheese Madness, or maybe the Bollywood Delight, with chicken, yoghurt-mint sauce and mango chutney.
They also do salads and some typical but tasty sounding appetisers (I am thinking nachos and onion rings, amongst others), but they must really sound very tasty since they always happen to be out when we decide to order some. Quantity wise, let’s just say you don’t need to order starters. Which is also why we have never made it do the dessert.
Now, in Het Huis der Burgers, they have some truly genius combinations as well. The first time I went for what I would call an Italian burger, but they originally call The Soprano. It is basically your standard bacon and cheese burger with only Italian ingredients: rucola for lettuce, pancetta for bacon, provolone for cheese, and a basil mayo together with some more veggies to top it off. A-ma-zing! Last time, I tried one of their specials. The Portobello Burger. Yup, with portobello mushrooms. I was a bit sceptical because often these big mushrooms get a bit chewy, but they were amazingly juicy and just melted on your tong. Again, the meat was cooked to perfection, and it was topped off with some goat cheese and salad of course. Perfect mix of flavours, cooked just the way I like it.
Sadly, Huis der Burgers doesn’t do their own mayo. The mayo you get is your usual one, which in Belgium is still very nice, but let’s just say Ellis has spoiled us. The chips are cooked Belgian style, so no bad words about those, but one thing I really like in this place is that they give you a side salad. Now, I am not much of a salad eater, but this one is quite nice really! It’s more than just some lettuce and it comes with a nice yoghurt dressing. It’s such a nice fresh change to mix things up in between the burgers and the chips, and of course it makes you feel less guilty after. You definitely get your veggie serve in this place! In Ellis, all you get is a massive pickle, I think mostly to decorate your plate. But then you could order a side salad or coleslaw if you really wanted to.
So to summarise: if you’re in want of some unhealthy food that might just not be as unhealthy as you had originally planned for, Ellis Burgers and Huis der Burgers are the places to be! They transform classical fast food into high quality meals in the perfect setting for a nice night out. I, for one, can’t wait to go again!