While living in a new country is all about discovery, trying new things and eating local food, occasionally you just CRAVE something you cannot seem to find. Or maybe you can find it but just not in the form that you are used to and/or lives up to your standards.
In our little village in South Korea we have a small list of these foodie creature comforts that we feel slightly helpless without – ‘proper’ bread (anyone who has lived in Asia will understand the phenomenan of the over-sweetened, overly white, sometimes pre-buttered state of bread – give us some grains, please!!!), well roasted coffee beans (we’ve taken to getting some sent from New Zealand – how desperate is that?!), cheese that is not orange or plastic in nature, pies and big fat slabs of cow.
Beef in any form is incredibly expensive in Korea due, we’re guessing, to the extremely limited land available for farming. Cows are big beasties and obviously take up some room. Hailing from New Zealand, it has been a bit of a shock to the system to discover that beef costs in South Korea are the highest in the world! In turn, this means that there is very limited availability of what we would deem ‘proper’ steaks, that minced beef is extremely expensive and that when you go to a restaurant the beef is served paper thin.
It also means that beef burgers available in our rather limited village are, in a word, average. Nope, actually, less than average. And sometimes what we want is a Big, Fat, Juicy, Delicious BEEF burger. Made with proper cow patties.
We have the choice of Lotteria (kind of like the Korean version of McDonald’s) or Mom’s Touch -a smaller franchise of chicken and burger joints. That’s it.
The beef (bulgogi) patties at both places are fairly similar. They feel processed, bland and slightly gooey. Imagine McDonalds patties and you’re pretty close. Fine if you’re drunk/hungover/don’t care but not so good if you’re having fantasies about proper meat encased in appropriately complimentary accessories.
Needless to say, we wanted burgers. Good burgers. We were desperate. So we jumped on the trusty old internet machine and typed “best burgers in Busan” into Korea.
Now the first result was a forum talking about Burger King locations in Busan. Not quite what we were after so we skipped down to the next hit. Which is how we discovered Farmers Burgers in PNU. We take anything we read on the internet with a grain of salt but were determined to track this place down and see if it lived up to the hype.
The entrance is rather nondescript but a sign outside bode well for what lay upstairs. It spoke of a Korean chef, who had spent time in Australia, become inspired by the fresh and delicious produce and who, upon his return to Korea, decided to open an establishment with those inspirations in mind.
We ran into the chef on our way up the stairs and immediately made dorks of ourselves by fawning over him in that way that antipodeans have when they connect in far flung places. Never mind that he is a Korean – it was enough that he had been anywhere near our homeland, haha.
He is lovely and speaks good English, as does the young woman who served us. We were seated and quickly got down to the business of studying the menu. The burgers come in two sizes – regular or large. Our server informed us that the large burgers were meant to share and came with two soft drinks and fries. However, we decided to go for the regular as Dan wanted the bacon burger and H-J the namesake “Farmers” burger.
The burgers arrived and even the ‘regular’ are pretty darn large! The homemade meat patties were every bit as good as we were expecting – juicy, beefy and well seasoned. The onions are meltingly, drippingly oozy and delicious and the vegies crunchy and yum. We even got a Smiley potato thingy on each of our plates!
All in all, we were stoked. A lovely setting and a great burger that totally delivered on flavour, while satisfying our meat-loving tendancies. Ahhhh….We went home that day happy little NZ monkeys, declaring the Farmers Burger “The Best Burger in Busan”.
But a couple of weeks later we started wondering….was that a fluke? Was it really THAT good? And how can we deem it the best burger in Busan when its, well, the ONLY burger in Busan we’ve tried?
So with the best interests of fair research in our hearts, beef on our brains and a touch of gluttony in our bellies, we set off one fine Saturday to try and discover if Farmers Burgers would indeed retain the title.
First stop was a place that also featured high on the google hit list AND had a name that we couldn’t resist – Aussie Burger in the Kyungsung University area!
The menu looked promising, even from outside the premises.
And it got even better upon entering inside when we discovered that not only did they sell burgers…but they had PIES on the menu!!!
While this was to be a day of burger research, we were powerless to resist the pull of a classic meat pie. Its not everyday in Korea when this opportunity presents itself AND this did start out being about beef, right?!
We promptly ordered a PIE to share and a couple of Aussie Burgers, Dan’s with bacon. And we sat and waited in gleeful anticipation…
And then, it happened.
Our first pie since leaving the shores of NZ. And it was delicious – homemade, buttery pastry filled with a an oozey, mincey filling.
Sadly, the burgers didn’t live up to the hype. The patties were of the processed-y variety and the burger as a whole a bit one dimensional in flavour.
We found ourselves adding HEAPS of the complimentary pickles and sauces to provide a bit of crunch and brightness. There was also a bit of a weird after-taste of old ground pepper.
Verdict? Well, we’d definitely go back for the pie but leave the burgers. And a quick note to the owners: play some AC/DC, not Korean ballads, eh?
Sticking with the Aussie (ish) theme we ventured back to Farmers Burgers in PNU to see if our first visit was a one off or whether indeed it was consistently a fabulous burger joint. This time we ordered one of their large burgers to share, thinking that this would be a way to minimise burger intake for the day.
WRONG. I don’t know if we’ve even captured the sheer scale of this monster properly but take note that the Coke cans are shivering in its wake. On reflection, we should have shared a regular burger…We certainly didn’t need the huge order of fries that was included!
Once again, the burger was delicious. The value here is pretty incredible as well – the large burger comes with two soft drinks and a large basket of fries, all for ₩14,000 (around $15 NZD for two people). Fair to say, Farmers Burgers was still reigning supreme in our minds.
The next place we had seen rave reviews about was Thomas Grill, back in Kyungsung (we were hopping around between suburbs to provide digestion time and to see different parts of the city).
Having learnt our lesson we decided to share a burger and promptly decided on the ‘Kona’ burger which sounded kind of like a hawaiian burger.
It was a gorgeous thing to behold, full of egg, ham and pineapple with little pots of pickles and a divine coleslaw on the side.
It was awesome. In the true sense of the word. The best beef patty we had to date (sorry Farmers, we were rooting for you!) – beautifully seasoned, juicy, beefy…YUMMY. This burger was a flavour explosion. What made this experience even better was the incredible espresso that was served AND the fact they had Cherry Coke – which seems like the perfect accompaniment to a burger! This was going to be tough to beat.
Next on the list was Sharky’s – a favourite hang out spot of the Busan ex-pat community and rumoured to have pretty great burgers. So off we went to Haeundae Beach to find some accommodation for the night and try out another new burger destination.
It was here that we started to slip away slightly from the original brief…it could have had something to do with the fact we were starting to suffer from the Beef Sweats…
…it could have had something to do with the cocktails we decided to order as an appetizer…it could have had something to do with the fact that we don’t get out of the village all that often and were delightfully giddy with discoveries of new cafes, some great new street art and the room with a round bed that we had just checked into.
We decided against beef burgers and decided to try the pork sliders, with the promise of tender, slow-cooked pork.
They were the perfect size and absolutely mouth-wateringly good. The chef, was is apparently a relatively new addition to their team, explained that he cooks the pork for 5 hours. And it showed – it was super tender and smothered in a delicious, rich bbq sauce. Pretty damn good burgers, if you ask us!
Feeling pretty chuffed with the effort we had put into our quest, we decided that the final place for the night would be our old favourite, Beached on Gwangalli Beach. We thought it only fair to let them compete in our burger-thon and it was also a great excuse to go and enjoy some Kiwi hospitality and drinks, seeing as we’d seen our fair share of Aussie-themed attempts today.
As we approached the door, we noticed on the specials blackboard a new addition to the menu we know and love. Could it be…? Twice in one day…?
PIES!!! Yes, that’s right, pies had been added to the menu at Beached. Not only a pie but the classic, antipodean icon itself. The Mighty Steak and Cheese. We duly ordered a pie and the beef burger, in light of the day’s work.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Somewhere between the order being placed and the order arriving from the kitchen, something went awry, turning the burger order into an order of fish and chips. While they graciously gave us the fish and chips for free AND offered to go and make the burger, we love this place and decided to just let it be.
The pie, however, was fantastic to the point that H-J consumed most of it before the photo could even be taken.
So no burger entry from Beached. But a fun night of drinking ensued and we fell firmly off the burger research wagon.
Yes, that is NZ Pure that Craig is drinking!
So therein ended the day of finding The Best Burgers in Busan, with a side order of finding a few pies along the way. Our final conclusion – the best beef Burger in Busan title goes to Thomas Grill. Special mention goes to Sharky’s for the scrumptious pork sliders and Farmers for the epically tasty, homemade burgers and fantastic value.
Oh, and just when you thought we couldn’t possibly eat another burger we did the ultimate, sloppy, drunken thing…and bought Lotteria on the way back to the love motel.