Pull the other pork
Burgers, hotdogs and pulled pork – they’re all tasty, and there’s plenty of places in Liverpool to get your fix. But hasn’t this trend gone on a bit too long?
If we think of the food of the 1970s, we think of artic roll and chicken kievs, the 80s, prawn cocktail and quaaludes.
When our grandchildren look back on the 2010s (tens? teenths?) in the years to come, they’re going to think of pulled pork and burgers.
It’s literally impossible to walk through Liverpool (or any cool British city) at the moment without walking past a trendy burger place, and while mountains of greasy meat and cheese are delicious, it’s getting a bit tiring.
It’s this elevation of the burger to some sort of Michelin-starred delicacy that’s the real problem. A burger isn’t a fine dining experience. It’s shameful and dirty, to be eaten in the back of a taxi at 4AM after you’ve struck out at Bumper.
A burger is a food that should make you feel like you’re about to die for 4 hours afterwards. And that’s not a bad thing – there’s a time and place for a tasty sandwich of fat and salt – just stop trying to sell it to me for a tenner.
And it’s the saminess that makes this now too familiar fad even worse. Places like almost Almost Famous do what they do well – that whole kitschy, dirty Americana stuff can be fun. But when it seems like there’s a new restaurant peddling the exact same gimmick popping up every month, it gets a bit tired, and you start to think that maybe the food scene (cringe) needs a kick up the arse.
Most of these slightly American-themed edgy meat shacks are the epitome of style over substance. Take fried pickles, for example, a popular menu item at places like this. They sound weird and tasty, and they fit in with the whole theme – it’s hard to imagine a more American dish, unless you battered a bald eagle or something.
But when they arrive at your table, you’re disappointed. Pickles are so wet that they make the batter all soggy and the pickle weirdly lukewarm, so the whole eating experience is sort of similar to eating a tissue filled with porridge. But hey, they’re American as shit, so stick them on the menu and charge a fiver for four.
And there’s nothing good about serving your food on a wooden board. Yeah, it looks cool, and there’s the five second period of “hey, I’m eating off a plank of wood”, but then shit starts spilling over the sides and you wonder how the hell they can properly clean this wooden board between customers.
Unusual crockery coupled with your ridiculously overfilled burger means you’re covered in meat juice down to your elbows, the table is covered with mayo, and you wish you’d gone to a mainstream restaurant.
Fortunately, places like Camp & Furnace are bucking this trend, turning out tasty, genuinely innovative food without slathering a ladle of pulled pork on top of everything. But there’s a hundred other restaurants around that are subverting your expectations in different ways – by marketing themselves as unpretentious and down to earth, while charging you a fortune for chips.
But I’m ranting. American food has been exported all over the world for one reason – because it’s really tasty. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a delicious, massive burger, nor is there anything wrong with making some money out of a food trend. But it’d be a shame if, this time next year, 5 new burger restaurants open in Liverpool, the fad ends, and all of a sudden we’re saturated with food no-one’s really arsed about any more.
But then again, it won’t be so bad if nothing ends up changing and this fad just keeps going, because then I’ll be in the money.
What follows is the menu for my post-graduation cash cow, a burger joint themed like a New York dive bar where we serve your food on old hubcaps and the only drinks are gherkin juice and bacon grease. Opens Spring 2016.