We head up north on a promise that Almost Famous are dishing up the best burgers in the North. Libby Harris tucks in to tell us more.
Almost Famous had a bit of bad luck in 2013. Their original site had a fire that destroyed the kitchen and caused the roof to collapse. But this didn’t stop them, and, although they have refurbished the original building, it is their new site at the Great Northern Warehouse that catches our eye.
Fairy lights hang from the windows in time for the Christmas season that has already taken over the city, and upon entering a wave of heat hits us. Although the big, round bar takes centre stage in the middle of the room it is the giant gorilla and cow statues that catches our eye. The walls are adorned with painted quotes mirroring Fight Club and Charlie Sheen. As we enter Arctic Monkeys is playing, but quickly changes to something a bit heavier, suggesting they’re appealing to a more diverse crowd.
We sit down at a table which is filled with sweets. I have a sweet tooth and immediately want to smash it open but instead I try and take in everything on the bright and slightly busy menu. It’s a little overwhelming but the server appears to answer all our questions. The menu, luckily, has an option for everyone, with 9 beef burgers served on brioche buns, 3 ‘not burgers’ (which just means it isn’t beef but it’s still on a bun), 2 veggie options and 2 mammoth burgers served on pretzel buns.
Everything sounds extravagant, from the ‘Johnny Mac’ which has both Doritos and a Mac Ball on top, to the ‘Good Morning America’ which has an egg, Cheerios and a pop tart included in the mix. There is a burger for any hangover or hunger desire possible.
My first question is simple, what is a pretzel bun? The answer is it’s an alternative to brioche; it’s a little saltier, and has a bit more crunch if you’re not a fan of the soft buns everywhere else uses. I’m sold. I opt for a ‘Vinny Chase’ (a little pricey at £10 so I hope for the best) while my friend decides on a ‘River Phoenix’ -a house favourite.
It’s understandable why the ‘River Phoenix’ is so popular. If you’re into this trend of bacon and BBQ, this is the burger for you. Served in a little red basket, you’d think it would look a little lonely, but it’s huge and impressive. ‘River Pheonix’ is a beef burger topped with cheese, bacon, onions, Frazzles (that’s right, Frazzles), Bacon Bacon Mayo, red chillies, BBQ sauce and ketchup. For £8, I’m impressed, and it looks like my friend is too because his burger is gone before I’ve eaten half of mine.
I dig into mine hungrily, blown away by the amount of food on our table, doubting for a second that we ordered too much. Although my eyes have always been bigger than my stomach, I’m stubborn till the end. I bite into my burger, and the bun is like something I’ve never had before. Brioche buns are slightly overdone in my opinion, with even chains such as Byron’s using them–I don’t think they add the desired sweetness to a burger that everyone thinks they do. This, however, is brilliant. The flavours all complement each other; although it’s simple with its two burgers and streaky bacon, it’s a cheese overload but I’m a big fan of cheese, and if you’re after a full, filthy, meaty burger, this is the one.
Sauce is dripping down my chin as
I decide to give the sides ago. I’m almost battling with my friend to get to the ‘Chicken Blasts’. Luckily, we ordered the hot sauce on the side, because dipping them in the sauce blows my head off. They’re pretty moreish and it’s a good size portion if you’re sharing as the ‘Blasts’ are a decent size and taste great with or without the hot sauce.
The ‘Magic Waffle Fries’ come in a basket like a little mountain but I don’t mind for the price of £4.50. These are criss-cross cut waffle fries with JD Maple Syrup and bacon rain (crispy bits of bacon) which tastes almost nostalgic. It’s a sweetness that compliments the fries perfectly. Then you have something better; the option to put popping candy on them. If I didn’t feel like enough of a kid already (I’m still covered in sauce), then eating candied fries has definitely hit the spot. The giggles come and eyes are rolling as I find amusement in my food.
Mac Balls are simply what they say on the tin, little deep-fried balls of mac ‘n’ cheese. They’re tasty, but nothing special, and although the cheesy goodness hits the spot, I’ve had better in other places.
As we fight our way through this mountain of food, we get onto the topics of drinks. My friend orders the house lager, ‘Danger and Mayhem’, a German pilsner. It’s light and refreshing which washes the burger down perfectly, leaving you with that feeling of space for round two on your food. It’s reasonably priced at £4 a pint. Also on offer are Brooklyn and San Miguel on draught, with a number of bottled beers too. The ‘Danger and Mayhem’ is great for washing down any burger because the lightness of it works as a great contrast to those that have a bit more going on. However, with something like the Vinny Chase I think a classic Brooklyn lager works great for that American diner feel. There are also cocktails which are on average £7.50 which is arguably cheap in Manchester Bars.
Admitting defeat on the food, we ask our server about the array of glass eagle shaped bottles above the bar. Apparently, it’s a house shot called Eagle’s Beak, a mix of Jack Daniels, mint, plum bitters and cherry. We give it a go instead of hitting dessert. It definitely wakes me up and tastes how I imagine Christmas to taste.
It’s a shame to leave here, as it’s early afternoon but there’s a party vibe that is starting to really pick up and I want to stick around to see just how lively it gets. The staff are friendly and allowed to be themselves, with tattoos on show and a laid-back uniform; it looks like a great place to work. Although we must finally accept that we can handle no more food, but I can’t wait to come back and nurse my hangover here a few more times in the foreseeable future.
Photography by Beth Halfpenny