Five burgers you just have to try

Who doesn’t love a big, juicy, savoury burger served with a bucket of fries and never-enough sauce, with a cold bevvie on the side? Nobody, that’s who!

 
We set out to see if we could find five awesome burgers to rave about and made a quick top-of-the-mind list of restaurants and cafés to start with. Then we bribed a mate (which wasn’t difficult!) to secret shop and report their findings.

True, it’s not very scientific, and we suspect it’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce, but this review is at least safe to forward to your work’s social committee, unlike that NSFW @eatlitfood guy on Instagram.
 
Fortunately for Rotorua diners, our sleuth didn’t have to go far to find five delicious patties that were well dressed and heaped with tasty toppings. In no particular order, here are the results.
 

Sobar

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Our burger inspector used this Eat Streat restaurant as their date night destination, so it was happy days that both burgers they sampled here were loved. Surely that means another date night is on the cards, right?
 
The Sobar Beef was tasty with its traditional toppings plus gherkins and onion relish. The beef patty was perfectly cooked and juicy. Classically great.
 
We have no specific idea what the Sobar Veg burger was made of but it didn’t matter. The veggie-based patty topped with cheddar, panko-crumbed Portobello mushrooms, onion relish, and aioli was a stunner, even to the non-vegetarian tester’s palate.
 
Both burgers were served on sesame buns, and at just $16 each, they’re great value for money. For another three bucks, the burgers are stacked on top of a sea of thick-cut fries, and bottles of all the sauces you love are brought to you in what looked like an old skool re-purposed milk bottle carrier.
 
By the way, have you ever noticed how we say ‘chips’ but menus say ‘fries’? Anyhoo, back to the important stuff.
 

Hello Stranger

The Low & Slow Brisket Burger at Hello Stranger café will leave you feeling like anything but a stranger.
 
The brioche bun and slow-cooked brisket is piled high with onion rings, greens, tomato, bleu cheese, and mushroom sauce. It’s a hot mess to eat but so worth the sticky fingers and greasy chin. Served with a basket of crispy crinkle-cut fries and tomato sauce, this deliciously hearty meal comes in at just under $24.
 

River’s Catch


The mouth waters instantly at the memory of tasting this double-beef patty sensation called a Smash Burger at a fish-n-chips shop tucked away in the tree-lined streets of the Sunnybrook neighbourhood.
 
Let’s first address the shop’s name, as it is not what it may sound like. “No, I’m not selling trout,” owner Isabel Talabis-Ronquillo says with a laugh. It was in a family meeting that the name was decided: River is the youngest of two daughters belonging to Isabel and her husband Norman.
 
Similar to its name, the menu on this upmarket shop is also not what it seems. Sure, you’ll find the typical fish-n-chips fare but the food is anything but common. A professionally trained chef, Isabel loves to have fun with flavours, adding her own touch to traditional Kiwi comfort foods by harkening back to her Filipino heritage.
 
We highly recommend planning a number of visits to try the RC Battered Fish on Between Bread (Isabel’s nickname for a somewhat sweet, traditional Filipino bread roll called pandesal), the Tackle Box, and the fish tacos. Flavours galore!
 
BUT, back to that burger: two hand-formed all-beef patties, double cheddar cheese, and a generous dollop of tangy River’s Catch special sauce. It’s cheesey, it’s messy, and it’s like your favourite backyard burger levelled up and served in a fresh-as brioche bun for only $13!  
 
Add a side of kumara fries ($6.50) or thick-cut fries ($4) and chipotle mayo, and you’ve got one heck of a flavourful meal.
 

Okere Falls Store

We did say we weren’t following a certain order in presenting these burgers, but we kinda lied. We’ve saved the most creative (a couple are pictured at the top) for last.
 
Okere Falls Store’s Thursday Burger Night is where it’s at. It’s where the chef chooses three new options to add to the regular burger selections (a couple of theirs are in the pic above). We love the names: Brie Mine Tonight, Sofishdicated, The Perfect Blend (yes, coffee is involved), Consperi Peri Theory, I’m In So Much Truffle, Put A Ring On It, and so many more punny names.
 
While our burger tester was waiting for his or her Chinese Smorgasboard – concocted of juicy sweet-and-sour slow-roast pork belly, pickled cucumber, tangy red slaw, crispy shallots, roasted peanuts, and sriracha aioli – other diners were raving about theirs. Finally, the saucy burger arrived, exploding with flavours like a smashed savoury piñata.
 
Served on an rustic, minimalist wood board and accompanied by oven-baked wedges for $20, this treat was worth the wait for Thursday to roll around. Burger night is such a huge hit, that we suggest getting in early.
 

But wait, there's more

As we mentioned earlier, this is definitely not an exhaustive list as Rotorua has heaps of amazing cafés and restaurants serving amazing burgers and much more. We’re likely to send our secret shopper out again as soon as he or she comes out of his or her food coma.
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