(add 30 cents for cheese)
(add 30 cents for cheese)
First things first: Germans did not invent the hamburger. Yes, most of our readers know this, but I have to throw that out as a little FYI for those who don't. This is important to know, because it takes the hamburger as menu item at a German restaurant out of the realm of "a dish created to show national culinary superiority" to "just another stock lunch option". Although its undeniable Americanness means the hamburger may not be the spotlighted centrepiece of a German restaurant menu, it doesn't mean Germans don't know how to make a good burger.
Somehow the Rathskeller manages to take a sausagey patty, something I often find off-putting, and turn it into part of a very satisfying burger. A quick side note: what is it that makes burger patties sometimes taste like McDonald's sausage patties? I offer the following three theories: a mixture of garlic salt/onion salt, water, and sugar added to the mix; inherent griddle flavour becoming infused with the meat; or its just cheap, preservative filled meat.
How does the Rathskeller make this sausagey little darling work? A big part of the equation is butter: the bun that houses the patty is absolutely slathered and toasted to perfection. The rim of the bun is so saturated that its taste ends up resembling that of the crispy butter you sometimes pull out of a pan when cooking pancakes. The comforting buttery crispness of the bun goes a long way to killing any discomfort that may come from eating beef that tastes like sausage.
The other reason this package works is the fact it is constructed almost more like a sandwich than a burger. For condiments you have an aioli and some cheap dijonaise. In addition to the standard toppings (pickle, onions, lettuce, tomato) you also get cucumber. The cucumber really ties the unit together, and totally balances out the salty, sausagey flavour of the patty. Top it off with some Swiss cheese, and you've got a real winner.
One last little note about this burger and German culinary convention: I was very surprised to see that the offering at the Rathskeller is made of ground meat, and not chopped steak. Though the Germans did not invent the hamburger, they are, of course, responsible for hamburg (ie chopped) steak. Going to a German restaurant and not getting a burger patty made with chopped steak seemed a little strange to me, but I can't say it actually effected my enjoyment of the Rathskeller's offering: this one's a keeper.
VERDICT: Might not taste like beef, but it's still pretty damn good.