There’s something disconcerting about tucking into a meaty beefburger while a mournful-looking cow watches accusingly from across the room.
Conscience aside, the portraits of cows – and pigs – say a lot about the formula at Burgers Inc.: simple, quirky, contemporary, just the job in fact.
The new burger bar is the latest arrival on Ecclesall Road, bringing the total to six, ranging from Uncle Sam’s, a cornerstone since 1972, to newly-rebranded Relish.
There’s a bit of a fad for them right now and that’s raised the bar well above the kind of mass-produced fodder served up by the old chains. Burgers Inc. is no exception; it requires a short walk beyond Hunters Bar, but it’s worth the effort.
The newcomer has taken over the space vacated by Kitchen (singled out for national honours in last year’s Good Food Guide) and then by short-lived Back of House.
Head chef Rich Bucklow, 28, has stayed on, now working with Adrian Walsh of adjoining Food & Fine Wine, to come up with a formula that will work in today’s market.
Their solution is to keep things fresh and simple, “with the emphasis on taste, quality and price.”
It’s not like the fancy cooking Rich was used to until a few months ago. He trained with Michelin-starred Tom Aikens, then worked with Mark Hix until joining the fine dining team at London’s illustrious RAC Club.
But Rich is happy to be back home in Sheffield and he’s enjoying the fresh challenge: “It’s simple, but we try to do things with a little bit more finesse,” he says.
He makes his own mayonnaise and coleslaw, but economies of time and space mean it’s easier to buy in sauces and skinny fries (fat home-made ones are available); buns are specially made by Seven Hills Bakery.
Wine, naturally, is supplied by Adrian; the house red is a full bodied Spanish tempranillo at £13.95 (£3.50 per glass). There’s also a choice of beers, spirits and milk shakes.
The menu is simple: burgers, dogs, salads and sides, with a couple of daily specials.
We order tortillas and mixed olives while we’re waiting. The olives are soggy, but tortillas are well seasoned and served in a little paper bag, with creamy guacamole and tangy tomato salsa.
My companion tackles Porky’s Revenge – a mammoth combination of chunky burger, pulled pork, bacon and sauce. It looks great, though I’d prefer a plate to that teeth-jarring slate.
The burger is good and meaty, if a tad overdone. Rich says he’s happy to leave it pink, but most customers prefer their burgers cooked through.
It’s piled up on a toasted bun with tomato, lettuce, smoky pulled pork and two rashers of bacon. Stainless steel tubs of mayo and coleslaw and another of chips complete the feast.
It falls to me to try the Gringo Dog: chorizo sausage with fried onions and paprika mayo. It’s huge! A fluffy roll with two long, thin, spicy sausages and all the trimmings. Very tasty.
But best by far is our side dish of macaroni cheese: a thick, creamy, cheesy treat that’s good enough to merit top billing in its own right. Next time I’ll just indulge in two side orders of mac ‘n’ cheese!
We share a hot chocolate brownie with ice cream. And here’s my other top tip: save room for the brownie! Rich and intense, with just the right amount of gooiness, it’s very near perfection.
A meal for two, excluding drinks and service, is £28.50.
* Burgers Inc. 762 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield (0114) 266 7702 Burgers Inc.