How Byron Hamburgers turned back the clock on an American classic
EVER found yourself feeling nostalgic for a time you've never lived in and a place you've never visited? Stepping inside Byron Hamburgers on Deansgate does that to us. It's like walking into the diner in Twin Peaks or a scene in On The Road. With its lime green banquette seating, metro tiles, and retro fittings and artwork, it's a 1950s roadside restaurant, as featured in all our favourite road trip movies. And let's face it, this is about as close as we'll ever get to Route 66 circa 1956 without a time-travelling machine.
What we like best though about Byron Hamburgers is that the throw-back vibes don't start and end with the décor. Their hamburgers are refreshingly retro, too. Order a cheeseburger or a classic burger and it's like being at a backyard barbecue in The Wonder Years. They're served on a squidgy bun with sliced tomato, iceberg lettuce and red onion, with a pickle on the side. Unfussy and unfaddy. And the meat itself is simple and honest – British beef, ground fresh and cooked medium rare to keep it juicy.
But burgers don't need to be 'different', they just need to be good. Byron gets this.
The dirty food craze meant you couldn't move for burgers for a while, which meant everyone was trying to out-do everyone else with their menus, and offer something a little bit different. But burgers don't need to be 'different', they just need to be good. Byron gets this, and it's why it's expanding in Manchester.
The Corn Exchange Byron is a surprisingly beautiful space designed to channel the grandeur of New York's Grand Central Station. Brass fittings, leather booths and a marble bar give it a glamour and sophistication. The sound of sizzling beef and ice clinking in bourbon glasses stop it from feeling like a stage-set, and fully immerse you in the experience.
Over at Piccadilly Gardens, they've gone with a bright lights, big city vibe with a shiny tiled floor, lots of zinc and wood, and warm, soft lighting. This is the kind of place the Mad Men might go for an extended lunch break: slick and stylish with the option of cocktails to get the creative juices flowing.
The menu is consistent across the three Byrons. They have their classics which are perfect just the way they are and veggie burgers so good, they give carnivores food envy (go for the one with goats cheese melting over portobello mushrooms). Then there's chicken breast burgers served with guacamole and thousand island dressing.
Or you can try their new special burger ‘The Cheese’ which lands in restaurants on 6 June. The Cheese is another nod towards nostalgic flavours of old school US hamburgers. It’s a 6oz hamburger, Byron cheese, shredded iceberg, pickles, white onion, mustard and Byron sauce.
What is Byron cheese you ask? Byron cheese takes the perfect melting quality of American cheese, but gives it the proper flavour punch that American cheese doesn’t always have. Made to Byron’s own recipe from three proper cheeses-Cheddar, Red Leicester and Grana Padano.
If you’re after a proper lunch deal then Byron have you covered. You can get a burger, side and a drink (including house larger, ale and wine) for just £10.
Besides the burgers, they specialise in craft beer, bourbon, and milkshakes served in tall metal beakers with oversized straws (normal straws couldn't cope with the thickness of the ice cream). Have them with a shot of bourbon, rum or vodka, or unadulterated if you prefer.
Like everything we tried, these milkshakes were a quiet triumph. Not overcomplicated, just irresistible. (We literally couldn't leave them alone, despite being full-to-bursting already.
When a chain gets the food, drinks and decor just right like this, we don't mind that it's a chain. And we don't mind that it's harking back to a time and place we've never experienced. We might never share a milkshake and a hamburger in a booth in a US diner but if we ever do, this will be the standard it would have to live up to.