Eating Out: Tribal Burger brings 'proper' fast food to Belfast city centre
12 Callender Street,
028 9033 2223
BURGERS are one of those foodstuffs that, even when they're pretty bad, they're always kind of good. The circumstances matter, of course. Hunger certainly plays a role, while alcohol can often provide enough anaesthetic qualities to make you think that cheese and onion thing from the van outside the student's union all those years ago will never be beaten.
So, if a bad burger can be good, then a good burger can be something special.
Good burger restaurants, sorry 'joints', have sprung up more than just about any other type of restaurant over the past decade. Pitching themselves as a step up, or four, from chip shop or McDonald's/Burger King fare, they'll serve you a 'proper' burger. Possibly with a craft beer, almost certainly by someone with tattoos. Beard optional.
What 'proper' actually means is anyone's guess, so just being good should be good enough and Belfast city centre has been blessed in recent years to have Pablo's and Bunsen open to rightly rave reviews and repeat custom.
Tribal Burger, which first opened on Botanic Avenue near Queen's University before pitching up with a branch in the city centre, is a comfortable bedfellow with those two and, like Bunsen, comes via Dublin.
It began as a truck down in the capital and established a bricks and mortar spot in south Belfast before opening its second location in the space formerly occupied by the much missed Bubbacue.
Anyone who was in it before will feel familiarity in the new surroundings – wooden tables and benches, metal chairs, general hipness.
It's busy on an early Thursday afternoon, with as many workers calling in to take away on their lunchbreak as punters sitting in after ordering at the counter.
The speed of service seems appropriate to the time of day and it's not long before two lunch specials at £7.95 each hit the table.
Outside lunchtime, burgers run at between £5 and £7, including chicken and vegan options, while there are also chicken wings and salad bowls.
The heart of the place, the beef burger, is excellent. The bap holds up well and the charred juiciness and deep meatiness of the burger stand up well too, even though the Cashel blue cheese mayonnaise almost drowned it. It tasted fantastic, but a little restraint with the topping may have helped.
The chicken burger, with a couple of strips of buttermilk fried bird, was excellent too, though a little thin and, as a result, leaning more towards the coating that the meat. This is not a bad thing in itself, as both were clearly top quality.
The ''proper' chips' were no joke. Skin on, hot, essence of spud, with the buffalo ones covered in blue cheese dressing and hot sauce deserving of a place on a Mount Rushmore of things you can pay money for and shove in your bake.
They're licensed, so that craft beef is available, as are milkshakes laced with booze. A tee-total Kinder Bueno shake was a nice accompaniment to the kick of the buffalo chips.
In the interests of comprehensiveness, a second visit for one of the vegan options – a polenta and sweetcorn patty – and the skinny fries revealed consistency of chip but a 'burger' that, though nicely flavoured and great along its crisp edges, was a stodgy effort from about halfway through.
But it was an outlier: with the chicken, the chips and the cornerstone burger all very good and when you find a very good burger it's always worth going back for.
:: THE BILL
Lunchtime special x3 £7.95
Buffalo fries upgrade £1
Kinder Bueno milkshake £3.50