The hunt for the perfect burger is the kind of task Sisyphus would be given nowadays as a philosophically astute punishment. There’s always another burger, and by the time you’ve reviewed all of your local establishments, five more have popped up, all promising to be the second coming.
Still, amongst the veritable litany of retailers opening up around Glasgow, there are a few mavericks, a few rogue chefs whose pop-up appearances are sporadic and legendary, the aurora borealis (at this time of year?) of the culinary world. One such pop-up is El Perro Negro, a name whispered in hushed tones by all of those intrepidus folk who adore the hippest junk food, and winner of “The Best Burger In Glasgow!” on the infamous James vs Burger blog.
Knowledge is power when it comes to El Perro Negro, as places are limited. If they announce their descent from Hyperborea to deliver their heavenly manna, you need to book quick as flash to be in with a chance. This time they laid their sights on the Hippo Taproom, a delightful subterranean venue with a penchant for 90s music (they get a pass for playing a boat load of Pavement tracks when I visited), and their menu was a slight as ever. There’s no fuss, just two eat burgers, one vegetarian burger (with vegan bun option) and a hot dog on offer. The menu comes with beer pairings which was something I passed up on, not fancying my chances with a stout and a decadent meal.
I opted for the titular Black Dog, their signature patty topped with black pudding, marrow butter caramelized onions, homemade burger sauce and the only correct cheese for a burger: American cheese. My partner in crime opted for the Vegetarian Burger, a tofu based thai seasoned affair, of which I had a good few bites. Both burgers came on lightly toasted brioche buns - not too dry, not too soft - with just the amount of integrity to stop the meatier burger from falling to pieces under the weight of its unctuous flavour. Fries are also served with all mains, and although there were fewer than I would have liked, they were crisp, salted, and free of the grease that plagues many a lesser chip.
The Black Dog itself however, is a gift to all burger lovers out there. The benefit of operating a pop-up is that the patty can be sourced and cooked rarer than in many other establishments, and as such it has that irresistible pinkness backed up by pitch-perfect seasoning and just the right amount of charring. The sauce and onions added just enough exciting texture and flavour to cut through the gooey mess of American cheese, with enough liquid cascading off the burger to make it feel suitably indulgent and trashy - the mark of a real hit burger. Even the more refined vegetarian burger was bursting with fresh flavour, and never felt stodgy or bland, which is quite an achievement for an alternative to such a meat focused dish.
Given the boom of the burger in the US, it’s sweep through London, and subsequent spread to the rest of the UK, it can be hard to point out absolute favourites, but El Perro Negro deserves to be in the pantheon of Meat Liquor and Bread Meats Bread. The menu is slight but it's no issue. As Bruce Lee said, fear not the man who practices a thousand kicks once, but the man who practices one kick a thousand time. El Perro Negro is that virtuoso kick, a divine pairing of patty and bun that hits like a meaty mjolnir to the face. The only tangible complaint is the higher than average pricing, and the fact that I cannot regularly eat myself into a protein coma due to the pop-up nature, which proprietor Nick is looking to solve as he makes a stab at securing a venue in Glasgow’s own West End.