San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

The classic hamburger gets classier

By Stacey Auch |  Special to the Tico Times

Having been disappointed a number of times by hamburgers in Costa Rica (the Tico-Style burger is not my thing), I tried to contain my enthusiasm when I heard of the opening of Hamburgesía – a gourmet hamburger restaurant behind the new Holiday Inn Escazú in Plaza Tempo.

But upon entering the small, sleek dining room, I began to get excited. The place could easily have been Don Draper’s hamburger restaurant of choice, with its warm orange interior, metal trimmings and ‘60s retro furniture. All that was missing from this set – thanks to recent anti-tobacco legislation – was the lingering smoke.

Upon chosing our seats, the highlight of Hamburgesía – its menu of artistic hamburger creations ranging in price from $10-14 – was promptly delivered, and the difficulty of choosing which gourmet burger to devour cannot be exaggerated. 

The easy part was to overlook the few salad options, but the six international burger choices had us stuck. The chef’s creations range from the Pura Vida to the eponymous Hamburgesía, a high-protein option topped with prosciutto and fried egg.

I finally settled on the French-inspired Parisina featuring Brie Cheese, bacon and a mushroom sauce. My guest went for a little taste of Greece – the Santorini – covered with Feta cheese, red onion, cucumber and a Kalamata Olive aioli.

My only mistake was to order my hamburger medium rare. Typically in Costa Rica, this results in a medium to medium well outcome. My burger, however, was served as ordered and actually leaned towards rare. Although it was a little too raw for my preference, I fault cultural nuance rather than the kitchen.

That said, the short cooking time did seem to result in my Brie cheese not being very melted and appearing more like two blocks of cheese tossed on as an afterthought. Additionally, the mushrooms were betrayed by a rubbery texture suggesting they may have been canned.

My guest had no critiques, however, and could not eat her Santorini fast enough. I barely prevented her from licking the Kalamata aioli off her plate, which would have been embarrassing in this classy joint.

To accompany our meals, we each chose the only microbrew on the menu, the imported Acme California IPA. Although neither of us are huge fans of IPAs, this one turned out to be a fabulous pairing with the hamburgers. I would return to Hamburgesía for the beer alone.

For dessert, were presented with four options that we easily narrowed to the Nutella brownie cheesecake. The unique creation made for an excellent finish and yet another reason to go back for more.

For guests who might like to a more traditional burger, the menu also provides a “gourmet salad bar” of options, in which you can choose the size of your burger, a cheese, four garnishes and two sauces. The prices ranges from $10-18, depending on size. 

Hamburgesía diverts from the bigger is better mentality that is commonly associated with hamburgers and instead focuses on pairing the right flavors from course to course, leaving you full but not stuffed. In other words, the place keeps it classy.

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