Queenstown Public House
1557 Columbia Street, San Diego CA 92101 (map); 619-546-0444; queenstownpublichouse.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: Head here for tasty Aussie-style burgers loaded up with pickled beets, fried egg, and pineapple rings
Want Fries With That? You'll have to order them à la carte, but yes. The kumara (sweet potato) fries are awesome
Price: Shelia's Cracked (with pineapple), $13; sweet potato (kumara) fries, $4.90
Notes: Sister restaurants Bareback Grill and Raglan Public House serve the same selection of burgers
Sometimes I get right to burgers on my target list. Other times, they languish there for months (or longer). When the results of the AHT poll about pineapple came in (with 57 percent of respondents in favor of using it as a burger topping), I knew it was time to slap a ring on a patty, and quick.
Typically, when pineapple comes to the party, teriyaki is close behind, but I figured if I was going to eat pineapple on a burger, it might as well be Aussie-style with "the lot"—pineapple, pickled beets, and a fried egg, among other things.
In San Diego, three restaurants (all related) serve Aussie-style burgers, though technically, they brand them as New Zealand-style, since the owners were inspired by Fergburger in Queenstown. Judging by my own research, there's a lot of overlap between the two countries when it comes to topping burgers with beets and pineapple. I hit up Queenstown Public House in Little Italy for my fix, but Bareback Grill in Pacific Beach and Raglan Public House in Ocean Beach both have a similar selection of burgers.
If you want your burger fully loaded, the easiest way to achieve that is to add pineapple to the Shelia's Cracked ($13). It'll cost you an extra buck, but you'll end up with a burger patty stacked with a fried egg, pickled beets, pineapple, melted Edam cheese, aioli, tomato chutney, and vegetable roughage (lettuce, tomato, and red onion) on a toasted focaccia bun.
The burger might sound like a crazy combination of way too many elements all jostling for superiority, and if that was true, I would not hesitate to call it out, but the truth is it's not a disaster; it's a magical mess. Your hands will get messy. Your face and pants might also. Know that going in, be ready with napkins, and you'll be fine...better than fine, really, because the toppings don't just work together, they play off each others' strengths.
The pineapple sings the loudest. It's right out front, blasting your taste buds with sweet and acidic flavors. Next, the beets and tomato chutney (BBG sauce) come in, introducing some earthy and smoky flavors. Rounding out the bite is the runny egg yolk, thick blanket of Edam cheese, and aioli, all of which bring a fatty depth to the burger. There's tomato, onion, and lettuce, too, but my advice is to ditch them. They're superfluous and only serve to make the burger more unwieldy.
Stacked among all the fruit, vegetables, and sauces is a thick beef patty, grilled to your liking. I thought mine was lacking in the char department, but it was still tender and juicy, with a subtly funky flavor. You can swap out the beef for a housemade black bean patty or grilled chicken.
Burgers come à la carte, and even though fries aren't remotely necessary with a burger this big, it's still a good idea to order some sweet potato (aka kumara) fries ($4.90) to share. They're crisp, flaky, and topped with sea salt and mild blue cheese. Be sure to douse them with roasted red pepper or wasabi aioli prior to digging in.
Aussie-style burgers probably aren't the first choice of purists, but even so, this is the type of bucket-list burger every burger lover should try at least once.