Finally, A Great Burger In Bucharest

As an American from the big city, I am a fan of the burger. A burger must be prepared properly – no questions asked. Preparing a proper hamburger truly is an “art form” and once you’ve found that “perfect burger” its’ like discovering a hidden treasure.

After being outside the States for so long, one starts to go a bit crazy – craving such things as a massive, artery clogging slice of Pizza, or a nice big juicy steak, or in this case a burger done right. This article is a bit about the discovery of what we’d consider the best Burger in Bucharest.

But first, here’s a bit of a back-story…

I traveled to Argentina – living there for a year, and as such dove right in to the local “meat scene”. Argentina is of course known for its’ steaks, but the reason they’re “great” is not why you may think (or why many restaurants around the world wish you to believe). Argentine steak is not “superior” per se (again, only of mythical opinion) due to the quality of beef, but actually mostly due to the difference in butchering methods. Different cuts yield different results. The second reason that the steaks taste a bit different is the preparation method. An Argentine tradition is the “Parrilla” – or (essentially) the “open grill”.  At most any restaurant, the meat is cooked en masse on these large wood-burning grills at super high heat. The meat is rapidly seared to lock in the flavor and juices, and is very rarely cooked to any level beyond “Medium”. Now, the next interesting bit about Argentine steak is that the source of the meat may NOT actually be Argentina. Sure, there are farms and cattle in Argentina, but ALSO in Uruguay – where a surprising amount of the beef at restaurants and markets originated from. Today, with all of the capital controls going on in Argentina, you’d be hard-pressed to find any “actual” Argentine steaks outside of Argentina. Exports are slim to none. The reason I mention this is because there is a seeming never-ending supply of restaurants popping up promoting “Argentine Steaks” yet all fail to deliver on quality nearly each and every time. It truly is disappointing.

So, that was thought number one, now on to thought number two…

After traveling around the world a bit more, the “burger” craving always tends to re-appear. Unfortunately, I always end up settling for McDonalds when I need a burger ONLY because its’ next to impossible to find a decent one any where else. For example, in Bucharest recently (on this burger hunt) I tried a steakhouse in Lipscani claiming to be “The Best Steakhouse in Bucharest” (a funny thing – they actually said this to me at the door and I asked them “According to Whom”? and of course they simply glared back at me with the typical Romanian deadpan look). I won’t mention this steakhouse’s name, but lets just say the burger was disgusting and the staff was arrogant. I also glanced at others’ plates and let’s just say that those customers weren’t likely to be enjoying life.

I tried another Burger joint in Lipscani – thinking that as the name implies they might have good burgers. Yet another fail. After ordering my burger rare (or en sangre) I was greeted with a dried hockey puck of a thing on a plate (turns out this is typical here as Romanians like their beef cooked until its’ fossilized). The problem here was easy to identify as I watched the line cooks on the grill. They literally press the shit out of the burgers each and every time they flip it (yeah they flip it too much as well). Every bit of juice in the patty is melted away into nothingness.

Well, back to the restaurant (and the story) at hand….

Vacamuuu Steakhouse Bucharest, Romania –

Alright, so, the other night I was walking down Calea Floresca seeking a place to eat. I was so ridiculously hungry that I decided to give “Vacamuuu” a whirl. I was in the middle of one of my random Burger cravings. Now, let me say something about Vacamuuuu that should not be interpreted negatively…

I knew the restaurant was there, but, judging a book by its cover I never actually tried it out. When walking or driving by in the evening I noticed that although the nice venue, there were so many Mercedes-Benz, BMWs, Range Rovers and other luxury cars (including a Maserati Coupe) always parked there. I simply laughed and thought to my self “hah, another fitze restaurant” (“fitze” is a great word for snob – it carries a negative connotation and is such a beautiful word. In Bucharest, many restaurants and venues are fitze. To me, this means that these are places where non-important people go to feel important and to be seen by other people. It’s a competition of personal self-worth by “lacking” individuals. In fitze restaurants you can expect poor service and even poorer food.) I originally thought Vacamuuu was fitze….

Let me be the first to admit I was completely wrong. I was surprised at every turn how exceptional this restaurant is!

I entered Vacamuuu a bit early – around 6:00 pm, so finding a seat was easy. I would highly recommend reservations though, as this place does fill up at night. Call 0040745129588 for those reservations and be sure to tell them you were recommended by the article on Bucharest Expat. The staff was super friendly and very informative about their product. I have zero complaints about the staff. Zero. In fact, I was acting a bit unsure of the product as I was reading through the menu – and the waiter could actually tell that I was apprehensive about my burger experience, so he offered to take me on a tour of their meats (they’re all on display in the aging cases as well as in the deli cases over near the kitchen). He was so helpful and informative in fact the he secured in my mind the fact that I’d be back here during the day to pick up some “steaks to go” when I feel like preparing them myself at home.

So, I (and my wife) decided to order the “Butcher Burger” (at the time of this writing priced at a very reasonable 35 Lei). Understand, that the Burgers are 30-40ish Lei whereas the steaks climb up to “Big City U.S.” price points – which is perfectly fine so long as the value is there. Our wait was 12 minutes. I know, I timed it. That wait time seemed perfectly reasonable. Oh, we also ordered our burgers rare.

To our complete and utter surprise, the waiter brought us condiments. We had Heinz mustard, a selection of Dijon and stone-ground mustards, Heinz Tabasco sauces, chili pepper flakes, and home-made mayonnaise. For those of you that know, receiving any type of a condiment in Bucharest is a pain in the ass to put it mildly. For some mind-boggling reason, you’re actually “charged” separately if you ask for something as simple as Ketchup in any other venue. Not here at Vacamuuu (I guess they realize they make much more profit in the long run by creating a pleasurable dining experience)!

Our burgers arrived on the table. Nice burger, side of french fries (actually thick cut slices/chips), and little side salad. The burger was a work of art (maybe I’m being extreme due to my lack of a good burger in forever, but still – it looked delicious). A thick, juicy patty that was exactly cooked to order, a thin slice of cured bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, all sandwiched between a slightly toasted sesame seed bun. Portions are good and my first bite of the burger revealed that there was no “pressage” going on here – the juices dripped down my arm as I bit in (sorry for the food porn).

To make a long story somewhat shorter, go to Vacamuuu, try it out, order a burger, consider a steak or three, and tell everyone about it. This is NOT a paid review, it’s simply an American ranting about a burger craving solved. If you would, please tell them you heard about them on Bucharest Expat!