There's a lot of hype about The Meatwagon. In many ways, it's deserved. Yianni Papoutsis is making some of the best burgers in London, in a style which is as close to my spiritual burger of worship at the Shake Shack in New York as can be found this side of the Atlantic. Yianni's burgers have been inspired by his travels around the USA, sampling all that its street food scene has to offer - and it shows.
But I waited OVER 2 HOURS for it. Out in the OPEN AIR. For a burger. And not even a Shake Shack burger with amazing fries and a salted caramel milk shake on the side.
The facts: I queued for around 30-40 minutes to place my order (having arrived 10 minutes after opening). Many, many people who joined the queue just after me missed out. They waited about an hour to find out - although it was surely obvious to The Meatwagon crew much earlier that the last 30-50 people were likely queuing for an hour in vain. It's one thing to queue and be rewarded (I've done it before - happily - at Shake Shack), but quite another for it to be a complete waste of time. I can't help but suspect The Meatwagon doesn't mind this - it adds to the hype afterall. However, the whole scenario gave rise to many unhappy punters who I am sure will not be queuing for the privilege again. What I didn't realise was that I would still have to wait nearly 2 hours after placing my order at The Meatwagon to have a burger in my grips. By this time, it was almost 10pm.
|At least we had some entertainment, and beers to ease the pain.|
Was it worth the wait?
Well, sort of. Certainly, for a burger fanatic, if you're one of the privileged few to score a burger. And if you're in good company to keep you entertained while your stomach feasts on your inner organs.
Others would agree - The Meatwagon recently won the British Street Food Award for Best Sandwich (2010).
The delay can (perhaps) partly be explained by the cooking method - the meat is placed on a very hot grill, squashed down to perfect patty size, flipped and then 2 wonderful slices of American style cheese are placed on top where they melt gloriously during the grilling process. The patty is also steamed under a metal dome over the grill during the process. Only a limited number of burgers can fit on the grill at once, and the process (it seems) is not to be hurried.
Would I do it again? Probably not. Not unless the van rolled up to the end of my street and threw me a bone to gnaw on during the wait. I understand why South Londoners have taken The Meatwagon to their hearts - particularly as it is usually positioned closer to home for them. However, I will not go out of my way for it again unless I overcome my sneaking suspicions that these guys are slightly taking the piss out of their customers - the "treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen" school of thought has never been one that works on me.
Particularly when it's almost faster to fly to New York and have a guarantee of the world's best burger with sides to go.
The Meatwagon moves around and, when I visited, it was one of the street food vendors (including the fantastic Brewed Boy coffee trolley and the delicious Choc Star van) present at the Eat St event near the Towpath Cafe. After my burger, I feasted on some superb chocolate truffles and rocky road by Choc Star which I highly recommend. Brewed Boy's coffee is a personal favourite - you can find him on Rupert St, Soho during the working week. You can check The Meatwagon's website for its next location.