Honesty is such a lonely word, Billy Joel once lamented in a song. It’s an old song, yes, but the message is timeless. It’s a truth that everyone wishes to avoid, but nonetheless intrudes into our daily lives like an unwanted guest. The food we order is no exception. There’s such a thing as false advertising. There’s such a thing as food that lamely claims to be healthy. Imagine how refreshing it is for an up-and-coming burger joint to tell it as it is, and calls itself the Bypass Burger.
Before we even touch the burger, just so we start on the right footing and anchor all expectations on the right spot, we’ll have to say that the Bypass Burger, with its first and only outlet having opened its doors (sort of) in February of this year, is literally a hole-in-the-wall burger joint. The small area makes it easier to observe the place. There’s a row of four high chairs at the entrance, with a four-chair high table tucked in a graffiti-covered corner, comprising the limited seating capacity. Ventilation is not oppressive courtesy of two rectangular vents freshly chiseled through the concrete wall.
This burger joint has no air-condition. One humid and hot day at the tail-end of summer, which was the time we first visited the Bypass Burger outlet, the staff forgot to switch on the electric fan (it speaks volumes that only after we conquered our burgers, with sweat rolling down our forehead and neck, did we start thinking normally again and asked the staff to please turn on the fan).
So if you’re sosyal and don’t want to get pawis while making nguya your burger, this ain’t the place for you.
It’s a hole-in-the-wall, we repeat, to remind every adventurous culinary soul that not every good dining destination comes with air-conditioning. The Bypass Burger is located in Congressional Avenue, one of Quezon City’s busier roads that has passed the Dark Ages, now trying (very) hard to jump into the bandwagon of niche destinations, just like food/restaurant is to Tomas Morato Avenue. Around 500 meters from the intersection of Congressional Avenue and EDSA, a hundred or so meters after the S&R membership club, is a small door that blends with the solid concrete fence. It’s near (but at the opposite side) of another favorite hole-in-the-wall that sells the best peachy-peachy in town, Arny-Dading’s. There’s a huge steel powerline post that hides Bypass Burger. It’s suicide to open in this area, Mark said, when they looked at the feasibility study. It’s counter-intuitive, if we may borrow a favorite term used by entrepreneurs, but this burger joint is thriving really well.
Mark is one of the handful of cousins who started this place. He said they had no prior experience with burgers. It was all for fun and it all started at the cemetery during all souls/saints’ day, selling burgers beside a popular low-end burger chain. The burgers were selling like, well, hotcakes. The idea is to have a much better product than the mass-produced extender-saturated burgers, but less expensive than fast food restaurants.
We forgot to ask if the place where the lightbulb moment happened, a cemetery, has anything to do with the name of Bypass Burger.
Mark said, with an obvious tinge of pride in his voice, that Bypass Burger features a 100% beef patty. It’s also imperative to have a fresh patty, unlike those prepared in commissaries, with the beef purchased and prepared on the day that the patty is intended to be served. Sounds great.
And it tastes great.
Let’s start with the burger trio first served at Bypass Burger — the Single Bypass (quarter pounder beef patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mayo, mustard), the Double Bypass (double quarter pounder beef patty, double cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mayo, mustard), and Triple Bypass (triple quarter pounder beef patty, double cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mayo, mustard).
Any person who has undergone heart bypass operation, or their loved ones, would definitely say that it’s a bad idea to joke about heart ailments and bypass operations. On the other hand, any person who has the barest sense of humor would definitely get the humor, and the honesty, of Bypass Burgers and its original trio of burgers. It’s not done in bad taste, especially if we consider the great taste of Bypass burgers and the reasonable pricing of its products. C’mon, can you compare the quarter pounder of your favorite fastfood chain with the P78-quarter pounder (Single Bypass) at Bypass Burger? Or the double quarter pounder (P148) and the triple quarter pounder (P218)?
These burger babies are not exactly created to be small. Or regular size. Let’s put it this way. If ladies would have lunch at Bypass Burger, they would do well with just the Single Bypass. Men, on the other hand, would have enough with the Double Bypass, with enough calories and tummy fullness to banish dinner. Imagine tuning for the Triple Bypass. Or the Heart Attack or Cardiac for that matter. It’s like going to the North Pole or something, piling up on beef patty calories to last months without a burger.
The totality of a good burger is infinitesimally greater than the sum of its parts, but every part must also be perfect. Ok, nothing can be perfect. Every part of a good burger must be just right. The tomato must not be too ripe (Manibalang may be the right word in Filipino?) It has to be crunchy, the backbone of an otherwise soft bite through the bun and patty. The bun must be on the soft side — not too hard (otherwise, it would rather be reincarnated as a mojo) and not too soft (otherwise, it will absorb all the juice of the patty and become soggy).
And, of course, the 100% beef patty. If we can only choose only one thing left in a burger world, it would be the patty. The cheese would come in a very close second, but it’s primarily the patty. Bypass Burger‘s patty is not plump, it’s lean. It’s not juicy (unlike, say, The Burger Project), but it’s not dry. It’s grilled to golden-black perfection on the outside, but moist and reddish on the inside. The beef patties at Bypass Burger are grilled right up front. Customers see how their burgers are prepared. Not really a new idea but, we think, it goes into the very concept of the Bypass Burger. Good-tasting food may not be the healthiest of the bunch.
Neither is the burger joint’s name entirely original. Bypass Burger obviously follows the line of restaurant much earlier opened abroad, the Heart Attack Grill, itself not immune to controversy after a man died of heart attack while eating at the restaurant (sad news, but it’s not as if there was no sufficient warning. Enter and eat at your peril). It doesn’t matter that the name of Bypass Burger is not entirely original. Even artists acknowledge that great ideas may stand on the shoulders of other previously great ideas. And for those who search for the better burger, the taste, not the name, is what matters.
If the name of his burger joint (Bypass Burger), and the names of its initial burger trio (Single Bypass, Double Bypass, and Triple Bypass), are not enough to give you a heart attack, or simply a scare, let’s consider the twin burgers introduced thereafter: the Heart Attack (100% half pounder beef patty, bacon, cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mayo and mustard) and the Cardiac (100% one pounder beef patty, bacon, cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mayo and mustard).
Given the name Bypass Burger, we would think the more serious question asked by customers would be the perceived negative effect of burger on one’s health. We were wrong. The persistent question they received at the start was surprising — why don’t you have french fries? Yes, dear, Bypass Burger started with the trio burgers, without fries. It was just a matter of time that they gave in. They added fries and mojo to the menu, named, as we’d expect, the Fatal Fries and the Comatose Mojos.
Sounds ominous, right? Wait until you hear about the general label of the Red Iced Tea and the Lemon Iced Tea, lumped together as the DiabeTEA’s. We’re not kidding.
So, you see, it’s not as if you’re conned into consuming healthy food. This one is culinary forthrightness. We’ve always been told to eat in moderation. We’re no nutrition experts, but, based on what our doctor told us, it’s not insane to take a sampling of the different food groups in moderation. At the Bypass Burger, the food groups have been simplified into three: burgers, fries and drinks.
Yes, my dear, by the name of this burger joint and its products, everyone is fairly warned. No reason to complain if anyone chooses to step into Bypass Burger’s door, er, wall. It’s all about free choice. If you abhor burgers and love your salad, this is clearly not the place for you. If you love your burger, this is a hole-in-the-hole worth peeking into.