City of dreamy Sci-fries.
Atomic Burgers in Oxford has been on my radar for a while now, and I finally got around to visiting by combining it with a trip to Oxford's inaugural Chocolate Festival. Situated on the hip Cowley Road, where the independent is still thriving, from the outside it sums up everything that's good about being a bit different. From the rocket logo sign, to the Astro Turf grass and the Gremlin in the window you know that this isn't any old identikit burger bar. You can also see it's going to be buzzing inside by all the bikes piled up against the white picket fence.
The inside is no different. It's a bright space, with small wooden tables laden with the ubiquitous squeezy tomato shaped ketchup bottles, (they also have a yellow tomato containing, somewhat controversially, french mustard) and metal cans full of cutlery. The walls are adorned with space murals and there are plastic tubes full of plastic 80's toys. At the back of the restaurant the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man guards the till.
After being shown to our seats, and given the lo down on the new menu by our very friendly waiter, we were faced with the difficult choice of deciding which meaty marvel to order. In keeping with the cult vibe the burgers have all have quirky names. The Jake and Elwood is a burger with blue cheese, the Fat Tony has meatballs and pizza sauce, and the Dolly Parton features a double stack. Each burger can be ordered as beef, chicken or veggie pattie, and there are also some tasty looking alternatives such as ribs, dogs and pulled pork.
If you feel really brave you can take on the infamous Godzilla Challenge. Here you must attempt to finish a monster burger and fries, doused in Godzilla Triple XXX sauce, within one hour . Winners, and losers, are immortalised on the mirrored wall that runs down one side of the room and you get a T-shirt (and probably a dose of heartburn) for your efforts.
The amazing chocolate peanut butter shake, with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. This was thick, creamy, nutty and spot on. I was very sad we didn't get one of those battered metal beakers, containing some more shake, as this was slurped far too quickly. Along with the good old choc malt this is must be the pinnacle of milkshake flavours. They also do a Sugar Puff version, which looks pretty interesting.
My Dead Elvis, in all it's gooey glory. This comes with grilled onions, swiss and cheddar cheese and bacon. I ordered mine with gherkins, which came as a solitary DIY style pickle rather than pickle slices in the bun I was hoping for. Gherkin gripes aside this is a fab burger. Melty cheese, salty bacon and a juicy, nicely charred patty that was still a little pink in the centre. The bun has been toasted on the grill, and soaked up all the meaty juices admirably.
For personal preference I've decided that if a burger has salad it also needs mayo/some sort of 'burger' sauce too. In the case of the Dead Elvis I'd be quite happy to ditch the rabbit food all together and just enjoy the triple protein hit from all that delicious beef, cheese and bacon.
The Big Kahuna burger. This comes loaded with swiss cheese, pineapple and teriyaki sauce, and the Ewing pimped it with some extra American cheese. Can pineapple ever a good idea with a burger? Well reader, while good taste and common decency may dictate otherwise, (i.e. not in my opinion) there certainly wasn't much evidence left on the Ewing's plate. When asked about how it tasted later her comment was; 'Juicy and pinappley. I think there might have been a bit of salad in it, I can't really remember...' So there you go.
Both our Atomic burgers were really good, no nonsense, diner style fare. Just how I want my burger to be. The beef was smoky and full of flavour, the bun held together well and the fillings were generous. Next on the wish list is a Pee Bee and Jay. Another divisive number, featuring peanut butter, onion marmalade and bacon, which I think sounds pretty awesome.
We both ordered the Sci-fries, but mine arrived looking distinctly down to earth. Luckily they were far too spicy for the Ewing, so she was more than happy to swap with me. Sci or not these are wonderful skin on chips, with the sci version liberally sprinkled with a garlic chilli seasoning. The garlic flavour was quite subtle, but they were certainly fiery! They were crisp and greaseless with a good 'potatoey' flavour that is often absent from lesser frites. The onion rings being eaten on the table next to us also looked great, and are on the 'to do' list.
After that blow out we barely had the energy to eat the jelly babies that accompanied the, pleasingly small, bill. I'm certainly planning to come back very soon, and next time want to leave room to try the homemade pies and the wicked looking ice cream sundaes. In fact it may take several more return journeys to sample everything I want to on their menu.
Atomic Burgers serves some very tasty food in some very cool surroundings, and is certainly worth a trip. The only sad thing about our visit was knowing there isn't one closer to my house to satisfy those big, bad burger cravings. That, and the fact they only serve there fabulous looking breakfasts before noon, when I'm at work or still buried deep under the duvet.
So if you're looking for an out of this world burger, at a down to earth burger joint, then, as they say on their website, it's time to get your buns down to the real thing and go Atomic.