I consider myself something of a burger connoisseur, despite having no formal burger qualifications or any authority on the subject. But many people speak on things that don’t concern them, so I figure I’m well within my rights to pass judgement on the succulent buns of the Australian fast food industry.
From the cardboardy pleasures of a McDonald’s Big Mac to the slight-less-greasy-but-just-as-bad-for-you whoppers of Hungry Jack’s, let’s dive in with all the best burgers from Australia’s most iconic fast food restaurants and burger bars.
While I won’t be covering every burger joint around, there are some crowd favourites in the definitive Kotaku Australia burger list. Maybe your favourite made the cut.
This article has been updated since its original publication.
Look, we all love McDonald’s but it’s not a place you choose to go. You end up at Maccas when there’s nothing else around. Sometimes, it’s at 2:00am and you’re not sure how you got there. Other times, your feet lead you into the store before you realise what they’re doing.
Maccas burgers aren’t great. It’s why they rank at the bottom of the pile.
There’s some standouts, like the Triple Cheeseburger and the Bacon & Egg McMuffin (which still counts as a burger) but for the most part, you’re dealing with a slapped-together patty with little substance. It’s fine, but only if you’ve only got nothing better.
9. Red Rooster
Much like Maccas, Red Rooster isn’t a choice. You end up there on a road trip or you stumble across it in a fever dream. Thankfully, it’s got a leg up on McDonald’s and a more interesting range (as long as you really like chicken). While there’s no classic beefs here, Red Rooster is often more adventurous than other fast food chains. Their spicy hellfire chicken burgers are great, and the Double BBQ Bacon Burger is another key standout.
Red Rooster’s burger offerings only rank so low on the list because you’ll have trouble locating your nearest store. Red Rooster tends to be more of an elusive chain, so you’ll have trouble nabbing any of these bad boys on-the-go. Still, it’s a decent feed if you stumble across one, and the burgers are slightly more edible than Maccas.
Like Red Rooster, Oporto focuses on chicken burgers. If you’re into chicken, they’re great. But if you grab a bite you’ll have to contend with one of the major issues holding the chain back: all their burgers have the same flavour profile. Some have bacon, others have more patties, and there’s a burger with grilled halloumi on board. There’s even some veggo options. But the range at Oporto really is depressingly slim.
Oporto burgers are good (and the Bondi Burger is iconic) but its lack of variety holds the menu back from being truly great.
Every time I go to KFC, I end up with stomach cramps brought on by the grease. They’re worthy punishment for an excellent, unhealthy meal.
The Zinger Stacker Burger is a fast food legend, and the rest of KFC’s menu is just as mouth-watering. The entire range toes the line between quick-and-cheap fast food and genuine good value for money, particularly if you opt for a combo meal.
I like to think KFC is slightly healthier than other franchises because their tomatoes feel less gritty and their lettuce is always fresh, but if my gut’s anything to go by it’s probably the exact opposite. Still, it’s hard to go past their spicy chicken range.
If you’re looking for burgers with minimal guilt, Grill’d is the place to be. It’s one of Australia’s sole healthy burger joints, and has a menu as long as your arm. Whether you’re looking for a hearty beef, chicken, pork or vegetarian meal, Grill’d has you covered. Their burgers don’t look nearly as exciting as your typical oozing, cheese-stuffed Instagram-worthy buns, but they’re mighty tasty and deserve a spot on your fast food plans.
The Bird & Brie, a burger with chicken, brie, cranberry sauce and herbed mayo, comes highly recommended. It’s also a much healthier option than anything else on this list.
Hungry Jack’s, formed from the ashes of America’s Burger King, rocks the slogan ‘the burgers are better’. While it doesn’t quite top this comprehensive list, the burgers are pretty good.
The company’s Grill Masters range is what really rockets it up the rankings here, though. These whoppers are filled with pure, prime beef and layered with enough saucy goodness you’ll need to take a breather between bites. Whatever bun Hungry Jack’s uses are also fabulous. They strike the perfect balance between fluffiness and much-needed structural integrity.
Hungry Jack’s also has burgers called the Big Jack and the Mega Jack, so we’ve gotta give them points there.
I must confess I discovered Nando’s late in the piece. There’s only so many chicken-themed restaurants you can visit in a lifetime, but Nando’s burgers should definitely be on your list. Like Red Rooster, it suffers from the one-item menu syndrome. Their chicken burgers only vary by a handful of ingredients. But the issue pales if you do it well.
Nando’s peri peri chicken is to die for, and putting it in a burger with lettuce and tomato is a god-tier combination. If you’re in the mood for something more salty, the Haloumi Burger is also great. Good things sometimes come in small packages, and the Nando’s menu is proof.
Ribs & Burgers is my go-to burger place. They’re always reliable, and their menu has such a quality variety you can pick something new every time. The ever-reliable option is the Old School Cheese but if you’re in the mood for a heart attack, the stacked Wagyu Big Cheese & Bacon is fan-bloody-tastic. Another crowd favourite is the Southern Chicken, which features a great chipotle sauce and crisp, delicious chicken. (You will have to discard a mountain of pickles, though.)
While I haven’t sampled it myself, I’ve heard the veggo menu is also quite good. Ribs & Burgers is one of the few fast food joints to use Beyond Meat, and there’s an excellent-looking mushroom burger I may just try for my next meal.
2. Royal Stacks (VIC)
Royal Stacks is a bit of an underdog on this list because the store hasn’t yet made it out of Victoria. It’s a damn shame because these burgers are simply excellent. If you’re ever in town for PAX Australia, they’re the perfect eat on a night out, and you should absolutely make the effort (there’s a store in Collins St). They’re totally greasy and bad for your health, but the genius behind the burgers can’t go unsung. While there’s your traditional flavours like your beef and chicken classics, Royal Stacks offers a little something extra.
The Bacon Bacon is a burger stuffed with more bacon and meat than your body can process, but the other real winner here is the Miss Elizabeth. Beyond being named after an icon of wrestling, this burger is a bougie feast and features a simple patty, swiss cheese and excellent truffle mayo. It’s a toss up between the two as to which one’s better, but both deserve a look-in if you can manage.
1. Milky Lane (NSW, QLD, ACT)
Milky Lane is a quickly-growing burger chain inspired by youth culture. They’ve got burgers named after Kanye and Kevin Bacon, and they come loaded with stacks of melting, cheesy goodness. The big daddy of them all is the Fried Chicken Weezy, a stacked Southern Fried Chicken bun with double cheese, aioli, American mustard, gravy and tomato sauce.
If you’ve never tried it before, make it your next fast food stop. You’ll absolutely clog your arteries with the sheer thickness of Milky Lane’s burgers, but it’s got one of the best, most delicious burger selections in Australia.
If you need an appetiser to wash it down, the menu also offers popcorn chicken, loaded mash potato balls and bacon mac and cheese croquettes. Yum!
Did I miss out on your favourite burger joint? Disagree with the rankings, or have a favourite to spruik? Pop on down to the comments below and share your favourite burgers with your fellow Aussie food critics.
If you’re looking for recommendations from your fellow Kotaku Australia readers, head here for the Reader Edition of this article.