We walked straight past the large unmarked door as we wandered along High street looking for Almost Famous. The speakeasy-style burger joint which started as an on again, off again pop up is now a permanent feature in Manchester’s busy Northern Quarter. Having just arrived in Manchester following a four hour journey from Glasgow, we were so hungry that we decided to get our first burger of the day before even checking into our hotel.
We may have ended up looking for Almost Famous a little longer if it had not been for a random, bizzare encounter with a man outside who walked across the street and said to us ‘are you looking for the food?’. When we replied ‘yes!’ he nodded in the direction of the door and said ‘in there’ and then hurried off, almost as if he was letting us in on some top secret information and didn’t want to get caught.
We made our way up the dodgy looking stairs and through the large door marked ‘no photography’ into the bar area of Almost Famous. The bar/restaurant, which has become a Manchester favourite, may want to consider dropping the ‘Almost’ from it’s name considering that it was absolutely packed even though we arrived just six minutes after it opened for the day. We grabbed the last free table, took note of our number and joined the long queue for the bar to order our food. As we waited, we couldn’t help but notice the uniquely-titled burgers and drinks menu, randomly defaced posters and Charlie Sheen quotes that were sprawled across the walls – this is quite unlike any other burger joint we’ve been to previously. You can’t book a table here, simply turn up and wait. We thought it was busy at 12pm; however, it would appear that Almost Famous gets a lot busier at night time. We passed again later that night on the way back to our hotel and saw a dedicated long line of hungry people standing outside and along most of High street in the rain and snow. If you were worried about having trouble finding your way here then the long lines will certainly lead you in the right direction. When we spotted the long lines later that night, we felt rather relieved that we’d went at noon, especially as it was starting to snow heavily in Manchester!
The clientele during our visit consisted of a mixed group of office workers, couples and a few people on their own all huddled on a muddled collection of couches and mis-matched tables and chairs. It was loud and the food was flying out of the kitchen quickly.
The interesting food and drinks menus are short and to the point. Printed on small pieces of card, they are scattered around tables, couches and chairs throughout the bar. We decided to go for a ‘DD’ burger and a ‘Smokey and the bandit’ along with a couple of ‘Bitch juice’ cocktails. Yes, it wasn’t even 12.30 in the afternoon, but ordering diet coke just seemed wrong. The bartender whipped up our drinks effortlessly and in seconds, without measuring anything. The drinks were all prepared, shaken and served to us in jam jars, which we carried back to our table after placing our order. I don’t normally comment on drinks that we’ve ordered, but I absolutely loved the cocktails here. The ‘Bitch juice’, made up of gin, blackberry, elderflower and lemon was seriously strong and I was starting to feel the effects after just one. I decided to put the cocktails to one side until we’d had our food, so that I could form a clear opinion on what we were eating and so that I was able to remember it later that day!
Aside from the staff bringing your burgers to your table, everything else at Almost Famous is pretty much self service. You pick up your knife and fork from a station in the back room and while you’re there, you need to get your own sauce and your own napkin roll for your table.
Presentation-wise, the burgers and sides are served in red and black baskets and look very impressive. As Almost Famous themselves might say, these are dirty, juicy, messy burgers and the toppings almost spill from the sides before you’ve even picked it up to take your first bite. Prior to this trip to Manchester, we had spent many nights drooling at our computer screens looking over the photos on Almost Famous’ Twitter feed, but when our burgers were brought to our table, I realised that they weren’t quite as big as I’d thought from looking at the many photos I’d seen previously. This wasn’t a bad thing – I like a burger that I can pick up and eat without it falling apart and these, despite being seriously stacked with toppings and lashings of sauce, were easy to pick up, hold and even cut in half!
We’ve never had the fortune of being able to visit In-N-Out Burger during our travels to the US (I know, I know…), but a few friends had advised us that the ‘DD’ burger was as close to In-N-Out’s ‘Animal Style Double Double’ that you’d be likely to find on this side of the pond. If that information is correct, then we’re getting ourselves out to the West-coast as soon as possible! Consisting of a double patty, topped with cheese ‘animal onions’, ‘slut sauce’ and chipotle on a brioche bun, I was completely blown away by the ‘DD’ burger. I’m not quite sure if I’d describe it as it’s described on the menu in Almost Famous, as ‘like being roasted in a lay-by by Pamela Anderson & Ron McDonald’ but it was absolutely delicious! Described as ‘a heavy shirt popper’, the near-liquid cheese held everything together like a lovely glue and the thin, smashed, mustard-fried patties were served with a slight hint of pink in the middle. The combination of the American mustard and fried onions give the ‘DD’ a classic American burger taste and despite having no idea what’s in it, the ‘slut sauce’ gives it a fast food finish and like almost like something you should be eating from a grease-soaked fast food wrapper. Despite Almost Famous being fairly gimmick-heavy, the food here is unpretentious, messy and honest.
The smokey & the bandit burger, again consists of a double stack of thin smashed patties (double patties are standard at Almost Famous) topped with cheese, Jack Daniels candied bacon, BBQ fried onions, chipotle and baconaisse all served on a brioche. Appropriately titled, the smokey chipotle finish on this burger was fairly intense for the most part and was made only better by the sweet, crispy bacon that almost dissolved with each bite. The burger was finished with lashings of baconaisse that dripped from the sides. Again, the patties were juicy and well cooked and the burger held together well and was easy to pick up and eat, despite the large number of toppings. The high point of this burger was the candied bacon. As described, it had a nice crunchy texture, but reminded us very much of the fried, crispy onions that you’d find on a good hotdog. Each piece dissolved in our mouths like bacon flavoured dust and added a satisfying texture that shone through the excellent gloopy, sauce-filled mess that was the rest of the burger. My only criticism of the smokey & bandit was that there was a little too much baconaisse. I love baconaisse, but I felt that at times, it overpowered the smokey chipotle flavour, which should have been the prominent feature.
We also couldn’t review Almost Famous without giving special mention to the ‘bacon bacon fries’. Sitting in the bar, I described these as being almost life changing. Seriously, thats how good they are. A mix of sweet potato and regular fries, they are served in a basket and topped with candied bacon bits and floods of baconaisse. Like a heart attack in a basket, by the time we were finished, our hands were covered in sauce and we sat at our table licking every last drop from our fingers, as if we were starving and hadn’t seen food in weeks. I almost wish I’d gotten another portion before we left and can honestly say that I’d go back to Manchester again for these alone.
We’ve read a lot of reviews of Almost Famous, both positive and negative. Some people say that you won’t find a better burger in Manchester and others say that it’s overly gimmicky and describe it as style over substance. Personally, we absolutely loved it. Yes, it’s gimmick heavy, but I’m not sure why you’d expect anything else when you visit a place that has ‘Tiger Blood’ cocktails on a menu that is made up of several drinks guaranteed to result in an orgasm and that has burgers topped with ‘slut sauce’. We’d only agree that it was a lot of style over substance if the burgers hadn’t lived up to the hype, but they did, so we are happy to give them our highest recommendation. If you don’t like gimmicks, we’d recommend going somewhere else. We loved the laid back attitude at Almost Famous, the speakeasy-style set up, the fun decor and menu, the staff handing out random shots of Jack Daniels to customers, the messy burgers and heart-stopping sides. I’ve read some reviews that describe the burgers as overly-resembling fast food, but I don’t know why you’d expect fine gourmet dining in a place like this. This is fast, fresh, pop-up dining at it’s best and at just under £10 for a burger this tasty and a beer to go with it, it’s great value for money too. For two burgers, sides and cocktails our bill came to just £31. For freshly made patties and a super-creative menu, we couldn’t fault it price-wise.
We left Almost Famous wondering if it would be possible to eat another burger later that day (we did) and slightly merry thanks to the Tiger Blood cocktails topped with absinthe soaked sugar cubes that we had after our food. I’d certainly go back to Manchester to visit Almost Famous again and if the food on the regular menu alone wasn’t enough to guarantee a return visit from us, learning that there is apparantly an additional secret menu located underneath the bar that is only available if you ask for it, most certainly left us desperate for more.
Price: £6 – £7 per burger
+ Incredibly juicy patties.
+ Wide, creative selection.
+ Great sides.
+ Fun gimmick.
– We could imagine the wait times being quite frustrating, especially having to wait outside in bad weather.
– A little too much baconaisse on the smokey & bandit that overpowered the chipotle ever so slightly.
Have you tried this burger? Did you love it? If so, let us know!
Talk to James on Twitter and tell us what you thought of this burger! You can also leave your own review and comments below. We want to hear from you! You can also leave a message or join in on the burger chat on our Facebook page.
100 High Street