Dirty, messy, juicy – even refined burgers need to stick to their rugged roots.
And at Eleven Green, a casual neighbourhood venue in Umm Suqeim, you’ll find chefs following the mantra to the letter.
Their Bull burgers are the best in Dubai. Fact.
Those aren’t my words, though. The sandwich was crowned the winner of a Battle of the Burgers contest last year and went on to clinch third-best in the world at a competition in Texas.
Where to sit, what to expect
The restaurant in Meyan Mall opens at 12.30pm, and I arrive 10 minutes earlier hoping to scope out the setting before a leisurely bite of the action.
That’s my first mistake – I seemingly pick the day where, judging by the throng of queuing bodies, the hottest YouTuber I’ve never heard of is doing a book signing.
Who knows if this is true, but it’s packed and I can’t reach Eleven Green.
“Excuse me, I’m trying to get to the city’s best burger, you know,” I politely chide while moving to weave my way through.
“So are we,” a gruff voice declares.
That’s my second mistake – the line is actually snaking out of Eleven Green and I’m queue-jumping.
I shuffle to the back as three dozen eyeballs burn a hole into the back of my head. I double-check my notes. “Opened May 2023,” I’ve scrawled at the top.
How is it this busy already?
Sultan and Kinda Chatila, of Tano's at 8 supper club fame, have anchored their free-roaming cooking to the site.
“We live just five minutes away,” they say with a beam that belies the 16-hour days they face as restaurateurs juggling work, parenthood and a one-in, one-out operation from the moment they open.
They also have a zero-waste policy and don't close until all burgers all sold for the day.
While many UAE restaurants launch shortly before summer with grand plans of using the hotter, quieter months as the time to bed in, there was no waiting around for the couple.
“We’ve had to close two of the entrances. At first we made the mistake of having three ways to get inside,” Sultan tells me.
“We had customers coming in from all angles,” he adds, sparking visions of a zombie apocalypse pressing against the windows searching for Wagyu beef instead of human flesh.
“It’s been a learning curve, and a quick one, because it’s been like this since the beginning,” Kinda says.
This may be fast food and even faster success, but it’s taken years to get here.
Having spent almost two decades in the corporate world of management consultancy, Sultan was encouraged to start a supper club by Kinda in 2018.
Sultan, who is Syrian-Lebanese, created Mediterranean-focused menus – paella, veal Milanese, garlic prawns – while Kinda handled desserts.
“We’re a good combination in that sense,” Sultan says. Despite their success traversing Europe’s coastal classics, Eleven Green is anything but Tano’s at 8.
“Burgers came out of nowhere,” Sultan says. “It was during Ramadan last year so we’d stopped the supper club. I said to my wife, I’ll try burgers and there was a competition I could enter.
“She said: ‘Are you crazy? You’re going up against pitmasters, people who eat burgers for breakfast.’ But I won.”
The restaurant’s walls look more like the chalkboard of a mathematical genius and are covered in algebra, equations and pie charts – evidently the winning formula of Sultan’s success.
The menu is beautifully simple: four Wagyu burgers (plus one secret offering), two sides and two desserts.
It means chefs can concentrate on perfecting every element, from adding just enough toasting to the Hokkaido milk bun to slicing toppings thinly enough for an aroma of raw red onion, instead of an assault.
The patty is pressed, not smashed, meaning it has enough surface area to turn crispy, but also enough height to retain the juiciness (there’s that mantra) of the premium meat.
It has that bottom of a paella pan, edges of a shepherd's pie dish crunch, and the marbling of the meat has rendered down, but hasn't leaked away into the abyss during cooking. Despite that, it feels lighter than other burgers, healthier even.
“You don't feel like you need to go to the gym immediately,” as Kinda puts it.
Rather than using brioche and sesame buns, they opt for a Hokkaido milk bun, Sultan’s own recipe.
It has the structure of a bagel – so it doesn’t turn into a beige paste buckling under the weight of sauce and dripping meat if left uneaten for longer than 90 seconds – but is softer than a hug from my grandmother.
It’s rounded off by the house-made sauce, a zing of bacon jam and just the right amount of melty cheese. I see where the restaurant gets its name from, this is 11/10 stuff.
Skin-on fries are light, crispy and supremely seasoned, while the shavings of green apple running through the coleslaw are a welcome hit of acidity.
The cheeseburger, which can be beefed up to a double patty by ordering the off-menu AA version, is served on a potato bun. That’s about the only difference from the Bull I notice before my wife inhales it.
And that’s my final mistake – not ordering five of everything.
Price point and contact information
Burgers are Dh39 to Dh59, sides are Dh22 to Dh25 and drinks are Dh25.
Eleven Green is open Tuesday to Friday, 12.30pm to 4.30pm and 6pm to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday 12.30pm to 10pm; closed Mondays. More information is available on its Instagram page @elevengreen.uae.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant