Sometimes, It's Good to be a Follower
Last year, I stumbled upon a burger bike in Heliopolis with burgers so juicy that I stopped frequenting the famous burger joints across Cairo because they could no longer measure up. Making the long drive to Heliopolis from Maadi suddenly became bearable at the thought of one of Ismail Pasha Burger’s signature burgers.
Because it was merely a bike, it only offered three or four types of sandwiches with two topping options, but they were so well-made that the lack of variety never bothered any of its patrons.
That’s why when the owner announced he’d be opening up his first ever branch, I –along with thousands of other burger lovers around Cairo– couldn’t wait to visit.
The new branch, located in Shehab El Deen Khafaga Street in Heliopolis, features a homey, cozy design with six tables inside. The first thing you notice when you sit down is that each table has a variety of sauces to your liking; there are the usual suspects like ketchup and American mustard, as well as sriracha chili sauce and Tabasco sauce (a delightful addition for those who –like me– can never find food that’s spicy enough). The decor inside is urban and modern, and the background music sounds great over the Bose speakers hanging on top.
The menu is a lot larger than that of the burger bike; it’s clear that all Ismail needed to boost his creativity was his own kitchen. It’s also clear that he’s about to follow in the footsteps of massive burger chains with impressive menu varieties like the Mozza Burger (topped with fried mozzarella), the Smoked Bacon Burger (topped with bacon, caramelized onions and barbeque sauce), and the Blue Burger (topped with bacon and blue cheese). All the burgers on the menu are filled with cheese, so cheese lovers won’t have to limit themselves to the Juicy Lucy Burger.
In addition to the burgers, Ismail Pasha’s menu also boasts a broad selection of appetizers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, specialty sandwiches and desserts.
During my first visit, my companion and I opted for the Buffalo Chicken Wings (39 EGP) and the Chilli Cheese Fries (25 EGP). The wings were huge; while most restaurants split wings into the smallest possible pieces to be able to offer its visitors smaller quantities, the wings at Ismail Pasha Burger are appropriately sized and just bursting with flavor. The wings are offered in two flavors: buffalo (spicy) or barbeque (traditional). Although the menu says that they come with a blue cheese dip, the waiter forgot it the two times we visited, so don’t be shy about reminding them to get it.
The chilli cheese fries were equally good, but I preferred the plain fries (12 EGP) because they were just as crunchy as those you’d find at fast food chains. Other appetizers on the menu include Cheetos Cheese (28 EGP), Mac ‘n Cheese (36 EGP), Onion Rings (19 EGP) and Chicken Strips (25 EGP).
For the main course, we both tried the Dragon Burger, which is topped with hot mayo, jalapenos, habanero peppers, cheese sauce, onion and lettuce. The burgers are offered in three different sizes: 100 grams, 150 grams, and 250 grams, however, the prices of the different sizes are quite similar; the smallest Dragon Burger is for 30 EGP, versus the largest which is for 43 EGP. The beef patty had the same juicy, melt-in-your-mouth flavor we remembered from the burger bike, and the new toppings added the spiciness we’d been missing for so long. You can tell that the ingredients are of premium quality as you look at the bun, the toppings and the quality and taste of the beef itself.
If, however, you don’t enjoy spicy food, you can opt for the Smoked Bacon Burger (150 grams, 40 EGP), which is what we tried during our second visit. The caramelized onions added a rich, sweet flavor that perfectly complemented the authentic charcoal-grilled taste of the beef patty and the bacon. The lettuce, tomatoes and pickles added even more contrast to the flavors, making every bite as mouthwatering as the next. I added extra jalapeno (4 EGP) for a spicy touch.
We wanted to get a sense of what the rest of menu offered, so we decided to try the Barbeque Hotdog (26 EGP), which is also filled with cheese (how do they do it?!) and topped with barbeque sauce, caramelized onions and cheese sauce. The hotdog alone wouldn’t satisfy as a meal, but it’s offered at a larger size called the Boulevard Size (30 centimeters) for 88 EGP. The caramelized onions added a sweet, intense flavor while the bun and mix of sauces perfectly complemented the cheese oozing out of the hotdog. Other hotdogs offered include the Classic Hotdog (14 and 50 EGP), and the Beef Chili Hotdog (28 and 91 EGP). Despite how good they are, the hotdogs still work better as an add-on; they shouldn’t take your attention away from the real hero: the burgers.
If you’d like to try something other than burgers or hotdogs, you can try the Chicken Ranch Sandwich (35 EGP) or the Honey Mustard Chicken (34 EGP) offered in the Chicken Sandwiches section, or you can opt for the Philli Steak Sandwich (35 EGP) or the Hawawshi (30 EGP) offered in the Specialty Sandwiches section.
The ingredients and items on the menu have clearly been handpicked with the utmost care; it’s a testament that the owner wanted to excel in everything he offered before opening his restaurant so it wouldn’t be regarded as *just* a burger place.
The only downside is that the service isn’t the best; the waiter doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the people sitting, and sometimes is too busy printing receipts and taking orders to notice you when the place is crowded, but it’s a small price to pay when you know you’re guaranteed good, homemade food.
Speaking of prices, that’s another thing that’s great about Ismail Pasha Burger (other than the delicious items on the menu); the pricing is very reasonable and certainly a lot cheaper than most of the burger places known around Cairo. If you go with a group, don’t shy out on the appetizers and rest assured that the bill won’t be as shocking as that of other burger places.
Verdict: A definite must-try for Heliopolis and non-Heliopolis residents alike. Make the drive –you won’t regret it.
Sometimes, It's Good to be a Follower