Monday, April 16, 2012

All fired up about grilled burgers

LAST month, my wife told me about a burger stall near home that had been attracting long queues, so much so that the customers had to wait up to two hours to have their orders fulfilled. I thought she was joking.

Then curiosity got the better of me last week, so I decided to check the stall out. It is in Desa Setapak, by the only access road into Wangsa Maju Section 2.

Usually, I would not drive into the area unless necessary because of the jams created by inconsiderate people who park - and double park - their cars and bikes along the two-lane road. That evening, with my wife, I decided I had to find out for myself if the stall was really as popular as she said.

When I arrived in the area, my appetite was dampened - not by the bumper-to-bumper crawl on the road but by the back-to-back queue at the burger stall she showed me.

One chap in the queue told me that I could take a number and return later to collect the burger when it was ready. Otherwise, we could join the queue and soak in the free smells first while we waited for our orders.

Since the end of the line was nowhere in sight where I stood, I decided not to wait. So I suggested to my wife that we go for chapatti at the Punjabi stall in a less crowded neighbourhood.

Later, my wife complained that I didn't know what I was missing. She said her colleagues had been singing praises about the grilled burgers at the stall, simply known as Kaw Kaw. They even helped to promote the lava-rock flame-grilled burgers on their blogs and Facebook.

A few days later, when I read about the same burger stall in a local daily, I regretted not finding out how good the burgers were. According to the report, the stall's loyal customers did not mind waiting up to three hours for their orders.

A colleague who had tried the grilled burger told me that once it took him over two hours to collect his order but he did not mind because the bite was well worth the wait.

"The patties are large and delicious," he said.

"You can even order the 'tower burger' if you have a big appetite," he added, referring to burgers with a stack of patties, made famous by Dagwood Bumstead, the comic strip character in the 1970s, if you recall.

According to the report, the stall sells an average of 250 burgers daily, at prices ranging from RM7.50 to RM18.50 each, and up to RM55 for a tower burger.

Judging by the queue, the operators must be laughing all the way to the bank. I am sure you will too if you do the maths.

Just when I thought the street burger business was getting saturated, the success of this stall surprised me. Although grilled burgers are not new - Burger King had been offering flame-grilled burgers since the late 1990s - I don't recall having seen any street stall offering one until now.

Now you know why this stall's grilled burgers is hot with fast-food lovers. Humbled by the discovery, I shall now look at street burger businesses in new light.

But if you are thinking of going into steamed burger business, forget it - someone has already beaten you to it.

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