It’s become the stuff of backpacker legend. Greasy, messy, and said to be delicious- no trip to Queenstown would be complete without one. I am talking, of course, about Fergburger, a hamburger joint of Queenstown fame. Mention to anyone, anywhere in the world, that you are planning a trip to Queenstown, New Zealand, and I guarantee someone will bring it up- “you’ve gotta check out Fergburger!” I can safely say this is true, as it’s happened to me on more than one occasion.
While I’ve found my fair share of decent burgers in Sydney, I couldn’t wait to sample New Zealand’s most popular burger offering.
Queenstown, on NZ’s South Island, is one of the more beautiful places you’re ever likely to come across- set amongst the jagged Remarkables mountain range (who really do live up to their name), and a sparkling turquoise lake, this part of the world looks more like the fjords of Norway than a New Zealand town. In fact, it was named as such because an early settler declared it to be “fit for a queen”. However, it’s Queenstown’s reputation as the adventure capital of the world, combined with its proximity to fantastic ski resorts, which has turned it into the backpacker and tourist mecca it is today. Bungee jumping was invented here, and there are scores of places here to jump, skydive, ski, hang glide, etc, attracting adventuresome folk from the world over.
After all that adventure, you’ll be in need of a cold beverage, and the plethora of bars here will not disappoint. You may be a bit hungry too, or looking for a late-night snack after the bars close, which brings us back to Fergburger. They’re conveniently open almost nonstop, with the exception of a few hours in the early early morning, when even the drunkest of drunks have managed to find their way to bed, or at least a reasonable facsimile, and are no longer in need of a post bar crawl snack.
Being an American, I take hamburgers very seriously, and have noticed it is quite a challenge, when abroad, to find a really satisfyingly delicious greasy, cheesy, oily burger that tastes so good you don’t even care that it has dripped sauce all over your pants and you’re out of napkins. (Anyone who has had the pleasure of dining at Mr Bartley’s of Cambridge, Massachusetts knows what I mean.) The burger is one of our stalwarts of dining, forever tied to malt shops, barbeques, and all things Americana. Yes, in the burger department, the USA takes the cake. So, while I had been told Fergburger was good, I wasn’t sure I believed the hype.
When we arrived in Queenstown, right before New Year’s Eve, the place was packed- we ended up staying in a neighbouring town because there was no accommodation available (yes, this is our own fault for being completely disorganized, but I digress). But what we did see when we first arrived in town was the Ferg. And the queue for the Ferg. The line was not only out the door, but out the door and down the sidewalk, not to mention the random groups of people hanging out outside who may or may not have even been in the line; it was all rather confusing. Decided we’d come back another time when the crowds had died down.
So, one afternoon, after doing a particularly steep and tiring hike, we’d worked up an appetite and found ourselves back at the Ferg, ravenously hungry. Apparently the massive crowds were a constant, so we joined the queue anyway, (“When in Rome…”) patiently waited, and about an hour later found ourselves sitting down by the waterfront, burgers in hand. It must also be said that the staff were extremely helpful and friendly- they gave you a number and a wait time, so that you could leave and come back to pick up your food once it was ready, without having to physically stand in the line and wait.
Still not sure it would live up to its reputation; I couldn’t wait to dig in. Being a bit of a purist, I had gone for the classic cheeseburger (though there were dozens of other, more exotic, options) with onion rings.
It was delicious- oversized, oozing cheese and sauce, and cooked to perfection- the onion rings equally so, and all was quickly devoured. A good hamburger should take said eater back to their childhood- back to a barbeque, a diner, a 4th of July picnic, a time where nothing mattered except that it was summer break and you had nowhere to be ‘til September, lightning bugs were out there waiting to be caught, and you had a homemade burger drenched in Heinz ketchup just waiting to be eaten quickly, before the dog could steal a bite. I can safely say the nostalgia factor was high with this one, which may go far to explain its popularity. Was it the best burger I’ve ever had? No, I’m afraid not, but for a ski town in the middle of the mountains, 9,000 miles from home, it was pretty damn good.