The first time I experienced the delights of Stars and Bars, the new(ish) burger joint located in the rather well-to-do Yas Marina, was with friends before going to see Eric Clapton at Yas Arena (the concert was spectacular – Eric was on great form and it was a real pleasure to see Old Slowhand performing live. I loved his version of Layla, it was slow and yearning as befitting a man of his advancing… experience, rather than being powerful and desperate as I know it from recordings).
The menu looked great – all Tex-Mex, burgers and delightfully unhealthy fried accompaniments – but when I first caught a glimpse of the food, as I passed another table on the way back from the loo, it looked somewhat insipid and flat. Considering that the closest contender for the burger crown is probably Fudruckers, with it’s build-your-own-burger and wedges for fries, S&B had a lot to live up to… and in the appearance steaks it failed miserably. Burgers with a lot of bun and a bit of meat showing (as opposed to the majestic tower that you could create for yourself at Fudruckers) seemed to swim on a big white plate with a handful of chips on the side. I prepared myself to be distinctly under-whelmed. And because I’m such a kill-joy I prepared my fellow diners too! Ha!
Our burgers arrived, looking every bit as school-canteen as the ones I’d spotted earlier. Lifting up the top bun there was a single lettuce leaf and a single slice of tomato – the two rings of raw onion I donated to O who likes them more than I do. I dolloped on some ketchup and mustard and grimly took a bite.
Oh my good god! Those burgers are a.may.zing!!! The bun is proper American burger bun, all milky and a bit sweet but with really good bite – soft and solid and mmmmmgood. The burger itself was juicy and delicious, charred perfectly on the outside and still flavourfull and not in the least bit dry even though I’d ordered it cooked through. To be honest, I can’t remember what the fries are like – they’re like fries, neither amazing nor terrible, but they perform their purpose of providing yet more carbohydrate and a change in texture to the meal.
S&B combines super star burgers with quite a fun restaurant. The staff are a little over-friendly, but a lot of them have found that magic place between “enthusiastic” and “annoying”, which is always a good thing. Some of the seats are race car seats, there is a band, thereare arcade games and it is Abu Dhabi’s version of rough and ready – which means that if you hang around long enough, members of the local Harley-Davidson biker gangs will show up… yes really! Is it any wonder that this is our new favourite burger place?
So as a tough week for both of us drew to a close we needed to go somewhere with good grub, cold beer and where we could linger for a few hours wearing jeans, flip-flops and a t-shirt. S&B it had to be. We sat outside in the warm and had awesome stuffed jalapenos, I had the chili cheeseburger on the recommendation of our waiter and will never look back at a measly cheeseburger again. And lo, the stresses of the week washed away, peace descended, planets aligned, and all was well in the world. Such is the power of burgers and beers on a Thursday night.