Tokyo’s The Great Burger offers just a good but pricey burger
By AARON KIDD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 15, 2016
When searching for an awesome American-style burger in Japan, it’s hard not to give a place that calls itself The Great Burger a shot.
But this so-called “Southern California diner” in Tokyo’s youth-centric Harajuku neighborhood should downgrade its name to The Good Burger. Or maybe The Overwhelmed Burger. I’d rename it The Pricey Burger.
Still, The Great Burger has no trouble drawing a seemingly endless stream of patrons who brave long lines in hopes of a premium burger experience. To the restaurant’s credit, the staff speeds up the process by handing out menus and taking orders while customers wait in the street.
Inside, the restaurant has a pleasant, clean, cabin-like atmosphere. There’s a large American flag on the wall and lots of yellow smiley faces. During our visit, Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” played silently on a big screen while American pop tunes from the ’80s and ’90s pumped in the background.
The burgers — all served with lettuce, tomato, onion, relish, mayonnaise and mustard — are offered with a variety of toppings. Highlights include avocado, egg, barbecue, teriyaki, hickory, chili, veggie, grilled pineapple and baked apple.
I tried the 1,400-yen (about $13.20) burger-of-the-month special featuring a single patty cooked medium-well with two cheeses: Camembert and mozzarella.
The toasted, fresh-baked sesame seed bun — made from “natural yeast bread” and topped with a tiny American flag — was soft, delicious and held the ingredients together quite nicely, which is a huge plus where oversized burgers are concerned.
The patty by itself was juicy and peppery; however, the meat’s flavor got a bit lost when eaten with the bun and other ingredients.
As a side dish, customers can opt for either shoestring fries or potato wedges sprinkled with salt and pepper, though Americans accustomed to getting a mountain of fries with their burgers might feel a bit short-changed by such a small serving.
The plate also included a small cut of asparagus for some reason. An odd garnish, but it added a bit of green to the presentation.
Overall, this popular spot serves a good burger. But great? Not really.
Fortunately, the extensive menu goes far beyond grilled meat on a bun. Customers can get pancakes and French toast (850-1,350 yen) in a variety of flavors, from chocolate chip to caramel pumpkin with whipped cream. There are savory pancakes served with pastrami, prosciutto or smoked salmon. French toast also comes in a bacon and cheddar cheese option.
You can also choose from soups, salads, New York strip steaks, steak and eggs and side items such as nachos, meatballs, fried chicken legs and the “super recommended” Buffalo Chicken Wings with Gorgonzola Dip.
Beverage-wise, The Great Burger has an impressive selection of beer and cocktails (600-950 yen); however, most diners during my visit opted for melon sodas topped with vanilla ice cream and a cherry.
For dessert, you can choose from sundaes and “homemade sweets,” including cheesecake, creamy egg tart and apple crumble pie.
If you’re not in the mood for those, The Great Burger has a sister shop, Good Town Doughnuts, next door.
THE GREAT BURGER
Location: 6-12-15 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku (Harajuku), Tokyo
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily (last order at 10:30)
Prices: Burgers start at 950 yen (about $9) and top out at 1,400 yen. Most credit cards accepted.
Directions: A 10-minute walk from Harajuku and Meijijingu-Mae stations.
Information: 03-3406-1215; the-great-burger.com
WEB HED: Tokyo’s The Great Burger offers just a good but pricey burger