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Comfort food from a comfy shack

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English couple Luke Macdonald and his wife Holly Churchill own Burgershack. Hong Menea

Comfort food from a comfy shack

Having started out with just a small eatery measuring 4m by 6m in the sleepy riverside town of Kampot nearly three years ago, an English couple – Luke Macdonald and his wife Holly Churchill – have now brought Burgershack to Phnom Penh where they offer greasily satisfying burgers in a fun and entertaining atmosphere.

They founded the original Burgershack in May 2018 in the land of salt and pepper. It wasn’t long before their juicy and meaty burgers began to shine in Kampot, a tourism hotspot in recent years.

They opened their second location because many of their customers who would come down to Kampot from Phnom Penh had encouraged them to expand into the capital city.

“We listened to their feedback and opened a Burgershack here in the city in June 2019. It’s been one and a half years now and the results are amazing,” Macdonald says.

The Kampot branch of Burgershack was their first time opening a restaurant and owning their own businesses marks a milestone in the couple’s life as both of them have been working in the hospitality industry around Southeast Asia for the last half decade.

“We’ve always worked in restaurants and bars our whole lives. We’ve learned through the years how to make a restaurant work and how to create a good atmosphere. The key to everything is good food, obviously,” Macdonald says.

While Burgershack in Kampot has minimal decor and a chilled vibe, the Phnom Penh location offers a fun and vibrant interior with graffiti-style murals of cartoon characters.

They mainly serve traditional California-style burgers and the decor is cheerful and nostalgic.

They have a lot of games in the shop to entertain kids including a TV and Nintendo where you can play Mario Kart Tournament. There are also LEGO blocks on every table and TVs with old school cartoons playing.

“We have a lot of families coming in. It’s nice to see them playing with their kids because I think parents are happy to see their children put down their iPhones so they can play LEGOs together like they did when they were kids.

“They can watch the cartoons on the TV while talking with one another. It’s a very nice atmosphere for the family and even couples,” Macdonald says.

Locals will find the atmosphere whimsical and unique and new customers will feel relaxed by the staff’s friendly demeanour.

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Burgershack Phnom Penh has nine burger options available including three suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Hong Menea

They’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback these past 18 months. People appreciate that they use fresh ingredients, but most of all they love that the burgers are extremely delicious with a variety of tasty flavours, which Macdonald says they’ve tried to adjust to the Khmer palate.

The food looks great and tastes great. Their chef in Kampot, who has been working with them since the very beginning, comes to Phnom Penh every few months to train their staff to ensure the burgers are always made and served the right way.

Macdonald is proud of this consistency and the fact that customers who have eaten there a year ago can come back today and the food will be just as good as it was on their first visit.

“The most memorable comment we’ve gotten was this guy who, on his way out the door, screamed at the top of his lungs ‘best burger in Southeast Asia!’ That was a very nice compliment.

“And it’s nice to see the same customers coming back two or three times a week or month and eating the same burgers, that’s really the ultimate sign of approval,” Macdonald says.

Burgershack Phnom Penh has nine burger options. Six of them are meat as one might expect but the other three are vegetarian or vegan: The Spicy Black Bean Burger along with the O’Hail Seitan Burger and the Unbelievaburger.

The latter two of those options use patties made from a blend of Shitake mushrooms and pea protein.

“We try our best for vegetarians and vegans, so they need not worry – if they come here we’ve got a few options to choose from and they aren’t just there as an afterthought, they’re all very good.

“And we can do any style of burger veg or vegan just by swapping out the patties or holding the cheese because we make every order fresh.

“So whether you want no meat or no tomatoes or however you want it done, no worries, we can take care of you,” Macdonald says.

“We chose nine burgers because Luke is a massive fan of [Hollywood film director] Quentin Tarantino and he has nine movies. Even some of the artwork in here is inspired by him,” Churchill says.

Three of their most popular burgers are the Double Bacon Cheeseburger, Spicy Jalapeno Burger and the Clucking Good Chicken Burger.

The Spicy Jalapeno Burger is a jumbo-sized beef patty covered in Chipotle sauce, jalapenos, guacamole and red chillies.

“We buy all our vegetables from a local market and we prefer to buy organic. A lot of it comes from Mondulkiri as they often have the best quality,” Churchill says.

The most popular order for Khmer customers is the Clucking Good chicken burger with Kampot black pepper, grilled chicken, avocado, jalapenos, lettuce, pickles, onion, tomatoes and mayonnaise.

“Kampot is very well known for its pepper so we made this burger specifically so patrons can taste how good and fresh Kampot pepper is,” she says.

The Double Bacon Cheeseburger consists of two patties of prime beef topped with a double serving of cheese and crispy bacon.

“We try to support the local community so all of our ingredients are locally sourced other than the beef, which we import from Australia,” Churchill says.

Burgershack Phnom Penh serves a la carte burgers priced from $3.50 to $6.00 and combo meals that include a drink and fries go from $5.50 to $7.50.

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Burgershack Phnom Penh has a fun and colourful interior with video game tournaments hosted on Mondays. Hong Menea

They also have the traditional burger side-orders like french-fries and onion rings a la carte as well as chicken wings, all for just a few dollars.

Burgershack Phnom Penh is open seven days a week from 11am to 1am. You can also order via food delivery apps like Nham24, Food Panda, YPP Express and Meal Temple.

“I know from experience that it’s sometimes difficult to get food after 10pm in the city but if you’re hungry later in the evening you can always get a burger from Burgershack,” Macdonald says.

Churchill adds: “Every Monday evening we have a video game competition. People of any age can enter and compete for free. The winner can choose either a cash prize or they can order whatever they want to eat for free.”

Covid has made the shop a little quieter than before but they welcome anyone who’d like to stop by for a beer and say hello.

The business overall is still doing well – despite less dine-in customers – thanks to deliveries, which can often add up to sales of over a hundred burgers a day.

Macdonald and Churchill are happy about their success so far but they aren’t content to just rest on their laurels. You may see more Burgershack locations opening up around Cambodia soon.

“We want to be in more locations and we want to keep on growing bigger and growing further, but only if we can maintain our consistency and always serve high quality food,” Macdonald says.

Burgershack Phnom Penh is located at No. 219 St 51 (at the corner of St 51 and St 302) in Boeung Keng Kang district’s Boeung Keng Kang I commune, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

They can be contacted via their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BurgershackPP.

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