I was recently invited to contribute to a travel guide being created by Goodman's for the opening of their new premises in Oxford, and was asked to recommend one of my favourite places to eat in Oxford. Of course my first thought went immediately to that most esteemed Oxford institution (no, not the university), Atomic Burger. The UK famous old-school burger restaurant famed for its eclectic menu and equally eclectic interior. Accompanied by my burger-loving friend Kanan, I headed down to Cowley Road armed with my camera and notebook to do some "research"... Atomic Burger is decorated with cartoon and sci-fi memorabilia (think Thunderbirds hanging alongside Star Wars figurines, Marvel action figures, and Toy Story aliens) and names its burgers after retro movie characters, actors, and musicians. I'm always tempted by the Audrey Hepburn (solely for the name), but usually opt for the Chuck Norris (because who can resist pulled pork and cheese??). Prices range from £7-11 and portions are huge, accompanied by mounds of fries and with a lengthy list of additional extras and sides. Legendary Onion Rings, Sci Fries, and Cosmic Coleslaw being some of the most requested favourites. The drinks menu offers an impressive array of customisable milkshakes, as well as cocktails, fruit juices, and imported cans. And, like the best American burger restaurants Atomic Burger allow you to pick whether you want your burger chicken, beef, or veggie, choose how well you desire your burger to be cooked, and to pick a side of your choice. Possibilities are endless so if you're indecisive (like myself) check their online menu before you visit! One of the things I love most about Atomic Burger is that you can get so creative with the menu, and the staff are always willing to help and really enthusiastic about this, as well as being incredibly warm, friendly, and full of life, recommendations, and nerdy puns.
On this occasion I decided to opt for one of the monthly specials. Atomic Burger change the special each month and give it a current (and pun-full) name and specially designed assortment of toppings - one of my recent favourites was The Heisenburger (blue cheese, chorizo, and Chipotle sour cream). This month's theme was Star Wars, and so there were actually two specials, one representing 'the dark side' and one representing 'the light side'. I opted for the light side, The Mandalorian. I have to admit that although I do count myself as a Star Wars fan, this was spurred solely by the oh-so-tempting combination of pulled pork, red onion salsa, green chillies, and sour cream...I know right? Kanan ordered the dark side, the Nerf Herder (bourbon BBQ sauce, chipotle pulled pork, American cheese, and red jalepenos).
Our food arrived promptly and was accompanied by mounds of 'crispy on the outside smooth on the inside' sweet potato fries (honestly the best sweet potato fries that I have ever eaten (and I have eaten a lot of sweet potato fries)). My burger was deliciously soft and tender, perfectly cooked (medium-rare), and topped with a fresh, doughy bun. There were some pretty intense flavours in that burger but they all worked so well together, and there was just the right ratio of toppings as to get a really good taste of each without one being especially overpowering. Kanan equally loved her Nerf Herder, "increasingly spicy...but not in a bad way!", and we both just about managed to finish off our massive portions.
Despite being pretty darn full, you don't visit Atomic Burger without having a dessert. Seriously, the desserts are worth visiting for in themselves. Campfire Marshmallows (toast your own around a mini Bunsen burner) and the Zig n Zag Milkshake (Lucky Charms and cream) feature highly on my list of recommendations, but on this occasion Kanan and I decided to keep the Star Wars theme running and shared a Wookie Cookie Sundae. Oreos, ice cream, marshmallows, chocolate, butterscotch sauce, and cream. Need I say more? Suffice to say that even between us we didn't quite manage to finish it...
Atomic Burger is one of those places that you will return to again and again. It's a great place to take friends, siblings, and parents, (especially if they are sci-fi fans!). The atmosphere is loud and fun, and rest assured, due to the explosion of memorabilia you will never run out of conversation starters! Spend your waiting time marvelling at the weird and wonderful assortment of retro decorations, and reminiscing over the Eighties music videos and TV shows projected onto the wall and accompanied by a soundtrack of old-school chart toppers. Book ahead, this is an Oxford legend so is always busy, although Atomic Burger do offer takeout and their sister restaurant Atomic Pizza is located just a 5 minute walk away up Cowley Road. Forget the Radcliffe Camera, I'm telling you now, you cannot visit Oxford without paying a visit to Atomic Burger.
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