For the love of BURGERS!

“I’ve always wanted a business of my own. I’ve always wanted to work for myself” MANJU MATHEW, co-owner, THE BURGER JUNCTION gives me a big smile. 

I sit in a rustic American styled (with a lean toward the Texan look) food joint dedicated exclusively to the best burgers in town! Will exclusivity run in Cochin you ask? Well one outlet in Edapally in 2014 was given a warm welcome by burger lovers in Kochin, a second outlet in Panampilly Nagar soon followed in 2015. Both joint are almost always packed. So putting two and two together, yes! Exclusivity sells!

They were not kidding when they said “Necessity is the mother of invention” because The burger junction was born out of pure need. The need for the perfect beef burger! 
Manju Mathew, an Ex Corporate Banker with an MBA from Leicester handles all the day to day operations of TBJ which includes staffing, customer service, marketing and finance. 
She works in tandem with her brother JOE MATHEW, a pilot by profession but TBJ’s chief burger chef and recipe mastermind by passion! He has travelled from country to country hot on the trail of the perfect burger which ends up research material for TBJ. The day I had visited Manju, Joe had finished visiting his 100th burger place! What a feat! Some serious love for burgers I can see!

The Double TBJ

After several years abroad, Manju and her family settled in Cochin and were in for a rude shock when they could not find a good burger joint anywhere! And click! The idea fell into place as soon as Manju noticed the gap for the perfect burger to occupy! With the objective to provide diners with delicious burgers with an authentic American style both ingredient wise and in taste, Manju and Joe set to work. The style also extended to the decor of the store and the type of music it plays.

With a solid plan in mind, their first modest outlet was set up in Edapally on October 2014. This was a “testing the waters” phase and boy did they come out with flying colours! The customers LOVED the burgers! Soon, people from all over Cochin started flocking towards Edapally in droves for one bite of deliciousness! With a steady growth in customers and confidence, a second and bigger outlet in Panampilly Nagar soon followed in October 2015.

The first thing I told Manju was how proud I felt to see a woman entrepreneur doing so well in the food industry. Incidentally, the food industry wasn’t her first choice. “I did look at every possible option initially. The food industry seemed to be the best choice. There is a lot of potential in Cochin. It is a developing market and we wanted to stake our claim on putting great burgers on the map.” And put it on the map she did!
TBJ is about to complete 2 successful years and they are rapidly coming to be known as the burger innovators! Joe is the product development manager and with him steering the product wheel, a wide variety of stunning burgers have left the kicthen to create customer delight. 

“Our biggest challege was to educate people on what a proper burger should taste like. Everyone has become hooked on the masala taste of the patty rather than the taste of meat. We urge customers to taste the meat and not the masala!”  says Manju

With the kind of love and innovation put into each of their burgers, it is no wonder that even with a minimal venture into social media, word has been spreading like wild fire about the stuff burger dreams are made of at TBJ!
“Offer the customer a good product and you don’t need much advertising “asserts Manju. “We run the show differently here when it comes to the end product. Our burgers taste very different. The quality of the food served is exceptional. We constantly innovate and we are dedicated to burgers!”
L to R: The Samurai, The Dark Knight and The Mushroom Swiss

So dedicated in fact that TBJ has achieved the “FIRST TO” status for many a reason. They were the first to introduce foil wrapped burgers. Through first-hand experience I can say that foil retains the heat in the burger till the very end. Manju suggests I keep the burger wrapped in the foil to maintain the texture of the buns, for even adsorption of the house made sauces and to hold the buns in place while enjoying the burger.
Their best and most exciting “first to” offering are their coloured buns! Red buns served as “TBJ SAMURAI BURGER” and Black Buns, served as “THE DARK KNIGHT” burger. They are also first on the scene with potato buns and brioche buns. And for those who like a challenge, boy do they have one for you! “The Hell boy”. It is one of the hottest burgers available in the country. It is served on a spicy potato bun with five kinds of chillies and a sauce made with the hottest chilli in India; the Ghost pepper or affectionately known as Bhut Jolokia Monster!
The Halo
And of course their signature dish that is causing quite a stir all across the city, The Bacon Shake. Yes, you read right, BACON. SHAKE. Joe, TBJ’s master mixologist is the evil scientist behind this salty sweet pairing. A shake chock full of bacon bits! What’s there not to love? I will be raving about it pretty soon so just wait for it!
The Bacon Shake
“We originally started with a limited menu largely centred around beef burgers. Customers initially kept asking for chicken burgers since that was most served in outlets in Cochin. Nevertheless, with time, we were successful in educating diners about the authenticity of beef burgers and now, more than 85% of our customers ask for beef burgers!” says Manju.
But all is not peachy in business. When asked about entering into the food industry, Manju had this to say “If you are really passionate, go for it. It is not a bed of roses for sure. There will come days of extreme stress and regret but I love challenges so I don’t mind the stress. There are opportunities aplenty. But one has to be committed and not take this up as a hobby. Make it your profession.”
Chicken Wings Platter
As I soak in strength behind this words, Manju plays the perfect hostess and orders a buffet table full of yum! We start with the CHICKEN WINGS PLATTER which had a mix of two types of wings: Barbecue and Buffalo (for those in doubt, Buffalo the name given to the sauce that coats the wings). They were served with a blue cheese dip. The wings were soft and succulent and really, really dug the authentic taste of the buffalo sauce; perfectly complimented by the blue cheese dip
Ginger Ale

We washed this down with a GINGER ALE which was real good on the tummy! After all the heavy goodness, it was a must! I was also served the MINT AND WHITE CHOCOLATE SHAKEwhich tasted very classy! I could almost imagine it served in a martini glass! The milky shake had delicious bits of white chocolate and chopped up mint. In fact, I have mint only with dark chocolate and I was pleasantly surprised by the delicious paring of the milk chocolate and mint! And of course I simply had to try THE BACON SHAKE. Let me make this clear once and for all…if there is heaven in Cochin, it has to be in this mason jar! Omg I cannot even describe how good the shake tasted but I shall try. Imagine the best brownie milk shake you can find, sweet with chunks of gooey brownie. Now pair that with squares of chewy sweet and salty bacon bits! Every mouthful was a sensation! I highly recommend this shake!
The Baconator

 I was given a choice of three burgers, each

Mint and white chocolate shake

a continent on its own! The first burger I tried was THE BACONATOR. True to the name, this decadent monster comprised two layers of tender beef patties, salty, crunchy bacon in between and jalapenos supporting the second patty. It’s a treat for the ardent meat lover! The twang of the jalapenos was the highlight of each bite. It tied all those meaty flavours together perfectly!

And then came the much talked about HALO burger. I mean the moment I saw the cheese ring on their advert, all I wanted to do was smoosh my face into it! I was a bad customer and made the Halo rest too long, Manju insisted on getting a new one made immediately. Such is the dedication to a good food experience. Now the Halo takes some explaining. You have a branded sweet brioche bun (TBJ was the first to bring out the branded bun), a perfectly cooked beef patty, a generous helping of bacon jam, ooey gooey melty cheese plus a Saturn like crispy cheddar ring outside. You are also given a side of Belgian Frites sauce, a bed of vegetables and a bowl with a wet tissue to mop off all the meaty juices dripping off your grinning face!
The Halo
Such an interactive dish! You could play it the way you liked it! You can break of wedges of the cheese ring, dip it in the sauce and chomp away or you could fold up the cheese ring into the bun. You could stuff some veges into the bun, or you could eat it as a salad. You could use the frites sauce as a dipping sauce or pour it onto your patty! So many options! I really enjoyed the Halo! But, but, but…let me tell you about my favourite burger baby! 
Mushroom and swiss burger
THE MUSHROOM AND SWISS CHEESE burger. I almost cried when I bit into this burger. It was the most perfect burger I had ever eaten! The brioche was sweet and pillowy soft and oh the beef patty was the juiciest patty I had ever sunk my teeth into. And the mushrooms! Such a lovely umami flavour that had a perfect marriage with the beef and the bun! Cravings hit me right as I type this very minute!
Manju joins me again and laughs at the goofy happy grin on my face! We discuss future plans. TBJ believes in a cautious expansion. Expansion plans are first outside of Cochin and then Kerala with the main target markets being Chennai and Bangalore. I ask her how it feels to be a woman in a business dominated by men. “People are often surprised when I mention what I do. And I feel privileged. I think as a woman, I am able to add a personal touch to everything I do.”
Score for womankind!

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