There are good, well-run franchises serving great food; I cherish my Second Cup chai lattes and salivate at the thought of a slice of Paul pie. I will always prefer, though, to seek out those hidden food gems that are invariably the product of someone's passion for food. I like local and I like different.
Kiwi Cafe doesn't really fall into the "hidden" category, not with 14,000+ Facebook fans. But it's an independent success story, having started life here in Muscat as a roadside shack just 2 years ago and grown to a hugely popular venue, recently opened next to Dolphin Village.
Now, I'm fairly new to burgers. In fact I only had my first one at age 26. That's because when I think burger, I think McDonald's and cheap offcuts and sweepings and euuuw I don't know what might be in this. I only like good food, so now I do eat burgers, but I also do my research before eating anything but homemade.
Kiwi Cafe's Facebook page details the owners' seeming obsession with perfecting their own product, even charting the history of the two main patty types (back to the early 1900s), and chronicling their own struggles to obtain the optimal char on the outside and juiciness within. I appreciate this, and their use of grass-fed, gross-stuff-free meat. Clearly these guys are going the extra mile in the quest for the ultimate burger.
And it came across in the flavour. It always does. If only all restaurants would realise this simple fact, and that to offer anything less than a product you can be supremely proud of is an insult to paying customers. Kiwi served up a good-sized patty (120g), with a nice amount of burn and lovely fresh taste; not too much messing around with the ingredients, I guess, so the true flavour came through. Maurizio had The Volcano, a fully-loaded double-patty extravaganza, and loved it. Destroyed it, in fact.
I may not be a burger expert but I do know cheese. I also have very strong opinions on fries. (Really, thank goodness I have this blog, or I'd be going around saying things like that out loud.) And I think that Kiwi Cafe could step up their game in these areas. The fries were from frozen and very uniform (although nicely seasoned) and the cheese was meh. Al Marai. And I had a cheese burger with extra cheese. I had no issues with the price overall, not for juicy, healthy grass-fed beef like we had, and I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one willing to pay an extra few hundred baisas to upgrade to "premium" cheese. Just a decent cheddar; a burger isn't just about the meat, after all.
Going through Kiwi Cafe's social media more thoroughly makes me want to give their shuwa and wings a try, too. Luckily Kiwi has chosen as its expansion location a spot about two minutes from our house, so we'll be sampling more, although I'm not sure if I will ever go quite as local as camel burger.