While admitting it inevitably betrays my true age, I just have to say that if there's one burger I think of when I'm nostalgic, it's Tropical Hut's Classic burger. We rarely feature chains here in Good Living BF, since our focus is on 'homegrown' restaurants and enterprises, but we decided to do this as a fitting tribute to our favorite burger since the 1970s.
Tropical Hut was a burger chain way before McDonalds came in, or Jollibee morphed from ice cream parlor to fastfood giant. The BF Homes branch is up to now one of the longest-running Tropical Hut outlets in the country -- if I remember correctly it's their second or third branch. When I was a kid studying at La Salle Zobel, I'd often badger my dad into taking me there after school before we made the long drive back home. But Cat and I don't go to Tropical Hut to eat history. We go because, very simply, Tropical Hut still serves the juiciest, most meatily fragrant burger we know.
The Tropical Hut Classic stands out because it's cooked quite differently from other fastfood chain burgers. I often find the meat patties from other chains rubbery in texture, probably from a combination of extenders and the dry cooking method they use. In contrast, Tropical Hut's burgers tend to fall apart on you while you eat, while the buttery, utterly beefy juices run down your chin. The secret is in the thickness of the patty and the pouring of a special sauce over the burger as it cooks. As the outsides of the burger seal from the heat, the sauce gets trapped inside, keeping it tender and packed with flavor. I'm drooling as I write this!
Unfortunately, Tropical Hut was never managed with the same level of marketing savvy as its newer rivals, and the quality of its products can be uneven. I've been to Tropical Hut branches that were badly maintained, that stank (I didn't eat at those!), and been disappointed with various menu entries. The fries can be bland and soggy at times; at best, they're crisp but still rather plain, when compared to say McDonalds' fries. Sometimes the staff are not as well-trained as they could've been.
I hope one day to see Tropical Hut undergo a management renaissance. Better training, better marketing, investment in more effective advertising. But please, please, if ever this happens, do not change the Classic burger. It's the reason why, despite all the warts, I still keep coming back to Tropical Hut.
As I am a few years older than Dariel, my memories of Tropical Hut burger go even more way back, back to where I think it started in Ortigas in the 70s. But here I plead a senior moment because I cannot exactly recall the name of the place or the building. But what has stayed indelibly in my mind was the experience of my first taste of the burger that was then making waves all over town.
Simply put, it tasted like no other -- not that I could compare it with a MacDonald's or a Jollibee's because as Dariel said, they still had to hit town or hit it big at that time -- but that it had its own very distinct taste. A taste that, thankfully, to this day has remained in the Classic Burger.
Part of its appeal was its bigger-than-normal serving size -- rivaled only by the equally famous Dayrit's hamburger -- which the Classic has kept; and part of it was the de luxe way it was served, with chips and potato salad if memory serves me right. .
Over the years, as its rivals overtook it in popularity, availability, and visibility, it has tried to hang on stubbornly, sometimes perhaps too stubbornly for its own good as when it seemed to resist upgrading its branches, making them look like holdovers from the past century. But at the same time, that stubbornness is what may have kept its loyal followers like me coming back for the Tropical Hut burger taste--it had kept the flavor that had made it an institution, a go-to for a burger fix, and a must-have for those midnight cravings.
The relatively few places it had branches in became my landmarks -- in Greenbelt and Crispa in Gil Puyat opposite the Makati Post Office; the Greenhills branch was another favorite stopover. The first two are now gone; I haven't been to the latter in ages. So I am happy that although as whimsical as the food industry can be, Tropical Hut has endured. And that the Classic Burger is still a classic.
Now, my only quibble is why don't they have a branch in Davao?