Burgers, a favourite in Spain since the seventies. / sur

Fifty years of hamburgers in Spain

Expats started the country's first American-style burger bar in Madrid in 1971

ALEKK M. SAANDERS

The hamburger is one of the most popular fast foods. It's exact origin is unknown, but it first became widely known in the United States.

The hamburger is also associated with America because of the worldwide chains of McDonald's and Burger King that have been selling them for decades. Both conquered Spain in the seventies, when the country was released from its dictatorship.

Four guys from Madrid

Before that, in Francoist Spain, there were no 'American-born' hamburger chains, but American citizens already visited the country, including the Costa del Sol. Some of them even settled in the Mediterranean resorts and especially in Madrid. The country's capital was home for a while to the Hollywood diva Eva Gardner, and a little later to four young men who were directly connected to filmmaking. Mark Brownstein, Douglas Delfeld and the brothers Anthony B. and Stephen A. Unger enjoyed Madrid, but they missed that favourite taste of a round meat patty in a bread roll. So, in 1971, the friends decided to establish a hamburger restaurant in the city.

The new and unusual (for Spain) business, was named after Hollywood - Foster's Hollywood. The idea was to create an authentic American restaurant, in much the same way as Italian and Asian establishments had been born.

Located in Calle Magallanes, it became the first American-style restaurant chain in Spain and one of the first in Europe. The burgers, cooked on the barbecue, were enjoyed by both foreign residents of Madrid and tourists, as well as local people and guests from other parts of Spain.

Foster's Hollywood was thought up as a 'casual restaurant' with an American theme

The New York Times mentioned the Madrid hamburger restaurant in its opening review describing it as a place where you could probably eat "the best fried battered onion rings in the world".

Another article about Foster's Hollywood was published in Los Angeles Times in 1973. Under the title A Star Is Born - Spanish Burgers a la Hollywood, the queues at the newly opened Madrid burger venue were compared with a line-p at movie-land film premiere: “As up to 150 Spaniards and tourists alike wait patiently for the maître-d's signal while an equal number jam the cavernous hamburger haven.”

Eventually, the Madrid flagship venue evolved into the chain, and in the middle of the 90s dozens of restaurants were successfully serving customers in Spain and Portugal. Today, on the Costa del Sol, there are branches of Foster's Hollywood in Malaga, Fuengirola and Marbella.

Five Guys

Additionally, on the Costa del Sol there are plenty of smaller faster food venues including the Spanish restaurant chain TGB - The Good Burger, with its sweeter bun and a New York City-inspired urban concept born in Andalucía.

Even in higher-class restaurants it is almost always possible to find a hamburger.

Moreover, this August, the selection of American burger joints was completed when the Five Guys restaurant (once loved by Barack Obama) with its special gastronomical philosophy was opened in Malaga, at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet.