Eating Fast Food Can Take All Night
Friday 29th June
DUBAI // It's 3am in Dubai Marina. The roads are quiet and people are sleeping … until you reach The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence.
Here, bumper-to-bumper traffic crawls along the entire 1.7-kilometre stretch, as if it were the middle of rush hour.
The high-profile, brightly lit, brick-paved strip is like a catwalk for fancy cars, where Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Porsches and Range Rovers are shown off in all their engine-revving glory.
A wide selection of all-night restaurants host the night owls in this part of the city, which never really sleeps.
The road cleaners are out with their hoses, the bin men are emptying rubbish, and there is a buzz of chatter from the people still whiling the night away in The Walk's numerous eateries.
Among them is Burger Fuel, a simple, no-frills, diner-style burger joint. There is no cutlery, just plenty of napkins.
Is it the menu of succulent New Zealand beef burgers, crispy fries or creamy milk shakes that draws people in droves?
Or is it the blaring music, the crowd and the many opportunities for people watching?
"This place is cool to just hang out, grab a milkshake, see my friends," says Talal Al Saad, 18, of Dubai.
The UAE national has just been to a late-night showing at a nearby cinema and does not want to go home.
"I always stay up late at weekends and sleep late in the morning," Talal says. "There's not much to do at this time of night, especially if you're not going to bars or nightclubs."
Ahmed bin Abdullah, 22, of Dubai, is also here with friends. They have been "cruising" at JBR in a Range Rover Sport, a regular thing at the weekend, and have come to satisfy their hunger pangs at Burger Fuel.
"I live with my family, so late at night I don't want to bring my friends home," says Abdullah, an Emirati student. "This place is busy and has good music, so we just come here and chat when we're not driving around."
Helen Whittingdale, 31, has been out dancing with friends. She and her girlfriends live in JBR and can pass by Burger Fuel on the way home.
"After a late night out I always get hungry," says Helen, a British IT consultant.
"If I've been dancing I'm usually ravenous. It's not the healthiest thing to eat late at night but these are the best burgers in Dubai."
Burger Fuel is also a popular restaurant during the day, with a reputation for some of the best burgers in town.
Its menu consists of some creative offerings such as the Ford Freakout, which is 100 per cent pure New Zealand ground beef, beef bacon, fresh avocado, salad, relish and fresh, natural aioli.
Then there is a quirky take on the cheeseburger, the Studnut Stilton, with 100 per cent pure New Zealand ground beef, stilton cheese sauce, fresh avocado, salad and relish.
As heavy house music pounds out from the speakers, Helen says: "It's like the after-party in this place. It certainly beats going home and making a mess of my own kitchen."
It is not just those who live around JBR who frequent the restaurant. The clientele includes local workers finishing their late-night shifts, commuters and late-night partyers, says Blen Quizon, the shift manager.
There are many who come in on the way back to Abu Dhabi, or home to other parts of Dubai.
Many come again and again, some even every day.
"We get to know them, what they're ordering," Blen says.
At peak times of the evening, the burger bar can have up to 140 customers an hour. Even at the early hours of Saturday morning, the numbers are not far off that.
"We've had people dancing on the tables, customers dancing with each other and carrying on the party," said De We Labuschagne, the store manager.
"It's the atmosphere that attracts people. They know they can come here and relax after a good night out.
"There's a late-night culture here, though. Even if they've not been out partying, they stay up late."
For more in our Night Owls series, keep an eye on www.thenational.ae/nightowls