Courtesy of Max Burgers

The name's Burger. Max Burger. 

David Landsel
June 20, 2018

No need to be embarrassed—when traveling in Europe, it's perfectly natural to resort to the occasional fast food meal. Sometimes, one just can't be bothered.

Here's the thing, though. Say you're in Sweden, you give into those urges, and you end up skulking around McDonald's, or even Burger King. Friend, you have messed up, big time. Sweden, did you not know, is one of those wonderful countries with an excellent fast food burger chain of their very own, and it is called Max Burgers. As of this week, Max has been around for 50 years—Happy birthday, Max!—and it is much, much, better than the higher-profile offerings in that country. Did we already say it's better? It's better.

There are 130 Max locations right now, and you will still find them mostly in Sweden, but there are also Maxes in other countries, as close by as Denmark and Norway, and as far away as Egypt. The company started out in the town of Gällivare, way up north, above the Arctic Circle. Over time, the Max brand has successfully worked its way into the hearts and the stomachs of the Swedish people, not only by producing a pretty great burger, but also thanks to the company's rather infectious passion for the environment.

All the way back in 2008, not only was Max was the first fast-food chain to carbon label their entire menu, every one of their restaurants in Sweden switched entirely over to wind power. Long known for (and proud of) its meat-free alternatives, Max launched a greatly expanded range of vegan and Lacto-ovo vegetarian burgers back in 2016, announcing a 13 percent reduction in climate impact per earned dollar, ever since.

And how is all this do-goodery working out for them? Pretty well, thanks for asking—with roughly half the number of stores McDonald's had going in the country in a recent tally, Max is the one that the majority of Swedes will tell you they prefer, and there are statistics to back this up. (Max says its stores are more profitable, too.)

Not content to rest on its eco-laurels, this week the company took things even further, announcing that the entire menu is now officially climate-positive. Just by stepping up to the kiosk at a Max Restaurant (they had kiosks before McDonald's, by the way) and placing an order, you're leaving the planet—apparently!—a little bit better off than before. You know, just in case you felt like you needed an excuse to order a burger and fries.

How does it work? Back in 2008, along with everything else they did, Max began planting trees in Africa, in order to offset carbon emissions. By now, the company is responsible for planting 1.5 million trees on the continent. As of this writing, that's enough, says Max, to absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than the total emissions necessary to produce the Max menu, bacon cheeseburgers included. 

 

And no, it is not over yet, in case you were wondering—according to a statement put out this week, Max is now throwing even more effort behind the promotion and quality of their meatless offerings; by 2022, it would like to see every other meal sold centered around something other than beef, leading to an even further reduction in total emissions.

Right, okay, got it, Max doing its bit for the planet, great stuff—but what about the food? As previously mentioned, the food here is quite good. You can go basic with a burger, fries and a coke for a few bucks, or you can really dive in, sampling ambitious creations like the Umami Bacon Burger, topped with bacon, pickled onions, Emmental cheese and the house Umami dressing, which is made with mushroom, white truffle, garlic, and cayenne pepper. (Got all that?) Better than the French fries—standard shoestring, and often not crispy enough—are their battered onion rings; still better are deep-fried chili (sic) cheese bites, oozing cheddar cheese and amped up with jalapeños. Exciting? Just a little.

 

Almost equally decadent—don't laugh, this is serious—are the offerings on the Green menu, the one Max is hoping even more of its customers will start ordering from. You can, for instance, order the same Umami burger, but with fried halloumi cheese, instead of beef; they do an excellent job with their vegetarian nuggets, which stands to reason, since they're also pretty good at their chicken nuggets. Order any kind of nuggets you want, but make sure to get some, in order to fully explore one of the highlights of the Max menu: the sauces.

Where to begin, really? Fine, we'll start with the Max Sauce, which is like any secret sauce, but better, thanks to a little paprika kick; they do a spicier version, if you like. There's barbecue, there's ranch, but don't get stuck on the relatively standard stuff, not when there's so much else to try—they have a cheddar dip, a béarnaise, herb and garlic, sour cream and pepper, mango curry, a spicy Creole—the list goes on. It's pretty wild.

Ready to do your bit for Mother Nature? You don't even have to wait that long for your first opportunity, upon landing in Sweden—there's a Max right in the arrivals hall at Terminal 5 in Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. We'll be the ones standing in line just ahead of you, trying to figure out which sauces to order. Say hi.