Monday, August 11, 2008

Moderne Burger — Vancouver, B.C. — 2507 West Broadway — (604) 739-0005 —

Moderne Steak Burger
$7.95 w/o Fries ($10.95 with)
Add $1.25 each for Cheese, Bacon, and Fried Onions

You know you've been closed a long time when your hiatus starts spawning conspiracy theories. Well maybe only one conspiracy theory: my aunt is convinced that Moderne is a drug front, cleverly masked as one of the city's most beloved burger bars. How she came to this conclusion, I have no idea — in reality Moderne Burger is a critically acclaimed mom and pop burger shoppe (that appears to have employed their daughter's entire homeroom class).

Whereas my aunt found Moderne Burger's recent fourteen month hiatus suspicious, most Vancouver burger lovers found it excrutiating. The extended closure marked the second time in three years that Moderne had been removed from the local burger landscape.

In 2005 Moderne shut its doors for four-and-half months after a fire next door spread to the popular diner. Customers showed up with welcome-back cards, and flowers after their beloved burger joint re-opened after the short hiatus. When it re-opened for a second time (on June 27th this year, after completing over a year's worth of renovations) the scene was pure pandemonium.

So what the hell is the big deal? A simple case of absence makes the heart grow fonder, or is Moderne a true burger mecca?

A month after re-opening, and Moderne Burger is still more popular than a pony in a petting zoo. I walked into the restaurant about ten minutes before close, and the place was nearly overflowing. The teenage waitress at the counter seemed incredibly out of place (until I heard her call the proprietor dad). She was the kind of girl you'd expect to see falling down drunk at Richard's on Richards, not serving burgers at a 50's style diner.

In addition to looking out of place, she was totally useless as a greeter. When I walked into the restaurant she was standing around at the counter smiling, but giving absolutely no verbal welcome to customers. Being a take charge kind of guy, I muscled my way to the counter and grabbed the attention of someone useful, who was able to take my order.

I think its safe to say that after being closed for more than a year, the majority of the Moderne Burger staff is new to the restaurant. After a month the young staff has had ample time to learn the Moderne system, but still seem to lack the pride that is associated with being an employee of Vancouver's most critically acclaimed burger joint.

A lack of pride is the only reason I can think of for the laissez-faire way in which key elements of the Moderne Steak Burger are assembled. The burger is by no means bad, in fact it is fairly good, but it's certainly not up to the standard I expected from a place with such fanatical followers.

Two cardinal sins are commited in the construction of the Steak Burger: its bun is not toasted, and the cheddar cheese is far from melted. The befuddling raw nature of the bun makes for an incredibly greasy affair. This is the type of burger that leaves the bottom bun struggling for survival as your patty flaps in the wind. I enjoy a greasy gobble as much as the next guy, but I expect my burgers to maintain a basic structural integrity (I also hate soggy lettuce).

The bun is the biggest problem here, but it's not the only underwhelming element of this burger: the bacon (although tasty) could certainly be crispier, and the patty is completely unseasoned. I'm not making that up; Moderne actually takes pride in the fact that its burgers are completely free of "seasoning of any kind." Moderne uses good quality, flame-grilled meat, but for fuck sakes season that shit. There is nothing evil about salt and pepper. Come on Moderne, you're supposed to be pros — pros don't serve uneasoned patties and then act all high and mighty about it.

Although they try very hard to sabotage their burgers, Moderne does make a decent product. The special sauce is good — and although the staff doesn't seem to know what to do with them, the other burger elements are top notch too. Still I have to admit, of the big three (Moderne, Vera's, and Splitz) Moderne is surprisingly the least deserving of its hype.



After hearing various rumours about the deliciousness of Moderne Burger and the possibility of ties to organized crime, I entered Moderne with what can only be described as naïve hope for the best burger ever. The sparse, yet effective, décor only helped to perpetuate this feeling of excitement. By the time I tried the Creamsicle milkshake I was positively shaking with anticipation.

My anticipation, however, was not very well rewarded. Perhaps I’m being too picky here, but I like my bacon crisp, my bun toasted (and not soggy), and my grease not dripping. I realize the dripping grease is most likely out of their hands, but the limp bacon and soggy, un-toasted bun could easily have been solved.

Despite everything, the milkshake was one of the best I’ve ever had.

Excellent fries and shakes, but the burger cooks here make too many rookie mistakes to live up to the hype. I'm also a little upset with the fact that the price of a burger and fries at Moderne is three bucks more than it was only six years ago.

HELEN'S VERDICT: Moderne Burger has serious potential to live up to its reputation. Perhaps during that one-year hiatus, they should have hired someone who knows how to cook bacon and use a toaster.

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