Sunday, June 28, 2009

Information Needed: Big Bob Burger, Bob's Restaurant, Duncan

If anyone has a recent picture of the Big Bob Burger from Bob's Restaurant in Duncan, please leave it in the comments. I'm trying to figure out if it's worth a trip.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Victoria News "Best of the City" Not Quite as Infuriating as Last Year

Black Press has once again announced its "Best of the City" list, and "Best Burger" is once again a key category. Winners were determined via an open-ballot readers poll.

I now present the three best burger spots in Victoria (according to Black Press):

  1. The Pink Bicycle
  2. White Spot
  3. Red Robin
So Red Robin holds fast at number three, A&W (last year's number two pick) gets mercifully blasted off the list, White Spot falls to number two, and in its first year of eligibility—The Pink Bicycle storms to the top of the list. It's great to see an actual local restaurant get some reader props, but it's still pretty obvious that the average Victoria News reader still doesn't know shit about where to find a good burger in town. Anyway I bitched all about "Best of the City" last year, so I won't bother bitching again.

So Black Press has done their list, howzabout I do a little list of my own. Here's a sampling of my current favourite burgers in the Greater Victoria Area (not necessarily in any particular order):
  1. The Point Burger | Aura Restaurant
  2. Cheeseburger | The Pink Bicycle
  3. Bacon Cheeseburger | Brasserie L'ecole
  4. All Dressed Bacon Cheeseburger | La Belle Patate
And here are the best "cheap eats" burgers I've had recently:
  1. Burger | Pizza All Nite
  2. Cheeseburger | Carnarvon Park
  3. Cheeseburger | Gathering Place
Glo and the Loghouse Pub also remain two of the better burgers I've had in Victoria, but it's been ages since I've been to either place (thus they have been left off this current list). Heckler's Bar and Grill is also a notable burger spot.

There are tons of places I have yet to visit, and no doubt these lists will end up changing sooner rather than later. How about you? Agree/Disagree with the Black Press list or my lists? Let us know in the comment section.

New Vancouver Burger Blog Has Launched

I just noticed today that Vancouver's newest (and I believe only active) burger blog launched last month. Hopefully this new blog ends up having the same integrity of the dearly departed Vancouver Burger Snob Blog, and lasts longer than the Vancouver Hamburger Hunt Blog. The new blog (titled Burger Supremacy) has modeled its style after the Burger of the Month club that was recently profiled in the New York Times. Their first review is of Moderne Burger, a place that Helen and I made some comments on last year.

ps. Yo Burger Supremacy, let us know if you're ever in Victoria!

Gathering Place Cafe | 832 Cormorant Street | 250•384•6774

Cheeseburger (w/fries)

Gathering Place Cafe is one of the more unique spots within the pantheon of the Victoria restaurant world. Convenience store/lunch counters may be a dime-a-dozen in Eastern Canadian capitals, but Gathering Place is probably the only place in Victoria that fits into the category. Up front you've got your garden-variety convenience store—complete with Arizona Ice Tea, narrow aisles, and maybe a toothbrush and some foot cream or something. In the back you've got a cluttered coffee counter, keno, seating for twenty, and a bunch of storage material stuffed away in the corner. If there is another place like this in Victoria, I've never heard of it.

The burger here is perhaps as much of an anomaly as the cafe itself. I was fully expecting an offering akin to that of Camosun or UVIC, but oh did I get so much more. Gathering Place defies the odds by serving up a home-made patty on a surprisingly fresh and squishy white roll. The patty is a thick and gelatanous little number that throws quite the textural curveball to your tongue. It's almost as if you're eating a jello-burger salad (albeit lighter on the jello end than your average jello salad). You think to yourself as you take the first bite, "Is this even a burger? Should I think this is disgusting, or awesome?" Well yes it's different, but when you overcome the oddness of the patty—this is a pretty satisfying burger for the price.

In fact, in terms of Chinese-Canadian restaurants, gelatanous patties are apparently quite commonplace. According to friend and colleague Miles Bissky, the vast majority of burger patties found at Chinese/Western restaurants have the same sort of tapioca-feel that the unit served at Gathering Place has. His theory (and I suppose mine as well) is that a little sugar is added to the beef to create the odd and slightly off-putting texture.

Gathering Place tops their patty with a slice of American cheese, a mixture of mayo and green relish, and the usual vegetable suspects. This mix, and the freshness of the white roll used to house everything, manages to downplay the bizareness of the burger patty. As much as I feel like I should hate this burger because the patty barely resembles anything remotely conventional... I just can't. This burger is weird as hell for people (like myself) who aren't accustomed to the anomalies of Chinese-style burgers, but fuck if it wasn't a pretty good tasting deal for six bucks.

VERDICT: The needle exchange is gone. The crazies have all moved a block over. Stop being a pussy and give this place a try: there's no other dining experience in Victoria like it.

ps. A quick note on the diverse clientele that frequent this establishment: no one else was in the cafe when we first sat down, but we were soon joined by a few other thrify diners. Most notable among the bunch were an ederly asian man and a 20-something effeminate looking dude who were dining together. The elder gentleman was waxing poetic about Tommy Douglas as the younger man looked totally bored. It was great people watching.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Island Burger News (Slightly Off Topic): Comox Considers Drive-Thru Ban

The City of Comox is having a little jaw-fest over whether or not to deny the chance of any new drive-thrus being built in the community. A drive-thru ban was recently rejected by North Vancouver City Councillors in March. Lots of other communities across the country have discussed drive-thru bans too. We're already pretty much bereft of drive-ins in most corners of the island. Losing drive-thrus (even though they are mostly attached to fast-food outlets) would no doubt have a negative effect on island burger culture.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Parliamentary Dining Room | 6 500 Belleville Street

"Assembly Burger"

As Times Colonist readers already know: I recently took a trip to the Legislature Cafe. During said trip I experienced the joy of having a waitress hang over me like wet laundry—asking every 3.2 seconds, "how's the burger?" Well I'm about to tell you—but first let me mention a couple other highlights from my recent trip to the legislature cafe.


1) Listening to an excited waiter named Mur gush about his upcoming Fringe Fest play "L.U.S.T." (it's about love and school and the audience are all students at this love school). Word is "L.U.S.T." is going to blow the roof off Victoria, and give the local theatre scene something it's in dire need. If the kitchen staff at the Ambassador Cafe had a passion for burgers similar to this man's passion for risque theatre... well who knows what could happen.

2) The TC reporter I was dining with (Amanda Ash) must have dumped at least three tablespoons worth of ketchup on her burger. I think she actually put more ketchup on her burger than she did on her fries.

Review time now:

Not much to say here: you've got a frozen B&C patty which the cook envelopes in cheddar cheese, mushrooms and bacon to try and mask the dryness of the meat. The bun (a nice, simple, chewy white kaiser with crisp, buttery edges) is adorned with something called "Lass Sauce". I assume the "Lass" in the name is short-form for "Legislative Assembly": cute yah? I wonder if they have "Hansard Homefries" on the breakfast menu? Maybe "Press Gallery Poached Eggs"? Anyway; the "Lass Sauce" isn't very notable and doesn't really add much to the package. Bottom line: it's a cafeteria burger that tastes like a cafeteria burger.

VERDICT: You know what's easier than trying to cover up a lacklustre frozen patty? Using a good fresh patty.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

TC Jumps on the Burger Blogwagon!

The Times Colonist has finally given itself the opportunity to bask in the glory that is the Victoria Burger Blog. Check out the article here, and a little "best of the blog" type thing they've got up here. Thanks to photographer Debra Brash and writer Amanda Ash for bringing the blog to print once again. Thanks also to Rob Shaw (who I believe pitched the story to begin with).

So where's the next stop on on the Burger Blog's ongoing crusade to conquer as much local media as possible? Eat Magazine? Chek TV? Shaw Daily? Maybe we do some sort of crazy stunt and the CFAX morning team mentions us in "weird news". Only time will tell where we pop up next!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Local Kitchen (or is it Bar and Grill?) | 1205 Wharf Street | 250•385•1999

Bacon Cheeseburger

I was really expecting this burger to suck like a jet engine, but it's surprisingly decent—forgive me if I don't expect much from a restaurant that caters to tourists and has the word "Local" in its title. This restaurant does feature locally sourced ingredients (and local beers) on its menu, but—given the location of this place—the moniker still seems a little contrived to me. Is the name "Local Kitchen" really tricking tourists into thinking this restaurant has built up a successful report with Victoria diners? I mean you might as well call the place "Hometown Haunt Bar and Grill" and name all your appetizers after street names and local luminaries. Anyway, I apologise for judging this place so harshly before actually giving it a try; the burger here is not nearly as boring as the name of this place would suggest it is.

Here's the review:

Shortly after my burger came to the table I noticed what appeared to be a fleck of fennel idling on the bun. I didn't notice the flavour of fennel in this package, but there was definitely something slightly different about the way the patty was spiced (a house mixture that is more than salt and pepper, but still subtle enough that it won't annoy you). The bun in this package is quite thin, and is barely noticeable in terms of flavour. I won't say this is a bad thing, it just makes things a tad confusing when an uncultured foodie like me is trying to determine where flavours are coming from. A more substantial bun may have balanced things out a little better, but the current choice doesn't degrade this unit too much.

The patty is topped with Applewood Cheddar and some well-balanced bacon: the fatty edges of the bacon delightfully dissolve on your tongue like the centre of a Fizz-Pop candy. Veges are fresh, and are mixed with a traditional aioli style house sauce: nothing wrong with the helpers here. This burger is infinitely better than what's being served up across the street at Wharfside, and it probably just edges out the option across the square at Darcy's. There are a number of pub burgers I'd place above the burger at "Local", but it's still not a bad option if you're looking for a decent pub burger downtown.

VERDICT: A surprisingly pleasant burger at a price that hasn't been inflated nearly as much as you would expect it to be.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Canoe Brewpub | 450 Swift Street | 250•361•1940 |

Aussie Pub Burger

Any burger with more than four toppings requires the work of a skilled architect to save it from being a blight along the main street of the menu it resides on. Thankfully the person drafting burgers at the Canoe Club, for the most part, knows his craft well.

There are a number of key decisions made here that prevent this burger from sliding into the pit of despair that other "house special" packages have found themselves in:

Decision One: The Egg

More times than I care to remember I have been stuck with a hard fried egg on my burger. If I have a fried egg on my burger, I want the yolk to cascade over the meat patty like holy water baptising a newborn. If the egg doesn't serve a duel purpose as topping and de facto condiment... well it just has no purpose being a part of the unit at all. Canoe Club does things right here by serving up a delightfully runny egg with its package.

Decision Two: Beets and other Vege Toppings

Luckily the vege toppings here are used sparingly enough that they don't allow this burger to spin widely out of control. Most importantly: the beets are cut thin. This allows the flavour of the beets to linger within the package, but at no time does the beety essence seem overpowering.

Decision Three: Condiments

A refreshing understanding of burger dynamics is on display when it comes to the condiment factor here. The house mayo in this burger is used quite sparingly—but that's ok in this unit. The burger is already rendered slightly sloppy from the egg yolk, and any additional lubricant would no doubt send a slippery beet flying into the face of your dining companion. Sometimes, for the greater good of your burger, you must fly in the face of recognized conventions.

Other Thoughts:

The hand formed patty used in the Aussie Pub Burger comes from Quist Farms in Cowichan. The number of restaurants in town using island beef are few and far between, so certainly some kudos are in order for Canoe Club keeping things local. The flavour of the beef is more subtle than it is rich and bold, but it's still pretty good. I do have to agree with Monday Magazine's assesment of the patty though: it could use something to punch it up a little. As for our other friends: the bacon and cheese are both great, and the bun is a fresh and excellent companion for the patty. This is a well crafted burger with very few faults: easily one of the better pub options in the city.

(burger vogueing courtesy Paddy: chime in courtesy Christabel)

If there was ever a burger to unite VicBurger and the Little Piggy; I think the Aussie Burger is it. A frenzy of toppings, I'd never ordered it before, but was always intrigued by its indulgence.
To me this burger is all about the egg. I agree, the runny yolk is key and complimented nicely by the slightly crispy edges of the white. In a breakfast context I would complain that the egg was cooked at too high a heat, making it tough, but the firmess assists the egg in holding it's own with the beef. The yolk, breaking as you crack through the first bite of burger, is almost obscene— dripping out of the sides of the bun and on to your fingers.

Happily, the bun is adequately constructed to take on the heaping mound of condiments (which is important since they're a pretty moist lot). Speaking of which—the beet. I like the beet, but I could almost handle a little more beetyness. I find it a little overwhelmed by the egg and the bacon.

All in all, I'd say I'm a convert to the Aussie burger. It kind of reminds you of that promiscuous, drunken friend, that is sometimes a little embarrassing at parties, but you love nonetheless and wouldn't want to change.

VERDICT: Definitely one of the top ten burgers in the area. A minor tweak or two and this could easily slip into the top five.