Wednesday, June 24, 2009

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.


Trevor G. said...

I didn't even know this place existed. Thanks for the tip. Next time I'm downtown I'll have to give it a shot. Wouldyou compare it to the burger at the Dutch Bakery in terms of taste? Looks kind of similar to their offering. Oh, and in regards to your post about ads and upselling places people work at; I just want you to know that I don't actually work in any restaurant/pub/food joint. Going back to read my posts it actually does seem like I was promoing something, but I really just want to see if places are worthy of my burger money before I spend it there. That's what's so great about your blog; it saves me money as well as giving insider info about hole-in-the-wall joints like this little cafe.

dk said...

I like being tipped off to new places, I just hate seeing blatant promotion of restaurants that are wildly misleading.

In terms of Gathering Place vs. Dutch Bakery. Dutch Bakery has more of a sausagey flavour to their patty. The patty at Gathering Place is just pure Chinese jelly-ish weirdness, but it still retains some beef flavour. Actually I wouldn't say anything about the Dutch Bakery burger is all that similar to what's happening at Gathering Place. Haven't tried any other burgers at Chinese/Western places in town, but I imagine that would be the best frame of reference.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou Kind Sir for the heads up. I will definitely check it out, how were the fries that accompanied the burger?

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