Tuesday, June 28, 2011

White Star: 4.4/5

Fatboy $4.75 - Score: 3.9

Bacon Burger $6.10 - Score: 4.6

Cheeseburger $6.10: 4.4

Mushroom Burger $6.10: 4.6

The White Star diner is a tiny little burger shack with seating for 2. We had a beautiful, sunny day for our burger tasting and sat at a super-stretch picnic table overlooking Old Market Square. Owner Bruce Smedts named the restaurant after the Cunard-White Star Line most famous for the Titanic. This might explain the large piece of iceberg lettuce on my burger, but more about that shortly.

One of the great things about White Star is you can pre-order and pick up your waiting food at lunch. About half the group did this and sure enough, their orders were waiting for them while the rest of us had to wait a little while for our burgers to be prepared. A point against the White Star is that it’s a pricey burger. The old adage goes you get what you pay for though, and my patty was wide and the cheese came off a slab, not squeezed out of a tube. You can get a basic “Fat Boy” for cheap, but the White Star’s flag ship burgers include Philly Cheese, a Patty Melt (on grilled rye with caramelized onion), Blue Cheese and The Mortimer which comes with the pulled pork White Star is best known for.

The burgers came in a fashionable check patterned paper wrap. It produces less trash than a traditional foil and paper wrap but April commented “the wrappings, no matter how well they encompassed the burger, did not keep sauce off my lap."

This is the first time I've had real cheddar cheese on a Burger Club burger and it tasted great. It was a messy burger, well lubricated with a whole leaf of iceberg lettuce and slippery tomato. Nelson described it as “Possibly one of the slipperiest burgers I've ever had.” The patty was juicy; it wasn't thick but had girth and it was hand formed. I had the Mortimer which came with delicious pulled pork and I couldn't really taste the burger patty. Cary commented “Next time I will have to give the pulled pork a little zing with some hot sauce.” For the extra $2+ for the pulled pork I was hoping for a little more. Not a huge burger for the price ($8.35).

If you’re under 18 don’t read the next sentence. Russ quoted Pulp Fiction to describe his shake “Goddamn! That's a pretty fucking good milkshake. I don't know if it's worth six dollars but it's pretty fucking good.” Kari tried the fries and said “Sadly fries tasted like fish - do they have fish on the menu?”

We had a special guest burgerer today and Christie summed up lunch nicely with “Ah! Sun, a good burger, and conversation about nefarious activities. A giant slice of life awesomeness!”

It was a little cozy around the picnic table and we ended up making an Esther sandwich. Brett had a cheek dangling and coincidently also went bun-less with his burger today. April noted “Brett is not able to remove criminal records, but I am worried he may have added to mine ...”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kelekis (closed): 3.7/5

Fatboy (Yaleburger) $5.50 - Score: 3.9

Bacon Burger $5.00 - Score: 3.3

Cheeseburger $4.50: not evaluated

Today Burger Club visited a Winnipeg institution. Kelekis has been around in its restaurant form since the 1940s - it was a chip truck before that. It’s charming and you walk past the open kitchen surrounded by counter stools on your way back to the dark dining room with walls covered in head shots of celebrities that have visited Kelekis over the years. When I asked if our waitress would mind taking our picture, she went and got the “official photographer”. They have an official photographer! As always, the discussion came up - is it pronounced Ka-lee-kiss or KA-LECK-IS?

This week one of Burger Club’s members was frolicking Toronto, so the blog’s anchor picture will represent in her absence. It was also a special week because one of Burger Club’s founding stomachs had a birthday. Not only that, it was the first time he’d ever blown out birthday candles - or anything else at Burger Club without spraying Coke. You’ll be happy to know we did not break into an annoying and off key rendition of Happy Birthday. However, Brett and Cary did do a respectable job of the theme to the “King of Kensington” after spotting Al Waxman (R.I.P.) gazing down on our table.

The menu is interesting. First, Kelekis places the same value on a slice of tomato as bacon! Those that opted for the 50 cent tomato were treated to a nice thick slab of very ripe tomato. Also, you have your choice of a small or large fountain drink, but the refills are free. You decide! The burgers are small and priced a little high - the Fatboy (called a Yaleburger at Kelekis) is $5.50. You got your choice of onions - either raw or fried. I’m a fan of fried, but Dani ordered raw and exclaimed “Awesome! The burger came with a full slice of onion!!” Most of us ordered the small fries, which came served in a little bowl on the side. Interestingly enough our waitress decided they looked a little skimpy and put down a couple more bowls of fries for the table to share. Nice!

I usually opt for a double burger and skip the fries, and this week I wish I’d stuck to my modus operandi and ordered the double Yaleburger without fries because the single was a little small. It was a hand formed patty with a fair amount of filler and quite crumbly. It was tasty but a bit meat-loafy. The bun did its job admirably but was cold. It was a bit of a messy burger and to borrow a term from the Breakfast Connoisseurs, there was slurge.

Scott had this to say: “There is nothing like the taste and presentation of Winnipeg's original "Nip". This was not as much a lunch as it was an experience. You will pay less at other places, but you won't enjoy it as much.”

One conscientious Burger Clubber ordered his burger “to go” so he could get back to work, and had this unfortunate experience: “Well. I ordered a burger; and overall I would say everything was great except for the burger, which is all I ordered. This is based mostly on the fact that I took two bites out of it and then discovered it was raw. I'm not from Paris so I wasn't used to this. Last I checked Kelekis wasn't a French last name either, so I am guessing this is not what she intended. Considering I had to microwave it before eating I'm not sure I can judge the rest fairly.” The rest of the table’s burgers were cooked properly.

One of the other fascinating things about Kelekis is the washroom. You navigate your way through the rear kitchen and into the basement then wind your way through a twisting concrete passage until you finally reach the throne. I’m pretty sure it’s a washroom in the building across the street.

C. Kelekis on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mrs. Mike's: 3.7/5

Fatboy (King) Burger $6.25 - Score: 3.7

Cheese Burger $4.69 - Score: 3.9

Chili Burger $5.58 - Score: not evaluated

BurgerClub’s been waiting for a nice day in this oh-so-wet spring and today it was cooking out with a humidex of 32 under the sun. Mrs. Mike’s is a burger shack so dining is at picnic tables outside. When the burgerers started arriving they were greeted with a securely shuttered shack followed by the first stages of panic from growling stomachs. However, at the crack of 11:30 the shutters went up. The irony is that the hours are posted inside, so you know when it’s open once it’s open. Mrs. Mike’s was well staffed and took our orders quickly. Just like V.J.’s though - there’s no bacon! The shock wasn’t as strong this time as we’d already been desensitized at V.J.’s, but what’s with no bacon at burger shacks?

The procedure at Mrs. Mikes is you order in the front, and pick up and pay at a side window. It gets a little confusing because they don’t use numbers or names, they just shout out the order - and it’s hard to hear - so diners were surprised to find out their burger was ready. If you’re stylish, the side-window-lady might remember what you were wearing and call out “Girl in the brown dress”. For a take-out window burger, Mrs. Mike’s was pretty expensive. It’s a small shack and I guess the grill only has room for one burger so the orders came out sequentially with a good five minutes between each burger. Other diners we’ve been to - like Great Burger and Fry - asked if we were together and made an effort to have all our orders ready at the same time.

I had the King Burger. It’s a double burger with lettuce, tomato and well lubricated with mayonnaise- between the patties. It was a huge, messy burger. The first thing that happened was I just about dropped it in my lap. The normally adequate foil wrap was undersized for the job and I had to catch my burger as it squirted out when I one-handed it. As big as the burger was though, it wasn’t adequate to use as a counter weight on the picnic table to keep it from flipping over when someone stood up. The always eloquent Scott had this to say about the King:

I was handed a hot mess of meatlettucemayobunpicklemustard. I appreciated the faith the clerk showed in my eating ability by only handing me the allotted ONE NAPKIN. I asked for more napkins and was given a SECOND NAPKIN.  That's OK. I like a challenge.

As I unwrapped the burger, I was immediately concerned for all of the people in the world who would not have any mayonnaise because my burger had ALL OF IT.  It was oozing out of all sides and dragging the shredded iceberg lettuce with it. I reluctantly picked it up and chose what I thought was the head of this creature, and with some trepidation, bit down.  The chain reaction that this caused, was immediate and really, really messy. Nearly half of the shredded lettuce, lubricated by the copious mayo, oozed out the back of my Single King and hung there; draped from my burger down to the wrapper on the table.  I recoiled to wipe my mouth with as little of NAPKIN ONE as possible.

My hand was filled with what appeared to be an albino Rastafarian with an affinity for cream rinse.  In respect for the lady that was now seated at our table, I reduced the lettuce in my burger by pulling it out onto the foil wrapper.  This was helpful in removing most of the mayo as well. This made for an easier time as I progressed.  I used every bit of NAPKIN ONE and SECOND NAPKIN.

Once I had removed the lettuce and mayo mess, I was able to concentrate on the flavour of the burger.  The bun was appropriately sized.  It didn't let me down.  The burger patty was a decent size and there seemed to be a lot of filler lending it to have an odd color and texture.

Aside from the mayo, the other condiments were amount appropriate and complimented the burger well. I like a thinly sliced tomato on my burger, but in this case, I felt they were too thin. Nitpicking a little there. But the tomato didn't even have the seed and gel part. Just the cellular walls.  It was odd.
April ordered the "high maintenance" burger and commented: “Was tasty even without the cheese I ordered. Wait there it is! I do have cheese.”

Brett, BurgerClub’s resident shake expert said “Milkshake was perfect consistency (sucking didn't blow out a sinus)”. Kari tried the fries and observed: “Fries came out of a bag. Lacked any flavour - not even vinegar and salt helped.

Girls are clever - they have purse hangers for picnic table situations! Brett didn't bring along his international man bag so he had no need for a purse hanger. Scott had only recently emerged from a yurt and “displayed dominance by arriving with 4 days of beard and wearing my finest grimy sandals. There was some posturing at first, but they eventually accepted me as their new alpha.” The people sitting behind Jo-Ann wanted to play with her zipper and Dani had to leave early to pick up her kinky package.

Mrs. Mike's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Original Joe's: 4.5/5

Fatboy (Sicilian) Burger $15.99 - Score: 4.7

Bacon Burger (Kona) $14.49 - Score: 4.1

Cheese Burger - Score: 4.6

Mushroom Burger - Score: 5.0

All burgers served as platters with choice of two sides

530 Kenaston Blvd

Dangling sausage, glazed buns and divas - oh my! This week BurgerClub visited our first chain restaurant - Original Joes. It was great and we have a tie for overall best burger after week 11. April commented “If this burger was a man, I would marry it.”

The first thing you notice about Original Joe’s is the “No Minors” sign. Already a point in their favour - burgers aren’t for kids. They don’t take reservations, but we got there early and had no problem sitting nine of us together comfortably. The servers were cheerful and quick and took the banter from our boisterous group well. The one downside to Original Joe’s is - it’s expensive! Burger platters range from $12-16. Scott stated “I'm quite certain it was not beef, but unicorn, or perhaps mermaid.”

One of the very anti-burger-modification diners had this to say “I had to plug my ears while diva Dani ordered the High Maintenance Burger.” This week we learned that Dani won’t handle a pickle. Original Joe’s does present a lot of options for burger toppings and sides to choose from, so there should be a burger configuration for everybody. It wasn’t too long before burger platters started coming out. Scott observed “Presentation of the Kona burger at Original Joe's seems to be saying something about the cook's OCD.” This was another point for OJ’s in my book - orderly food tastes better!

I had the Kona burger as well - which is OJ’s bacon burger - and it was delicious! “The pineapple, bacon, and bbq (teriyaki) sauce worked well together with the burger patty.” It was burned to perfection and there was lots of nicely cooked bacon. The bun was perfectly round - cooked in a little bun screen - and shellacked - it was shiny. Dani noted “I think I saw my reflection in it.” The tomato was nice 'n thick but not ripe. The bits of yellow lettuce on my bun top were sad.

The flagship burger is the Sicilian. In addition to the beef patty, it has a full Italian sausage split and draped over the burger. It had epicness! Russ couldn’t finish his - although in his defense he ordered extra bacon “just to make sure there was enough meat.” Nelson said “It was tasty. However with so much sausage it overpowered the delicious meat patty.” The Sicilian also has high comedic value. Try sitting around a table with a bunch of guys (none of the girls took on the Sicilian) eating a burger with dangling sausage and not crack any jokes. Kari noted that “Cary’s sausage was hanging out. Meanwhile Russ' sausages were dueling.”

A couple of diners had a cheeseburger, which was the entry level burger at OJ’s. Esther commented that it was “A little chintzy with the cheddar.”

There were ten sides to choose from. I had the mango pasta salad which would have been fine if they’d just called it pasta salad, but as it had no mangos in it I was disappointed. Scott stated “I was unable to find any mango, but there were entire peppercorns to munch on. Not pleasant.” The mixed green salad was quite nice and it came with your choice of two dressings - both of which were made with Balsamic vinegar. Diners that had the fries or poutine thought they were good.

Original Joe's on Urbanspoon