Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Montana's (Polo Park): 3.7/5

Chipotle Firecracker Burger
Platter: $12.99
Score: 3.7

Sirloin Burger (Fat Boy)
Platter: $10.99
Score: 4.4

Cheese Burger
Platter: $11.98
Score: 3.1

Montana’s has tables you can draw on and inconsistent burgers. The décor is fun with trucks, moose and canoes hanging overhead. The server was great and quite conversational. We may invite him to join burger club.
Our little group of four kept growing until we were thirteen. Luckily it was fairly quiet at Montana’s and our table could keep extending until it looked like The Last Supper. If you put crayons in front of an adult, they are compelled to draw and several did as soon as they sat down. Our drinks came quickly and colouring helped pass the time until our burgers arrived. My ice tea came with a bendy straw! Alpha Russ didn’t notice and put his in upside down. Apparently he doesn’t bend that way.

The meals pretty much came all at once and everyone seemed to get what they ordered. It wasn’t until afterwards, when I was entering in the ratings, that I realized how much variability there was in the reviews.  Some people really enjoyed their burgers, and some gave it a quite low rating. Of course tastes differ, and every time our group dines, some will like the burger and some won’t, but people’s descriptions for Montana’s really spanned the spectrum of good to bad. Karen’s burger was messy, as evidenced by the slurge (trademark Breakfast Connoisseurs) on her plate and running down her arms. Alpha Russ’s burger was burnt black and dry and evidenced by, well, the carbon on the patty. Several people complained of how dry the burger patty was and pretty much everyone commented that the "ridiculously lucky mixed seed bun" was dry and crumbly. Really, it should have been a delicious burger, and mine was, but something seemed to have gone wrong in the kitchen.

The Firecracker burger was huge! The patty was quite thick to begin with, but pile on a couple of inches of crispy onions, jalapeños, two thick tomato slices and bacon and you’ve got a tall burger. Even well squished, the toppings were still easily twice as deep as the already thick beef patty. I quite enjoyed the flavour burst and crunchy texture of the toppings on my burger. April commented on assembly: “The jalapeños were piled in the centre of the burger so only 2 bites were really, really HOT.” I can’t say exactly what the patty tasted like, but it was beefy, not fatty, and had a nice sturdy texture. I couldn’t taste the cheese at all. I’m not complaining, they had more conventional burgers if you preferred, but I went for the Firecracker. My burger wasn’t messy - but I cut it in half, which always helps. My bacon was cooked quite unevenly, but I noticed and took appropriate action with the uncooked half. I enjoyed the zingy sauce and thought it was the right amount. Other people thought it too much, but that generally comes down to personal taste.

My side salad was fresh and tasty. Well, with the exception of the croutons. They were some industrial tasting prefabbed thing. They were easy to pick out.  I appreciated have the dressing separate. That should be standard in all restaurants. Cary commented that the “Yam fries were the best.”
Two new words came up today. "Pattyfied" and "BarBaby". I was describing the patty at Stella’s which is really a bunch of tasty morsels in close association, perhaps held together by some strange beefy magnetism, but not “pattyfied.” Somehow it turned into “paddyfied” and took on naughty overtones for all the Star Wars geeks around the table. The BarBaby was, well, the baby squealing in the bar. Note to babies: Montana’s has no age restriction in the bar.

Montanas Polo Park on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Keg (Garry St.): 4.2/5

Bacon-Cheese Burger
Platter: $13.85
Score: 4.2

Cheese Burger
Platter: $12.90
Score: 4.1

It was a big burger, but also came with a big price tag. The Keg is a fancy place though, with dark, tasteful décor and plenty of serving staff. It was a very pleasant dining experience.

We received baskets of fresh multigrain bread to distract us while we waited for our burgers - which are wrapped in - bread. That's bread with our bread. Dough! Our waitress was great. She was very attentive and conversational. Drink refills came without being asked for, and when one diner was slow to finish her burger, the waitress made a point of checking that there wasn’t a problem with her meal.
Our food came fairly quickly but somehow most people's orders got messed up. There was much apologizing from several Keg staff – it seemed like they weren’t used to making mistakes. It occurs to me that serving staff probably don't like it when a group orders burgers - they're way too easy to mix up!

The burger was served "closed" with a fancy little knotted wicker cocktail stick holding it together. The plates were tiny and awkward - rectangular - the width of the burger.

Cary described the burger taste as “prime rib roast” – very flavourful. I'd describe the patty as thick, coarsely ground and quite juicy. It was well seasoned with salt (as you might expect from The Keg) and it was soft, but not fall-aparty. The texture was almost "springy" and the colour was leaning towards pale. It came with a very fancy steak knife that I couldn't resist using so I cut mine in half - it was still a little slippery, but easy enough to handle without getting covered in it. Others commented that it was a messy burger.

The ingredients were quite fresh - a large leaf of romaine and a couple of smaller slices of very red, ripe tomato. The cheese was real and the bacon was well cooked, bordering on hard. The burger patty was the predominant flavour though, so aside from providing some texture, I couldn't taste the bacon or the cheese. The mayonnaise flavour got through though – which I liked. I didn't have bun-bottom issues - others did - so I guess it's all in how you slice it!

The house salad was a good size and delicious - lots of very fresh peppers, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes as well as a collection of fresh weedy greens (and purples). There was no dressing. April exclaimed that “Kari and I shared mushrooms Neptune! Double-yum!” Omega-Russ commented that the “Side Caesar was very sad.”
Kari wanted a drink but didn’t know what - only that it had to be “good”. Our waitress kept guessing until Kari’s face lit up at “Mojito!” It must’ve been muddled to perfection because she even had a second. This might also explain her response when Dani proclaimed that she seems to always have the opposite burger review from everyone else, Kari confirmed that "No, you're just wrong!"

On a side note, April is quitting smoking. Don’t sit beside April next week - she may be cranky and she knows how to hit!

The Keg Steakhouse and Bar - Garry Street on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kings Head: 4.4/5

Fat Boy
Platter: $7.95
Score: 4.5

Big Khanuja (Bacon) Burger
Platter: $9.95
Score: 4.4

The Kings Head knows how to make a burger! I’ve had many good meals there, but today was the first time I've had the burger – and it was great. It was a cold day with a -36 wind chill, and as soon as I’d removed enough layers of clothing to speak I told them there were fourteen of us coming and we were all having a beef burger. The bar staff leapt into action! Two of them put tables and chairs together while the third phoned down to the kitchen to warn them. The chef came upstairs a few minutes later to gaze at our now setup and partially occupied table as if to convince himself of the incoming storm of burger orders. I shouted out "only put ten on the grill just in case" and he disappeared back downstairs. Sure enough, three people cancelled in the cold and we were eleven. I told the barkeep we were only going to be ten so he removed a table. I miscounted though, so we had to add a table back again. Good thing it was a relatively slow day. We all ordered our burgers and didn't have to wait long for the platters of food to start streaming in. We ordered around 11:40 and were writing our reviews by 12:20.

The burger did everything right. It was served open faced and came standard with fries on the side (you could substitute soup or salad for an additional charge). The Kaiser bun was fairly soft and toasted; there was real cheddar cheese and two slices of bacon cooked to perfection – easy to bite through. I ordered the cheddar, but you could also have mozza or Swiss. The burger was hand formed and thick – I thought you could still see the outline of the cook’s fingers – it was like they’d shaped it once and not overworked the beef. The patty was pleasantly seasoned with a nice texture leaning towards dry and more firm than soft. The Big Khanuja (not Kahuna as we all kept saying) came with softly sautéed white onions and fresh mushrooms as well as jalapenos and the usual romaine, tomato, mustard and mayonnaise. “Jalapenos added just the right zip!” said Brett. The romaine was bright green and fresh - the tomato was a little thin. I guess it’s getting hard to find garden fresh tomatoes in Winnipeg in January. The regular burger came with raw red onion. I almost forgot to mention the pickle because I gave mine away, but it was a large wedge served straddling the tomato. Russ observed “A pickle wedge on a burger is hard to eat. I think half ended up on the floor.

I had the Big Khanuja and didn’t make any substitutions – it was a perfect lineup of condiments for me! The burger had a great flavour balance. In my mind, there really wasn’t much that separated this burger from perfection – maybe a slightly better bun (a couple of diners noted the bottom squished down to almost nothing or broke apart) and a smidge more flavour – either seasoning or sauce.

If you’ve been to the Kings Head in the evening you know it’s usually mayhem and you line up at the bar to order food and drinks. Not so at lunch! The always entertaining barkeeps provided service and witty banter right at our table! Tazz described our server as “laid back happy.

Today was a special day because it was Kari’s birthday! Cary presented her with a flashing Tiara. Her burger came out last ... and it came with sparklers! We all cheered happy birthday as the smoke drifted across the table. My gift to Kari was my pickle. She gave me a fabric burger for her birthday - I love it! I'll be using to carry our burger reviews from now on :)

King's Head Pub & Eatery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Boston Pizza - Regent: 4.1/5

BP's Prime Rib Burger
Platter: $11.95
Score: 4.0

Double Bacon Whiskey BBQ
Platter: $12.95
Score: 4.3

Mushroom Swiss Burger
Platter: $12.95
Score: 2.8

Our waitress stole the show at Burger Club this week. She had that native Transconian humour that just can't be faked no matter how many pink flamingos you plant on your front lawn. The table was all setup for our group when we arrived and $Kathy (that’s how it was on her name tag) took our drink orders as we sat down. Once we told her we weren't going to wait for the dawdlers - "How rude!" she said – she took our table's food orders quickly. She was very fast - mostly because she didn't write anything down or repeat anything back. We took bets on whether any of us would get what we ordered but she remembered it all!

The food arrived fairly quickly. She was quite busy serving a number of tables and if you didn't tackle her as she went by, she wasn't stopping for trivial things like extra serviettes and drink refills. If you caught her eye, she was quick though. Sign language and making faces worked best and pointing at my glass got me a "What are you up to?" followed by a fresh ice tea a few minutes later. Several diners from the west end of the table had seemingly conflicting reviews “The waitress was great but the service was slow.” They were politely waiting for her to check on drinks rather than tripping her as she ran by. That’ll learn ya.

The burgers were served open faced and two things immediately stood out – the big slice of real cheddar cheese and the ludicrous amounts of bacon. Dani observed the “Burger was beautiful! The BBQ sauce made the patty glisten.” Stan commented “The Jack Daniels sauce and the bacon made this a great burger for my taste.” I couldn’t distinguish the meat patty through the sauce but Karen said “It was like roast beef - in a burger patty! Yummy, although on the salty side. Four thumbs up!” For me, the plentiful bacon was undercooked and difficult to bite through. The romaine was bitter as it was snapped off close to the core and the winter tomato was quite cold. The biggest detraction was the bun though – it was hard and cold. We’ve had fresher ingredients - any of the cafés we’ve dined at come to mind - but BP’s burger did come with a nice thick prime rib beef patty. I don’t think they were forming patties in the kitchen though – they were quite uniform.

Karen liked hers: “Excellent flavour - lotsa burger and toppings. The burger had a nice big slab of cheese which I could taste all the way through the burger.”

Nelson had structural issues: “Burger held together, except my burger patty snapped in half even before I started eating it.”

Russ’ was messy: “It was a two napkin burger and I only had one.”

April had the Mushroom Swiss Burger and said “I have had burgers with more flavour. This one was meh.”

The Fries were lacking and gravy was chicken, not beef. Dani tried a bowl of cream of cauliflower soup and said it was "Very yummy.”

Karen said “Salad was just the right amount, although a little heavy on the dressing - Caesar. Fresh parmesan topping.”

It was a big burger but fairly pricey at $13.95 for a bacon-cheeseburger platter. Kari commented “As per usual – I did not finish my burger and there was no Cary or Omega-Russ to finish it for me. I was Russless in Transcona."

When it came time to separating out the bills, our waitress told us “we only had one chance to get it right or it was like the Wheel of Fortune and you'll have to wait 72 hours before they can be redone." I don’t actually understand that. She came out with a tray full of wireless machines when it came time for payment and concluded with a cheery “Spank you." Awesome. When feeding plastic into the terminal the waitress asked Russ to "Whip it out”. April noted “We joked about it and she actually dared him to Whip it out!"

On a side note, when we first came in from outside I noticed a slight, unidentifiable odour in the restaurant. Me, being me, asked the waitress what smelled. She said "You can smell that?", shook her head, muttered and walked off much to the shock and dismay of Karen who thought our food would now be tampered with. It turns out that only 3 days before, someone had left ribs baking in the oven for 26 hours which were subsequently incinerated to ash. “We cremated a pig!” They'd had the carpets and booths cleaned and spent $70 on Febreze but a faint smell still remained. Within minutes I wasn’t aware of it so it certainly didn’t detract from our meal. Nelson commented “I don't recommend ordering the pork ribs for a few weeks.”

We all wiggled when the group shot was being taken

Boston Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Luda's Deli: 3.5/5

Deli Burger

Fat Boy (Deli Burger)
Score: 4.4

Bacon Burger
Score: 3.1

Cheese Burger
Score: 2.3

Bacon Cheese Burger

The first rule of Burger Club: Burgers are made of beef. Well, except in the case of Luda’s Deli where they’re made of beef and pork. This came as a bit of a surprise as none of us realized and the menu described it as a “ground beef patty”. Of course the menu also proudly proclaims that “We use peanut oil for deep frying!” which they haven’t done in 20 years. Yes, 20 years - Luda’s Deli has been operating for 27 years!

Luda’s is a charming restaurant in the north end. Both Google and Urbanspoon had the address listed incorrectly so finding the restaurant was part of the fun. That’s okay, we like challenges. It looks like a converted home with some wonderful murals on the outside. Inside is very cozy; decorated with pine wainscoting and floral wallpaper with plenty of artwork on the walls. The Christmas decorations were still up.

When we arrived the restaurant was mostly full, but our very pleasant and accommodating waitress rearranged the furniture so twelve of us could sit together. It was squishy, but we sat together! Alpha-Russ stated “Now I know how sardines feel.” We ended up with a Christmas tree seated with us so really there were only 11 seats available.

Two of our group didn’t fit around the table so sat at the counter. This turned out to be very nice for them because they enjoyed speaking with, and “watching the chef do her magic while her daughter hustled out the orders with machine precision.” Omega-Russ sat at the counter and also had this to say: “A family friendly place where regulars are treated with respect. Will come again!”
Bacon Burger

I won’t keep you in suspense so I’ll tell you right now – when you go to Luda’s, have the Deli Burger! When I was entering in the ratings and comments I was confused because half the group absolutely loved their burger and gave it very high ratings and the other half weren’t as happy. The result was a fairly low average Burger Club rating for the Luda’s burger - which is misleading because the Deli Burger was great! The pork and beef patty that all the burgers come with (except the chicken burger of course) was quite lean and fairly unseasoned. On an unadorned burger the result was somewhat dry and tasteless. However, those that opted for the Deli Burger were treated to a good selection of condiments including mayonnaise and tomato that added moisture and worked really well with the patty and bacon flavour. My mistake was in ordering a double burger without first seeing how big the patties were. They were a good size and a single would’ve been tastier – instead of a “too-much-meat” double that overwhelmed the bacon flavour. 

The Deli Burger also comes with a nice soft onion Kaiser bun from Gunn’s Bakery that was quite delicious and sized appropriately to the burger. The Bacon-Cheeseburger comes with a shiny bun that squished down to a wrapper. It also comes standard with neon green relish and plenty of mustard. You can get the onions raw or fried - the default is fried - delicious! The burger was conveniently served cut-in-half which made for easier eating. Nelson commented about the Deli burger: “The burger top was smaller than the bottom giving a wonderful "burger mountain" effect.” When you go, have the Deli Burger!

The burgers are quite inexpensive at Luda’s Deli with the basic hamburger costing $3.50. The Deli Burger received an average 4.43 rating which would’ve put it at #6 in our quest for Winnipeg’s Best Burger. The Bacon Burger got a 3.13 and the Cheese Burger a 2.25 (from the young'ens) which brought the overall burger rating down to 3.5.

Luda’s also makes their own beet Borscht. Several diners opted for the Borscht and enjoyed the delicious soup while waiting for their burger to be prepared. The fries were good too – they had a dark finish and skin-on like a pub fry - but skinny, soft and tasty.

Ludas Deli on Urbanspoon