Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Johnny's Marion Restaurant 3.8/5

Bacon Burger
Score: 3.8

Fat Boy
Score: 3.7

Cheese Burger
Score: 4.2

When we arrived at Johnny’s Marion Restaurant I was greeted with “Are you with the group? You guys are outside.” “Pardon me?”You’re outside” gesturing behind me. I didn’t think there was any more building behind me, but sure enough, when I turned around, there was a doorway into an addition – a long, narrow room just for us. I haven’t been to Johnny’s before and I was quite surprised at how big it was – there were tables as far as the eye could see!

Our server was quite efficient and she wasn’t about to be sidetracked by our unruly behavior. As we arrived one by one she took our drink orders, and once we were all gathered, took our food orders. There were ten different permutations of burger on the menu but no description of what came with what. Our waitress explained that the Marion was a double Fat Boy and the Meech was triple Fat Boy. As to what came with cheese or chili and the available condiments – that was a surprise. It wasn’t too long before she came back out balancing two or three plates at a time. We pretty much all got our burgers at once. There were a couple of notable stragglers though – not sure what happened there.

The double burger was held together with a frilly cocktail stick so bonus points for assembly and presentation. The beef patties themselves were hand formed, quite dense and fairly dry. It was a very filling burger with a nice beefy flavour. I really enjoyed the chili sauce as did most people who had it. Probably my favourite chili so far and the flavour worked well with the overall burger. Most people agreed that the bacon was cooked to perfection, but one slice just wasn’t enough. Some people got two slices so that might be the difference between ordering a bacon burger or a burger with bacon.

The processed cheese also got lots of comments – there was only half a slice! It looked like a little patch of cheese on the burger and brought back memories of Johnny G’s with its half slice of bacon placed on one side of the patty. We’re not sure if tiny cheese is what’s practiced in the French Quarter or if they were rationing it today. There was a big slab of fairly hard tomato – pretty much the same diameter as the patty – which added to the overall stature of the burger. I was hungry so I ordered a bacon double cheeseburger. It came with chili sauce, lettuce and tomato. My double burger had double everything – two patties, two halves of cheese, two slices of bacon and two slices of tomato. There was as much lettuce and tomato as patty. Where the whole assembly fell apart was the sesame seed bun. The comments were pretty consistent that the bun was crumbly and broke apart. It definitely wasn’t up to the job of containing my double burger.

I enjoy the lettuce and tomato but usually skip it on a big burger because it makes the whole assembly unwieldy. The burgers we’ve had usually come with one of three different lettuce variations: either a leaf of iceberg, a leaf of romaine, or chopped iceberg. I like the romaine - it’s nice and green, has some flavour - as long as it hasn’t gone bitter - and is fairly grippy. The iceberg is pretty tasteless – just green water – and makes the burger slippery especially if up against a tomato. Chopped lettuce is usually mixed with copious quantities of mayonnaise and although adding lots of moisture, it makes for a sloppy burger – Mrs. Mike's being the extreme example. Johnny’s employed the latter technique and it was messy! Karen observed “it started dripping on the first bite and self destructed before the cast couple of bites.”

Heard and seen around the table today:

April discovered relish on her burger and wouldn’t have been more traumatized if it was nuclear waste. I’m sure she would’ve been happier in a hazmat suit meticulously scraping off the offending green stuff with a napkin.

At one point I noticed the very faint background music was a funeral dirge – which seemed peculiar until someone reminded me that there was a church on the other side of the wall.

Another little idiosyncrasy of Johnny’s Marion, is that when Dani asked for a takeaway container for her burger leftovers, they gave her a piece of foil. It’s not like they didn’t have takeaway containers because other people got a Styrofoam one for their salad leftovers!

My horoscope in the Metro today was awesome: “Something will not work out the way you expected, but it really doesn’t matter.” Phew – I can relax now!

Tazz has lots of great ideas for t-shirts and thinks April would present them well.

Cary had vibrating pens for some of the lucky girls today. They got passed around - the girls went “Ooooh!” and the guys shrugged.

Johnnys Marion Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Burger Plus: 3.9/5

Bacon Burger
Score: 4.0

Fat Boy
Score: 4.0

Cheese Burger
Score: 3.6

Go to Burger Plus for a fast and filling burger that’s very low priced. In fact, Burger Plus is our highest value burger at a counter service restaurant. A Fat Boy and drink cost $4.

The restaurant is located at the corner of Sargent and Langside - hidden behind a little treed courtyard. In summer you can enjoy your burger outside at a picnic table. When we climbed up on the deck we were faced with two doors – the one on the right lead to burgers! It’s bright inside with wooden booths and a lot of ambitious plants. April noticed that Russ had a vine cradling his pate, and with leaves sticking out either side of his head, he bore a striking resemblance to Shrek. You order as you enter, and pay as you leave. When it came time to square up we didn’t need to tell the cook what we had – he remembered everyone’s orders.

The cook’s all business. He took our orders rapid fire then turned to furiously prep burgers in the open kitchen. Don’t expect to distract him with idle chit-chat. His mom’s in charge of the drinks. She brought out cans one at a time and held them up until somebody put up their hand. As the burgers finished cooking one by one, he loaded them with toppings and wrapped them in foil. If you were having fries as well, your burger came on a plate and tray. He emerged from the kitchen to deliver the burger than charged back to the grill. I only spotted one mistake – the bacon on Russ’s burger got forgotten but the cook realized as he was bringing it out. He ran back and brought out bacon for Russ to add to his burger.

They were big hand formed patties on an even bigger bun and my double burger was very filling. The beef patties were moist, soft and served steaming hot. Karen thought the patty had a “unique seasoning, possibly cumin.” The fresh iceberg lettuce was very slippery and made even more so by the two nice big slices of juicy tomato. The bacon was crispy but it kept sliding away from me until all that was left was a bite of bun with two slices of bacon hanging off the back. There was some very mild chili sauce that pretty much went unnoticed. Cary commented that it “wasn’t the zingiest I have had.“ The raw onion was not overpowering, and contrary to usual burger assembly practices, the processed cheese was on the bottom.  My burger mates challenged me on my comments last week that I could hardly ever taste the cheese. It seems I'm cheese impaired - I must have burnt that part of my tongue somewhere along the way. I'm no longer allowed to critique the cheese but I’m told the cheese at Burger Plus was good. The bun was nice and soft - lightly toasted on the grill. Liz made sure to point out  that her bun was small so not everybody had big buns!

The fries were big and soft with crispy outsides. Two of the burgerettes shared Poutine and April said it was “yummy – the only thing that could have been better is if it was made with cheese curds.”
Liz commented that the “chocolate milkshake was good - you could tell it was real because it had a lot of lumps.” Her cheeseburger and milkshake cost $6. The milkshake alone at Blondies cost $12!!

This week we were joined by PurpleMonkeyDishwasher prompting us to create a Burger Club motto: “Come for the burgers, stay for the monkey." He was camouflaged but I could still see him. Esther observed “He is the quietest monkey I have ever met.”

Burger Plus on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Don: 3.9/5

Bacon Burger
Platter: $9.25
Score: 3.9

Fat Boy
Platter: $9.95
Score: 3.1

Cheese Burger
Platter: $9.25
Score: 3.9

The Don has great service and makes a good burger! They don’t take reservations, but when I made a reconnaissance a couple of weeks ago they told me to give them an hour’s notice and they’d put some tables together for our group. I did and they did! The restaurant has an unusual layout; there’s a front half and back half connected by a long, winding hallway. The fifteen of us were comfortably seated in a brightly lit alcove along the window in the back. Or maybe it was the front – I’m not sure. Some of our group recognized our waitress from another restaurant across town because of her “Wow Bouffant Service!” Nelson noted “There was a delicious blend of 80s and 90s popular music selections playing on the house speakers, which added to the overall enjoyable dining experience.”

Our orders were taken quickly and the burgers came out fast. For once the reviews were fairly consistent across the group. There were no rants or raves. The patty was soft and well cooked – leaning towards dry.  It was handmade with nice ragged edges. The sautéed mushrooms were delicious and the crisp bacon had good flavour. There was a slice of real cheddar but I couldn't taste it. This is typical of pretty much every restaurant we’ve been too – it takes a pretty thick slab of cheddar to compete with all the other flavours in a burger. You can usually taste a slice of processed cheese though – that’s good or bad depending who you ask. The dollop of Bulls Eye BBQ sauce added some nice zing and didn’t overwhelm the flavour balance of the burger. A couple of diners thought the overall burger was a bit dry and could’ve used more sauce.

Most everyone made the same comment about the bun – they thought it tasted great, but was too big for the burger patty. It was nice and soft though, and did a good job containing the toppings. I think the patty could’ve been a little bigger, so maybe the bun was the right size.
Like the Oakwood and Seine River Cafés, the ingredients were top quality and the soups almost stole the show. I had the split pea and it was delicious and homemade – as good as any I’ve had. The borscht received similarly good reviews. When ordering drinks our waitress was describing the lemonade and April blurted “I want fresh squeezed!”
Today’s entertainment was provided by Liz. As she was leaving a couple of us asked what her stuffed toy was. She grabbed it and exclaimed “MukMuk!” It was funny. You probably had to be there :)

The Don Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Moxie's (MTS Centre): 3.5/5

Bacon Burger
Platter: $13.99
Score: 3.7

Fat Boy
Platter: $10.99
Score: 2.9

Cheese Burger
Platter: $11.98
Score: 3.2

I was surprised to see a fairly upscale restaurant like Moxie's with falling apart furniture and non-absorbent napkins that smelled like they were stored under the deep fryer. One of our group commented “The upholstery on the chair I had was torn so it kept catching my pantyhose.” There was lots of eye candy (for the guys at least - well, maybe the girls too), but not enough to make up for the mediocre burger and service. Moxie's is noisy and the music is energetic and loud. It's a popular place and our large group ended up sitting in the lounge. Perhaps the restaurant proper is in better shape.

The patty was greasy and soft. It was a bit grill seared and I tasted some pepper but otherwise it was just the grease flavour that came through - over and over. The patty wasn't large and made smaller by the oversized cold and crumbly bun.  Jacques observed “Buns were great but the one on the burger was tearing apart.“

I liked the crispy bacon - I'll take it over undercooked. Others would disagree with me though. I guess it's difficult to get bacon just right on the grill. I could taste the two slices of cheese, but again, the grease from the burger made the flavour less appealing. The cheese slid off the burger in a sheet. The mushrooms were really good if a little sparse. They were fresh and in big slices. The romaine and tomato were fresh as well. I couldn't discern the Dijon and BBQ sauce over the, you guessed it, grease. I asked for no onions and it was just as well; those that had the stack of fresh, red onions said they overpowered the burger.

The burger definitely wasn't worth the price resulting in a low value rating. As always though, tastes vary, even in Burger Club, and one burgerer quite enjoyed his and said “Best texture so far. Loved the flavour. Just enough Dijon.” Another burger enthusiast  commented “Burger was tasty, good bacon flavour and just the right amount of spices.” What was universal in the reviews was that the burger was greasy. “Pretty greasy burger - left a nice pool of grease on the plate. I guess grease enhances flavour.” “Many trips to the napkin to wipe the ooze” commented another.

Some liked the fries and some didn’t.  The ice tea mix was very industrial tasting - I should’ve had a beer. Nelson noted that “The salad was wilty and browning. (blech)”

Moxie's Classic Grill on Urbanspoon