Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Charlee's: 4.6/5

Fatboy (BBQTex) Burger $7.89 - Score: 4.5

Bacon Burger $7.89 - Score: 4.6

All burgers served as platters with soup, salad or fries

185 Stadacona St

BurgerClub is fun! Not to take way from our dedicated quest to provide an unbiased list of Winnipeg’s best burgers, but burger eaters are a very entertaining bunch to hang out with. I’ve noticed the free form comment cards seem to be less about the burgers and more about the other diners. Fear not though, the group still rates the various burger attributes (listed at the bottom of this blog) and we average the results to give you, our dedicated readers, a burger rating that you know you can rely on!

This week we have a new burger leader - Charlee’s! When you step into Charlee’s you’re treated to an “atmosphere (that) is cozy and relaxing and full of funky modern décor including my favourite parts, the awesome photos of local scenery blown up and cut into pieces like a puzzle! I also always get a smile out of glancing at the Alice in Wonderland tiered cake on their counter.” The only incongruous element was the music - apparently the cook’s a head banger. It wasn’t loud, but every once in while you’d become aware of the ambient thrash. The table surface was interesting - and we only noticed because writing the little review slips against the table made you’re writing go blurry. One diner figured it was a Braille message saying “Om” over and over. The price was very reasonable - especially for being served.

Today all the burgerers had either a bacon burger or fat boy. There was some debate over whether  Charlee’s BBQ Tex Burger should be called a fat boy. I figure if it’s got lettuce and tomato and in the absence of cheese and bacon - it’s a fat boy. I make the rules so I win :) Like Luigi’s, it came with onion rings. One diner picked their onion rings off though; who doesn’t like onion rings? The patty was “free range” (a.k.a. hand formed) and very, very tasty. The lettuce and tomato were fresh and ripe, and the pickle slice - large. The bun did the job nicely and was grilled. It was a larger patty than the bacon burger. In most of the restaurants we’ve been to, the patty can get lost in the lettuce and tomato but Charlee’s compensated.

The Peppercorn Bacon Burger had lots of flavour! I really enjoyed mine. The bacon was chopped up into perfect little bite sized pieces, fried to perfection and covered the top of the burger. That’s the way to do it - pay attention The Nook! The peppercorns really came through - it was a nicely spiced burger and you could still taste the beef. The overall flavour was very well balanced. One diner commented they would have liked more mayo and onions on the burger though.

The soup choices were delicious. My only complaint about the whole meal was the Caesar salad I ordered came with prepared croutons which *really* detracted from an otherwise nice salad. Savvy diners ordered the house salad which was yummy. Charlee’s has a lunch buffet that also looked quite good and most of the other tables were having the buffet.

These lunches are always educational and today we learned Dr. Pepper trivia and how to make a Marvin the Martian costume. My lunch mates are good people and all, but what kind of person knows Dr. Pepper trivia!?!? As always Cary provided lots of material for BurgerClub to abuse him over (such as his inflatable brain) and educated us on Mole Day - it’s Oct 23rd - put it on your calendar. Also, Cary wants to get his hands on a leisure suit so he can be "Leisure Suit Cary" and expressed some interest in experiencing a "kitten pile". Nelson turned blue but can't remember why.

Congrats on the return of the Jets!

Charlee's Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Junior's: 3.3/5

Cheese Burger $3.85 - Score: 3.1

Fatboy Burger $4.25 - Score: 3.8

Bacon Burger $4.38 - Score: 3.2

558 Portage Ave
It’s nice and bright and clean inside - there’s even a sun room - but it’s those good old curved melamine benches that you can’t move. The counter service was great - a girl took our orders very efficiently and with a smile. The burgers started coming out before the order-leaders had even made it back to the table after getting distracted by a shiny jukebox. Today, Cary was number one! I’m sure we’ll be hearing about that for years to come. As with most other counter service burger joints, the burgers came wrapped in foil served on a plastic tray. A handful of other diners came in but it was still pretty empty when we finished up at 12:30.

The burger was okay but it lacked personality” is what one sage diner said. Another said “Kinda like a small time McD's burger. Plain, dry and premade.” A third said “Burger quality was O.K., nothing to write home for. Wouldn't go out of my way to come for another one.”

There was a nice layer of chili sauce on mine - it was tangy and I could taste it on the burger. Two hours later, I’m still tasting it. The patties were preformed and fairly salty. My bacon double cheeseburger came with two slices of processed cheese and one wide, thin piece of bacon that pretty much covered the bottom of the bun. I could’ve got two slices for another 99 cents. The burgerers determined it was prepared bacon - I couldn’t taste it. Even so, it still beat out Johnny G’s meager bacon fragment. BurgerClub’s Angel had the following to say: “The burger sounded like it would be loaded with toppings however when it was opened the toppings were skimpy. The fries were perfectly crispy. Overall it was scrumptious but a little overpriced for the quality and quantity, other than the abundant amount of fries.”

As always, what do you talk about when dining out? All the great places you’ve eaten at! Dani and Russ got into some in depth discussion on the merits of sausage on a burger - and what really constitutes sausage anyways? Does it have to start out in tubular form? Also the fundamental question came up of whether having pork sausage meat blended in with a beef burger patty would disqualify it for BurgerClub. The jury is still out on that one, but thankfully we could agree that it would be okay to have sausage ON the burger. The ramifications of denying pork on a burger would mean no more bacon! Thankfully we talked our way through that near crisis.

You never know what wisdom Cary is going to share - and today it was about bondage clothing. I had no idea that the leash is hooked to the posture collar. I’m sure that knowledge will save me making an embarrassing faux pas one day.

Juniors on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

V.J.'s: 3.4/5

Cheese Burger $4.30  - Score: 2.9

Fatboy Burger $4.85 - Score: 3.7

Bacon Burger n/a - Score: 2.6

170 Main St
 No Bacon!?!? That was the first exclamation most BurgerClubbers made. V.J.’s does not put bacon on their burgers. Their advice was, if you really want bacon, go next door to Johnny G’s. One diner stated “I didn't think it was possible to score lower on the bacon scale than Johnny G's 1/2 slice” I’ve always thought V.J.’s made a fabulous burger but I guess I’ve gone with rose coloured glasses - all caught up with the charm of eating at V.J.’s and not really paying attention to the burger. Analytical eating has removed the flavour from V.J.’s for me. It’s a decent burger, but disappointing after some of the others we’ve tried. Zax still comes up every week for how good it was.

Somewhere along the way most burger clubbers stopped ordering fries, and the V.J.’s order-taker was a little surprised that only a couple did. That’s because their fries are awesome - one diner said “The fries are their own food group” - but the burgers, not so much. One of the things that makes V.J.’s special is their chili sauce - and they put on lots of it. Its messy eating so don’t wear a white shirt.

It was hot and brilliantly sunny - perfect weather. We’ve been waiting for this day to come so we could dine outdoors. The only tricky part was the wind so you had to guard your serviette/burger wrapper/skirt (as appropriate). Some of the folks who got there early grabbed two of the picnic tables so all twelve of us could sit together - well except Dani who wisely chose to sit in the shade up against the burger shack. If you’ve never been to V.J.’s they have a system. There is a covered walkway across the front. When you come in there’s an order-taker (with impeccable memory) standing in the doorway to the kitchen. She finds out what you want while you’re standing in line. You have to be ready for this because you probably can’t see the menu in the kitchen and the menu over the pickup window doesn’t have any prices on it. She relays the info to the burger flipper and assemblers, and you shuffle up to the window to pay the money person, take your food and exit out the other end of the corridor. It’s very efficient.

The burger patties were thinish, hand formed and kind’ve soft and squishy. They didn’t have any particular flavour. I’m glad I ordered a double because a single wouldn’t have cut it. People that had the V.J.s special with lettuce and tomato observed that the patty got lost on the burger. This may not be such a slight to the burger as testament to the piles of shredded lettuce and layers of ripe tomato on V.J.’s version of the Fatboy. The bun was nothing special - it was squishy and small, but it did do the job and held together despite all the chili sauce. One diner said the bun sucked, but I think she must be very particular about her buns.

One of the burgerettes wrote this dramatic tale on her patented BurgerClub rating slip: “I asked for a plain cheeseburger with bacon (No bacon?!), cheese and ketchup only … I received a nice crispy and tasty cheeseburger with two slices of cheese but no ketchup, and attempting to pull the cheesy burger apart failed so I had to resort to adding ketchup along the bite line instead.

There was a hand printed sign for Lime Milkshakes in the window and one diner tried it. He said it was “drinkable”. Another diner had the strawberry-banana shake and said it was awesome and took her back to high school. She must’ve liked high school. I’ve really enjoyed chili dogs at V.J.’s in the past and I’ll likely pick a dog over a burger when I go back.

VJ's Drive-in on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Nook: 4/5

Cheese Burger $4.00  - Score: 3.9

Fatboy Burger $4.25 - Score: 4.4

Chili Burger $6.25 - Score: 3.4

Bacon Burger - Score: 3.6

43 Sherbrook Street


Yummy fries and gravy

We’ve tried The Nook’s excellent Clubhouse sandwich and Rueben, so why not a burger too? It’s table service and The Nook takes reservations so they’re already looking good. The Nook is known for its large portions and reasonable prices so bring your appetite. When we arrived they had us in some fairly cozy seating, but quickly relocated the group of 12 to a roomier table in the back half of the restaurant. Apparently today was the day when all the Burger Clubbers wanted to describe their dream burger to the waitress. She was amazing and took down all our very picky orders. A reasonable time later our waitress and the cook (who is all business) brought out all the food as ordered. The only incident was one “no pickle” burger had a pickle on it. Somehow they realized their mistake as the food was set down, so told the diner, “there’s a pickle on your burger - just take it off”. It was a very busy lunch time (as I’m sure it always is at The Nook), so that was pretty much the last we saw of our waitress. Cries for more drinks, serviettes and cutlery went unheeded. It may not have helped that our large group was particularly boisterous so maybe they didn’t want to encourage us to linger.

Bacon double cheeseburger

The burgers were beautifully presented with a festive little cocktail stick holding the whole assembly together. The beef patties were large and hand formed, cooked thoroughly and tasty. One of my favourite things was there was lots of chili - big meaty chunks of it! One diner thought the chili was a little lacking in flavour - we all have different tastes and that’s why we average the ratings. The bacon burgers came with four - yes four - full slices of bacon. This was certainly awe inspiring and should have resulted in a most excellent burger - but the bacon was undercooked. Way, way undercooked on some burgers. Even if you liked eating soft bacon, it was just about impossible to bite through without pulling out a slice and having it hang off your chin. Some people left their bacon on the plate - I pulled mine out and cut it up. On another day when (presumably) the grill isn’t so rushed and the bacon is cooked more, this could be a contender for Winnipeg’s Best Burger. The bun was lightly grilled, but really wasn’t up to the job at all. Coupled with the yummy chili sauce, it was a messy burger. A few people ended up eating their burger with a knife and fork. The cheese was processed (I don’t think we’ve encountered real cheese yet) but flavourful. I had two slices on my double burger. The pickles were sweet (a surprise to the pickle people) and the onions came fried, but you could also ask for them raw - the raw onions were hot though! One diner even got fresh mushrooms on her dream burger.

Darned if I could get this to focus. That’s a
fresh mushroom on the front of the burger
The table was long enough that there were two, possibly three conversation zones. I can only imagine from reading the comments later what was going on at the other end of the table where discussions were around hickies, Trix and Fruit Loops. Also whose imaginary girlfriend\boyfriend was better. It’s funny how when someone mentions “G-Spot” all of a sudden everyone can hear just fine though. When one diner, we’ll call her April, enthusiastically rearranged her fries for a burger photo-op, she earned the nickname “fluffer”. Back at my end of the table the discussion was around the popularity of different condiments. Specifically, if you bought one of those Ketchup\Mustard\Relish 3-packs, what would run out first. A great deal of the discussion focused on how large the hole in the relish squeeze bottle should be.

One of the Clubhouse\Reuben\Gyro\Burger Club founding members who was still bitter about The Nook not winning Winnipeg’s Best Clubhouse honours expressed his discord by ordering a Clubhouse instead of a burger. The BurgerClub voted him off the island. Don’t mess with BurgerClub.
The Nook Diner on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Zax: 4.3/5

Cheese Burger $3.75  - Score: 4.4

Fatboy Burger $4.25 - Score: 4.7

Bacon Burger - add $1.25 - Score: 3.9

Chili Burger $4.75 - Not evaluated
1184 Portage Ave
Zax makes a great burger at a great price! None of the BurgerClub had been to Zax before and after a little digging we realized it was the latest in a long line of burger joints at the corner of Portage and Wall; most recently Wall Street Burger and before that a Burger Factory. The restaurant is bright and clean and quite comfortable. We got there a little early and it was a good thing too because by the time we finished it had filled up. Much like Daly Burger, Zax is counter service and you get your burger wrapped in foil. They took orders quickly and realized we were a group so made sure the cook knew. The service was very fast - everyone got what they ordered and we received our food all at once. The only incident was one FatBoy came without tomato - but when Brett took his muffin top .. er bun top .. to the cook he piled tomato on it and all was well.

As always, I had a bacon double cheeseburger. I can’t believe I’m saying this - but it was too much meat! The beef patties were free-range-hand-squished, thick and dense. They were thoroughly cooked - so not overly juicy (it wasn’t a messy burger) - but had great flavour. The bacon burgers came with four - yes four - slices of perfectly fried bacon. There was bacon sticking out of my bun all over the place! This really contrasted the bacon burgers we had last week at Johnny G’s that only came with 1/2 slice of bacon. I really liked the chili sauce and you could taste it. If you’re not a fan of chili they’ll make you a burger without it. The only deficiency in the burger was the cheese - I really couldn’t taste it and didn’t realize until I looked at the picture that there was a slice hidden between the patties. This was only a compliant with people that had double burgers - diners that had a single burger said the flavour balance was great. The bun suffered a little from being steamed and then wrapped in foil. It was perfectly sized to the burger though, and Karen noticed that when she got down to the last thimble sized morsel of burger, it still had a little bun and condiments on either side. Good to the last bite! Nelson didn’t finish his and Brett had eyes for Nelson's pickle.
Maybe it was the disappointing fries at Johnny G’s last week, but this week only one diner ordered fries. They were served in a Styrofoam take-way container with the fork impaled in the lid. Perfect presentation :) "Oh my chili cheese fries would taste good that way my friend!" - Brett

I pass out rating slips at BurgerClub and the back is for free form comments. They’re little 2” x 2” pieces of paper and someone asked why I don’t make them bigger. “It’s because I have to type in all your comments!” So now the challenge is to see how much one can write on four square inches. This week Dani managed 125 words, 506 characters (630 including spaces). Next week she gets the one square inch rating slip :p

Zax's Drive In on Urbanspoon