Tuesday, August 30, 2011

North Star Drive-in: 3.2/5

Cheese Burger $4.64 - Score: 3.4

Bacon Burger $4.91 - Score: 3.1

Fat Boy $4.91 - Score: 3.4

17 of us descended on the North Star Drive-In for burgers today. It was the end of summer for some as the kiddies and their guards got ready to head back to school. The smiling serving girl, who said it was her first day on the job, did great taking our orders. They were good sports and the guy pushing the potatoes through the fry-die gave a big, cheesy mug for the camera.

It’s a real burger shack in the north end and the menu was fun with items like “Friday Night Cheeseburger", "Blue Cheese Burger", "Call 911 Poutine" and "Gravy Lovers Dream". Although today there was also an “out of blue cheese” sign taped in the window. April had been super excited about the prospect of a blue cheese burger and was now distraught. The first few burger orders came out reasonably quickly, but some of the late-comers had to wait a while for their meals.

When my bacon-double cheeseburger was handed to me wrapped in foil paper, the first thing I noticed was the heft! I opened it and was awestruck at the sheer ginormousnous of it. It was massively bigger than the bun. Dani commented the “large patty overwhelmed the tiny bun”, but I think it was a regular sized bun shrunk by relative scale. I was momentarily confused, but then realized it had been wrapped upside down. I turned it over and was now faced with four full slices of thick and perfectly cooked bacon lolling out of the bun mocking me for being foolish enough to think I could eat a double. Also readily apparent was that it was a hand formed patty, fried hot in lots of oil until it was practically deep-fried and crispy. I had ordered the “real cheddar” option so peeled back the bun to have a look. I was faced with processed cheese - I think. It was gooey like cheese but had the consistency of a thick spread, so perhaps - it was sauce. It tasted good. I dug a little farther and spotted what I assumed to be a little square of melted cheddar-cheese-off-a-slab against the bun top. The bun had been buttered and grilled as well - which I thought boded well.

I rolled up my sleeves and tackled the brute knowing it was going to be a messy burger. The first few bites I devoured enthusiastically but my gusto wore off as I realized the beef had no flavour - which was the prevailing sentiment of the Burger Clubbers. There was no seasoning or chili in or on it. Jo-Ann “immediately noticed it was quite flat and more squareish than round.” - square apparently being an offense in the burger world. Sandy noted “The sauce & toppings were yummy” and she “enjoyed the squishy bun.” Ah yes, the poor overwhelmed bun. Mark put it best by saying the “Bun was a wrapper.” It quickly became so soaked with oil it was translucent and paper thin. Sandy commented “Well, good thing I like it messy!”

The prices were quite reasonable for the large burger you got, but a second patty was $2.25. One patty is probably enough for most people though.

Russ commented the “Homemade fries were chewy but still yummy” and April said “I got more fries than I could eat.”

There were three picnic tables and we needed them all. Two were on one side of the North Star and one was on the other so the group had to split in two. The tables had seen a lot of action. One of the tops was mostly rotten. The real issue though, was the wasps. Scott (the lizard leader) commented “I feel like a contestant on one of those crazy Japanese game shows. Swatting wasps off of mine and my kids food while trying to eat proved challenging.” Sandy-cheeseburger succinctly noted "wasp-o-rama!" As Dani said, there was “Heavy wasp traffic & medium wasp traffic, but wasps everywhere.” One final piece of wisdom heard today was “Twirling with a skirt on, around wasps is Inviting Danger."

The North Star Drive-In on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dairy Delight: 4.3/5

Cheese Burger $4.50 - Score: 4.3

Fat Boy $5.40 - Score: 4.0

Dairy Delight has huge … tracts of meat! It was another hot Manitoba morning and the ice cream, burgers and deck offered by Dairy Delight fit the bill perfectly. Our order taker did so with a big smile on her face. She was quick and assembled ice cream floats for several of us while we waited for our burgers to be cooked. The burgers came out sequentially, but quickly, and one by one we headed out to the deck and shady picnic tables to enjoy our feast.

The burgers were massive - each patty easily 3/4” thick! My double was heavy! They were served piping hot with the outside seared crispy and the inside steamy moist. Most of us - including myself - had a double and I could barely finish mine. Dairy Delight makes the standard line up of burgers and cheeseburgers. They come with chili and also offer a Fat Boy with lettuce and tomato. There’s a chili burger too, which presumably comes with *even more* chili and is served in a bowl. None of us tried it today. There was no bacon though - a basic accoutrement as Dani put it, but so many burger shacks don’t offer it. Must be a weird bylaw or something.

The burger patty was hand formed with a rough edge that made it even crispier and tastier. It was seasoned with lots of pepper. I feel like I'm in a meat coma though. The patties tasted great, and it was certainly a good value burger for the amount of beef you got - the second patty was only $1 more - but all I could taste was beef. I can't believe I'm saying that likes it's a bad thing! I think a single would've had a better flavour balance. Everybody loved their burger though, and gave it a high rating. Scott commented “After consuming I wanted to lie on the ground and have a midwife rub my belly.” Young Mitch dazzled us with his logic “There's too much meat, but it tastes like the right amount of meat”. Russ said the pickles were great. I’m not a pro-pickle guy.

The only downside to eating on the deck was the couple of wasps that were around. Luckily girls taste better so the wasps left me alone. The tables were clean and in great shape unlike some other places we’ve dined where you wouldn’t eat any food that touched the top. Dani managed get grease on her shirt but stated "I always get sloppy, that's why I bring an extra t-shirt". Sandy noted “At one point it looked like Scott was doing a dine & dash and then saw he was heading to the "Bounce 'n Good Times!"” next door.

The root beer float was awesome! It had “tons of soft ice cream & little room for Root Beer - perfect!” as Sandy put it. It gets that root beer fuzz when soda meets ice cream. They give you the can though so you get to drink the leftover root beer.

There was lots of Twitterpating going on today and it was good thing. Big-T noticed and made a dash for Dairy Delight and is now Burger Club’s newest member. If you can find us - you’re in!

Sandy had a great idea for +30 days = Margarita Club!

Dairy Delight on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Salisbury House (Provencher): 3.9/5

Cheese Burger $4.49 - Score: 3.9

Bacon Burger $4.99 - Score: 4.0

Mushroom Burger $4.99 - Score: 3.5

Fat Boy $4.49 - Score: 4.6

Photo: accesswinnipeg.com

This week Burger Club evaluated a Winnipeg institution - Salisbury House. The burger was surprisingly good, but more about that later. The main topic of discussion was how incredibly slow the service was at the Provencher location on the Esplanade Riel. It was a two hour lunch - but the view was great!

There were 14 burgerers so I phoned Sals to see if we could make a reservation. “We don’t take reservations, but we can set up tables for you” and when we arrived, sure enough, the tables were set and they were waiting for us - a lot like a reservation. So, Sals had fair warning, but our server sure wasn’t up to the task. At one point he brought out 4 plates - and then went off to finish off another table’s bill, greet some people at the door, seat another group ... Finally at one point when he was walking by I flagged him down and said “See those 6 plates sitting on the kitchen pass thru? Those are ours. Go grab them!” It didn’t get any better. Mike commented “Our server who described "spillsies" in reference to juice spilling kind of scared me.

Click for larger image
The plan is to visit the seasonal burger joints during the summer months and save the indoor venues for when it’s cold. The Sals-Provencher location meets this criterion because they close in the winter. What drew us to Sals this week was their recent promotion of the “Build-a-Nip.” What a great idea! So, somewhat in our server’s defense, all the orders were elaborate - and no two burgers were the same. Most of the burgers came as specified - I think only a couple of diners were missing items.

Bacon Double Cheeseburger
With the Build-a-Nip you specify your own burger - which means you get it just how you like it - but it also puts the responsibility back on the diner to choose items that work together. Cary lamented that he didn’t make good topping choices. I don’t think he made any choice - he checked everything off! I specified a bacon-double cheeseburger and I gotta say, it was great! I’ve had Nips before and they’ve been disappointing - mainly due to the tiny little burger patty hidden in the bun. The Build-a-Nip burger came with a nice large, beefy tasting patty that filled the bun to its edge. It was coarse ground and quite juicy - more watery than fatty. Word on the street is that the burger meets the grill as a ball of beef and then the cook squishes it with a spatula. The grill must’ve been hot because there was a nice crust on the patty while it was still tender on the inside. A couple of comments about the toppings are that the mushrooms are canned and the “cheddar” cheese is a processed cheese slice. It wasn’t bad tasting for processed cheese, but disappointing if you’re expecting a slice of real cheddar. The bacon was delicious though - crispy to perfection! It was also a good deal - the additional toppings on the Build-a-Nip are all 50 cents - to keep the math simple I suppose - including the bacon. I also had the chili, which I quite enjoyed, and the chipotle mayo sauce which had a nice zing without competing with the rest of the flavours in my burger. The buns are baked fresh in the centralized commissary (where all the food served at Sals comes from) and then toasted at the restaurant. It was a nice soft bun and held up to the end. It was a messy burger though - mostly from the juice coming out of the patties - two in my case.

Canned Mushrooms

April commented “My burger tasted fantastic … Even though the cheese was not melted over the canned mushrooms.

Bacon Bacon Burger
Another diminutive female diner commented that “My nip was incredibly tasty & the bacon was super crispy but I'm still hungry!! It was so small!!” She went for a single burger. Rookie :)

Meat! Meat! Meat!

Kari wrote on her rating slip “I came ready to slag the burger and was only showing up to see the view and meet up with friends. While coleslaw was lacking in flavour, burger was tasty, the flavours worked and I enjoyed the whole thing.”

Onion Ring

Christie stated “Love the build a nip concept! My creation was ok, with the bacon and onion rings adding a wonderful crunch.”

Christie noted the “Yam fries were very yummy.” April echoed her sentiment with the “sweet potato fries and dip tasted fantastic.” Also that the “Red Velvet cake is plate-licky good - better then Dessert Sinsations, not as good as Cakeology.” Jo-Ann commented that “The fries are perfectly tasty and the coleslaw is yummy too! I also love the bottomless glass of pop”, but Kari said the “coleslaw was lacking in flavour.” Dani noted that the “Coffee was a dark roast so ordered hot water with my second cup.”

Bunless Brett - the Bacon Arrived Later
When the group is this big I can’t hear all the conversations going on and read about them on the rating slips later. Usually without any context though so I get to imagine what I want. For example Brett wrote “Dani's mind projector is hand cranked” and Mike noted “Sandy commented to Brett "I'll have your buns!" Wonder what she meant by that!?” Brett remarked “She was the best Tim ever had” and Sandy wrote “Later, the conversation turned to topics of which Brett has no experience in ... Tim might have to school him later.”

The Works

Christie wrote that she “Enjoyed modeling my Little Red Riding Hood themed outfit.” Her t-shirt had an image of a hot air balloon and as she pointed out, sky should be over land so Christie’s skirt was covered in little trees - and of course - Little Red Riding Hood buttons moving through the forest. Awesome!

Of course the Sals is in the middle of the bridge so the first quandary you face is which side of the river to park on. With construction at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, parking on The Forks side is far away - but there’s a golf cart running back and forth ferrying people from their cars to the Sals. Sandy commented “I suppose the highlight of today's burger club experience was getting "picked up" on the way to the restaurant.” She might have been talking about the golf cart. Dani noted “Rating this low on service and comfort due to the 30 km hike from the nearest parking spots. Otherwise, it's a great location! I like that a golf cart will take me back to my car.”

I so enjoyed reading this review by the Breakfast Connoisseurs I’m going to plug it here.  This is brave of me because it’s so much better than this blog that Burger Club readers will probably jump ship.

Salisbury House (Seasonal) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Burger Place: 4.3/5

Junior Burger Clubber Review

Cheese Burger $4.00 - Score: 4.4

Bacon Burger $5.00 - Score: 4.1

Fat Boy $4.45 - Score: 4.3

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We had another excellent turn out for Burger Club - 14 altogether. We got there early and completely took over the restaurant. In fact, the server brought out his own personal chair for Sandy to sit on (which Brett promptly took for himself - who says chivalry is dead?) I ordered first and let the cook know there was a bunch of us coming so he loaded up the grill with burger patties.

1/3 of us - Sandy has the “special” chair
The service couldn’t have been friendlier and the burgers came out fast and made to order. The Burger Place is also quite inexpensive and the second “best value” burger so far - practically tied with the best value burger from Zax. Note: To calculate burger value we divide the overall restaurant burger rating by the price of a fat boy (the “standard”). Cary commented “A place that stays around this long MUST have something good. It was.” It’s counter service, but so cozy they could pass us our food from behind the counter without having to get up. Another (female) diner commented “I am very biased towards this place, primarily because it's my dad's favourite and makes a point to visit every time he comes from Edmonton. Also, this new guy behind the counter is pretty easy on the eyes!” So there you go - another reason to come to The Burger Place!

Bunless Brett’s Burger
The overall burger rating was 4.25 which places The Burger Place as a five star burger! I’ve no doubt the ratings are affected by the mood of the Burger Clubbers, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves at The Burger Place. I figure if the staff make it such a great experience that the burger tastes better, then it probably should rate a little higher.

Bacon Double Cheeseburger
I had my usual bacon double cheeseburger. It was great tasting and quite filling. The first thing I noticed was how good the bacon was. It was crispy and had lots of flavour. The double patties were thick and juicy and very lightly seasoned - soft but not mushy. I didn’t notice there was anything added to the burger meat until Brett told me they had blended in a panade of bread crumbs which probably helped keep the patties tender. Some restaurants add way too much “filler” turning a burger into meatloaf. Not The Burger Place, it was great. It was a very well flavour balanced burger and I could taste the chili and cheese as well as the bacon and beef patties. Mike said “the burger could be described as fresh and cheery.” The cheese was most definitely processed - a distraction for some diners - but today I was in the mood for that taste. I can’t really say what it was about the chili, but it didn’t get me excited. Liz thought the “chili sauce a little bland.”  

That's a BIG Burger!

If you opted for the Deluxe burger with lettuce, tomato and mayo it was a messy burger! One thing most diners agreed on was the “Hamburger was BIG” Mike sat at the kids table and mused: “Sitting at the kids table gave me new perspective on burger ratings. In my hands, the burger was big. In the hands of the kids, monstrous!” The bun was nice and soft and big enough to do the job.

 A couple of folks commented “Awesome milkshake” and “Another tasty milkshake and great value for the size.” The poutine looked great but one diner said “Mediocre fries but lots of them.”

Scott Looking Ferocious

Scott received a present at lunch that I knew would both entertain and serve a practical purpose. It was a L’iL Sucker drink holder that he immediately put to use. This particular one was a size small but bragged that “This hole stretches to 3 inches!” and can obtain “release with one finger”.

The Burger Place on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

UnBurger: 4.2/5

Greek Burger (Oopah!) $7.50 - Score: 3.9

Bacon Burger (Delciousmosttastious) $8.50 - Score: 4.5

UnBurgers are not veggie burgers - they’re “Unconventional” - and tasty! 5 star tasty according to BurgerClub, and really, who else’s opinion matters?
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UnBurger is bright and clean and fun. There were lots of kitchen and serving staff - apparent because it’s an open kitchen and you can look in while making up your mind what to order. All the staff had grins on their faces and were clearly waiting to see how we reacted. The first fun thing happened right in the ordering line. The pop comes in bottles and there’s a big bottle opener on the wall to pop your top with a cap bucket on the floor below. You’d think opening your bottle, and having the cap drop into the bucket would be a fairly simple matter, but not so! It’s more like one of those midway games where you try and win the stuffed monkey. Nelson finally gave up and asked if I could “do him”. The next fun thing happened at the cash register where they give you an action figure instead of a number to identify your table for when they bring the food out. If you put Boon Burger’s T-Rex up against UnBurger’s Incredible Hulk I think it would be an even match.
It took about 25 minutes for our food to come out - but this may have been by design so all our burgers could be presented at once. We were entertained scanning QR codes for Youtube videos and Twitter as well as reading all the humorous words of wisdom and slogans painted on the walls and ceiling while we waited. "Oh my, that unburger is quite slimming on you!" UnBurger may be counter service, but your food is delivered on real plates with real cutlery.

Most of us had the “Delciousmosttastious” which is UnBurger’s bacon-cheeseburger. It’s a finely ground, lean, hand formed and nicely herbed burger. There was no filler and it was a dense and juicy beef patty. It was a fairly small burger, and expensive compared to others we’ve tried, but good quality, healthy ingredients and “all natural, never frozen” ground beef comes at a premium price. When I go again I’ll “Arnold-Size” the burger and make it a double. The rosemary sauce was very tasty, but overwhelmed the burger a bit. I didn't notice the cheese (even though it was real cheddar). Cary observed there was “Not much meat in the burger (because that is the unhealthy part), but lots of good taste.” There was lots of fresh vegetable toppings. I had the Ciabatta bun and expected it to be hard and break apart - but it was soft, not too thick and held together to the last bite.

Mike had the Drunken Aussie burger and had this to say: “Burger showed up on a "fresh bun" looking like a breakfast mistake. Squeezing those fresh buns together brought the egg yolk streaming down the sides like a molten yellow river. So many flavours competing for attention - egg, beef, pineapple and beets. Yes, who’d a thought beets would have worked, but they did. Great flavours!” Karen commented: “That burger looked like a Cyclops!”

A few people tried the yam fries and were under whelmed. They were dark like those pub fries that taste good covered in malt vinegar, but really didn’t have a lot of flavour.

A healthy burger restaurant in the village attracts beautiful people who want to have a burger and still keep their figures and Karen noticed “There's a lot of upper class customers - I feel so out classed, I need a swig from my brown bag baby duck!”

Unburger on Urbanspoon