Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Park Tower (closed): 4.2/5

Bacon Burger $7.25 - Score: 4.3

Cheese $6.75 - Score: 3.8

Fat Boy $7.75 - Score: 4.0

2015 Portage Ave

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How big is it?
The Park Tower’s interior décor makes up for the nondescript strip mall exterior. We made reservations and they were ready and waiting for us when we arrived early for lunch. It got quite busy but our waitress was super. She was all smiles, very quick and made sure we were all happy.

The tables were set with glasses and silverware, nice tablecloths and tall, comfy chairs. The room was bright from all the surrounding windows and the floor tiled. There were lots of appealing design elements and stylish lighting, but the ceiling was the most interesting with its inverted colorful pyramids.

After telling us all the specials, our waitress was surprised (like a kitten playing peek-a-boo) that we all wanted burgers. They offer a great selection of burger choices and sitting in the middle of the table was a card describing the 2 lb Tower Burger with a taunt “Are you up for it?” Nelson couldn’t resist Brett’s dare, so the two of them went for the Tower. The ladies all ordered singles and I ordered a double.

2 lb Tower Burger

As we waited for our burgers the restaurant slowly filled up - seemingly the popular choice of silver maned ladies. They of course, didn’t order burgers, and instead opted for one of the main specials or some other form of dainty food. If you’re in a hurry, stick with the special. It took a while for our burgers to come out, but it could have been the extra cooking time required for the 2 lb burgers and they served us all at once. First the singles came out and they were huge. Then my double came out and my jaw dropped at the sight of it. More revealing though, was the look of fear that came over Brett and Nelson when they realized their Tower Burgers were going to be twice as big. Then the 2 lb burgers came out and they were met with shock and awe and many an “Oh my God!”

Tower Burger Strata
When we first looked at the menu, the burger prices seemed a little high, but once we saw the size of the meat patties, the price was justified. As to the 2 lb Tower Burger, as Nelson put it “When a burger costs $15, there's a good reason.”

Single Burger with Fries

The beef patties were not only thick, but huge in diameter. They were easily 2 to 3 times the size of most other burgers we’ve had - comparable in size to Super Boys 1/2 lb patty but even bigger. The buns were equally matched to the task. It raised the question, did Park Tower size the burgers to match the buns or vice versa? Dani had a single and commented “the burger was yummy. Good bun/patty ratio. Shouldn't have ordered the fries though.”

Tower Burger Challengers

The patties were juicy - almost fatty - and served steaming hot. The first couple of bites were pleasantly intriguing with all the savoury seasoning, but after a while I was only aware of the pepper. My double burger had *way* too much meat for a nice flavour balance. My mistake - I ordered the double without finding out how big the single was first. As much as I enjoy beef, the meat overwhelmed the other flavours in my double burger. It was tasty, but it’s difficult for that much meat to stay as flavourful as a small, seared, patty like UnBurger served. My advice - less is more.

Bacon Double Cheeseburger

My double burger came with double bacon and it was all in a stack on the bottom of the burger. I liked it. I had a bacon layer I could taste much like a well made Club House. There was a nice layer of chili on my double burger and I enjoyed it. It had a tanginess which worked well against the dominant beef flavour. Even the cheese was tasty.

45 minutes to move the Tower 12"

It’s a minor thing, but some of the toppings seemed rushed with mayonnaise drooling down the side or a big dollop of mustard smack, dab in the middle of the bun. They offer relish if you ask for it, which savvy Kari did.

Tower Burger eating technique
Most of today’s comments were about the 2 lb Tower Burger though. Brett said “If I could just unhinge my jaw, I could eat my burger; so far all I can eat is the fall out.” Karen noted that “Nelson is all appetite and no body!” and Kari observed “It was bigger than Nelson's head” and added “I can just see Brett and Nelson, lying like Pythons with a big burger bump, unable to move.” Nelson has been upgraded on Brett's hero list for his burger choice. Nelson understated “That was one big burger, but "svelte Brett" managed to eat the whole thing.” He also commented “The lack of oxygen to my brain is impeding my ability to string words together for this review.” Brett got the meat sweats afterwards. Good thing there were lots of napkins.

Gravy comes by boat
Karen ordered a side Greek salad instead of fries, and it was a huge portion with fresh Romaine and tomatoes and lots of Feta cheese. It was fairly liberally drenched in dressing though and soggy closer to the bottom.

Burger Club Crew
On a side note, Nelson does a really good cow impersonation and Kari was hilarious showing us what a (bad) dancer with a "white man overbite” looks like. We’re going to have to start shooting video at BurgerClub.

Park Tower Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Red Top Drive-Inn: 4.0/5

Bacon Burger $5.09 - Score: 3.9

Fat Boy $4.29 - Score: 4.0

It was pouring rain and the sluggish coffee crowd was only just starting to wander out of the Red Top when we arrived for lunch. The cozy red Naugahyde booths are four-bangers but we managed to get three of them gaping at each other so we could still have decent banter.

The Red Top menu offers a variety of burgers and you can get them unplattered, or plattered with salad/slaw and French fries. The burgers are inexpensive - especially for table service - with the platter adding $3.70 to the price.

It was busy - even at 11:30 - but our waitress did a fine job setting us up with drinks and taking orders. Apparently “Table 1” wore out the waitress though. She was laughing and tells jokes, but by the time she got to “Table 3” her smile was gone. The first round of burgers took about 30 minutes to come out - the second round longer - so the cook didn’t share our server’s swiftness.

The Burger

The patty was coarse, dense and had no real flavour.  It didn’t taste like much without chili. Kari lamented “Should have added cheese and bacon”. The burger was cooked well and crispy on the outside.

The bacon tasted "livery" and was undercooked (but not as bad as The Nook). Biting through it was difficult.

There were two slices of processed cheese so that flavour really came through.

Nelson rejoiced the “Burger came with a side of salad (inside the bun!)”

There was a lot of bun and they were double ended - they had no bottom - only tops. Kind of a sesame seed covered baseball. It cracked instead of squished (and it wasn't a crusty bun). It was up to the task of holding all the ingredients together, but there was too high a “bun to burger” ratio. April mourned “I had half a bun left over when my meat was done.”

The servings were large - especially the platter. April moaned “I could not possibly eat all that food.” Cary exclaimed the “Salad was well made.” Karen shouted “My side order of coleslaw was ridiculously huge!” I’m used to seeing coleslaw served in a small cup, but you get a 6” plate heaped with slaw at the Red Top!

Brett purred “The fries and gravy were fabulous.”

Addendum: How could I have forgotten to mention the 6 patty “Monster Burger”? It’s a 24 oz. (total) burger on a crusty loaf with cheese, chili, lettuce, tomato, pickle and the usual condiments for $14.99. None of us had it today. Our waitress explained that they sell them fairly regularly, and most people that order one, finish it. She also went on to tell us a story of an entire class of grade 8 students that came in and ordered one and ALL finished it. So, if you order a Monster Burger at the Red Top and don’t finish it, they’ll think less of you.

Burger Clubbers look out for one another. Christie observed “I am saving Tazz's heart one onion ring at a time. If I keep eating his onion rings, our life expectancies will meet in the middle.”

Burger Club Bloopers

I run around annoying diners taking pictures for the blog. This week April was heard to say "Just a minute, I’m fluffing!" before I could take the picture.

Brett had a corner seat and when the waitress was sweeping around, burger platter held high in the air, Brett gasped “I though the sky was falling … seems it was just lettuce.”

Not a burger - but really, really good
Red Top Drive-Inn on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Super Boy's: 4.1/5

Bacon Burger $4.91 - Score: 4.1

Fat Boy $4.46 - Score: 4.1

Super Boy’s has been there 27 years and I managed not to notice it! They make a *huge* burger and the cook-lady was a super-lady. For Scott, she offered to abandon 2 fryer baskets loaded with bubbling oil soaked fries and then went to go hunting for an apple juice in the back room. She had awesome banter and took the time to ask about us, and then offered to take a group picture even though she was busy with the lunch rush.

I mistakenly thought there was only an outdoor picnic table, but there’re nice tables and chairs inside as well. They didn’t mind us moving them around so all eight of us could sit together. The weather in Winnipeg went from +30 to -1 c over 2 days so it’s time to head inside again. Ordering was easy. There were lots of visual aids taped to the counter, so you could see and point to what you wanted. The menu math was also easy - prices included taxes.

Normally I order a double but my eyes went wide when I saw the gigantic patties on the grill. She saw my expression (I'm an open book) and pointed out that they were 1/2 pound patties. I went for a single. Brett opted for the double and at one point I looked over to see him staring fiercely at a half eaten burger that seemed to be mocking him back. Not to be beaten by meat, Brett persevered and remains undefeated! Brett’s meat was the subject of some amusement - when he unwrapped it, I took one look and said “I need a picture of Brett’s meat!” In retrospect, perhaps a poor choice of words. Dani said I needed a wide angle lens.

Reviews of the burger were pretty consistent. It was huge and inexpensive, but quite soft and fall-aparty. There seemed to be a fair amount of filler - some described it as a bit like meat loaf. The patty had a bit of a grill crust, but not enough to maintain it’s structural integrity. As burgers self destructed, some of the crew resorted to using a knife and fork to keep it civilized. If you had a Super Boy, it was quite messy. Still, a lot of people liked the burger, and one or two loved it. It made Burger Club’s Top-10 (so far).

The chili sauce met with mixed reviews. It had a fairly strong flavour of cinnamon and perhaps cloves. That didn’t work for Brett and me, but Scott thought it was tasty. I couldn't really taste the bacon (even on my single burger), although it was cooked nicely.

It was a big doughy bun, but fully enveloped the ginormous patty. It made me realize the bun at the North Star really was quite small - my apologies for doubting Dani who knows small buns when she sees them. As Nelson put it, “the burger/bun combination was quite soft - not that there is anything wrong with that!”

The fries were a surprise. Russ exclaimed “My fries taste like deep fried perogies!” I tried some and sure enough, they did. How good it that!

Superboys on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

White Top Drive-In: 4.5/5

Bacon Burger $5.25 - Score: 4.7

Fat Boy $4.45 - Score: 4.3

The White Top burger is sooo good! Two decimal points separate it from the #1 spot currently held by Charlee’s. If you look at the Urban Spoon reviews most if them talk about how friendly the White Top staff are. They are.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made the White Top burger so good. Everything just worked. The beef patties were juicy and soft without being crumbly and had nice flavour. They weren’t seared on the grill. The chili tasted like real chili - meaty with a nice bit of spice. The ample bacon was delicious and I could even taste the cheese. Those that had the Fat Boy enjoyed a nice ripe tomato and enough shredded lettuce to make a side salad.
The only tricky part about the White Top is there is nowhere to sit down and eat. We knew this before arriving so made plans to get “take-away” and head back to The Forks to enjoy our meals. It was a beautiful day to sit on the patio. As Dani put it, it was a “progressive burger-club lunch.” One neat thing about the White Top is it has a drive through.
The service was quick and the price very reasonable. White Top beat out Zax as the “best value burger.” I guess that foil-paper wrap really works because my burger was still nice and warm when I dug into it. It stood up well to travel.
The fries were yummy - which came as no surprise as we watched them come fresh out of the fryer.

Click for larger image

We were a small but buoyant group of burger eaters and today’s lesson was: Buoys <> Boys especially if you’re a lifeguard.

A note about The Forks: We decided to meet under the disco ball, which, according to the official map is called “The Forks Market Plaza”. Apparently us locals affectionately know it as “The Plaza.” It’s true, we were getting all misty eyed and nostalgic whenever the name came up. We were also getting confused because the adjacent urban skate park is also known as “The Plaza.” The Forks marketing machine compare the disco-ball-(ice) skating-rink to Rockefeller Centre so the next time you’re there you can imagine you’re in New York City.

White Top Drive In on Urbanspoon