Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sonya's (closed): 4.5/5

190 Henderson Hwy

 Bacon Boorger
 Score: 4.5

 Cheese Boorger
 Score: 4.9

Sonya’s is a little family run restaurant hidden in plain sight at the corner of Henderson and Hart. The entry vestibule is a TARDIS and when you step out the other side you’re in a small town diner in the 1970s - in Czechoslovakia. Steve is a hoot and his humour shows up in the notices posted around the restaurant. The pitcher of water is “Vodka”, knives are "only for boorger, not for fight!" and the soup of the day is always "Good homemade." Steve took orders by table and handed them off to Vera cooking in the kitchen. The food came out in waves and the burger patties were steaming hot off the grill.

There were thirteen burger-clubbers and everyone loved their burger! Everything is home made - even the mayonnaise. Sonya’s burger came in at #2 just behind Charlee’s, received the highest restaurant experience rating, and raised the bar for great value. The owner Steve’s personality makes the whole experience - Sonya’s really is a treasure. The burgers are a good size and the prices are like the décor … wonderfully from the seventies. A Fat Boy is served to you for only $2.60! Sonya’s is at the start of the Disraeli Bridge construction so parking is a bit tricky right now. There are a handful of stalls behind the restaurant if you’re lucky enough to get one.

Everyone had a bacon burger. Well, except April who later said “should have ordered some too. Never hesitate on the bacon!” You have the option of a spicy burger. Get it spicy - it comes with tangy Jalapenos and a Dijon mustard sauce that really adds to the experience without being overpoweringly hot. Also, I think this is one of those "less is more" situations and a single burger offers better flavour balance. The patties are big and I didn’t need the double to satisfy my hunger.

The burger patties were hand-made and had a helluvalot of flavour. They were crispy outside and juicy-moist inside. Nelson said “the whole thing melted in my mouth.”  Every cheeseburger came with two slices of cheese! I have a strange affliction - I like the taste of processed cheese and enjoyed the stand out flavour. If you’re not a fan of processed cheese you might be a little sad though. The bacon was perfectly crisp, but a little scarce. Spring for the extra 50 cents and get a second slice for more flavour. Scott commented “Om-nom-nomy! I loved the fresh onions, although my co-workers may have a different opinion.” The bun needed warming but did its duty - with sesame seeds on top!

Brett described the fries as “limp, not crispy - like rectangular mashed potatoes with gravy.” Cary ate all the table fries at Table #2 so I guess he was a fan. Cary also ate Kari’s burger (as well as his own) so hopefully that makes up for getting stiffed at the great Black Sheep debacle last week.

There’s a splendid tool calendar by the cash register upholding that age old tradition of beautiful buxom bikini bound babes beholding bandsaws. Steve pointed out that Ms. October is his cousin and Ms. November is his sister. I like Steve.

Diners are instructed to
open your face for hot beef -
and boy is that beef hot!

Our table are all going to be
foursquare friends! Hooray!

Sonya's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Quest for Winnipeg’s Best Burger - 6 Month Round-Up

BurgerClub is committed to finding Winnipeg’s Best Burger and have set aside a year to do it! We’re just over halfway through our enviable mission and thought it would be a good time to summarize what we’ve learned so far.

We rate the burgers on their own, giving extra weight to quality and flavour, and average the ratings of all the burgerers in attendance to come up with the overall burger rating. We also rate the restaurant separately based on price, service and comfort and recognize that there are three distinct service levels in the burger world: table service, counter service and window service. Finally because you can spend a little or a lot for a really good burger, we calculate the burger value based on the rating divided by the price of a standard “Fat Boy”. These are the 5-Star burgers that were also inexpensive and came with a good restaurant experience:

Best Table Service

««««« The Peppercorn Bacon Burger was delicious and Burger Club’s overall #1! The bacon was chopped up into perfect little bite sized pieces, fried to perfection and covered the top of the hand formed patty. The overall flavour was very well balanced. It comes as a platter and be sure to try the house salad. Charlee’s is also highly rated on value - the platter was only $7.89 and they know how to treat you right there. The service was great.

Jo-Ann: My favorite continues to be Charlee's Peppercorn Bacon... all I gotta say is DROOL! :P

Cary: Charlie’s peppercorn bacon burger with the bacon cooked into the side of the burger was truly inspired by the Burger Gods!

Best Counter Service (2-way tie)

««««« The beef patties were free-range-hand-squished, thick and dense. A single burger is all you need - a double overwhelms the flavour. The bacon burgers came with four - yes four - slices of perfectly fried bacon. If you order fries they come in a Styrofoam container with the fork impaled in the lid. The service was very fast - everyone got what they ordered and we received our food all at once. The Fat Boy is a meager $4.25 giving Zax a high value rating.

Kari: If I say it loudly enough, maybe I can sway others Zax. My most favourite cheeseburger. Everything works with this one. The patty is flavourful, the bun awesome and the overall taste and texture made me want to start all over again and enjoy it twice.

Brett: Zax or Dairy Delight or White Star. I guess I have to give it to Zax as I have been back twice since. Isn’t that really the determining factor? I don’t think it is just the convenient location. I think it is quantity, flavour, price and service that makes this a place that you head to and know all the bases will be covered in a reasonable amount of time.

Best Counter Service (2-way tie)
Burger Place

««««« If you live in St James you’re lucky because you’ve got your choice of great burger joints! The patties were thick and juicy and very lightly seasoned - soft but not mushy. The bacon was crispy and had lots of flavour and it was a very well balanced burger. When you go, order a milkshake - they were awesome and great value for the size. The Fat Boy was inexpensive at $4.45 and it was a big burger. Burger Place also received a high rating because the service couldn’t have been friendlier and the burgers came out fast.

Best Window Service (2-way tie)
White Top

««««« Everything just worked to make the White Top our #2 burger. The beef patties were juicy and soft without being crumbly and had nice flavour. The chili tasted like real chili - meaty with a nice bit of spice. Those that had the Fat Boy enjoyed a nice ripe tomato and enough shredded lettuce to make a side salad. There’s nowhere to sit, but the White Top has a drive through. The service was friendly and quick and with the Fat Boy being only $4.45, the White Top received the second highest value rating too.

Best Window Service (2-way tie)
White Star

««««« Don’t even consider any burger but the Mortimer topped with pulled pork and a slice of real cheddar cheese! The basic Fat Boy is inexpensive at $4.75 but the Mortimer is worth every penny at $8.35.Couple it with a great milkshake and you’ve got yourself a meal. One of the nice things about the White Star is you can pre-order and pick up your waiting food at lunch. There’re only a couple of seats inside but in the summer you can picnic in Market Square.

Most Improved
Salisbury House

«««« The new Build-a-Nip is not the Nip of old - it was delicious!  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. The bacon was delicious - crispy to perfection! Don’t order the mushrooms though - they come from a can. Also, the “cheddar” cheese is a processed cheese slice. Sals is famous for its Red Velvet Cake and it's still plate-licky good. The service was quite possibly the slowest I’ve ever experienced so don’t be in a hurry.

Kari: Okay, repeating myself but I must say that the Salisbury big Nip more than surprised me. After trying one of their burgers at a Goldeyes game, was sure I would hate this one. Nope. It was great. The service at the Esplanade was abhorrent, but the burger and the view made up for that. I will eat one again.

Honourable Mention
Burger Factory for overall best value and best restaurant

«««« The burgers are flame broiled, but the fairly inexpensive, pre-fab patties brought the rating down. They’re priced accordingly though, and the Burger Factory had by far the best value burger with a Fat Boy selling for $3.35! You get to choose your own toppings - which is great - but possibly the best thing about the Burger factory is George!

Dani: I’d have to say that my favourite burger to date has been the Burger Factory burger.  Largely because of the freedom to have the burger constructed exactly how I wanted.  Paired with that the size of the burger and bun and flavour, I think it’s a winner all the way around. I’d also like to give honourable mention to The Nook for the quantity of bacon that came with the burger and Charlee’s for the flavour.

Burger Club Personal Picks

April: If the burger I had at Original Joe’s were a man, I would marry it. Second to that was A&V Drive in good value and flavor.

Editor’s note: Original Joe's is Burger Club’s #3 burger but didn’t make the top picks because it’s an expensive burger!

Mike: The Drunken Aussie at Unburger: I didn't know what to expect when I saw the name. In Canada, we have this Maritime Song, 'what would you do with a drunken sailor'... That's what I thought of when I ordered it. It really was as if some drunk guy grabbed whatever he saw in his fridge and slapped it on because he was hungry. Despite the name and the odd list of ingredients, it was a pleasant surprise and one I wouldn't hesitate to order again. Great name, great flavours and a lasting impression.

Karen: I remember my first time at Luigi's.  I had the Luigi burger and I ate the whole thing.  It was as big as my head and super tasty.  This was all before burger club was burger club. Since then my favourite burger is still Zax burger, featuring a hand made tasty burger and well balanced ingredients. Zax was a good burger day.

Editor’s note: Luigi's is Burger Club’s #5 burger but got beat out by Zax and Burger Place on value.

Russ: Clearly my favourite burgers: The Mortimer from the White Star Diner and the Sicilian from Original Joes have one thing in common... more meat to go with the burger. They also both have real cheddar, a shiny bun, and hot serving staff. Oh wait that wasn't true at the White Star. You know, he's cute and all but I don't swing that way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Burger Factory: 3.9/5

If you touch this burger I keel you
Bacon Burger $4.15 - Score: 4.0

Fat Boy $3.35 - Score: 3.8

Cheese Burger $3.60 - Score: 3.5

George Argyriou welcomed our group to the last remaining Burger Factory like we were long lost family. He told us stories of when he "was the only photographer for four towns back home, but nobody pays. You take 100 pictures and they maybe buy two." George took two pictures of us today. He told us to say “cheese boorgers." George started the Burger Factory about 30 years ago. In 2009 a kitchen fire destroyed the restaurant, but 7 months later it reopened all shiny and new. It's still the same layout, with an open kitchen and a raised seating area surrounded by a rope.

The patties are from a factory and they're fairly plain, thin and fatty. Unlike most places we've been to, they're flame broiled though, not fried. A big point in favour of flavour! Aside from George, the next best thing about the burger is you get to choose the toppings you'd like from behind a glass shield - and the toppings are tasty! Kari reminisced “I like being able to choose toppings ala Grubies in the '70's.” The dill pickles are sliced lengthwise and you get practically a whole pickle laid out on your burger. You can get al dente baked, or raw onions and the topping choices include lettuce and tomato - something you pay extra for at most burger joints.

In fact, the Burger Factory was considerably cheaper than any place we've been to, and by far the best value burger. The low price, coupled with awesome George, resulted in diners giving the Burger Factory the highest “Restaurant Rating” so far. Burger Club’s Restaurant Rating is based on service, price and comfort and B-F got a 4.5/5.
The other notable thing about the burger is the size of the bun - it's huge, but not doughy and cold - it's warm and tasty. The buns enveloped the burger. I asked diners to "expose their burger" for the camera otherwise I'd just have a selection of pictures of nice buns. April commented “As Dani and I say "We like big buns and I cannot lie." However, these aint the buns we're talking about.” One interesting twist is the Twin Burger - it’s a double - but horizontal, not vertical - so has an elongated bun.

The burger itself is quite juicy, and the condiments applied with gusto, so it's a messy burger. Our long table made several trips to the wall mounted bulk napkin dispenser. Dani noted “My burger is definitely a 20 napkin burger, but every time I got a pile of napkins, someone would steal them so now I'm hoarding them under my tray.”
When I was at RRC (formerly RRCC) I looked forward to a banquet burger and rings at the Burger Factory on Logan and remember the giant onion rings. Another burgerer remembered them being as “big as halos.” None of us had rings today, but the ones we saw walking by were regular sized. Kari ordered the table fries and they were really good - crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Yay Kari! George was proud of the gravy and Brett observed “not “the best" gravy in town but very good. It was peppery gravy.” Mark marked “Gravy is fantastic!”

Sometimes criss-crossing conversations get chaotic and as April observed “With a table this big it takes three rounds to get a point across.” To finish off the meal we had a sitcom theme song sing-along. Apparently Brett will serenade you with old TV show theme songs upon request (one of his many talents). He knows all the words to 70's TV-shows. Kari asks “Why?”
This week the rating system debate came to a head culminating in Kari drawing a sad face on her rating slip. The “system” only accepts whole numbers from 1 to 5 and rejects if someone writes down a fraction - and Kari has a penchant towards 1/2’s. Each week I collect the little fluttery ketchup and gravy stained slips from the recently fed burgerers and take them back to feed into the surplus $5 bill reader I got from Princess Auto. You know the ones that make a little whining sound and continuously reject your bill no matter how much you flatten it and unfold the dog ears. I off shored the software development, so to make a change now would require rewriting the spec and months of going hungry until the revisions are complete. We’d better stick with whole numbers.

If you're at the BJ Super Toys next door you might get this mask marked down - it's used

Burger Factory on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A and V Drive-Inn: 3.9/5

Bacon Burger $4.65 - Score: 3.9

 Fat Boy $4.35 - Score: 3.9

1200 Chevrier Blvd

View Larger Map

Angelo and Vickie put the friendly in family restaurant! The A and V diner has been there for 40 years, but unless you work in the Waverley industrial park you might have missed it. When 11 of us showed up for lunch our waitress quickly setup tables so we could all sit together. It was bright and fresh inside with an open kitchen so you could watch your food being prepared. Our waitress had a prompt smile and good jokes. A & V introduced themselves with a big friendly handshake and wanted to know all about our group.

The waitress took all our orders quickly and when the food came out a short time later there was only one miscommunication. What’s really important though is not the missing cheese, but how they dealt with it! The waitress whisked away the burger and brought it back moments later cheesified. A & V themselves came out of the kitchen to apologize to the cheese spurned diner and make sure everyone was happy. They were. 30 minutes after we arrived, we were dropping napkins on our plates and heading for the till. Not only was the service super fast, the burgers were super cheap - especially for table service.

I really enjoyed my burger. The chili was very good - there was lots of it on my bacon double cheeseburger and it tasted like meaty chili - not some tangy sauce. The hand formed burger patties were thin, firm (but not hard), not juicy - but not dry either and very tasty. The patty had a good grill sear taste and crunchy on the outside. The bacon was very tasty and easy enough to bite through without being cooked hard. As Brett put it “I was not wowed, but neither do I have any complaints. A fine utility burger.”

Most people had the fat boy, and in a nutshell, it was messy! The flavour was great but as Nelson put it, “the mayo-to-burger ratio is the highest I've ever experienced. It was a 6 napkin burger.” There was mayo oozing out of the burger. Apparently A & V had an ordering mistake and found themselves with a tanker full of mayonnaise instead of the jar they were expecting. Stan commented “I'm getting used to eating sloppy burgers and actually enjoyed this one. Made for a tasty shredded lettuce salad with the fallout.” Add chili sauce to the mix, and as Tobey put it “Required ring removal, it was that messy.” Esther noted “Cary also ended up with food in his hair. He is such a good eater.”

We’ve come to the realization of late that most burgerers want to try a few fries, but don’t really want to eat a plate full. Our procedure now is to order a table-fry and share it. The fries were really good. The gravy was really good. Yay for the table fry!

Russ’s corner of the floor had the strangest tilt. Cary, always on point with an iTouch application, quickly downloaded a level and determined that yes indeed, Russ was slightly off bubble. Russ commented “Hopefully my meal survives the vertigo. Perhaps the burger will be cooked more on one side.”

Apparently there was too much man-talk at Kari’s table and she commented “Note to self - sit with some girls next time."

Most of BurgerClub are also Geocachers, so with lunch only being 1/2 an hour we had plenty of time to charge off and find a cache on this glorious October day!

Here’s a little challenge to engage you, our readers. Try and guess what each of the people in the following photo are thinking. Post it as a comment!

A and V Drive In on Urbanspoon