Friday, August 23, 2013

A Vancouver "Very Intriguing Burger" Crawl

This food crawl was all about BURGERS. All of us food crawlers love and truly appreciate an awesome burger. The burger is versatile and fits in just about anywhere. The burger can be cheap eats, fast food, BBQ fare, comfort food, a blank palette to play with wild ingredients and flavours, or even in some cases haute cuisine (foie gras, white truffle, umami burgers).

The loose theme for this crawl was issued as a “Very Intriguing Burger Crawl” ; essentially we each had to pick a burger that we had seen, read about, heard about, that seemed intriguing and delicious….basically burgers that when you read the menu description make you say “I want that!”

With four hungry crawlers, each crawler picks a burger at their determined burger location. Each burger and side is split four ways.

Stop #1
Bruce and Jane’s
NOTE: They now have a big bold sign and are rockin’ the moniker “To Dine For Eatery”
Kimchi Burger (add an egg)


First stop was my pick, a small diner/café on Terminal ave,
It’s not super obvious that there its there and if you weren’t looking for it, you’d drive right by
This spot used to be called To Dine For Eatery, just changed the name and have virtually no signage except for a chalkboard sandwich board outside.
To Dine For had been on my “to eat” list for about a year but I haven’t made it down there. Someone told me their burgers were amazing, then I went on their facebook page to check out the menu and I’ve wanted to go there ever since for a burger. When I first discovered their menu, I was entranced with their creative, inventive sounding burgers with amazing toppings like “The BJ” (with bacon jam, pork cracklings), “The Smokehouse” (Farmers sausage, Dijon), “The PB & Bacon”, “The Vegan Hulk” (black beand and corn guacamole, shoestring onions, house-made vegan aioli)… name a few. Now recently, they’ve changed the name of the place and made some slight menu changes. I got a chance to chat with one of the Justin, who is a chef and owns/ runs the place with his parents. He said he recently returned from a hiatus and decided to make some changes and really emphasize keeping things high quality, organic, fresh, local with as much made in house as possible.

Bruce and Jane’s Although all of the burgers sounded great, my tastebuds were tempted by the Kimchi Burger ($14); house fermented kimchi, mozzarella, kimchi aioli. I decided to give this burger an added fried egg ($2) to give it a bimbap feel, combining the kimchi with a runny egg. Justin told us that they get their meat from Two Rivers and grind it in-house. All burgers come with endive, are served on brioche buns, and are accompanied with fries or salad. This was a FANTASTIC burger. You could taste the quality in the ingredients, from the light, fluffy, yet sturdy brioche bun to the juicy, tender, full-flavoured beef patty. With the runny egg yolk saucing everything and melding all of the elements together, this was pretty much messy burger heaven. This burger comes with melted mozza, which is normally welcome, but for this particular burger, I did feel like the cheese was a distraction and actually buried the kimchi flavour. It was also served with mustard (which we found was a sous chef mistake)- again a condiment that I normally love, that distracted from the other flavours. The fries were fantastic; crispy and well seasoned with salt and herbs. No special dips or fancy ketchup- just Heinz.

The space:
It’s a cozy space with a modern diner meets café feel. The décor is orange and black and everything is shiny and spotless. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed.

Although the place looks slice and modern, everything has the warm, down-to-earth feel of a family-run operation. Service was fast and super friendly. As I mentioned, the chef/owner actually came out as we were finishing up to check in on how we enjoyed the food and bring us complimentary pork cracklings sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar (an unconventional and surprisingly tasty and light dessert!!). It was awesome to be able to give him some feedback (turns out his sous chef put mustard on the burger by mistake – he was pretty disappointed in that) and talk to him about the menu. He is clearly a guy who is passionate about making good food. I was totally charmed by this place, I’m totally intrigued by many other menu options, would definitely recommend, and will definitely be back.

The Frip
Fantastic patty!!! The in house ground two rivers meats gives it amazing flavour and texture. Overall presentation was great and flavour profile of the kimchi burger was ok could have had more kimchi and no mustard... Great value for the menu price and quality
Definitely will hit BJs to try their other options. Too bad they aren't licensed.

-beef (6 oz hand-made patty, fresh daily from Jacksons Meat & Deli): quality tastes oh-so juicy & soft.

- brioche bun (from a Swiss bakery): yields to the bite yet sturdy enough to handle everything in between.
-handcut fries: looong thick shoestrings, majorly tasty & crunchy, really well seasoned

The Bad Jew aka The Scoop
Daring choice by LifeBites.  Located in an industrial park down by the river.  Not really, it’s on Terminal a few blocks east of Main Street.  There’s just not much else out there in the way of dining.  Bruce and Janes is located in the bottom of an office building which probably explains the unusual 7 pm closing time – I expect they cater to a lunch crowd.  Regardless of the odd location, the décor was better than I was expecting – clean and tasteful.
I looked at the menu after inserting my press pass into my hat and got excited – brioche bun? Two Rivers Meats organic local beef? Hand ground on premises?  Served medium rare? OMG – Yes!  Why don’t more restaurants serve burgers this way (as long as it’s quality meat)?  B&Js has some really interesting burgers on the menu – like the BJ Burger (Stands for Bacon Jam – the Bad Jew shall return for you).  Many of the burgers are served with atypical cheeses, like emmental, and often sport endive instead of lettuce.  Nice!
We ordered the Kimchi Burger and added an egg (hells yah!).  The kitchen gave us a bread knife to cut this into four which we sloppily did.  Very juicy and the kimchi added a nice tang.  Brioche bun was great.  The mozzarella cheese on this was probably not needed – but didn’t take away from the burger.  And I didn’t catch the endive – but maybe my quarter section didn’t get any.  Fries were pretty good – although they did serve regular Heinz ketchup.  Not out of place at Bruce and Janes.
Couple of off notes – there was regular mustard on our burger – which conflicted with the kimchi.  Also – horrors, the burger was served well done not medium rare.  The chef came out and talked with us – he informed us that the mustard was a mistake – that makes sense.  He was quite sorry.  He explained that they only serve the burgers medium rare if the patron asks for it because too many people kept sending their dishes back as being under cooked.  Sigh.  Point noted for next time. 
Did they make up for it – YOU BET!!  They sent us out a plate of cinnamon sprinkled pork crackling for dessert!  THE BAD JEW APPROVES – you are forgiven for your sins.  Bruce and Jane’s you get tonights second spot.

The Leggy Redhead

- inconspicuous family run business on Terminal Ave that I had never heard of.  Decor is clean and simple, leaning towards modern fast food feel.  We had the Kimchi Burger.  Bun and patty were great quality(Two Rivers meat, yum).  Unfortunately the mustard in the burger didn't work for any of us.  When we gave the server (who ended up being one of the owners) our feedback on the mustard overpowering the other, he let us know it wasn't supposed to have mustard in it!  He was so apologetic.   I'd go back if I was in the neighbourhood and try another one.  Think we were just unlucky with the kitchen's mistake and worth another try.

Bruce & Jane's on Urbanspoon

Stop #2
Romers’s Burger Bar- West 4th
The Ultimate Kobe Classic

For the Leggy Redhead’s pick we hit the Romer’s on West 4th in Kitsilano. I had never been to a Romer’s before but knew that they specialize in gourmet burgers and pride themselves on being all natural and all local ingredients (All-natural Heritage Farms range-fed Angus beef, natural Fraser Valley pork, turkey, free-run chicken or wild salmon). The Leggy Redhead selected The Ultimate Kobe Classic Burger; Kobe classic beef, horseradish jack, local wild mushrooms, onion strings, truffle aioli, organic watercress, garlic mustard, robust red wine demi-glaze ($18). Wow…. That’s a drool-worthy description. All burgers are served on a lightly griddled brioche bun with a garlic olive and pepperoncini on the side. Note: NO SIDES come automatically with these burgers. Beautiful, buttery, soft brioche bun. Awesome thick flavourful patty. And the demi glaze dipping sauce was delicious and took the whole burger experience up a notch. But unfortunately, I felt like the texture and the flavour of the onion strings didn’t really pop in this burger and I didn’t notice the special truffle aioli or the local wild mushrooms- which I expected to stand out a bit more. A great burger but $18 felt like a bit much for a great burger than doesn’t even come with a side. We did order a side of truffle fries and I was a bit underwhelmed. No fancy ketchup here either.

The space:
Great for summer, no patio per se, but big garage door style windows that really open up the front dining area, giving a breezy, patio feel. Clean, modern décor, large wrap around bar in the centre of the restaurant.

The service:
Nice, smiling, cute female servers. Attentive and chatty- which I like. The manager actually came out at the end of the meal with complementary drunken donuts and for a chat about burgers. I REALLY enjoyed this, both the donuts and chatting with a restauranteur that really LOVES what he does. Back to the donuts, SWEET JESUS these are tasty. They are made fresh to order and served warm so the powdered sugar melts into them. They come with three dipping sauces- Kahlua Nutella, Limoncello and maple whisky. My favourite was the Limoncello . I liked this place and would definitely come back….I think I might have actually preferred one of their mid-range burgers over the high end Kobe Classic.

The Frip

Kobe burger patty was less than exciting and almost seemed like it was a frozen per-fab patty. However the garnish and au jus made it all come together.
A la carte Menu price was pretty high for the burger. I don't think the quality warranted the cost.
Loved the decor& service!!

The Bad Jew aka The Scoop

West 4th burger spot – now with two more locations, Yaletown and Riverfront District.  Must be doing something right.  Pretty lively atmosphere.  We sat up front where the store front was open to the street on an amazing July evening. 
Another brioche bun – great work!  Firm but not too hard.  I know a proper burger should be on a soft white chewy bun – but I really prefer brioche.  Nice and juicy the way I like it.  Flavour packed.  The red wine jus was a great addition and combo’d well with the light and tangy truffle aioli.  Was a pleasant surprise that the aioli wasn’t too heavy or creamy.  Overall great mouthfeel. The burger was fully cooked through (ie not medium rare – boooo) and it was really hard to tell if the Kobe Beef made any difference – well except in price; $18 for a burger is a bit steep.  Couldn’t pick up the horseradish jack cheese. 
We paired the burger with a side of truffle fries with truffle aioli.  Their fries weren’t crispy enough for my liking.  I don’t think our server had that problem.  “Those truffle fries are my vice”.  My wisecrack retort – “At least it isn’t herion”.  Ketchup served with the burger – yup, Heinz from a squeeze bottle.  Come on – can’t you provide a fancier ketchup that than?  At least put it in a different container.  Ordered a $7 Beerita – combo of beer and margarita ingredients – hit the spot on a warm sunshiny day.
We got talking to the manager when they found out we were going to be blogging the food crawl – we got our second free dessert of the evening.  Drunken donuts – so incredibly good (seems to pay to photograph your food in restaurants these days)  Three sauces – Kahlua Nutella / Limoncello / Maple Whisky.  So decadent!  First was OK, second was great, the third was amaze-balls!  But the Bad Jew has principals – he won’t be bought.  Romers placed 3rd out of four places tonight due to a combo of the price/Kobe beef, the fries and the ketchup.

The Leggy Redhead

I hadn't been to a Romer's before and they get a lot of great write ups.  I wanted to try the Ultimate Kobe Classic because of the toppings: crsipy onion strings, local wild mushrooms & horseradish jack cheese.  Pretty perfect sounding to me.    When the lonely burger was placed on our table, we realized no sides or fries come with the burgers (wish the server would have mentioned that).  Order of truffle fries to the rescue!  Burger was good, but not amazing.  Loved the horseradish jack cheese, but Kobe patty wasn't as good as it should have been for the price.  In checking on our table, the manager explained that all the other burgers on the menu are house made patties that are actually more flavourful than the Kobe.  Manager ended up treating us to some of their amazing looking drunken donuts with 3 different dipping sauces.  Yummy!  I'd love to go back to try one of the house made burger patties, and definitely some more of the drunken donuts!  Was a great runner up for me.

Romer's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Stop #3
The Lamb Burger


Located on the busy Granville strip is "Stackhouse.” This is a burger bar with a hip downtown club/bar feel…they even had a DJ spinning on the Thurs eve of our crawl. This was The Frip’s pick and she chose the Lamb Burger ($17) 6.5 oz lamb patty with goat cheese, cilantro aioli and butter lettuce, served on a brioche bun. Everything inside this burger was wonderful. The patty, the crumbly, creamy goat cheese, the kicked up cilantro aioli and the soft butter lettuce all melded together for a wonderful burger combo. Unfortunately, the bun tasted and felt stale. It was dry and bland. So essentially this was a burger with a great personality and not so great on the outside.

We also had their poutine- and it was really really good. I loved their truffle demi-glace instead of typical gravy. The fries were nicely salted, light and fluffy.

The Space: Urban downtown hipster vibe. A bit too cool for school and felt a bit cold and sterile but you can’t deny the cool, funky decor details and modern light fixtures.

Service: The service was attentive. We were greeted by a cheerful server once we entered the restaurant, and she brought us a big glass bottle of water and glasses as soon as we sat down. She was enthusiastic and cheerful. My big beef with the service was when she asked us how the burger was, we told her the bun tasted a bit stale and she said “ya, I noticed that they didn’t look as good as they usually do…” She seemed sorry we didn’t love the bun, but seemed okay with serving us something that she noticed didn’t look up to par….Not really cool in my books.

The Frip
Lamb burger patty was great and condiments and garnish worked well. Bun was a big disappointment as it was dry and bland.  Super funky room but lacked atmosphere. Can't say I would return to try their other options

The Bad Jew aka The Scoop

Located on Granville street downtown at the south end of the nightlife district.  Very clean and modern décor – bit of a Bao Bei rip off of using a series of painted knives for décor. I think they were going for a hipster vibe – like Meat and Bread.  Unfortunately the atmosphere felt more douchey than hipster – ooops.  At least it fits with the neighbourhood.  Be forewarned –bring a baseball cap and make sure to turn it backwards before entering.
Well – we all guessed whether they would be serving the ever present Heinz – life bites expected fancy ketchup.  The Bad Jew was skeptical.  Disappointment reigned – it was Heinz.  At least it was served in a cute ramekin.  Did you know Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway just purchased Heinz for $23 billion.  Can you guess why?
So the lamb patty was great, the cilantro aioli went really well with it and the goat cheese blended well and gave a great texture.  But the bun – oh, it was terrible.  Not brioche.  Not the soft white buns of NYC.  It was bready, dry and much too firm – it overwhelmed the burger.  We even mentioned to the server about the bun “Oh yah, I noticed that earlier”.  Not really the best way to handle the situation.
We did order some poutine to go with the lamb burger because – well, we just hadn’t had any yet this night.  Gravy was tasty and salty – but the curds weren’t squeaky.  Overall, Stackhouse was marginal and worst stop of the night.  OK – we’re out of here pronto.  Next stop – meat sweats!

The Leggy Redhead

Liked the simple, trendy decor, but totally not impressed with the burger.  Lamb patty was good, but the bun was really dry which took away from the overall enjoyment.  When we mentioned it to the server...basically her response was...'yeah we noticed that today, usually they aren't that dry even though delivered a few days ago'  Really, you know the buns are stale and served them anyways!  Not impressed.  In no rush to go back with all the other great choices in town.
 Stackhouse Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Stop #4
Rangeland Game Burger


The final stop of the burger crawl. The Bad Jew’s pick was Forage on Robson street, closer to Denman. At this point, I still had some room in my stomach and a hankering for more tasty grub, but some of my co-crawlers were starting to fade, full-to-the-brim from previous stops. But with some trash talking and encouragement, we hit Forage. Forage bills its food as being casual and unpretentious yet innovative, and they have a HUGE emphasis on local and sustainable. Looking at their menu, my hunger was further revitalized…everything sounded delicious! But we knew what we were there for…The Rangeland Game Burger ($16); Caramelized Onion preserve, house-cured bacon, Golden Ears Cheddar, fries. This was absolutely delicious and close to burger perfection. You could taste every element and ingredient of this burger…they all worked well together, yet blended together for a perfect bit. The burger patty is mainly bison but also contains some venison and elk. The patty was juicy and robust, lean and tasty. There was a slight pleasing gami-ness that worked well with the sweet caramelized onions and sharp mustard. The bacon was smoky and crispy. The bun was fluffy with the perfect amount of give. Fries were crispy and perfect. And a special shout out to their housemade ketchup. Smoky, deep tomatoe-y goodness.

The Space: The atmosphere is warm- lots of wood and dark tones. It feels upscale and classy without feeling too formal.

The Service: Friendly and eager to talk your ear off about their dishes, their mandate, their suppliers, and ingredients.

The Frip

Oh forage... Such high hopes for you and you came thru with flying colours!!
Service was fantastic and our server had a wealth of knowledge on all the ingredients. The rangeland burger was an amazing combination of local ingredients. Every piece of the burger was locally sourced and made in house, even the ketchup. Hands down best tasting and presented burger. Will be dinning again soon at forage to check out the rest of the menu.

The Bad Jew aka The Scoop

Let’s be clear, we each picked a burger for the crawl and Forage was my choice.
So by this point, the Leggy Redhead and Frip were wanting to tag out as if this were a wrestling match.  But it’s not – it’s a food crawl.  Suck it up buttercup!
Forage’s Rangeland Game Burger was made from 80% Bison with the remaining 20% a blend of Elk and Venison.  It came out on a wooden board and the burger was higher than it was wide.  Great presentation – best of the evening.  Burger employed 20 different kinds of microgreens and came with a side of …. wait for it … housemade IPA mustard ketchup.  Up yours, Buffet!
Bit into this beauty and such a wonderful meat flavour.  Absolutely no gaminess from the elk or venison.  And low and behold, a little pink in the middle.  Medium well instead of medium or medium rare – but I’ll take it!!  Melted gouda from local artisanal cheese makers – Golden Ears was a perfect accompaniment along with the caramelized onions.  And the slight bitterness of the microgreens (all 20 of them) was awesome.  The burger bun was right proper squishy.  And the ketchup – super yummy.  A nice rough texture with some spice/curry notes.  Fantastic. 
Overall best burger of the night.  Hit everything right.  Even had bacon in it – what’s not to love for the Bad Jew.  Except for the fries – we really didn’t need more fries.  Glad my home is downhill from Forage – I was stuffed and rolled myself there.

The Leggy Redhead

This was 'Bad Jew's' choice.  I've tried a few things from Forage at foodie events and they were always great, but I hadn't been to the restaurant yet.  All I can say...what a great little gem on Robson Street (an area of town I rarely go to for food).  Burger was small, but perfect...everything in it great quality & well paired.  The mix of bison, elk & venison patty...lean but flavourful.  Even the ketchup for the fries was house made with a light curry flavour (surprisingly the only place that made it from scratch out of the 4 places we tried).  Yum!  I've told people about the great meal & service and they have tried their food since, having just as great an experience  as we did on the crawl.  Their entire menu is locally sourced, great quality and so well thought out.  If I hadn't been so full, I would have tried at least one other thing.  I look forward to going back soon!  This was definitely my winner on the crawl

Forage on Urbanspoon

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