Friday, June 17, 2011

about a burger

The Gazette recently put out a list of bests in the city and Downie St. Burgers won for 'best burger'.  Now, not that I am debating their win, but, I have to ask...who votes on this stuff?  The Chew certainly didn't and neither did my Peter Parkeresque alter ego.

So I have sacrificed money and colon to embark on a red-meat endeavour, the likes of which this city has never seen!

The results, I must say, have been interesting.  I thought for sure I would find a burger leader, someone way out in front with a patty so flavourful and delicious, a bun so soft and luscious, and toppings that I could literally 'write home to mom about!'.  But I ran into a complex issue, a question if you will, that must first be answered before crowning the king of burgers.

What makes the perfect burger?

This question begs many more:

Am I on a quest for 'the classic' burger topped with merely ketchup/mustard/relish/lettuce/tomato/onion/pickle?
Is the addition of added bacon and cheese cheating?
Does the burger have to be beef?
Do the fries count for added points or deductions?
Does the bun/patty have to be made in-house? (even if there's a great pre-fab burger out there?)
Are gourmet toppings allowed? Guacamole? Caremelised onions? Arugula? Olive tapenade?

I feel bombarded by the questions and there are so few answers, so here I will seek to inform you about great burgers in Stratford and ultimately crown a winner!  Please forgive me if my criteria is not the same as yours...

First: the suck!  These are the burgers that are not worth eating, don't bother wasting time or money - have something else on the menu or in some cases, avoid the restaurant altogether.

*Big D's: though they claim elements of the burger are made in-house I deny this possibility.  Patty is decent but bland and the bun certainly seems from frozen as it is more than a little soggy.

*Backstage: wanted to give the new place a go, but the menu resembles frighteningly the old Othello's menu.  I fear burger has been in the freezer since then, though it doesn't taste quite that bad.

*Pour House: lots of options for different kinds of burgers but the kitchen staff don't seem to care much about their product!  Only thing memorable were the shrivelled 'pickles' (if you can call them that) that were placed on top - never should have made it to the table!

*Foster's: Don't be alarmed, Foster's re-occurs in the good burgers too but I must say their pork burger is just blah and dry, not worth having when they have far better options.

The runners up: shall we say they have been discredited not because they are bad burgers, instead due to their small size/price/general averageness.

**Down The Street (a set of buns worth squeezing, even if you're not the bun squeezing type)

**Molly's Veggie Burger (if you miss meat, you can imagine this is still beef)

**Boomers (the toppings are imaginative and delicious but it's just not big enough!  Add poutine!)

**Erie Drive-In (definitely from frozen, but juicy/quick/cheap nonetheless)

**Bentley's (very average burger, nothing wrong but doesn't wow me)

**Boar's Head (love the wild boar burger but it's always a little dry)

Finally, the burger options that make you tingle and bring you back time and again to shove them gloriously into your mouths!  Divided somewhat into categories but in no particular order...

Classic - kind of: (all beef patty with addition toppings accepted)

*** Molly Blooms: $14.99  They would have won over all for the best burger if only they made their own.  Their Bloomin' Burger is perfectly messy and topped with all the classic toppings, plus mushrooms, BBQ sauce, peameal bacon, regular bacon, two kinds of cheese and onion rings.  Crave burger? 1/2 Price on Monday's!

*** Downie Street Burgers: $8.95-12.95 Certainly delicious all around and so many choices for toppings etc. Potentially their fries lost it for them as they are okay but not fantastic; and I am somewhat concerned for people with peanut allergies (they use peanut oil for frying - tasty, but oh so dangerous!).


***Foster's Inn: $10.99  As stated by two long time vegetarians..."This is the best damn veggie burger we have ever had!!!  By a LOOOOONG way!"  I can't stress how original and delicious this red bean/mushroom patty is topped with chutney and goat's cheese!  If it was beef, it would have won!

NO-beef Patty: (not allowed to win though it was close!)

***Foster's Inn: $15.98  Lamb Burger - go ahead and add the tapenade and Indian spice, you won't be disappointed.  Moist and succulent with a combination of flavours that surprises your taste-buds!

The King/#1/Big Kahuna

**** The Parlour $16.00:  Not only is the burger itself fantastic and exactly what you want in a classic burger, but the fries are some of the best I've had in a long time (unfortunately hit and miss though as the second sample were just okay)!  Everything is made in-house/locally sourced and it shows: the patty has delicious flavour, the bun is soft and fresh, bacon is local, cheddar is aged and it's one of the only places in town that you can get a little pink in your burger ;)  For a great burger experience, it's not rocket surgery!

Disclaimer: all of the burgers presented here were eaten by the Chew within a reasonable amount of time, if your favourite was forgotten, let me know and I will re-visit!


  1. I would also highly recommend the Keystone Alley's 'Keystone Burger with hickory BBQ onions'. It's one of my favourites in town.

  2. I nominate the Dominion House's 'Inside-out' Burger.

  3. Tired of the chew trashing different restaurants, from the high end to the low end! I wish he or she had the courage to put thier name on their reveiws.

  4. I agree. I'm getting sick of The Chews criticism of our local restaurants. Many are small business owners trying to do there best in this fragile economy. How does this help our city and local business thrive? Not only do our local restaurnts work hard to service the locals and out of towners they are also supportive of many local chartiable events and give back to the city. Shame on The Chew for not having the balls to put his or her name where their mouth is.

  5. Lets go back and actually read folks. Chew is giving an opinion both positive and negative and is entitled to it. I believe he clearly stated here what he likes and doesn't. He has given credit to who he feels is deserving. It is irrelevant if business owners try, or the economy is fragile. The subject is an opinion giving both sides and if we don't agree to the opinions given we are entitled to ours and don't have to read it. As somebody who frequently dines in Stratford and has worked within the service industry here, only a small handful of establishments actually consistantly have fantastic food and superior service and that is no different from any other town. Its a tough industry and if those in it can handle the critisism then perhaps they should step up their game or get out of it. Cheers Chew! I always find you a great read and whether I agree or disagree really doesn't matter. Keep up the good work because I for one, will keep reading. I really dont care if your name is on the posts or not and also notice that those who have attacked you here didn't feel the need to put their name on THEIR posts either.

  6. What the hell does a bun worth squeezing mean? Down the street burgers are delicious!

  7. I find it bitterly ironic that those wanting "Chew" to identify him/her/themselves signed their comments "anonymous".
    And thanks for the compliment; I made those buns at The Parlour.

  8. How does it help our city and local businesses thrive? By highlighting those businesses that provide good service and food and critiquing those that could improve? This can lead to some of the weaker restaurants (and there are quite a few) upping their game, thus improving the Stratford restaurant scene as a whole. Others, who don't heed some of the critiques, might eventually fail, which is not always a bad thing for our city. Remember Woody's?

  9. I'm with Anonymous#4 and #6. Fair and honest restaurant reviews help visitors to our city have the best possible dining experience during their limited time here, thereby improving the chances that they may return to our city during these tough economic times. Most visitors, I'm sure, don't have the time or inclination to try every burger in town. I, for one, appreciate the time, effort -- not to mention the complete disregard for personal safety and health -- that went into this Stratford burger report.

    Just keep eating and writing, Chew.

  10. Jackie Catania, StratfordJune 19, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    Wow. The Chew apparently has no taste buds.
    Big D's burger is one of the best I've big that I have to take half home for later. And yes, they are made in house.
    Boomer's burgers may not be huge in size, but the flavour packs such a big punch that they satisfy my appetite and then some!! (A must try: the Black and Blue or the Hunka' Hunka').
    And, no, I do not have a financial affiliation with either establishment--just a love for a really good burger!

  11. Thank you all for your comments and thanks for reading! I greatly appreciate the defence from my loyal readers!

    To Jackie, I will try the Big D's again at your suggestion, perhaps it was an unfortunate day.

    The DTS burger is delicious, but due to small size and large price it didn't make the top 5.

    Boomer's though, may indeed stretch the top 5 to a top 6, the Black and Blue is a personal favourite!

  12. The "real" issue should be about The Gazette and their "Best of" lists . . . like being held hostage that you won't even get chosen if you don't advertise. The bigger the ad buys, the better your "rating" . . .

    "Hey, congratulations, you've been chosen as the Best (insert description here) in Stratford! We are coming out with our annual cash grab, excuse me, I meant issue, which "features" the best and you should buy an ad! The quarter page is suitable for your "award" . . .

  13. The Sun Room has the best burger... huge, tasty, and not too pricy. The buns are a bit frail but all and all the best patty.

  14. Anon 3:56...You NAILED it. The sad thing is people buy into this advertising scheme. So in order to be seen by the locals, you have to advertise with the Gazette. Bull-Shit.

    People of Stratford: Not only are you killing trees with this free rag, You're promoting a skewed view on what is news in this town. The Beacon already does "What's light and fluffy". Not to mention "What's a bit more accurate (because we have paying subscribers and don't rely on the advertising dollar to dictate where our stories lay)". It's the difference between "reporters" and "advertising reps" period.
    I wonder what the Gazette might have to say about this... Enquiring minds want to know.

  15. I do like to read that new Snap Perth publication! That is the kind of paper I'd want to associate my business with. I love that it's filled with great community events and things that I didn't know about or missed. There's a new kid in town, and I think the Beacon and Gazette should be worried!

  16. Mmmmm, I feel I must say something - so many comments.
    I love Chew Stratford. I may not even agree sometimes. But crappy restaurants, employees & CUSTOMERS need to be accountable - not just expect support because they are local. (And i'm so sick of that word - "local" - can you write something about that? agree or disagree with me.)
    And I also do just love that Snap Perth. It's a fun, light, community-supported paper.

  17. Bottom Line: This is an opinion piece, people.

    I'm lovin' the burger review. Many suggestions here I have yet to try. I feel a large-scale Stratford-wide BURGER-OFF! comin' on...

    We give every restau in town a chance to bring their A-game. One day - winner take all.

    Maybe at the Slow Food Market or at Savour Stratford. Maybe we wait 'til the low season (November-ish) and get our burger on in a large, indoor venue.

    Anyone else hungry?

  18. Great idea Laurie! Maybe the burgers could be slider-sized and the event could be for a charity - similar to the very popular 'SoupsOn' for Alzheimers?