Note: The reviews below are the views of Burger Battle warrior-judges Emily Deming & Michael Hannaford, not necessarily those of the paper. Somebody had to step up and put their health and personal time in jeopardy in this month, to taste them all — all 21 one of them — to argue over and rank them. So we thank them very much their heightened cholesterol and for forgoing 21 meals this month with their significant others, in the name of starting some dialogue on Burger Battle 2019. Feel free to agree, disagree, or discuss below.
Level I – “I s’pose”
Bocas & Mill Street’s Chorizo Burgers.
Mill Street’s burger, they called it… “Chorizo,” was all corporate double-speak and its hip menu brag about manchego cheese was a mere sliver and a whisper from the head office, “cut coooooossssts.” The “avocado crema” was good on its own as a fry dip, but indecipherable on the burger.
On Boca’s “Chorizo” burger, everything was pink but the oddly spiced patty. Romesco sauce gobs acted as a lubricant for roasted pepper to slip slide around, and right on out. Like Mill Street’s “spanish frites,” Boca’s “patatas bravas” were nothing to pretend an accent over. At least Boca’s bun was warm. Spanish frites? Not sure, they only had french fries when we were there.
Nice avocado margarita, but, like the rest of the drink menu, the burger was just too sweet. The crispy iceberg, cucumber, feta, and grilled lamb patty were excellent, but mired by the syrupy donair sauce under the patty, which sogged the bottom of me bun.
This Tower of Fried Brown Power was well plated but the sausage patty, like a meat fist, was not juicy enough to get away with its girth. The pineapple salsa added a lot, but they should stand by the courage of their sweet-savoury convictions and have it on the burger, not just on the side. The crispy chicken skin was excellent, all the crunch and fat of bacon without dominating. High points for structural integrity.
Saucy Mouth’s and EVOO’s “Beyond Beef” Burgers
Right. Besides the patties, which no efforts of any kitchen could surmount, Saucy Mouth’s cool as shit looking photo negative, dark matter space burger looked awesome. The nori, homemade kimchi, and sauces were great but couldn’t put that patty into orbit.
EVOO doubled down on a bad bet with their double fake-meat patty, and though the vegan jalapeno sunflower cheddar sauce was fooling no one, it was fine as it was. The best part, was the side of pickled onion rings, almost candied; super fun!
Magnum & Steins’ & Celtic Hearth’s Mac’n’Cheese Topped Burgers
Another trend that must be addressed. Macaroni and cheese is so good. So bland. So relaxing, safe, and wonderful. Which is why it is not good on a burger. Disassembled, the Magnum & Steins chicken burger was a nice meal of fried chicken and mac’n’cheese, but it was a senseless sandwich. The Celtic Hearth’s was a burger designed by a drunk child. My 6 year old loved it, though admitted it was “too wide” to eat. The deep-fried macaroni was weird/needless, and the bun was quite heavy.
It was indeed a burger, but pretty uneventful. You know, curds on poutine work well for their squeak, and the texture they bring, not so much their flavour. Coat them in batter and melt them? Not sure why. Patty like a cabin barbeque.
Level II – “Nothing Wrong With That”
Scuttlebutt was, this entry varied day-to-day and by location (Downtown versus Uptown). We went to Piatto on “salty” day. No matter the day, the simple/upscale vision of a pizza-burger had superior sauce and mozzarella, and Chinched pepperoni. Their bun was great, chewy, and crusty but thin enough to bite well. The whole town is rooting for the bun as a permanent addition.
Blue on Water’s and The Ship Pub’s Mushroom-Enhanced Patties
“Bun fail drives me up the f*cking wall, man, you don’t even know. “ – Michael
Both mushroom-enhanced beef patties were juicy, and Blue’s was not too tightly packed. Blue’s peanuts gave nice crunch with the slaw, and it came with soup or salad, but there was serious bun fail, which dragged it down to Level II.
The Ship’s bun didn’t hold up either, but it was toasted on both sides which was nice for the biscuit style bun, and it had the tangiest pickles of the battle. It was too salty, but so are Caesars and they work.
Gypsy Tea Room
Good burger, good bun. Nothing wrong with it, and plenty right with their duck bacon.
Very good patty with a bold mustard classically paired with homemade ketchup. Their quality ingredients, particularly the American cheese (USA!! USA!!) made it. The bun was biscuity and begged for an egg, but there’s something nice about going for a classic burger you already know.
This is a favourite sandwich, but not a favourite burger. A burger is a perfectly balanced creature, this was the full throttle tang of Italian meats, a charcuterie-fest which missed the basic nature of burger essence; it overpowered everything including the intriguing caper mayo. But take heed all ye entrants to future burger battles, and learn from the architectural prowess of a kitchen that knows how to build a better burger. 100% for structural integrity and order of operations.
If you’re still playing video games with your buds, ripping monster hits off the bong, you’d love this saucy mess. Instability abounds, but the pretzel bun holds it in. The QV stout BBQ sauce was a fine example of how sweet can work on a burger. Mozzarella stuffed in the patty broke up the wall-o-meat. Corn kernels be gone! You will need a wash down.
Level III – “Yes, Please! Would Ride Again.”
Perfect, but not joyful. Great moose burger! So many burgers have too much stuff going on. No sweet berry juice, all savory baby. The flavours of the moose, herbed bun, gruyere cheese … [*kisses finger tips*]. Arugula! The only green for the mooses.
Fort Amherst Pub
This front runner with great strengths and significant faults was like a promising first novel, slightly navel-gazing (did it need two big patties with a braised short rib in between?), almost certainly derivative, not my favourite genre, but infused with magic, and moments of grace ̶ huge, juicy, meat grace. The beet slaw was good, and the cured foie gras was great, rich and tangy, like pickle ice-cream.
Big Boy Baos
Another imperfect one I would order again. The bao bun, perhaps because of the take-out container, was too steamed. But its pale chewy sog, along with the pale soft fries, was crave-making. It’s the only chicken thigh sandwich in town. (Chicken) breast is for suckas. Great Sauce.
Oh my cockles, so fun! This burger makes you want to drop all sadness and spend the day at the G-force Funderdome. Queso! Iceberg, once again punching above its perceived class. It doesn’t come on a hipster seed bun, and it doesn’t sport a hot new innovative patty. But it’s a chili burger, and its pretzel bun holds it all in. It’s a normal chili, chili burger. The kind I used to get at your mother’s house. Tortilla chips are the exception that proves the rule about corn being stupid on burgers.
Level: WINNER “Annoyingly Right”
It’s like the patriots winning the Super Bowl. But this was, once again, the best burger. And not by close margins. They kept their original milk bun which will be hard for anyone to beat. The duck-duck-beef patty, the peanut sauce, the slaw, and the duck fat crumble; everything was sized perfectly, shaped perfectly, ratio-ed just right. How much more fun would it be to say #champchampchump … but their burger supremacy is undeniable #champchampchamp.
People’s Choice Poll Winner: Blue on Water
It was a record year at the Burger Battle Ballot Box, with more than 2,600 votes. And half a dozen burgers were neck and neck. Blue on Water made the biggest splash though, with their Thai Fighter Burger.
Winner: Blue on Water (Thai Fighter Burger)
Silver: Fort Amherst Pub (The Rex Gout-y)
Bronze: Saucy Mouth Food Truck (Beyond Bibimbob Burger)
For a Complete Listing of this year’s Burger Battle contestants, click here.