The first rule of Burger Club: Burgers are made of beef. The team of sandwich eating professionals that brought you Winnipeg’s Best Club House, Reuben and Gyro, now embark on a life long quest to find Winnipeg’s best burgers. Yes, burgers – we’re going to rate the best Bacon, Cheese, Chili, Fatboy, Greek and Mushroom burgers. I know what you’re thinking – there are already several lists for Winnipeg’s Best Burger – but we bring the science – we have spreadsheets!
French cuisine has rolled onto Broadway in the form of Denise’s Blue Moon. Denise (née Lebleu) grinds the grass fed beef in her dad’s butcher shop, stuffs it in a sausage casing, and hangs the beef for ten hours in a smoker. There's a depth of flavour from the smoking and it's our favourite food truck burger! You can usually find the truck on the south side of Broadway near Edmonton; there’s plenty of seating and shade on a hot, sunny day.
The food is rich and delicious and portions are large. Denise chops up the fresh bacon to form a layer on the Blue Moon Burger, and a crumbled topping on the Blue Moon fries. The bacon has all the flavour without the trouble of biting through a rasher. The crispy Blue Moon Fries are covered in cheese sauce, and I want them every time, but I need a fry-buddy to share with. I highly recommend the apple rings for dessert. The fresh apple is cooked soft – on the brink of being apple sauce - battered, deep fried and sugared like a mini donut from your dreams.
The menu offerings keep growing and there were four burgers to choose from. The Country Burger was the crowd favourite, with plenty of crispy onions adding texture, and zest from the double smoked BBQ sauce. The Blue Moon Burger is rich and all about the bacon, loaded with cheese and toppings – lettuce, chopped dill pickle and white onion. The bun was fresh and soft – most of our crew thought it perfectly suited, but some thought it didn’t hold up as well. This may come down to burger handling technique, requiring refresher training for Burger Club’s reviewers.
Roxanne wrote: “The Country Burger by far, would be the best food-truck burger that I’ve ever had. The patty was fresh made (I could tell by the first bite). It was well flavoured – toppings were very yummy! All of this on the perfect, soft yet firm bun that did not fall apart – even up until the last delicious bite! Fries were fantastic too!”
Dani had the Blue Moon Burger: “The patty was flavourful and moist and I like that the bacon was crumbled on top. That meant you could have a bit of the burger with bacon, and didn’t pull a whole bacon strip out of the sandwich. The bun was nicely matched to the burger. It was soft, yet didn’t fall apart.”
Russ: “A lot of care went into making this burger Just Right. From the soft grilled bun, to the perfect crunchy crisp, to the finely chopped condiments held together with homemade sauces, the right amount of crisp lettuce, to the cooking of the burger. Many sensations around a patty with a great bite. I loved the finely chopped bacon and pickles and they helped the burger hold together with a softer bun.”
Stephanie: “Very tasty burger. The best food truck burger I've had all year. Could've gone for seconds!”
There's a new food truck in town called Extreme Fries any they make a good burger! Well, the truck’s not new but the wrap is and you can’t miss it – owner Bobbie Mack calls it the “hot pink bomb.” Bobbie found the truck for sale in October and jokingly texted her husband "what would you think if I quit my job and bought a food truck? Over the next couple weeks I couldn't get the idea out of my mind and I took the leap!”
Bobbie loves to cook but didn't want to put in a chef’s long hours so the truck seemed like a good fit. “I cook food how I like to eat. You won't find anything on that truck that isn't my favourite. I have been making and selling my own home made sweet pickle relish for 10 years every summer Saturday at Pine Ridge. That's where my love of working with the public started. I just wish I had a little more time to chat from the truck. It gets kinda crazy.”
Most days you can find Extreme Fries parked on Broadway near Edmonton. Check their Facebook page for up-to-date info. This year the City of Winnipeg (COW for short) implemented a food truck parking spot lottery. Another favourite – Burgers R Us – were drawn for the western end of Broadway, but thought they’d be too far from the action and have a hard time making a go of it, so opted out of Broadway this year.
The flavourful burger had a slightly charred patty, crispy fried cheddar cheese, sautéed onion, chili sauce, bacon and fresh groceries. Everyone loved the chili sauce. “The chili sauce is my recipe" said Bobbie. "I started out making a hot dog sauce but my kids found it too spicy. It was just meat and chili powder. Then I tried a Greek style sauce and to me it had flavour but was tame. I mixed the two together and boom! Bobbie Mack's chili sauce.”
Bobbie added “Good bacon is essential and finding the right way to hot hold your bacon without incinerating it is very important. Grilled onion is the way to go on a burger. Hot dogs need raw onion. I also include a favourite in my condiment bar - Awesome Sauce, which is a cousin’s creation.” Cary wrote “A good food truck burger at a decent price. It’s all about the toppings, so use the plethora of condiments provided and add a little bit of the Awesome Hot Sauce if you like a little bit of zing.” Stephanie exclaimed “Perfect day for a food truck burger! The Awesome Sauce had a nice amount of spice to it.”
The uniformly shaped beef patty was a good size, fairly dense and filling. You can taste all the toppings with the copious quantities of cheddar cheese, fried onions, and of course the chili sauce, making it messy – but not too drippy to carefully eat over your lap. On my second visit I tried a double and it was good, but I think tilted the designed flavour balance too much towards beef. Bright green leaf lettuce and red, ripe Roma tomatoes crowned the cold side of the open faced presentation in the combo.
Of course they wouldn't be Extreme Fries without great fries, and they were. The potatoes are hand cut and the fries were dark, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. There were lots of them! The combo container was bursting. Roxanne noted “the fries were awesome and toppings very fresh.”
There was no shade on Broadway so we took our burgers across to the Woodsworth Building picnic tables. There was *one* table in the shade and the first shift of Burger Clubbers crowded around it. The second shift had to melt under the sun. Winnipeg set a record with the temp reaching a scorching 36 c.
Ashley Meilleur opened The Planit at 285 Portage Ave in August 2015 upsizing from her 12 seat Vinyl Diner in the Garrick Hotel. It’s a great location in the heart of downtown Winnipeg’s burgeoning Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District (S.H.E.D.) The buildup of condominium high rises and nearby MTS Centre should mean plenty of Planit patrons for Ashley and partner Sandra Soares for years to come.
Our table was presided over by a painting of Ashley. She told the story of how the portrait went for auction at a fundraiser, and that she felt funny at the thought of it hanging in someone’s home so bought it herself. The second floor kitchen is shared the Creating Opportunities & Rewarding Experiences (C.O.R.E.) culinary training program that “provides skills for those transitioning from the streets back into the workforce”. As their website proclaims, The Planit is “Proudly gay owned and operated and we are all about culture, diversity and supporting our community.” There are live entertainment events in the evenings and starting May 1, Planit will open a patio on Portage Ave.
The Planit Burger (RIP)
Interior colours are from La Bamba (and briefly Reuby's Gastropub). Diners are greeted by an upright piano soundboard leaning against the wall and a bright and cheery space. I took one bite of The Planit Burger on a previous visit and knew Burger Club had to dine here. On the day we visited there was a new menu and new chef (Ashley) with The Planit Burger replaced by two new beef offerings – The Ultimate and The Mushroom Swiss Burger. Sadly, the Brioche bun delivery didn't make it on time for Burger Club's lunch.
Sandra and server Brittany were great hosts and Ashley prepared ingredient platters so we could see and taste the individual components of our stacks. Along with the Red Thai Chicken and Rice soup, Ashley surprised us with a “cheeseburger” soup for anyone (like me) who wanted to make it all about the burger. Both soups were a large serving, hearty and delicious. “The soups are an adventure” wrote Cary. Have the soup!
The two Angus chuck beef burger assemblies are similar, but with cheddar cheese and onion rings on one, and Swiss cheese, bacon jam and mushrooms on the other. Both come with flavourful Sriracha aioli and fresh groceries. The planned Brioche would have raised Burger Club’s rating from the substitute bun.
The home-style patty was soft and airy but held together well. Dani commented “Love the flavours of the patty! All of the food had such a wonderful variety of spices and flavours.” “Great burger, nice little bit of spice” wrote Chris. Cary also had the Ultimate Burger and scribed “Burger was FRICKEN TASTY!” The fries were delicious and consensus was they had a light dusting of cinnamon.
I had the Mushroom Burger and the mushrooms were fresh, thick sliced and sautéed to perfection – the highlight of my sandwich. “The hand battered onion rings made the burger for me! OMG - so flavourful” wrote Stephanie.
Photo Credit: The Planit
The Planit also makes a vegan Earth Burger with 14 grams of protein – more than the beef offerings! April wrote “I will have to come back to get the protein-packed veggie burger. Sounds like a good pre-roller derby meal ...” Russ liked the music “Bonus points for playing Grimes the whole time.”
$9. Special: $13 inc. fries and a beer
BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger
$7. Lunch special: $10 inc. fries and a canned drink
What better setting to celebrate Burger Club’s 100th review and 5th anniversary than a family owned diner with no less than 10 beef burgers on the menu. The Diner’s Grill, in its out-of-the-way location at 405 Turenne, has been a favourite destination since it was the Riviera and later Mark’s the Spot. In June, Chef Joshua and partner Yang started their own restaurant, and the first thing Josh did was replace the 4-burger grill with a 20-burger model.
When I contacted Josh to make a supper booking - Friday is the only evening they’re open - I told him there’d be about 30 of us. "Well, we only have 38 chairs, so if you get much more than that it’s going to get a little cozy." Josh thought it would be better to give us a private booking for the evening and dutifully let his regular patrons know through The Diner’s Grill (TDG) weekly newsletter and Facebook page.
The 4 person tables were arranged into two long rows, complete with little placards welcoming Burger Club and describing the specials. Yang was our server for the evening and she made the rounds taking food orders and bringing drinks as our group continued to arrive. By the time all of us had gathered, Yang could definitely have used some help. Her parents lent a hand in kitchen. “They’re free labour!” she joked.
Hot ‘n Spicy Burger
Prices are quite reasonable and the Friday (and Saturday) deal is the namesake Diner’s Burger with fries and a beer for $13. “Great value!” Most of our group went for the special, and a few ordered the popular BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger - often the Wednesday lunch feature with fries and a drink for $10. Some of us perused the regular menu and ordered the Reuben Burger - the real star of the show. Josh joked that when Yang and his baby arrives this summer, prices will need to jump 25% :)
The Harvest bakery buns were “soft as a baby's derrière”, fresh and delicious, but were a little challenged to keep their structural integrity with the juicy assemblies. For the Reuben, the stack of patty, grilled corned beef and sauerkraut made a mockery of the bun. Napkin ratings spontaneously appeared on the little review slips with the Diner’s Burger getting a 3 and the Reuben a 6.
When we arrived Josh had just finished cooking a mountain of bacon and I was salivating before reaching my seat. It was like walking into a bakery for a carnivore. Everything’s made fresh at TDG, and the fries are cut from Russet potatoes, par-cooked, chilled, then deep fried. They were soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, brown and delicious.
The 4 oz, Angus chuck beef patties are fresh with nothing mixed in. They’re squashed thin, cooked and seasoned on the grill with a nice crust. The very definition of a diner burger patty. In a trend we’re seeing more and more of, a number of the beef patties had some pink in the middle. If this isn't for you, be sure to let your server know. Just about everybody commented on how good the beef patty tasted and that the seasoning was just right. Now, a 4 oz. patty may be big enough for some, but if you come with an appetite you’ll definitely want to make it a double and as any burger lover knows, two thin patties are better than one thick one. It’s twice the crust! Pro Tip: If you order the special, ask to make it a double.
Geoff scribed this review for the Diner’s Burger: “The Diner's Grill is a pretty innocuous looking store front in an industrial park, but the food inside was worthy of notice. Only enough seating for 3 dozen and we filled 3/4 of it for the special 100th review\5th anniversary. The fledgling rock 'n roll memorabilia on the walls is neat, like a hard rock cafe light. The burger was the signature, copious bacon and melted cheddar with a nicely seasoned patty. Wasn't the biggest, but a double would've been too much for my plate, especially with the size of the poutine that came on the side. Real curds! Very good.”
Dani customized her Diner’s Burger with extra bacon: “When my burger arrived I had 5 strips of bacon. It looked like a bacopus!“
The Reuben was a very juicy, messy burger but had good flavour balance. Russ scrawled “Every component was filled with flavour. The bacon, the patty, the corned beef, the sauce... Didn't hold together very well. It presented as a tower of Swiss.” Cary added “Very tasty burger, with a napkin count for how messy. Tons of corned beef DRIPPING with BACON!”
Karen had the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger and wrote: “The bacon was crisp and super tasty. The burger was crusted on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside, while the BBQ Mayo complimented perfectly lending juicy deliciousness to the burger overall.”
TDG offers 4 different poutines and they’re *huge*. Thick beef gravy and mounds of real Quebec cheese curds accompany the fries and you can get bacon, pulled pork, or corned beef & onions on top. Cary wrote “The bacon poutine is WONDERFUL however, you should share it. Friends do not let friends poutine alone!”
Newbie Bernhard enjoyed TDG: “Nice they closed the shop for us. This gave a much better experience than the industrial location suggested. I liked the beer\burger deal. Chef takes pride in his burgers, and provided an above average diner experience.”
Steakhouse Burger: 4.4 Hamborgari Cheese Crisp: 4.1 Aussi Burger: 4.3 Not So Caesar: 4.4 33: 4.1
Platter: $12 single, $16 double
Come for the burgers and stay for the beer at Brogue Gastropub. The Round Table Steakhouse at 800 Pembina Hwy has a history as Winnipeg’s prime rib destination, and since taking up the reins from his father in 2010, Kristjan Kristjansson has named the pub side and given it a life of its own.
Burger Club had a record turnout with 30 of us taking over the bar on a Tuesday evening when 20 oz. craft beers are only $3.95. The Brogue came to our attention as a burger destination during Burger Week 2015 with the Not So Caesar. Chef Peter reprised the juicy stack and created the 33 in addition to their three regular menu offerings. The 33 was loaded with Buff Spice in honour of Dustin Byfuglien who Peter told us polishes off a 33 oz. prime rib when he dines at the Round Table.
We filled the bar-hallway, leaving the great space for other patrons to enjoy. It was noisy, crowded and complete mayhem. I liked it :) It was Kayla’s first shift and she did an amazing job serving despite having to navigate our fluid and impeding mass of people. Some of us arrived early and had Elliot busy serving beers before they’d had a chance to put out menus so not everyone knew about the special burger offerings, but word spread quickly. Kristjan and Peter each found a few minutes to come out and talk to our group.
The burger and side were served on dimensional lumber for those at the bar rail - which worked well as they couldn’t lean over their food as easily as those of us at tall tables who received our meals on a ceramic platter. Scott quipped “it made it easier to bridge the gap between the bar and my mouth.”
The regular menu Steakhouse Burger and the Not So Caesar special were the big winners with Burger Club. The Hamborgari Cheese Crisp Burger could win an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. The 1/4 lb. single was a bit small for some people, so have a double if you're hungry. The sweet & peppery house smoked bacon was the star of the show. You could get a piping hot little bucket of bacon as an appetizer which Cary did and passed around to anyone lucky enough to be within reach. The shiny baked in-house Brioche bun was perfectly sized to the double burger - buttered and toasted crispy hot and delicious. Nat had a single and remarked: “Nice bun, but I ran out of burger to finish it!”
Geoff scribed “The Hamborgari's selling point was the large piece of fried cheese on top. It didn't overwhelm the patty, but augmented the flavour nicely. The ingredients were fresh, but I could have eaten a double.” The more diminutive Nicole wrote that hers was “a perfectly sized burger. I was able to put it down without it exploding! It was all around delicious, nicely balanced flavour and no dripping.“
I had a double 33. It made for an impressive stack with two good sized patties, a large crispy onion ring and easily an inch of Arugula – all enveloped in a Brioche that was up to the task. Tonia noted “The 33 was scrumptious! I really enjoyed the seasoning & onion ring on it. Fries were great too!” Dave wrote “seasoning was too salty and detracted from the otherwise good meat flavour.” Jonathan echoed “Burger was very salty. Beef was seasoned nicely, however flavour profile was limited.”
April had the Steakhouse: “The ingredients were good quality and the price was reasonable. Good company!” The single with a side is usually $12, with a double priced at $16, but our host Kristjan gave our group the V.I.P. treatment and knocked $2 off.
The jury’s still out on the Aussi Burger. Only two people had it – one loved it and the other not so much. That may have been because a key ingredient – the pineapple - was omitted in all the kitchen chaos of cooking 45 patties and preparing 30 burgers!
Russ had the Not So Caesar – he also had it during Burger Week when it came standard as a double. “I think the burger was better as a double, but the patty was excellent and the taste fantastic.” Jeff commented “I loved this burger. Such a unique flavour palette - the sweetness of the Caesar sauce with the smokiness of the bacon was fantastic ... And the cucumber's flavour and texture just topped it off. Add this to the menu!!!”
The list of guest beers included Britisher English Brown Ale which a number of our group jumped at the chance to try. Geoff wrote “Beer selection was impressive. I enjoyed the Britisher, and we just happened to be at one of 5 places in the city where you could get it.”