Thursday, August 21, 2014

Burgers R Us: 3.7/5

All burgers come with onion rings for $10 including  (tax inc.)
Mushroom Swiss Burger
  Score: 3.6
Pizza Burger
  Score: 3.1
Pulled Pork Burger
  Score: 3.0
Avocado Burger
  Score: 3.8
Chili Cheese Burger
  Score: 4.4
Bacon Cheese Burger
  Score: 4.2
Bacon Ranch Burger
  Score: 3.6

Burgers R Us forges gourmet burgers on Broadway. The flaming red truck offers an impressive nine beefy works of art on a bun, and Burger Club tried most of them. The day started out with a little rain, but the clouds parted so we could enjoy our burgers under the sun.

The truck wasn't always about burgers though. Sabrina and Blair McKibbon also own Healthy Eats and started a second rolling kitchen serving Portuguese food that my coworkers and I affectionately called the “Pork Chop Truck”. The meals were elaborate and sumptuous, but they realized quickly it wasn't going to work as a truck. A new flaming appliqué and menu and voila – homemade burgers for the Broadway crowd cooked up fresh by Blair’s brother Phil.

If you're shopping menus on Broadway, don’t be deterred by the $10 price tag at Burgers R Us (tax inc.) The beefy burgers are made fresh, flame broiled and easily twice the size of other truck patties. Everything on the menu comes with a side of onion rings. I assume the brothers farm onions in their spare time. I really enjoy a fresh onion ring, and these were piping hot and crispy delicious. If you don’t want the rings, they’ll take $2 off the price of your lone burger.

It can be a challenge to serve the lunch rush quickly, and a big thick patty takes time to cook. Burgers R Us flame broils the patties, places them in a steam box, then puts them back on the grill so you get your burger hot. When eleven of us showed up at once - as well as plenty of sidewalk surfers – Burgers R Us were handing out stacks as quick as they could assemble them.

The sandwiches were passed out the trailer window wrapped in foil-paper to those whose number matched the call. The onion rings accompanied in paper trays like little super-hero sidekicks. The “sitting wall” was still wet from the rain so we all dined along a nearby fence which made a great burger bar.

A couple of us had the Avocado Burger and were treated to two slices of bright green alligator pear. The bun was a soft, sesame Kaiser and the leaf lettuce and tomato were bright and fresh. The patty was big and beefy, lightly charred from the flames and held together well. It was a filling burger that balanced well with the other flavours.

A few people had the Mushroom Swiss Burger. April wrote “The burger came with gravy and was pretty tasty. Even though I am not a fan of onion rings, these ones were really crispy and while I had planned on just trying one, I ate most of them. Well done! If this burger was served in a restaurant with comfortable seating, I think it would rate much higher as a whole. Too bad they don't serve milkshakes - It would have been the perfect complement to the burger!” Mireille added “The burger was piping hot and I could taste the char goodness. It was a very nice size as well. I enjoyed the gravy which had a nice mushroom flavour.”

Mark had the Chili Cheese Burger: “All meat extravaganza; no veggies - love it! Excellent charred burger. Real chili with a sweet flavour.” Burgers R Us make their own chili and pulled pork. Stephanie said the Pizza Burger was “Fun and tasty” but the photo of the burger on the TV menu was much less messy than hers with its foundation of homemade pizza sauce running down the bun.

Nelson had the Pulled Pork Burger and jotted “Lots of pulled pork, which was good but it overwhelmed everything else.” Russ had the Bacon Cheese Burger and wrote “A little bit of flame cooked love. The bacon was thick and smoky. It was curly though, so it made things fall apart. Great ingredients and a homemade patty.” Brian opted for the Bacon Ranch Burger and observed “The bun was fresh and sized right.  The patty was seasoned nicely, topped with fresh lettuce and tomatoes, crisp bacon, and a flavorful ranch sauce. Overall this was a well-executed burger.”

Burgers R Us is usually the last food truck on Broadway. Phil and Blair told me how the parking patrol would start to get nervous around 2:30 pm. I asked how I could contact them and was handed a water bottle which confused me until I looked more closely at the flaming label – Twitter, e-mail address and a phone number for their sister trailer, Healthy Eats, that they can always be found with. Now that’s a handy business card on a hot day.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mikky's: 3.3/5

Deluxe Burger
Score: 3.4, $4.50 (tax inc.)

Deluxe Cheese Burger
Score: 3.2, $5.00 (tax inc.)

The white and red Mikky’s truck is a veritable institution on Broadway. Twenty-two years ago it belonged to Mikky, somewhere along the way it became Daryl’s, and for the last fifteen years it’s been owned by Don. Originally operating a hot dog cart, Don traded his umbrella for the metal roof of Mikky’s when the opportunity arose.

Don seems to have found the formula for success in the very competitive food truck market. An inexpensive and tasty burger, served quickly, draws lines of people to the Mikky’s order window on sunny lunch hours. Mikky’s feeds the parking meter in front of the WCB and sets itself apart from other trucks by laying out a line of welcome mats on the low granite wall for diners to settle their office attire wrapped derrieres onto. The nice lady taking orders was all smiles and Don came out to tell stories when there was a break in the lunch rush.

The deluxe cheeseburger is only $5, tax included. For $8 you can have fries and a drink with that. The deluxe burger comes standard with lettuce, tomato, fried onions and pickles. There are a couple of condiment stations hanging off the truck and a row of self serve drink coolers on the sidewalk. The mayo is wisely kept inside so it’s not sitting out in the sun. If you have just a burger, it comes nestled in a little wax paper pocket that’s perfect for one handing the burger while containing any fallout. The combo is served in a little cardboard tray that’s quite convenient if you’re sitting and using your lap as a table.

The first thing you notice when you sink your teeth into a Mikky’s burger is the big delicious City Bread bun. There’s plenty of fresh chopped lettuce - if you’re going to have any fallout, it’s going to be the lettuce. The groceries are rounded out with diced ripe tomato and fried onions – a favorite of mine and something you pay extra for at a lot of burger joints.

The thin beef patty gets lost in the bun and groceries. The flavour of this burger is in the bread and toppings. The beef is an inexpensive “store” patty that cooks fast and keeps the price down. I've had the single and decided to ask for a double burger today. That brought the burger-to-bun ratio to where it should be, but my double-meat tilted the flavour balance.

This was our most reviewed burger with twenty-one Burger Clubbers contemplating the sandwich. Mirreille commented “Would have preferred the patty to be bigger to fit the big bun. Enjoyed the grilled bun.” Cary referenced The Whole Nine Yards when he wrote “True Canadian means lots of mayo (Bruce Willis would hate it). Bun was too big, but good and fresh.” Stephanie, our local expert on street food exclaimed “Beautiful day for a food truck! Great deal for the combo. More than enough for me.”

Sandy raised the question of how to rate a burger: “This is my first food truck rating - not sure if I should be a little more generous on the presentation and comfort factors. Great fun!” Eric chimed in “Eating outside always trumps inside. Good for truck burger.” Stan summarized “Service was very quick. Value was excellent. Burger was pretty good, no complaints. The weather was perfect. The company was awesome.”

Victor thought it was a great deal: “If I could give a 6 for price I would. This was probably the most economically fair burger I've had this summer. The patty was kind of small, but the fries were awesome!

Don suggested we try the European next time so I guess he’s still a hot dog guy at heart.

Mikky's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Whistle Pig Drive-Inn: 3/5

Whistle Burger
Score: 3.0, $6.60

Banquet Burger
Score: 3.0, $5.80

Score: 2.6, $5.30

Bacon Burger
Score: 3.0, $6.30

This week our mission of burgering under the sun led us to the Whistle Pig Drive-Inn (WPD) at 102 Victoria Ave E. Unicity tried and failed to assimilate Downtown Transcona, and as we passed under the arch, we knew we were leaving Winnipeg and journeying to some faraway land.

The WPD is a bonafide burger shack with a long history in the far east of Winnipeg. It’s had multiple owners and when asked, our window server said she didn't know where the name “Whistle Pig” came from. With a little research I learned it refers to a Groundhog. “Outside their burrow, individuals are alert when not actively feeding. It is common to see one or more nearly-motionless, standing erect on their hind feet watching for danger. When alarmed, they use a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of the colony.” This seems like a sound survival technique and Burger Club will designate a Whistle Pig from now on while we loll in our meat comas.

The WPD offers a wide selection of burgers with all the standards plus a few that needed explaining:
  • The basic burgers come with mustard, ketchup and relish with cheese\bacon options.
  • The Chili Burger has chili sauce on it.
  • The Whistle Burger has chili, cheese, double bacon and onions (no lettuce or tomato).
  • The Banquet Burger has lettuce, tomato, cheese and bacon.
  • The Fatboy is a banquet minus the bacon.
  • The Chili Box Burger is a chili burger buried in chili.

The WPD suggested we pre-order to save time and that worked out well. When we arrived our burgers were ready and waiting, wrapped in foil-paper and delivered in splendid brown paper bags. Dani commented it was a “Beautiful, sunny day in Transcona. A great day for a window service burger.” There were lots of picnic tables with umbrellas for us to dine at. The patio’s overlooked by the Beatles and a mural of past icons that challenged our memories.

A few of us opted for the Whistle Burger which turned out to be a beef patty wrapped in chili wrapped in a bun. The chili was pleasant and there was lots of it. The beef patty provided some texture in the sandwich; otherwise it was uninteresting. I couldn't discern the cheese or bacon flavours. The chopped white onion added some depth to the burger foundation. The bun was very dry and flaky. Bill commented “More chili on burger than burger.” Mike wrote “This burger was all about chili. All other flavour was lost.” Victor agreed “Whistle Burger needed something other than chili to make it more memorable.”

The Banquet Burger was also a popular choice. April wrote “Burger was a little messy, lots of mayo and even though the patty itself was large, the bun overpowered the burger. If you skip the chili, you miss where the flavour's at.” Stephanie exclaimed “Banquet Burger reminded me of a Big Mac because of the overloaded Mayo.” Brian contemplated the characteristics with “The burger was good overall. It was tasty but fell apart making eating messy; the bun stayed together. The sauce added flavor without too much grease, the bacon was crisp and fresh, but the cheese, lettuce and other toppings were almost invisible.”

Karen reviewed the Fatboy “It had a soft Kaiser roll with tons of saucy lettuce and big tomato. The burger is chewy-thin and really dark coloured. I think it's most likely a bought burger. A filling burger for someone with a modest appetite.”

Finally, a couple of burgerettes had the bacon burger. “The patty looked like a frozen burger patty and kind of tasted like one as well but the bacon was nice and crispy” said Mireille. Dani wrote “Patty looks like it was preformed and frozen. It tastes okay, but no noticeable spicing. This was just a run-of-the-mill burger.”

Opinions varied on the fries and I suspect they tasted best when they were hot. Mike thought “the fries were great!” Brian wrote “Fries where below average.”

A wonderful feature of the WPD is that it shares the parking lot with a DQ and as everyone knows, burgers should always be followed up with ice-cream. A few folks opted for a strawberry cheesecake flavoured mini-Blizzard. All’s well, that ends well!

Whistle Pig Drive Inn on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bar Italia: 3.7/5

Bar I Double and Deluxe Fries with Bacon & Cheddar Topping

Bar I Burger
Score: 3.7, $5.58

Bar I with Bacon
Score: 3.7

Bacon Mushroom Burger
Score: 3.6, $6.47

This week our mission of burgering in the sun led us to Bar Italia at 737 Corydon Ave. It’s a vibrant location with two patios. The larger faces the side street; its wide and treed and where the action is. The alternate patio faces Corydon and has the option of large roll out awnings.

I was expecting a dozen diners for supper today, so Karen and I got there early to try and grab some tables on the Cockburn side (see this video for pronunciation tip). It was hot and action packed and we had great drink service from Stephanie, but it was quickly evident we weren’t going to get enough seats together. Luckily more forward scouts arrived on bicycles and let us know the front patio was all but empty and in shade. The only downside, it was self-service.

We moved around front and sitting together in the shade made our experience very enjoyable. Dining on the Corydon side provided its own entertainment – the chaotic dance of non-stop almost accidents, meter maids handing out tickets and tow trucks hauling away major offenders.

One by one we headed inside to the bar to place our beer and burger orders. Saskatoon's Great Western Original 16 was on tap - it was cold and hit the spot. Our group grew and we kept adding tables, inching across the patio like a glacier. A lone diner was a good sport and gifted his table to our long line – thanks dude! There were 20 of us; we used up the entire liquor occupancy permit and still spilled over to the Cockburn side.

Our burgers didn't take too long to come out – less than 10 minutes for many people - and a variety of staff helped deliver. It was mayhem and for the most part, people got what they ordered, but there were a couple of mishaps. A server said “Here’s your mushroom burger” to Cathy, but a few minutes later she realized it wasn’t.  She didn't share his sense of humour when he responded “Well, all the orders are out so someone at your table is enjoying your burger." Karen noted “Fairly good service - forgot my boorgur though!” Good thing she had a pound-o-Calamari to distract her or things could've gotten nasty. When a sharp young server noticed the absence of burger, he got her one quickly and comped it, so all was well.

Bar Italia makes up a fresh batch of burgers in-house every three days. It was a very lean, dense patty, I’d say a minimum (if any) of panade or seasonings went into it. They were all cooked pretty much the same – a nice black grill crust with a pink middle. I think the pink was a good idea – if they’d been well done, they would've been pretty hard. At one point the restaurant filled up with smoke and a patron was overheard asking "Why is it smoky in here?" to which a server responded "We're cooking a shit-tonne of burgers for some reason."

The general consensus was the big bun was delicious – Isabel said “it was good for catching mayo-tomato drips”, but the patty under-performed in flavour. The toppings, with the exception of fairly hard tomatoes, were top notch. The stack had real cheddar, crispy bacon, fresh sautéed mushrooms, fried red onions and plentiful aioli sauce. It was definitely a good value burger.

My bacon-mushroom burger was messy – just the way I like it! The big slabs of tomato slid around and there was lots of sauce. Les noted “Good bun holds it all together!” Sandy wrote “I've recently realized that the best food is "in balance" without overwhelming flavours. This burger, even with bacon and mushrooms, had this "balance" - but was underwhelming just the same. My tomato was a little under ripe & was distracting.”

Urbanspoon: WeHungry
I shared Karen’s Calamari and it was fantastic! Big tender rings with a nice light coating you could sink your teeth into. The potato sides also got rave reviews. Sandy scribbled “Loved the fries & old school mozza-poutine.”

Bar I Deluxe Fries with Garlic & Herb Topping
Although we served ourselves, staff visited several times to make sure everyone was happy. Just as we were wrapping up and starting to clear our tabs, the patio waitress started her shift :p

Bar Italia on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sandy's Snack Shack (Geppetto's) - Richer, MB

Hamburger - $5.50

Cheeseburger - $6.00

Adirondack Burger - $9.75
If you travel from Winnipeg to cottage country in The Whiteshell and Kenora, you probably know all about the kitschy wooden signs and fun lawn art creations at Geppetto’s along the Trans-Canada highway. What you may not know is that Geppetto’s wife Sandy also cooks up great food at the Snack Shack. Keep an eye out for the flags about 5 miles east of Richer (N49 39.748 W96 21.236). You can even phone in your order at (204) 422-8809.

The menu includes, perogies, chicken fingers, pulled pork, fries, hot dogs, and of course, my favourite - burgers! The star in the burger lineup is the Adirondack which sells for $249 but includes a chair. The chairs are John’s real talent and the Geppetto’s shop is where he builds his red cedar patio furniture. You can try out one of his lawn swings and enjoy your burger in comfortable shade.

If you don’t have room for any more Adirondack’s on your porch, you can have just the burger for $9.75. It’s a double burger with cheese, grilled onions, bacon, chili and all the usual groceries. Sandy hand forms the patties and cooks them up hot on the grill while you wait. It’s a firm, moist patty and tastes of beefy goodness.
She uses Bothwell cheese and the buns are fresh from Harvest Bakery. It’s a soft, light bun that held together nicely. There were three, thick, curled up slices of bacon and a liberal amount of chili that was more sweet than spicy.
Enough to make it messy, but not so much you needed a change of clothes afterwards. I also quite enjoyed the mess of fried onions. It’s a delicious, filling, burger.

The Adirondack was served wrapped in foil-paper with an exaggerated cocktail stick to hold the assembly together.

Karen opted for the smaller cheeseburger with chili and really enjoyed it. The standard condiments, mustard, relish and ketchup are on a side table for you to apply as required.

Another reason to stop at Geppetto’s is the fun 18 hole miniature golf course John had professionally designed and built. It’s challenging, with plenty of water features (and hazards) and some tricky breaks. It also shows that they’re big Bombers and Jets fans.

Geppetto’s celebrated their 20th anniversary on Labour Day in 2013 and John and Sandy put on free fish fry for anyone that came by. John fried up Red Snapper he’d caught in the Florida Keys and served it with beans.

They snowbird for the winter, and this spring returned with a crazy looking fry-guy, his girlfriend and a burger buddy.

If this all sounds like heaven to you, you may want to consider being married at Geppetto’s because John also performs marriages.