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!
There’s been a shake up in the burger-verse! Danny’s BBQ did everything right to become Winnipeg’s new #1. Our Top 5 burgers have remained unchanged for so long, I was starting to think we’d already found Winnipeg’s best, but we hadn't been to Danny’s BBQ & Smokehouse yet.
Danny’s BBQ opened in the summer of 2012 in the former Hu's Asian Bistro and Grapes location at 1747 Ellice. Many Manitobans will be familiar with Danny’s Whole Hog catering whole hog roasts for many years. Danny Kleinsasser and Buck Pierce opened the new restaurant together so you can come for Danny’s BBQ & Smokehouse and stay for Buck's Sport Lounge. The large venue is also home to the Big Daddy Tazz's Social Emporium 140 seat theatre. This week we were lucky enough to have Big Daddy Tazz and mini-Tazz burgering with us and captivating us with ghost stories.
There was a blizzard going on outside, but that didn't keep anyone from showing up for Burger Club! I booked ahead - I knew we were going to be a large group for our holiday burger - and without being asked, Danny's created a "Winnipeg Burger Club" menu just for us. How fun is that! The choices included the Buck’s BBQ Burger off the regular menu, as well as a new Danny’s Whole Hog Burger with pulled pork on top, and The Big Daddy Tazz Burger that was a double with a lot of extra’s including Guacamole sauce. We preordered to save time, and pretty much every one of us made modifications to our burger. The platters came out shortly after we arrived, and with one exception, everyone got exactly what they ordered. The erroneous burger assembly was returned to the kitchen and quickly corrected.
I can't say enough about the service. Each of us were greeted at the entrance and shown to our dining room. We were setup in the 35 seat VIP room and that worked great for our group of 17 - we were in a U-shape so could all see and converse with each other. The VIP space is quite inviting and noise baffled from the main dining room (we’re the noisy ones!) We had a great waitress - Terry - and she was assisted by Maddy when delivering the plates. Terry was friendly with a big smile, but she was no-nonsense efficiency when it came to serving our group. The kitchen manager, Ty, and chef, Dom, both came out to make sure they'd got it all right and everyone was happy. We were.
Most weeks some of our group love their burger, and some not as much. This week everybody seemed to really enjoy their burger and the consensus was the charbroiled flavour made the patty. Yes, Danny’s flame broils their burgers. I remember having a discussion once with another diner that a flat top grill is better because you’re not losing the juices, but for me, you can’t beat the flavour of an open flame. The beef was quite delicious all on its own. It was moist but not juicy, firm but not hard, a nice thick patty, cooked to perfection and deliciously seasoned.
I don’t know how they did it, but the onion rings on the Buck’s BBQ burger were still crispy and I really enjoyed the texture. The bacon was thick and cooked to leathery goodness. As Andrea put it, the “combination of the patty and the bacon gave the burger a nice smokey flavour.” The cheese was plentiful and the taste came through. I opted for the Monterey Jack on mine; Sandy had the cheddar and said “I loved the cheese/onion ring combo.”
Every burger had two thick slices of juicy, ripe tomato - loved it! I don’t know where Danny’s found all the ripe tomato this time of year, but I’m glad they did. The romaine was fresh and bright green and served to grip rather than making a burger torpedo like Iceberg lettuce does. Andrea verged on poetic when she wrote “Freshness of the lettuce and tomato was a clean, crisp contrast to the texture of the meat.“ The flavour balance was great - it made my whole mouth happy.
If there was any room for improvement, it would be in the bun. The sesame seed - egg bun had the right density and girth to support the big burger, but was a little dry and crumbly. This was the prevailing opinion, so the bun was probably the only thing between the burger and perfection. Brett wrote “Bun was fine but not quite up to the duty.” It was a very well designed burger and stayed together for me, but I always cut mine in half. Some mock me for this, but I think I’m the clever one.
April summarized nicely “My burger was just the right size, tasted great, had all my requested exceptions and was set in front of me as I arrived.” Karen was even more concise “OMG! What a stellar burger!”
Most of our group had the Buck’s BBQ Burger and it was a winner. Brett had The Big Daddy Tazz Burger and wrote “The patties had a charbroiled flavour with a nice crispy outside, well seasoned, moist, and not too dense. Nice bite from the hot sauce and could taste the guacamole. Not too many onions.” Jeff had the Danny’s Whole Hog Burger and wrote “This made my 4-mile run this morning totally worth it!! The burger was excellent, and the pulled pork on it was sheer brilliance!” I also had the pulled pork on my burger, it was succulent but the smokey flavor comes from the selection of delicious sauces. A couple of burgerers bought bottles of Danny’s BBQ sauce to take home. The only one you couldn't seem to buy any more was the "Danny and Buck's Jerk Sauce" - apparently they took that one off the menu.
All the Danny’s burgers come as platters and you choose two sides from a wide selection. Today, the clear winner was the garlic mashed potatoes and gravy. Sandy wrote “As great as the burger was, the garlic mashed potatoes were divine! I think we need a mashed potato club next!!” Dani noted “The gravy had a nice savory kick to it.” The fries were also a favourite as Karen wrote “Liked the fries and gravy was super tasty.” Also getting good reviews were the coleslaw which was a creamy mix, and the baked beans with pulled pork mixed in. The beans were mildly flavoured so don’t expect a strong BBQ smoke experience. Mike commented that the “Jambalaya had nice flavour”. Russ said “Great fries and chili.”
Danny’s BBQ & Smokehouse also got a high “Restaurant Rating.” That’s where we rate the Service, Price and Comfort. Danny’s was second only to Sonya’s and that’s because you can have four Sonya’s burgers for the price of one Danny’s. I guess that’s the difference between running a small mom and pop shop like Sonya’s and operating a large, well provisioned restaurant like Danny’s.