Jumpin' Burger Joints

All across Canada, diners are talking about juicy, beefy hamburgers—and who’s doing them best. We’ll take a look at just a few venues, and what makes them worthy of discussion. You’ll see carefully selected ingredients and preparation, plus other (mostly fun!) ideas that create standout operations. Here’s your connexion to the best burgers in Canada.

Unique Perspective

Since 1926, founder Chick Chamberlain of Tomahawk Barbecue in Vancouver (still owner!) has been naming burgers after some of the Indian Chiefs he has known. The Skookum Chief Burger features certified organic beef topped with onions, lettuce, free-range egg, weiner, bacon, cheddar, tomato and Tomahawk special sauce! West Coast and North Shore native artifacts have pride of place here. Also in Vancouver, Raglan’s Bistro is a hangout with a tiki vibe (straw hut bar, surfboards) and “cartoons from your childhood playing on the TVs.” “Serving you since the turn of the century,” the popular The Republican boasts blue brie, aged cheddar, roasted mushrooms, crispy onions, garlic mayo, and a ciabatta bun.

What’s in a Name?

Naming burgers is part of any great operator’s menuing process. Let’s start with Bernie & the Boys Bistro’s “biggest” success—the Mammoth. That’s 25 ounces of 100% natural Alberta beef (BBB’s home province) on a homemade bun. Other fun monikers and burgers include Steve’s Dad’s: cheddar and mozzarella, mayo and ranch, Magma Sauce, lettuce and pickle. And the Notch-Yo, slathered in cheddar, hot banana peppers, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. How about “Bistro Train Wreck” for a name? That’s what Bistro Burger Joint (Ont.) calls their local, natural beef burger with a deep fried bun, smoked bacon, aged white cheddar, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles and spicy mayo. This joint is co-owned by two brothers and a potato farmer. It’s cash only, and you’ll see a cow-horn door handle, branded wooden tables, painted skateboards showcasing each burger, plus colourful chalkboard menus and three framed hides on the walls.

Simple Strategy

Bright colours and a type-only logo on the website clue you in to BOOMBurger (P.E.I.) and its laser focus on classic burgers done right. The long list of “free toppings” is savvy, as is serving 100% fresh Island beef on buns grilled with local Cows Creamery butter. Little Boom is one patty, Big Boom is two. Burger Bob (Que.) also takes things easy but smart: with a simple menu, small building with a walk-up window and picnic table outdoors. The taste? As one online commenter says: “Perfectly charred burgers that are almost impossible to get in the States.”

On Target

Enticing a particular type of customer can pay off. Look at Frat Burger (Ont.). Even the name says, “student appeal”; things like mismatched chairs extend the youngand- hip approach. Burger options include The Hound Dog, topped with peanut butter, Monterey Jack cheese and bacon. Another is called The Hangover, and you can order “squeezers” (i.e., toppings) such as Frat Sauce. Then there’s Average Joe’s Sports Bar (Alta.), voted best sports bar in Canada by Sportsnet TV (2009). Naturally, they feature games on TV, but also live music and comics. They serve “hand-crafted, ground-fresh beef” burgers on a toasted garlic bun. Add-ons range from cheese to bacon to pineapple.

Outside the Box

The “Woody Mobile” gets attention as it brings catered burgers to events for Woody’s Burger Bar & Grill (Ont.). Like the stationary location, this tricked-out van offers Canadian hardwood-fired cooking of local beef “hand-pressed daily.” Try the Coronary stuffed with blue or cheddar and topped with fried onions, bacon, fried egg and cheese. Or go Asian style with the Tokyo: pickled ginger, wasabi mayo, sautéed onions. Some operations are doing delivery through SkipTheDishes; these include Birmingham’s Vodka & Ale House (Sask.). Other hooks for this popular spot: “woven” bacon, BBQ sauce spiked with whiskey, and the Poutine Burger loaded with plank fries, squeaky cheese curds and gravy.

More Doing More

Bonzzini’s Brew Pub (Sask.) • Burger Barn (Ont.) • The Burger Factory (Man.) • Chuck’s Burger Bar (Ont.) • The Home Place Inn & Restaurant (P.E.I.) • Papa Joe’s (P.E.I.)