When The Coast announced “Burger Week” in conjunction with 21 participating restaurants, I couldn’t have been more excited. I love the Halifax burger hype and the idea that we could be a burger destination. Burger Week gave us eight $5 burger selections, as well as 13 burger creations with some proceeds going to FEED Nova Scotia. Participating restaurants varied from burger legend, Darrell’s, to the head scratcher, Jungle Jim’s.
I kicked off Burger Week with a full blown burger crawl. I visited 4 restaurants and split the burger at each place with a hungry pastry chef. (Pastry chefs can EAT!)
Our first stop was The Armview, the coolest little west end diner that doubles as the neighbourhood bar. Their $5 burger promotion was their Classic Burger: A grilled, house-made 6oz patty with sauteed onions, mustard and ketchup on a sesame seed bun. As far as classic burgers go, this one is quite sizeable. The burger is not revolutionary in any way, but is an excellent rendition of a simple diner burger. We left the Armview satisfied, though we were pumped for something a little more mind-blowing.
My partner in gluttony had never been to Ace Burger, so that was the obvious choice for blowing our minds and palates. Ace’s Deluxe Burger (Getaway Farms grass fed beef, Brothers’ back bacon, PEI cheddar, frizzled onions and dijonnaise on a Kaiser) is usually $7 but was a $5 special for Burger Week. We were told we would have to wait 45 minutes, since everyone else in town obviously had the same idea. Gus’ was so packed that people had to eat their burgers in the VLT room, and some people were sitting on the stage. Halifax loves Ace Burger, and it is clear that Ace Burger loves Halifax!
Next up was Bearly’s House of Blues and Ribs (and now Burgers). Our server told us that he had never sold so many hamburgers in his career. I looked around the bar and everyone was eating burgers and analysing their Burger Week Passports. It was clear that Halifax was hyped! The Texas Burger (home-made, locally produced Canadian steer beef, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, onion rings, and salsa) was served with fries and coleslaw for a measly $5. We really enjoyed this burger! The meat was a finer grind and we could taste the grill marks and a touch of heat from the jalapenos.
I wanted to check out Harbour City Bar & Grill in the Delta Halifax because I totally loved their offerings at Savour Food & Wine. There was a confusing description on the Burger Passport of what turned out to be several choices. Tandoori Chicken, Cashew Peanut Veggie, and Crabby Patty were a few, but we decided to go for the Dragon’s Breath Blue (a lamb burger infused with local blue cheese). The burger came with a 16oz Barking Squirrel Lager for $17. I have to admit, I have never met a lamb burger I have loved and this was no exception. Being blue cheese lovers, we lamented that there was no additional cheese on top of the burger, which was just kind of plain. We were disappointed, which was too bad because the service and ambiance were great. We reluctantly conceded that we were sleepy and bloated, and thus halted the burger crawl.
Oh, but I’m not done yet! After a weekend spent in the forest doing my Wilderness First Aid certification, I was hungry for more burgers! I went with some classmates to Cheese Curds to check out their Burger Week selection. For $8.75 I got a local home-made 6oz patty topped with sauteed portobello, crimini and button mushrooms, wilted spinach, and Swiss cheese. I wish there was more seating at Cheese Curds and less pressure to choose from an overwhelming list of toppings, but we found a table and I kept my burger simple. The result was a solid burger with big fabulous chunks of perfectly cooked mushrooms. My modest burger allowed the bun to hold its integrity, instead of falling apart (as it has been known to do on the gargantuous CC Porker).
Willy’s is known for its pizza corner poutines, but for Burger Week they had a $10 8oz Oulton’s beef patty with bacon, cheese, beer battered jalapenos and onion rings. This burger definitely brought the beef! However, as a fellow burger quester pointed out: “It’s pretty good, but the lettuce on it is a joke!” True enough. What is the point of a bland flappy iceburg lettuce leaf crowning a deep-fried meat orgy? The deep fried jalapenos were a nice touch on this burger, lending a bit of heat and crunch. Unfortunately, the bacon was undercooked and I ended up pulling a lot of it out. This burger was a bit too monstrous for me, but it had potential. I’ll make a return trip to Willy’s in the future for something a little more manageable.
On the last day of burger week, I hit up Rock Bottom for lunch. I have already praised Rock Bottom for their amazing peanut butter burger, yet I have been less impressed with the rest of their burger menu. For Burger Week, $5 got me a regular hamburger with fries, rice, or roasted potatoes. Rock Bottom uses Nova Scotia beef, flame grilled and topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle and served on a sourdough Kaiser bun. The simplicity of this sandwich enabled the beef and bun to truly shine. Rock Bottom’s choice of quality beef and bread elevates its hamburgers to gourmet status. Plus, the beer is some of the best in the city.
My final Burger Week indulgence was Tempo, which offered their regular menu burger with a 16oz Barking Squirrel Lager for $15. This burger features Oulton’s beef, aged cheddar, iceburg lettuce, smoked tomato ketchup, fried onions, candied bacon, soft bun, tempura pickle, and fries. I’m glad it’s on the regular menu, because it was fantastic (if not difficult to fit in one’s mouth). The tempura pickle was a nice touch, but the beefy goodness and symphony of flavours is what made me love this burger.
I wanted to pick some winners, but I don’t think I can. Ace Burger was exceptional as always, Bearly’s was a surprising winner, Armview is a perfect classic, Rock Bottom elevates the standard pub burger, Willy’s has burger potential, Cheese Curds makes a solid sandwich, and Tempo is a class act! Harbour City was disappointing, but perhaps the cashew peanut veggie was the star? I guess I’ll never know, since the Burger Week specials are not on the regular menu. Either way, it was really nice to see all the hungry Haligonians supporting this promotion and so many restaurants getting involved. So much burger love for a city of 400,000!