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!
The Manitoba Club makes a great burger; 5-star according to Burger Club's professional reviewers. If you're not already a member though, it'll cost you $3,000 to sample the fare.
We sat in the less formal Buffalo Bistro. It's an attractive room with wood paneling and our alcove had one long bench covered in faux cow along the wall. The setting was with ceramic plates, silverware and stemware (as expected) and cloth napkins (a rarity). There were even little paper doilies between the plate and the side dish so it didn’t clink and slide around. It was the first time in the Manitoba Club for many of us, so we took a little tour afterwards and I admired the grand wooden pillared staircase and the beautiful billiards room with its 6 x 12 tables. There was plenty of stained glass and history lining the walls. All in all, we were treated quite well and it was a pleasurable experience. Karen commented “Everybody was so nicely dressed and very well behaved. The room was perfect for conversation.”
There were no prices on the menu, but when asked, the waitress told us the platter was $13. Several restaurants we’ve dined at were more expensive. One beef burger was listed, but the topping and side choices were only limited to your imagination. When asked if the burger was good, out server described it as “legendary”. Ordering took a very long time because every time a diner thought of a new topping or side, the previous orderers had to change theirs. Our waitress was *very* patient. It took about an hour for our food to come out, but it all came out at once. I think there was only one mistake. Our attendant was great and checked repeatedly if everyone was happy with their meals and brought out drink refills.
The beef patty was soft, perhaps a little crumbly, very thick and juicy. Russ described it as a “wonderfully juicy burger - thick and full of onions.” Several other Burger Clubbers echoed that it was an extremely good tasting burger. The plentiful, tasty mushrooms were great. Strangely, I didn't notice the bacon and nobody else mentioned it either. The lettuce and tomato were fairly ripe.
The delicious sesame seed bun was nicely glazed, slightly toasted and held up through the entire eat. It kept all the ingredients in place. It was thin and there was a high burger to bun ratio.
The Buffalo Bistro is licensed (of course) and Russ commented that “it was nice to have a beer with the burger.”
As to the side dishes, comments were: “Greek salad was really good.” “Lobster bisque, also good.” “The raspberry vinaigrette dressing for my salad was awesome.” “The coleslaw was good too.”
They were ready for us and we were quite comfortably seated at one long table. The menus were all opened with the daily specials displayed. Our server was great - she was fast, got all the orders right the first time, and was quick to follow up and bring refills.
When the burger came out the first thing I noticed was how much bacon there was! I had 3-4 full slices of perfectly cooked, leathery, bacon. April commented “Hell hath frozen over … I heard Tim say "too much bacon!" When I cut into my burger I could see the patty was a little pink. That doesn't bother me, it makes for a more tender patty, but some diners might not appreciate it. Nobody else mentioned their burger being undercooked so I may have been the only one. The patty was hot and beefy, and relatively unseasoned.
Esther noted “It is not very often that I do not finish my burger but this one had a taste that as hard as I tried, I could not get past.” Several other diners also commented on the “odd” flavor. Maybe Burger Club just isn’t a big fan of the Greek style burger. One burgerer put it: “Burger was adequate: however, not very tasty.”
I asked if I could get fried onions, the answer was “yes”, and they were delicious. The cheese was indiscernible. It was on the bottom with the bacon and onions so may have got lost in the other flavours. I didn't notice the chili either, although it probably added to the overall burger experience. Some people thought it a tidy burger but April’s “oozed with too much mayo and mustard.” Omega Russ observed “Good burger to bun ratio - lots of condiments (especially bacon) with very little mess.” The sesame seed bun did its job just fine. I wasn't even aware it was there.
There were a couple of folks in our group that quite enjoyed their burger, and Stan wrote “I had the straight hamburger with no chili. It proved to be the perfect burger for my taste. The meat patty was excellent and the bun was fresh, lightly toasted and had sesame seeds.”
The fries and salad were plentiful, and like Olympia Diner, you could get both. At Olympia Diner though, you ask for “half and half”, which apparently is more fun to say than “both”. The Greek salad got mediocre reviews. Kari commented “Salad was not bad but Feta needs more punch.” Esther gave the Poutine report: “It was good even though cheese curds weren't used.”
Winnipeg’s most expensive burger didn’t disappoint and made it onto Burger Club’s 5-star burger list! Tazz chided "Ok, after seeing the price of this burger, I thought it came with a cab ride home."
Dessert Sinsations was roomy and comfortable and it was a treat to be surrounded by light on a sunny spring day. The theme this week was lemons and there were bowls and bowls of them lined up along the kitchen. The garnish on our plates was grapefruit and lime though. I'm guessing that will change to lemon soon.
We may have overwhelmed our waitress a bit when our group of 12 showed up. Burger Club can have that effect on people with all of us shouting at once. She was hopping though, and doing her best to serve the full restaurant by herself.
The burger patty was juicy and most excellently seasoned. Christie put it succinctly "The flavour of this burger made my taste buds happy." Karen remarked "It was a very tasty burger with all the toppings: lettuce tomato, cheese and bacon. The onion I only tasted briefly as it fell out." Geoff observed that the burger was "Quite juicy - was dripping out which made a nice topping for the fries."
All the ingredients were top notch - the tomato ripe and thickly sliced, and the bacon was tender and thick. Dani wrote "Wow! I am very impressed with the taste of the bacon. Yum!" Geoff nodded appreciatively "Very thick slices of bacon were a nice touch."
The plentiful real cheese was also delicious. You knew it was real because of the flavour and wonderful cheese-oil, and by the way it oozed out and didn't just sit there like a piece of plastic.
The two slices of bright green romaine were fresh but made the assembly very slippery. There was lots of mayonnaise which added to the messiness, but also added to the great flavour. I think if the burger wasn't as messy, it wouldn't taste as good. April said with bouncy enthusiasm and a hint of shocked disbelief "Assembly was poor - you can't put lettuce on the top and the bottom and lube it up with mayo. That makes for a burger torpedo." Beef slides and containment issues were rampant. It was truly a "Delicious Mess of Love" but Tapp's already has the trademark on that name. I actually watched Geoff's burger slowly slide out of its bun while sitting on a level plate. Karen exclaimed "Facial wipe would have been handy as the cream cheese splorpes out the bottom, sides and top!" Nelson wrote "quite possibly the messiest, slipperiest burger I've ever had." Tazz set the scene with "One other point, bring an extra shirt, hip waders and a shop vac. At the very least a garbage bag with a head hole in it. The burger is messy, with two pieces of lettuce making it akin to trying hug your kid after slathering him in suntan lotion. There was stuff shooting out everywhere."
The bun was an anomaly in an otherwise great line-up of quality ingredients; it was dry and cheap. I think that the expensive burger sets your expectations high and you look forward to top quality ingredients, but the bun disappointed. Nelson wrote "Bun was a weak sandwich for this sandwich." Tazz lamented "The only drawback was the crappy bun ... why? Why would you choose to put such a dry, tasteless bun on such a good burger?"
I tried the white potato fries and loved them. April liked the yam fries and noted "Dip was super yummy." Geoff said "The $4 fries to make the platter were damn good, especially with the chipotle dip that came with the yam fries. Expensive but worth it." April added "Lemonade was good."
The newly renovated Tapp’s Neighborhood Pub in the Dakota Hotel is very nice inside. There are enough TV’s on the wall to satisfy even the most A.D.D. diner. We were set up at tall tables and chairs and it was quite entertaining to watch Karen try and get on and off of her chair. Our waitress was super – all smiles, attentive and quick. Stan commented “Really enjoyed the atmosphere. Friendly and efficient service.” April was quite impressed that her food came with everyone else's even though she got there 20 minutes late. There were a few topping mistakes and Brett’s stuff ended up on Esther’s bottom. That was quickly fixed by replacing her bottom.
Karen put it best when she said some burgers are about the beef patty, and some are about the toppings. The Tapp’s burger was about the toppings. The menu lists six burgers with fantastic descriptions like “delicious mess of love” and “peppery affair”. Tapp’s burger toppings include generous portions of shaved fried onions, basil garlic yogurt, bottle cap Jalapeños and Tabasco sauce to name but a few. Cary was happy because he finally got a fried egg on a burger. The patty itself gave a few people some trouble though. Apparently the “family recipe” includes filler. A LOT of filler. Esther commented “Burger patty didn't seem to have a lot of meat in it but yet the patty was large. Hmmm … " It was a big, thick patty but surprisingly not that filling. A bread crumb panade makes for a soft and juicy burger, but this burger patty had more chunks of bread in it than beef. The patty had been fried hot and had a nice crust on it sealing in the juices. A few people enjoyed the flavour but a number didn’t like the taste. I would describe it as meatloaf without the seasoning. Liz shouted on her little rating slip “WAY TOO MUCH PEPPER.” I should point out in Tapp’s defense that she ordered the Pepper Burger. It was coated in a solid layer of cracked black pepper though.
The two slices of bacon were delicious. Most of the ingredients were decent enough, but the chunks of yellow – sometimes brown – iceberg lettuce put a couple of people off. My burger assembly was dry but that that was my fault. I asked for no pickles or onions and it didn’t come with any other condiments aside from a little mayonnaise. I noticed that Liz’s Pepper Burger came with a good serving of basil garlic yogurt so maybe I’ll try that one next time. The burgers came served on big, tasty Kaisers which did an admirable job of containing all the delicious toppings. Brett exclaimed “Kaiser is always the way to go! Cheers Germany.”
I tried some of April’s bottle caps and they were good! The first sensation was the nice cool battered coating, but then the heat of the jalapeño reaches up and smacks you in the face. Initially I thought the bottle cap serving looked pretty miniscule, but it was enough. Esther noted “Poutine was … fries with packaged gravy and shredded cheese.” Nelson observed “The fries were very peppery.”
I had a side house salad with a very enjoyable raspberry vinaigrette dressing, but the salad was a bit too heavy on the diced pepper, cucumber and carrots for my liking. It was hard to get the big chunks of lettuce and the little bits of veggie onto the same forkful. Dani said the cream of broccoli soup was very tasty.
Karen said the “Deep fried Mars bar for dessert was the waitress’s fault! She was a naughty influence.” Cary and I each ordered one to share around the table - a little goes a long way and one serving would’ve done the eleven of us. It was delicious! The light whipped cream and ice cream balanced the heaviness of the deep fried, caramelly goodness within.
A little quirk about Tapp’s is that the bathroom hand dryer had a black light in it. I’ve seen it used on CSI, but why here?