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!
Burger Club was waiting for the long cold winter to be over so we could enjoy a burger under the sun on the Market Burger rooftop patio at 645 Corydon Ave. Today was finally the day and it was cooking under the clear blue sky. We needed the overhead shade curtains to keep from getting as hot as our burgers. April exclaimed, “the atmosphere of the roof top patio was fantastic!” We were nestled in the corner, sheltered by walls featuring angelic artworks, a smooching couple and a wonderful definitive Manitoba banner.
Our group arrived at 11:30 to beat the lunch rush and staff were ready for us. One long table for 14 was setup with menus laid out, and as Russ commented, the “comfiest patio chairs ever!” Our server and hostess were great; enthusiastic and gave me a quick tour of the well stocked bar and museum that included a Jennifer Jones curling rock.
Back on the roof, they brought drinks quickly and started taking orders as soon as most of our group had arrived. There were a couple of latecomers and it seemed the waitress had a system; she finished putting in all the orders she'd just taken before coming back with menus for the new arrivals and writing down their orders. It wasn't a long wait before the platters were delivered sequentially to happy faces in the same order they were placed.
Each meal came on a sturdy wooden board covered in red butcher paper. Most people ordered a side, but I didn't, and the burger was placed at one end as if to point out “this is where the fries should have gone.”
Most of us spec’ed out our own personal build-a-burger while two diners couldn't resist the allure of the Mac n’ Cheese. A couple of rebels ordered the chili-bison and butter chicken burgers. They're on probation now. We all had either the Brioche or the Multigrain Kaiser bun and the crowd favorite was clearly the Kaiser. For many the Brioche was a little dry and crumbly. Karen commented the “Brioche bun was soft and when I compressed down the assembly, it squished until I hit a solid plank of burger.”
Most of our burgers were customized and there was great variety. Someone made the observation that if your burger wasn't what you wanted, you could only blame yourself. Russ expressed “Upon my first bite Karen commented "well, that's a happy look" and it was.”
Some of the comments were that the patty was seasoned with salt and had a nice crispy crust. Overall it was a very tasty, filling burger. The patty was juicy and well cooked. It was flavourful without having to add chili. Another diner wrote “Chili has an extra good amount of heat“.
The lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and onions were sautéed to perfection. Jalapeño relish was delicious - good spice. I think it really depended on your topping buddies - some diners thought the cheese and mushrooms got lost while others enjoyed the cheese. Some thought their burger wasn't saucy enough, others found it messy. Consider your toppings carefully – it may be the most important decision you make all day!
Stephanie had the Match Stick Fries and wrote “Shoe string fries!!!” on her review slip ‘cause that says it all.
When I was entering in the ratings later, newbie Mark had scored “comfort” low. Why? He got the wobbly table. Somebody always gets the wobbly table.
The Elephant & Castle, at 350 St Mary Ave in the Delta Hotel, reopened May 1 after a short closure for renovations. The designers knew what they were doing and the refresh is wonderful. It’s still the E&C you've come to know and love – only shinier and freshly stuffed. Stamped tin panels adorn the ceiling and glazed black tiles, reminiscent of the Ministry of Magic, cover the pillars. The tables are spot lit from above, illuminating the food without making the room seem bright. There was eye catching tungsten feature lighting over the lobby and our large table.
Elephant & Castle (Roy - FaceBook)
The new furniture is the real treat - the wooden tables have an interesting grain and are fitted to the varying topography of the pub. The chair seats are very comfortable with firmly stuffed suede cushions - which means no sliding around. The booths are covered in fabulous shiny red leather - also firmly stuffed and quite comfortable. The biggest change you may notice is – there are washrooms now! No more wending your way through the hotel. The E&C like it better too; occasionally a diner would head off to find the bathroom - never to return. The large group use area in the back is gone; usurped by the new bathrooms.
The ever popular E&C doesn't take reservations so we got their early to grab tables. It’s immediately apparent that E&C puts a lot of stock in great service. There are multiple hostesses (they have two desks now) and waitresses as far as the eye can see. The General Manager, Roy, stopped by our tables more than once to make sure our group was having a good experience. Our waitress, Renae, was the best server *ever!* - just about everyone raved about Renae on their little review slips. All the staff seemed genuinely concerned with our happiness. “My drink was never dry!” April wrote.
The menu has also been refreshed. It's still pub fare with a number of popular favorites, but many new dishes to choose from as well. There are eight burgers including four beef assemblies, lamb, salmon, chicken and veggie. Roy pointed out that the pre-reno beef burger, piled with onion rings like a Fisher Price stacking ring toy and made large and juicy with a panade, was off the menu and replaced with a leaner patty. He managed our expectations by letting us know the patties were drier than they used to be, and to compensate, the double was moistened with a deep fried pickle. Requesting an extra slice of cheese wouldn't hurt either. This was foreshadowing for our burger story.
The new patty is made from brisket, chuck and rib cuts. It’s the healthier alternative. The ground round’s dense and thin, texture reminiscent of bison, lightly peppered with an attractive grill crust. The small, uniformly shaped patty is filling, but a double's not out of the question if you're a big eater. The modest short stack assembly didn't try to pretend it was anything it wasn't; the unassuming presentation was the stubby beer bottle of burgers.
All of us agreed that E&C have the winning bun recipe; the egg washed brioche was perfect. I think they peeked into Original Joe's kitchen. The bun had a light interior, brown toasted crust and was well matched to the patty. A gluten free option is also available. April wrote “The burger had a great appearance. It was shiny.”
The leaf lettuce, ripe tomato and raw red onion toppings were fresh, and the bacon cooked to leathery goodness. Always have the bacon! The cheese went practically unnoticed with several diners thinking it had been forgotten until looking inside their bun to see it crowning the patty. Some of our group noted the menu boasted tasty sauces like chipotle aioli and Guinness BBQ sauce but there didn't seem to be enough for the flavour to be pronounced or to moisten the lean patty. It definitely wasn't a messy burger. All in all, I enjoyed mine and I’m sure this smaller, healthier departure from increasingly large and dramatic burger offerings will be just the ticket for a lot of diners.
Geoff wrote “Continuing my tradition of ordering the largest burger on the menu, I had to go for the Double Standard burger. I didn't have to unhinge my jaw to bite into it, but it was filling indeed. The bun retained its structural integrity although it got compressed. Ingredients were fresh and stayed in place. Bacon and pickles (both naked and deep fried) added some flavour. Didn't really taste the two cheeses, burger itself wasn't overly flavourful. Beer was quite tasty!”
Mini Stuffed Yorkies
Cary commented the “Bacon & Bleu cheese burger had a very mature flavour”. I asked Cary what he meant by that. “Kids prefer Kraft Singles. Adults go gaga over the blue cheese.”
Bill wrote the “Fries were homemade and good.” Karen raved “the sweet potato fries were stellar - just the right amount. The dip was tasty.”