“I’m sorry sir, it is illegal to serve medium-rare burgers in this city.”
I can’t really fault my waitress for uttering this common misconception. Like many, I used to think that it is illegal to serve hamburgers that are raw in the middle. It is not. The health authorities do not have such a law in the books. What is stopping most restaurants from giving you the option of ordering a rare or medium-rare burger has nothing to do with the legality of the act, but from their own distrust of their source of ground beef. Most burger joints will not take chances as they get their ground meat from large factory operations whose quality control is beyond their reach.
There are at least three places in Vancouver that grind their own burger meat in-house and are confident to serve their patties pink: Refuel, Hamilton Street Grill, and La Brasserie. (I would have added dbBistro, but they are not long to this world). If you know of any more, please feel free to mention them in the comments.
1944 West 4th Avenue
Burger purists will appreciate Refuel’s great minimalist beige-on-beige burger . It is a burger…in a bun – devoid of the usual embellishments such as pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes. The patty is loosely packed and full of intense beefiness – and salty enough to make it interesting. They make their own bacon (via their sister operation The Cure) and use that as a topping along with an aged white cheddar.
The Hamilton Street Grill
1009 Hamilton Street
Hamilton Street Grill grinds a blend of chuck and steak trimmings together to produce nicely beefy patties. The patty is simply seasoned (salt and maybe pepper), and is nicely crusty. The burger’s lily is gilded with a truffle oil aioli. I am not a fan of anything with truffle oil, so I always opt out. In my experience, the patty here is often slightly overcooked past medium-rare. Mention that you want it “more rare than medium-rare” and you will not be disappointed.
1091 Davie Street
La Brasserie’s burger is perhaps the most magnificent looking of the three listed here (and perhaps in the city). Piled high with fried onions, it’s an awe-inspiring construction. The burger was an bit of an experiment for them. They needed to find a use for the trim from the hanger steaks they serve at dinnertime. Nowadays owing to the burger’s popularity, they buy hanger just for burgers. This isn’t for purists. It’s seasoned with cinnamon(!), fennelseed(!!), bound with egg, and often augmented with bread crumbs, then topped with a white cheddar and bacon. The purist will decry this concoction as a “meatloaf” not a “burger.” It is, however, undeniably tasty.