Foodosophy of Pink Burgers in Vancouver, BC

“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.

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The Pink Bicycle – Victoria, BC

The Pink Bicycle Gourmet Burger Joint
1008 Blanshard Street
Victoria, BC
(250) 384-1008

One of our regular dining spots when we are at Victoria is The Pink Bicycle – a “hole in the wall” known for its gourmet burgers. Over the years, I have come to accept that the phrase “gourmet burgers” (in nearly all practical terms) is an oxymoron. Way too many places are using this label to differentiate themselves from the rest…and nearly all of them fall flat. The Pink Bicycle, though not flawless in its execution, is one of the rare places that succeeds.

All their burgers are made with naturally raised and/or organic meat. Their beef burger is made from naturally pastured Hereford cows sourced from a local producer on the Island. This type of beef is often much leaner than the typical grain or corn fed beef. The resultant burger tends to be “drier” in texture. This burger isn’t any different – it is indeed dry, but it had a good intensely “beefy” flavour that most burgers these days lack. The texture is also a bit different than usual. The cooks here “flatten” their burgers on their flattop griddle..resulting in a squished, slightly dense and shredded texture.

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Bernie’s Balkan Kitchen – Burnaby, BC

Bernie’s Balkan Kitchen
7340 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 526-6580

In a somewhat frightening twist, my lunch time visit to Bernie’s Balkan Kitchen was followed by this incident just hours later in the parking lot directly behind the building.  I’ve heard of doing anything for food, but getting shot is certainly not one of them… at least for me.  With the treacherous, violent history of the Balkans, part of me wondered if this modern day bit of warfare so close to a business with its geographic namesake, was sadly, no small coincidence…

I recalled this post as I drove by looking for a place to get a quick meal.  I’d originally planned to just get something to go as I was in a rush, but ended up taking a seat and eating inside, partly due to the wait to get my food.  Based on that blogger post’s impressions, I decided not to order the apparently popular beef or cheese burek (homemade filo pastry pie) in part due to the reported lack of flavor as well as the big size (it would be too much for me to eat on this day).  There was one slice left of the beef burek in the warming station, as well as one full, uncut cheese one (which later got purchased by one of the diners as a to-go item).

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Burger Burger – New Westminster, BC

Burger Burger
340 – 6th Street
New Westminster, BC
(604) 525-4229

May 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Another sojourn into New West.  I’ve been expanding my food hunting journeys to the “far east”, as frankly for me its a largely unexplored area and the Vancouver coverage of eateries and restaurants is seemingly getting more saturated and repetitive – especially in light of the start of “the event” next week in town.  So I thought, what a better way to really get off the beaten path of reviews on those standard superstar places that are appearing in cyberspace and print media, than a return to a classic mom-and-pop joint.

Interestingly enough, despite its very generic sounding name, Burger Burger gets top billing on the commercial signage that stands at this complex along sixth street.  It totally reminded me of my high school years, where my buddies and I would always congregate at our town’s favourite hole-in-the-wall burger spot – which ironically stood across the street from a McDonald’s.  Even the yellow signage was identical, as well as the open facing flat top cooking area and fantastically priced burger-fries-drink combos.  Over a decade later, I am bewildered to see that a place like Burger Burger has prices that I am most familiar with when I was a cash-starved but always hungry teenager over a decade ago.

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Mission Burger by Mission Street Food – San Francisco, CA

Mission Burger (by Mission Street Food)
inside Duc Loi Supermarket
2200 Mission St (between 18th St & 19th St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Sat-Wed, noon-3pm

Food and cooking knowledge can come from a variety of sources. Being a detail-oriented person, I really enjoy shows that explain why, not just what. Aside from Alton Brown, who has really started turning me off with his over the top corny humour, one show that I really enjoy is the BBC classic “In Search of Perfection” with Michelin 3 star chef Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck. He really caught my attention with his episode on steak (it really works btw), and I’ve enjoyed the knowledge, and the hilarity of his exploits.

In his cookbook Further Adventures In Search of Perfection, Heston Blumenthal reinvents the burger to deliver what he feels is the perfect burger. While in principal, his ideas are fantastic, in practice, they are often so time consuming, and difficult to source the ingredients, that it just isn’t feasible for us “normal” people. I remember duplicating his steak recipe, and the total time required before i could put fork to mouth was almost 48 hours. His burger recipe, as tested by the dedicated hamburger folks at aht (serious eats), took over 30 hours. For a hamburger.

Enter Mission Burger, brought to you by Mission Street Food – a not for profit organization that donates their proceeds to charity. In the entire lunch counter revival I was discussing in the Villa Mexico post, they’ve set up a burger counter inside the Duc Loi Supermarket in the Mission.

There are a few very notable things about Mission Burger.
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Minetta Tavern – New York City, NY

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal St., at Minetta Ln.
New York, NY
(212) 475-3850

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of this week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #5 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, Walt Street Pub, is available here. Hope you enjoy the series.

Exclusivity. It’s a real pain for us common folks who love food – as some restaurants that sound like they would be an experience of a lifetime, are just extremely difficult to get a reservation at. El Bulli, French Laundry, the list goes on. While Minetta Tavern doesn’t quite fall under this category, mostly due to their generous dining hours (menu served till 1am), it is still near impossible to get in at a prime time. Normally I wouldn’t bother, but I heard they had the best hamburger in NYC. We decided to eat at 11pm.

Guarded by a “doorman”, the blinds are drawn, and there is no way of seeing inside. Many places try to generate interest – seating people near windows – to make it seem like a place you want to eat at. Minetta Tavern feels like they are trying to keep you out – they are busy enough as it is. This is by no fault of the staff – both the doorman, and the hostess, were incredibly friendly and accommodating – it’s just by virtue of their job to keep walk-ins away when the restaurant is already (likely) overbooked.

Once your reservation is confirmed with the doorman, you’re allowed into the sanctuary. An overly crowded bar, with hordes of people waiting to be seated. I’ve never been seated on time – there is always a delay – even at 11pm. Based on the celebrities who visit Minetta Tavern, I can understand all of the above inconveniences. I don’t have to like it, but I understand.

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Walt Street Pub – Red Bank, NJ

Walt Street Pub
180 Monmouth St
Red Bank, NJ
(732) 741-5936

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of this week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #4 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, Peter Luger,  is available here . Hope you enjoy the series.

I remember one of the first food bloggers i ever read. This was really before blogging was all that popular. In one of his posts, he discussed the Walt Street Pub – a small pub in Red Bank, that served up some amazing burgers.

I’ve had images of that burger burning in my head ever since, and had to include the Walt Street Pub when exploring New York’s best burger.

Located on the idyllic south shore, Red Bank looks nothing like a foodie haven. More like a speed bump on the commuter highway to NYC. The drive out from the city took quite a while – and upon exiting the car, I knew the experience would be completely different from the any of the establishments in the city.

The pub itself has a homey sports bar feel. There was a friendly bartender, and a friendly server. The place was near empty.

The Walt Street Pub is famous for their wings – mild, hot or “killer death”. These wings were voted the “best in town” – by whom, I have no idea. And in terms of Red Bank, maybe not the biggest town. They were, however, quite tasty. Basted in very hot sauce, the wings were amply sized, and fried to a crispy exterior. I’m definitely in the wing camp that prefers a drier wing to a soaked, wet wing. The wings themselves were very juicy, with a nice crunch to them. The heat was a bottled hot sauce type of vibe, but I enjoyed these a lot.

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Peter Luger – Brooklyn, NY

Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 387-7400‎

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of this week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #3 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien is available here . Hope you enjoy the series.

New Yorkers are famous for many things. Pastrami. Pizza. The Yankees. And a very brusque attitude. While visiting New York City over the years, other than some crazy drivers, I haven’t found the “New York” attitude to be all that prevalent. Impatient towards tourists? Often, yes. But unfriendly? Not at all.

One of the bastions of the New York attitude exists at Peter Luger. Famous Brooklyn steakhouse known for surly service, 5 week+ dry aged steak, and an astronomical bill. One Michelin Star. Voted best steak in New York for 24 years by Zagat, what isn’t as well known is they have a burger on their lunch menu. One that many consider to be the best burger in New York + Outer Boroughs.

The first thing you encounter upon walking into Peter Lugers is either crowds of people waiting, or the enormous bar. Everyone ends up at the bar eventually – since even with a reservation, you’re typically made to wait 15-20 minutes. Minimum. It’s not the worst place to be stuck though – reasonable  New York prices for drinks, an ok house label beer and some decent cocktails. If you’re of the male gender – expect some surly comments and banter – not always lighthearted, though it seems quite faux surly for the most part. Ladies are treated very nicely.

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Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien – New York City, NY

Burger Joint
Lobby of Le Parker Meridien
118 W 57th St
New York, NY
(212) 708-7414

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the next week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #2 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The first review, Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack, is available here. Hope you enjoy the series.

There’s something about secrets that appeal to people. It’s nice “being in the know”. Having access to an experience others don’t. They are out there too. Secret restaurants, like Totoraku in LA, or many other secret supper clubs dotted around each metropolitan city, guarded tightly like the crown jewels of the foodie community.

Hidden in the corner of the lobby of Le Parker Meridien is a secret – not through lack of information, but by obscurity of location. The Burger Joint. Hidden behind floor to ceiling curtains is a small burger operation that is the complete oppose of the Meridien Hotel vibe. Dirty, small, with a great buzz.

Marked by a simple neon burger, these days it’s easy to find by the lineup.

Once you round the corner, you find a bustling community of people drinking draught beer (Sam Adams) and chowing down on burgers and fries. Tables are sticky and dirty, bussing your own tables usually ends up that way, and tables are had on a first come first serve basis. You better be aggressive – camp someone who looks like they are leaving, or be willing to push your way through when you see someone getting up. Being polite means you end up standing there for 30 minutes, holding your rapidly cooling burger, looking despondent.

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Rainbow Drive-In – Honolulu, HI

Rainbow Drive-In
3308 Kanaina Ave
Honolulu, HI
Tel: (808) 737-0177

With two of my friends who I managed to rustle out of bed after a busy previous day of driving around the island’s north shore, we took this walking tour up busy Kapahulu Avenue in our quest to find a few local eateries that I had previously researched and been told of by someone I know who has lived on the island.

But it was by pure luck that we also came across the Rainbow Drive-In, as it was not originally on my hit list.  The lineup at the counter as we passed it while traveling northbound made us think we needed to come back for a visit and a brief inquiry about this place to a man in line resulted in him telling us enthusiastically how “amazing the food is here and that we had to try it out”!

After we completed our intended stops up the road, we did just that.

By then, about an hour and a half had passed and the massive lineup had subsided – in hindsight it was probably the lunch hour rush that we’d seen before.  But all of the available tables nearby were still all taken and a few people were in line ahead of us and awaiting their orders at the window on the other side.  A popular place is a popular place regardless of time of day.

Prices across the menu board were very reasonable.  Mixed plates (barbecue, fried chicken, pork cutlets, hamburg steak, sausages, etc.) with sides of rice and salad came in generally at under $7.  Hamburgers, hotdogs and sandwiches were also well represented and nothing was over $4.  A few local tastes such as Mahi Mahi, Loco Moco and what they called a “bento”, were also available.

I found the naming of some dishes that were using Japanese descriptors such as the Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Chicken interesting, until I found out the long time proprietors of the business were Japanese-American.

Given that I’d already had a big bowl of shave ice, and a trio of Malasadas, and an ice coffee within the last ninety minutes, even I had to admit I was quite full already.  But I had to make good on the promise to that man in the line that I would come back and at least try something on the menu.  Pictured above is the Rainbow Special burger ($3.30).  A cute little package, with the beef patties charbroiled, and sandwiched between a nice soft bun.  Quite tasty too for what it was, a low priced basic burger.  Throw in the aura surrounding this popular eatery and the generally good mood I was in on vacation, and it probably elevated my impression of the food.

If I hadn’t eaten as much as I had by that point, I probably would have gone for a mixed plate as well.  There’s always next time, as I am sure I will be back in Hawaii again.

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Moderne Burger – Vancouver, BC

Preface: I am not familiar with the previous editions of this business. Nor have I ever eaten at this establishment before their latest setback/closure. This visit was conducted approximately two months after their re-opening in late-June 2008.

It appears that Moderne Burger‘s traditional popularity with Vancouverites has not abated at all, as seen by the plethora of people visible inside as well as in lineups stretching outside their front entrance on West Broadway. A as a first timer to this place, it sure seemed to me that this is a tribute to the loyalty of their fans, forgiving nature and hungry desire to have their favorite burger joint back up and running after what I understand has been a long period of downtime. I wanted to figure out for myself if I’d enjoy the product offering as much as these diehards, and this review is based on a recent takeout order that I had.

The place was packed aside from two empty stools around 1pm. Approaching the cashier, placing my order was easy enough, although the young woman still seemed a little lost with the cash machine and at one point was obviously scanning around for some experienced help. I guess it has been about two months since the re-opening, but it did seem like they were still working out a few things, including staff training and customer attention. I did find it interesting while waiting for my order and observing the scene, that eat-in diners had to go to the same till after their meals and pay – no bills were brought to tables by their servers.

The simple decor was pretty much as I expected, though with more subdued colors (teals, grays, silver) and tones than what I am used to seeing in similar ’50s style diners in the States. The assortment of period trinkets and pieces such as some model cars, telephones, etc. in the showcases that made up the counter space near the cash register were eye-catching, as was the ever-present jukebox. There was no music playing however, which made the atmosphere less joyous, again perhaps just a stereotype image in my head of what these places are usually like. Customers sitting down in the booths or along the counter bars didn’t seem greatly affected as it looked like everyone was having a good time, engrossed in conversations – all in all, it seemed that people found it a good place to have conversation as well as the food. After about a twenty-minute wait, my order was good to go, and I took it home and opened my package.

Knowing that the drive time might have a detrimental effect on my burger and fries, I did my best to open up the bag and shoot these images as soon as possible (about ten minutes after I left Moderne Burger). The top bun was remarkably not soggy, which was my biggest fear as I unwrapped it from the foil wrapper and plated it. The fries (handcut, skin on) held up very well too, even more surprising since they weren’t overcooked or overly crispy to begin with. Actually, it was a tremendous volume of French fries, well salted and nice and soft inside, and apparently fried in a canola/oil oil blend. My order was the Moderne Steak (100% beef) burger – juicy and just the right thickness for me so as not to feel the patty was too skimpy, nor too overwhelming to bite through. Moderne Burger says on their menu that they are handmade fresh daily, and this was clear to me as it was not that hard and overly dry consistency you find in frozen and/or pre-made product. Moderne Burger also takes pride in not using any fillers and preservatives in their patties, and I was pleased, as you can definitely taste the difference. Some might say it lacks seasoning, which is probably a valid point, but for me it didn’t bother me as I was getting more than enough salt from the chips.

Other than the beef patty, they offered up choices such as turkey, salmon fillet and vegetarian. Standard toppings were lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mayo and a special BBQ sauce. Where is the rest, you ask? Well, that’s where Moderne Burger is weak, well in the eyes of those more fiscally responsible burger lovers, as extras like cheese (cheddar, Swiss), bacon, grilled onions, and mushrooms all came with a $1.25/each price tag. They even had a dipping sauce, but I am not sure how that works with a burger. I did end up choosing some cheddar, bacon and mushrooms just to ensure I had a more complete representation, though seeing the bill, it did make me think this was getting kind of expensive for “just a hamburger”, or just seemed like it was since you are building up from a “base” and working upwards. $10.95 for the burger/fries combo plus the extras, and tax – you add it up.

overcooked and messy Vera's doubleburger

overcooked and messy Vera's doubleburger

Overall, I’d say I much prefer Moderne Burger’s patty compared to say Vera’s Burger Shack, which is just too crumbly, brittle and overdone/burnt on every occasion that I’ve had it – despite all that “works” toppings that they try to cover it up with, which also just makes the total combination a drippy, wet mess.

Those critical of Moderne Burger’s offering will no doubt raise points such as the reduced salt/pepper/seasoning in the patty, and the price tag that rises with the extras. For something that is standard fare in my mind, a hamburger, I guess you can go either way. If you want to get your fast food variety, a more pricey option, one that’s more subtly flavored or over the top – its really up to you to decide. As I don’t have burgers very often, I think I’ll make my choice Moderne Burger as it suits my tastes the best (so far in my Vancouver burger prowling).

Moderne Burger
2507 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-739-0005
Hours: Tue to Sun, 12pm to 7:45pm

Moderne Burger on Urbanspoon