It is a fact universally acknowledged that a raincoaster in possession of a dining-out budget must be in need of a burger. I admit it: I’m a sucker for any savory-looking patty with nice buns. I try hard not to be That Guy, that guy who orders the steak at a seafood restaurant, but when there’s a burger on the menu it’s gonna get ordered and that’s a fact. Since I’ve been traveling the back roads and highways of BC lately I will update you on the state of burgerage around the province, starting with the capital, which is not Vancouver which everybody thinks it is, but Victoria, land of the newly wed and nearly dead.
Of Victoria we have spoken before, and shall again, for it is one of my favorite cities. Large enough and wealthy enough (thanks to our taxes!) to have a great arts scene, but small enough to be walkable, at least neighborhood by neighborhood, with a great transit system, a magnificent setting, and a foodie culture that runs far more to the making than the ordering-and-photographing, it’s a charming, pretty city. Heck, I made an offhand reference to it on a hacker forum recently and was blizzarded with posts expressing just how much these hardcore hackers adored twee little Victoria, with its houseboats, its shameless Anglophilia, and its borderline-deranged worship of afternoon tea.
God only knows how many burgers I ate there, but here is one whose photo I happen to have with me at the moment.
The Beacon Drive In just beside Beacon Hill Park boasts that it has been “Serving up smiles since 1958″ and I don’t doubt it, in part because I’m not sure they ever redecorated. I remember coming here in the early 80’s, and it was laughably old-fashioned then. Now, it’s bloody priceless (which reminds me, is Archie from the comic books still driving that ridiculous Model T, because if he is, it must be worth about the cost of a new Lambo, but I digress). It’s also still busy, for good reason.
Not only is the menu a classic Diner With Everything from a Gidget movie, but it has West Coast add-ons like the Oyster Burger and Salmon Burger. Mine hostess and photographer Lori Dunn even got a float, it’s that old-fashioned. You can order a float here without being ironic.
In the 80’s it was famous for its onion rings, and even now they’re terrific; perfectly cooked in a crispy batter that’s not too thick, the onions within just caramelized enough to fall apart when bitten and not before. Could use a bit of seasoning salt, but that’s my only quibble. I ordered the BBQ Swiss Mushroom Burger and it was exactly as a diner burger should be; sloppy with sauce, juicy patty, whopping big pickle on top. There’s nothing exceptional about the sauce or the burger or the bun; it is exactly what it seems, a plain low rent burger that is nonetheless perfectly respectable in its blue-collar way. Note: the “Screaming Deluxe” Cheeseburger has hot sauce. And this is a place where “Deluxe” itself means “comes with lettuce, tomato, and onions.” So don’t be sniffing that you can’t find truffle fries on the menu. If Bruce Springsteen eats truffle fries, I don’t wanna KNOW! You know what I’m saying?
But the soft serve looks truly wonderful, and if it hadn’t been freezing cold and raining I’d have tried some. Striped, swirled ice cream! Truly, we live in an age of wonders.
More burgers to come! And even some non-burger food items!]]>
Full disclosure: Burger 55 in Penticton, BC, is one of the most successful self-employment clients of my old friend Lori Dunn. They applied for a training and support program for small businesses in Penticton and Lori approved them and has been one of their most loyal customers ever since. Since then they’ve won so many Best Burger and Small Business awards they’re about to run out of wall space to display them. Mind you, with about 300 square feet total there never was that much wall to begin with.
Their website has a Cult page. That should give you a hint.
Having gotten their start thanks to a community initiative, they are still community-minded. Peter Navin was the friend who originally found them their unique location; for the past several years, Navin battled brain cancer and ultimately lost the fight. Burger 55 created a commemorative Peter Navin burger for $7, and proceeds are donated to his family.
There are only three stools inside and a handful of picnic tables outside. In the heat of the Sonora Desert summer it’s best to sit on the side towards the creek, where you can get partial shade and a refreshing breeze. In the winter, it’s best to just get take out and eat it in the car facing the lake while having an emotional conversation while playing old rock ballads.
They also deliver, provided you order $15 or so worth of food and bev, which isn’t hard once you get into the premium add-ons and side orders.
Their deal at Burger 55 is custom made burgers: that doesn’t make them unique, but the paperwork does.
Well, it’s a very Canadian burger joint, you know? You walk in, you stop for a second and goggle at it just because it’s so dinky, then you reach to your right and pick up a clipboard and one of those mini-pencils you never find outside of voting booths or esoteric burger garages in Canuckistan, and you go through an extensive, small print checklist of what you want and what you don’t want. Salad style? Tortilla? Gluten free (of COURSE they have gluten free buns)? What kind of cheese, if any? Which sauces? And every section is a densely populated box and a tough decision, especially the free extra toppings which extend to roasted peppers and corn, beet strings, and the like. You want it, you put a checkmark beside it. You want double? Two checkmarks. Simple once you get the hang of it. There are eight cheese options alone.
The meat is all excellent quality, and they can do turkey burgers, beef, salmon, portobello mushroom, or lamb. On a low carb diet? Go for salad style for $3 extra, but it’s not a snotload of extra salad, I warn you. The esoteric selection of premium toppings includes a grilled local peach. The sides are: Fries, Fries with Curry Sauce, Side Salad, Sweet Potato Fries, and Onion Rings. The fries are all good but the onion rings, it must be said, are greasy. Tasty, but greasy. Onion rings, I remain convinced, require a different frying temperature than potatoes, and a darn good draining. Still, they are the superior side order (that is my past as an A&W fetishist catching up to me). Fries are for plebes, and for hangovers. #Truefax
If you can’t decide, the three standards (Hot, Burger 55 Signature, and The Other One I Forget Oh Wait It’s a Cheeseburger) don’t do it for you, and the Special of the Month isn’t your cup of protein (this month it’s Chicken and Waffle), you can ask them to freestyle, and they will make a unique mystery combo for you. I’ve noticed that freestyle burgers lean towards the saltier, so if that’s not something you want, say so for a demi-freestyle.
I had a AAA Beef burger on a cracked wheat bun with shredded beet strings, lettuce, roasted sweetcorn, homemade pickles, pickle relish, aged shredded cheddar (I forgot that aged cheddar doesn’t melt unless you put mushrooms on it while it’s melting), Burger 55 BBQ sauce, and some really good bacon strips. And it was perfect. They use local ingredients as far as possible, and make their own sauces. The sauces, particularly the Buddha Asian BBQ sauce, got so popular that they decided to bottle and sell them: Curry, BBQ, and Buddha sauces, plus their spice mix.
My friend Alex had a beef burger grilled on the flattop right next to my bacon, which flavoured it somewhat, with a cheese skirt, ie hanging over the side; they put a dome over it so the cheese melts all around in approved classic burger style. I haven’t seen that since I was at the old lunch counter at Save On Meats where they cooked a burger that was a full pound of meat, two half-pound patties that were so thick you HAD to put a dome over them or they wouldn’t cook through.
And if my headline left you thinking this would be an article about getting your pipes cleaned, well, if that’s your goal I’d just advise you to stick to salad style. Don’t nobody enjoy that process after a burger the size of your head.