At Sunset Burgers, California-style burgers get a health-conscious twist
The kids from 90210 had The Peach Pit, while Zack Morris and his Saved by the Bell crew hung out at The Max. If you've been waiting for a California-style burger joint with a touch of early '90s flare to show up in Vancouver, Sunset Burgers (550 Nelson Street) might be just what you're looking for.
The small, casual restaurant, which took over from the short-lived Paul Stirfry Chopstick House over the summer, opened on August 29. The restaurant has a service counter with open kitchen on one side, a dining area with a mix of low and high tables on the other, and a waiting area for takeaway orders right in the middle. There's also a street-side patio with six wooden picnic tables and benches—great for people-watching and parking your surfboard—or skateboard. In keeping with the restaurant's late '80s/early '90s theme, a colourful mural complete with painted stereos, glowing neon signs, and Jem-type girls decorate the walls. Also, all staff members are decked out in baseball tees and trucker hats that read "Sunset Burgers"—it's totally radical.
The Original Sunset Burger.
When it comes to the food, it's not all "totally radical", but still worthy of a high-five. On my first visit, I tried the Original Sunset Burger ($5.49), which came with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, Sunset sauce, and mayo for free (other toppings range from 49 cents to $1.29). All of the four-ounce beef patties are made fresh with a blend of Kobe beef; however, the buns are just plain hamburger buns. If you're wondering what Sunset sauce is, they won't tell you—it's a secret, but it might just be some tasty combination of ketchup, mayo, and a hint of Cajun spice.
The Sunset Burger onion rings.
While you can make any meal a combo with a fountain pop and fries for an extra $3.29, I got the onion rings ($4.29) and chocolate milkshake ($4.49) to go. The onion rings were delicious, and came in a cardboard cylindrical container to avoid getting crushed. Also, the portion size was generous (about a dozen large onion rings), and came piping hot and very crispy. The milkshake, which comes in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, is made from real vanilla ice-cream; however, it gets its chocolate and strawberry taste from flavoured syrup.
The Original Sunset Burger done Yaletown.
While the Original Sunset Burger satisfies most beef-burger cravings, there's nothing all that "original" or exciting about it. So on my second visit to Sunset, I ordered the chicken burger ($7.59) and made it a combo with hand-cut, sea-salted French fries ($3.29). I also brought along a dining companion on a gluten-free diet, who had heard that at Sunset, any burger can be made "Yaletown", meaning wrapped in lettuce in lieu of a bun. I haven't seen many other restaurants offering this (most of the time, diners on gluten-free or low-carb diets are left slicing a hamburger patty with a fork and knife), so this will probably be a popular option.
The Sunset Burger chicken burger.
I enjoyed the taste of the chicken burger much more than the beef burger. The chicken isn't breaded or fried; it's just a well-grilled juicy chicken breast. Again, I had it topped with all the freebies, including that mysterious Sunset sauce. The fries were also quite good, if not on the soggy side (it came in a takeout bag when I had it to go; however, when served in a basket for in-house diners, I'm sure they're fine). My dinner partner had the Original Sunset Burger done Yaletown, and while he said that it satisfied a burger craving, the lettuce wrap was a bit of a mess and fell apart during the last few bites.
Would I go back to Sunset Burgers? Yes, not just because I haven't yet tried their mac 'n' cheese ($4.89) but because everyone, including Zack Morris, needs an ol' So-Cal burger joint to call their own.
You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.