Need something to do this weekend? Here are five Vancouver burger destinations that will make you glad you eat meat.
Cannibal Café, 1818 Commercial Drive
Don’t let the name throw you off: to the disappointment of those who watch The Walking Dead while eating steak tartare, human flesh isn’t on the menu at the Cannibal Café. Instead, the Commercial Drive diner—named after an old SNFU song—is all about organic-beef burgers made from a hand-ground mix of brisket, short rib, and chuck. Can’t-miss offerings include the Big Blue (a blue-cheese-stuffed patty topped with an onion ring and horseradish-chive mayo) and the fantastically messy Korean BBQ (featuring a kalbi glaze, kimchi, and a cilantro fritter). Crispy classic fries and deliciously evil onion rings arrive in adorably tiny metal baskets, the music leans toward the Clash and Social Distortion, and the walls are covered in vintage-cool punk posters. Oh, and old horror films occasionally show on the flat-screen TVs, so even if you don’t see human flesh on the Cannibal Café’s menu, you can ask nicely and someone might pop The Corpse Grinders in the DVD player for you.
Romer’s Burger Bar, 1873 West 4th Avenue
If you like your burgers green, this is the place to go. That’s because Romer’s sources its succulent organic beef and other meats from far more sustainable sources than those factory farms so often condemned by Michael Pollan. Romer’s ranked first in the Straight’s Golden Plates balloting for a good reason: its South Cariboo supplier, the Blue Goose Cattle Company, is renowned for refusing to sell beef from cattle treated with any antibiotics. Executive chef Jim Romer has also whipped up a terrific menu of appetizers, including delish Italian tomato basil soup and some satisfying salads. The atmosphere is friendly but low-key enough to afford plenty of privacy. You don’t get overly familiar servers with names like Cliff or Benjamin practically inviting themselves to sit at your table. There are also Romer’s Burger Bars in Yaletown (1039 Mainland Street) and the River District (8683 Kerr Street), so you don’t have to be in Kits to enjoy the flavour of one of these memorable burgers.
Moderne Burger, 2507 West Broadway
Presentation is everything at Moderne Burger, and we’re not just talking about the food. The Kits mainstay is one of the most beautifully retro-looking spots in the city, all ’57-Chevy-blue dining booths, throwback-Arborite counters, and enough deco-looking accents to make you wish the Roaring ’20s had never ended. Moderne Burger’s obsession with the past includes its menu: once you’ve ordered a malt or milkshake, pick from a steak, veggie, ground-turkey, or salmon burger, based on “honest to goodness 1950’s family recipes”. You know how your grandad always told you that everything tasted better back in the day? There’s no arguing here.
What’s Up? Hot Dog!, 2481 East Hastings Street
Who saw this one coming? You walk into a funky hot-dog emporium thinking you’re up for a Red Truck lager and the “Wrigley Field”, and you walk out with a belly full of the Billy Burger instead! That’s what happens at What’s Up? Hot Dog!, where a lone, organic, quarter-pound beef masterpiece on ciabatta sits among a menu of fancy wiener-based options. Lettuce, onions, tomato, mayo, and cheese (swiss or cheddar) round out that tasty bitch, although its real flavour secret lies in the delicate, marinated interplay between BBQ and that most unsung of sauces—Worcestershire. In keeping with the joint’s classic-punk theme (gig posters for the Modernettes and Johnny Thunders adorn its walls, pinball machines provide the soundtrack), the Billy Burger is named after one of the best-loved characters ever to stalk the Hastings-Sunrise area, Vicious Cycles frontman Billy Bones. It’s a worthy tribute in every way except one. Unlike the real thing, the Billy Burger regularly sells out.
Big Smoke Burger, 500 West Broadway
This Hogtown-born newcomer to the city is all about the beef. We’re talking hefty mounds of never-been-frozen, AAA Canadian ground chuck—organic, if you choose—cooked, unlike so many of the nuked-beyond-recognition burgers in this city, to a still-moist medium rare. Believe us, as they say on Madison Avenue, you can taste the difference. Fixings include a killer house-made rosemary-garlic mayo, caramelized onions, and a tart cilantro-feta spread on the lamb version. Try the Blue Burger, with Gorgonzola and avocado, or a plain and simple Classic with smoked cheddar. Wash it down with an old-style strawberry milkshake. Warning: attempts to deny yourself the crispy hand-cut fries will probably prove fruitless.