The burger is the quintessential 20th-century North American eat-with-your-hands meal, but where to go for the best? And where to go in the 21st century, when at least one of any group prefers fish or vegan options?
We checked out restaurants known for their burgers and judged them on their meat and non-meat options according to juiciness, sides, and fixins, as well as the general atmosphere surrounding the eating experience.
Bite Burger House took first place, with The Works and The King Eddy coming in close behind. Honourable mentions go to Chez Lucien and Burger n’ Fries Forever. We loved the beef burger and the laid-back vibe at Chez Lucien, but your veggie friend wouldn’t be wowed by the tofu burger. We also liked Burger n’ Fries Forever for its inclusiveness: all meat is halal beef, and the burgers are very tasty. But the vegan Beyond Meat burger needs more than the slightly tired lettuce, tomato, and pickles on offer. Plus, the ambience is akin to a fast-food joint, not conducive to a relaxing night out.
Bite Burger House
As the name suggests, Bite Burger House has been all about burgers since it opened in 2015. There are vegetarian options, as well as chicken burgers and fish burgers, but it is the beef — sourced from a co-op near Thornbury — that is the star of the show.
We order the Bite Me ($16), the Big Blue ($19,) the Fish Wich ($15), and the Gardener ($15).
Roll up your sleeves and lean forward — these burgers are juicy. The Big Blue is made with AAA rib-eye and is pepper-encrusted, with a generous topping of blue cheese that gives this burger to-die-for status.
The Bite Me burger is made with chuck and is topped with old-fashioned orange cheddar as well as bacon that has been slow-cooked, so it is both rich and crispy.
Technically, the Fish Wich is off the menu; fish is now being served as part of a fish and chips entrée. But those small deep-fried filets of haddock, their potato-flake crusts perfectly crispy, are still available in a burger by special request. It’s served with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and remoulade. That remoulade lacks tartness, but a splash of the house ketchup doesn’t go amiss.
The Gardener — a bean and beet patty made in-house — offers a hearty burger with a good amount of spice and an extra dose of veggies by way of those beets. It’s like a burrito but not so heavy.
Sides and Fixins
Craft beers and cocktails are a fine accompaniment to the burgers. You can drink beer for less after 9 p.m. and bring your own wine on Sundays for no corkage fee. Homemade ketchup and mustard are a nice (and delicious) touch.
Fixins of lettuce and tomato are fresh and pretty. Fries are chip-truck style. We upgrade to truffle fries, which don’t really taste much different, so don’t bother. The side salad, also an upgrade, is a perfectly acceptable bowl of fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, and carrot but nothing special.
On a Friday night, Bite is bustling and noisy with groups. Service is friendly and efficient. Portions are reasonable, so you can eat every bite with no regrets.
Find Bite Burger House at 108 Murray St. and 1675 Tenth Line Rd.
The King Eddy
Big and cheerful, The King Eddy has a retro vibe and is open around the clock on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It is a family-owned business that prides itself on using never-frozen hand-rolled beef for its burgers. No added salt and no preservatives. When it comes to burgers, The King Eddy is all about keeping it classic.
We order The King Eddy Burger ($10), the LuLu Eddy Burger ($11), and the The King Eddy Veggie Burger ($11).
The King Eddy Burger is a classic cheeseburger with two three-ounce patties made from blade and brisket; it’s cooked through but remains juicy. The LuLu is the same as the King Eddy but is gluten-free thanks to a crispy iceberg “bun.” The King Eddy Veggie Burger bypasses the attempt to be meat-like by combining black bean and quinoa for a nice smoky flavour that also gets a hit of heat from the chili mayo and extra crunch from the slaw and lettuce.
Sides and Fixins
The King Eddy sauce — a mix of mayo, hot peppers, garlic, onion, olives, tomatoes, and herbs — really boosts these burgers. Go for the fries — they’re hand-cut and crispy. (Or do the half fries and half salad option so that you can feel virtuous and get your fries too.)
The King Eddy is a bright, happy place with groups of friends and families. It’s a big restaurant that allows space between tables and booths, so it’s friendly rather than noisy. You can order local craft beer and wine for $1 per ounce.
Find The King Eddy at 45 Clarence St.
This Ottawa success story started in a tiny, cramped space on Beechwood and grew to over 25 locations across the province. The Works made burgers fun, with innovative combos and playful names ranging from The Radically Maple to the Son of a Beech. The trend toward minimalist menus has not made it to The Works. The lengthy, pun-filled menu can be a bit overwhelming, but it does communicate effectively the many gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.
We ordered Bacon You Fancy, Huh? ($18.37) and the New Beyond Sexy ($16.47), which is made with vegan Beyond Meat.
The bacon cheeseburger is delightfully juicy with a pink centre (as requested). The Beyond Meat burger is juicy, too, and boosted by roasted pineapple slices and hot peppers that offer mouthfuls of sassy flavour that makes the patty — somewhat bland on its own — sing.
Sides and Fixins
The serving of bacon on the cheeseburger is generous, and the tomato slice is fresh. The genius innovation for this burger is the use of arugula rather than mild butter or iceberg lettuce. This hearty, bitter green stands up against the bacon, beef, and Monterey jack cheese like a champ.
The fries are chip-truck style: fresh, hot, and golden brown. And included with the burger. The green salad (called “weeds”) is a perfectly fresh salad, but it won’t stop you from looking longingly across the table at your friend’s fries.
The Works decor on St. Laurent has a casual, cluttered, family vibe that evokes a chain restaurant (which it is). It feels like a place to celebrate birthday parties and graduations. Beer and wine are offered, but nothing fancy.
Find The Works at seven locations across the city.