02.10.2012 09:30 AM

Free wk.com review: the zeitgeist of burgers and dives

Zagat’s recent paean to the Burger Priest, where my kids and I generally go at least once a week, has prompted me to reflect on the gestalt of burger joints.

I am a greasy spoon aficionado.  I do not like fancy restaurants.  They are overpriced, pretentious, and the food often isn’t very good at all. The places I love are little holes-in-the-proverbial, like Shogun in Vancouver, Michael’s Pizza in Calgary, the Wagon Wheel in Winnipeg, Villa du Souvlaki in Montreal and, in Toronto, the Patrician Grill and the Burger Priest.  They’re all family-run operations, they’re well-priced, they make great food, and they treat you nicely.

All of the hype around the Burger Priest worries me.  For starters, I do not want to have to deal with yet more people jamming into the place, which (literally) has less standing room than the back of your average flatbed truck.  I think, too, it will only exacerbate what many Beachers know to be the problems it already has: huge lineups, crap all over the sidewalk on Queen Street East, and nearby businesses (who are also mainly good folks) having to contend with obnoxious Burger Priest patrons.

This guy is doing well, which is great.  So he should take the dough he makes – and, believe me, he makes plenty – and invest in a bigger friggin’ place, with more seating, some parking and a staff person who periodically cleans up out front.

That’s my expert burger dive review.  I will now go back to what I do well, which is, er, not much.


  1. Lance says:

    WK, if you find yourself in North Bay for whatever reason, try The Moose. Their moose burger is the stuff legends are made of.

  2. Michael says:

    When I attended culinary school at George Brown College, many years ago, we ate at the Patrician regularly. What a contrast to go from making haute cuisine to eating good old fashioned comfort food, including the best rice pudding, ever!

  3. John says:

    Been to Villa du Souvlaki. Awesome place.
    Hey Warren – you’re in Ottawa fairly often. Where do ya go while here? The Works?

    • Cath says:

      Chalk up another vote for Villa du Souvlaki!!
      In Goderich Ontario, The Burger Barn made terrific burgers. It bit the tornado dust, but has reopened in Clinton Ontario….for those cruising out this way.
      In Woodstock also there used to be this really great burger joint on their main drag that I think was called “Fritzey’s” that was a must-stop place for burger and their onion rings were the best ever.

      WK – I emailed you about the banner info. when you asked for it but you never got back to me w/clarification.

  4. Michael S says:

    Next time in Ottawa: Hintonburger! (www.hintonburger.com)…

  5. Justin says:

    When I’m in Vancouver I try to go to Vera’s burger shack in gastown (how ironic). Grease spoon heaven!

  6. aboucher says:

    As I’m sure these comments will turn into a list of burger place recommendations, I feel compelled to add mine:
    Moved back to Ottawa from Vancouver almost four years ago…. still craving Moderne Burger (on Broadway) after all this time!

  7. fred says:

    I’m definitely driving into Toronto for a cheeseburger with everything.

    I’m getting the Jihad burger.

  8. fred says:

    The guy is very humble:
    “It is with mixed emotions that I write this. One side of me is very humbled, flattered and joyous, for not just the Zagat honor, but for all of the recent media attention that The Burger’s Priest has received. The other side of me however, is very mindful of the fact that some of this comes quite undeservingly. The restaurants and chefs represented in the places mentioned below The Burger’s Priest in the Zagat review (or not mentioned at all) are in my opinion far better not just in food quality, but also in talent.”

  9. Kevin says:

    Ottawa? The Clock Tower in New Edinburgh. In fact I’m heading out there in about 15 minutes!

    • Cam Prymak says:

      I was hoping for a place that has someone that looks like John Belushi behind the counter and servers good food.

      Not being from Ottawa but working there now, I checked out the Clock Tower just now. They’re website shows they take reservations…but I will try it!

  10. Glen says:

    Not to get all pretentious myself, but I went to The Burger Joint in NYC last fall. It was incredible. Worth seeking out.

  11. Neil says:

    It is a burger bus and awesome.
    Palace of Eats, or Tubby Dog.

  12. smelter rat says:

    VJ’s on Main St in Winnipeg is also worth a visit. Homemade burgers and fries. Cash only. You have to work hard to convince them not to put chili on the fries.

  13. dave says:

    If you want to watch yr belt size, or keep yr arteries clear, instead of eating you can read a paean to the greasy spoon, a couple of pages long, about 1/3rd of the way through Kerouac’s VISIONS OF CODY.

    (No, I don’t know which pages …read the whole thing!)

  14. Liam says:

    I dunno, as a fellow east-of-the-DVPer, I found Burger Priest to be rather underwhelming in our experience.

    The burgers are miniscule in relation to other “craft” burger joints, and not exactly priced accordingly. The style (minimalist, American) reminds one of Wendy’s Value Menu more than other upscale burger joints, and the sides are middling at best (the chili fries we got were also an incredibly small portion for $5, with about two tablespoons of topping).

    Gotta say I MUCH prefer Great Burger Kitchen on Gerrard, or even one of the growing number of South Street Burger Co’s (one of the best regular chain burger experiences I’ve ever had).

  15. allegra fortissima says:

    The Bird, Berlin Penzlauerberg. “PLEASE At least TRY eating the damn burger with your hands.”

  16. frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

    I agree Veras in Vancouver is good…..but for dollar value and pure gustatory pleasure…..no one beats Dick’s……too bad theyre only in Seattle……family run, and they treat their employee’s extremely well too… http://www.ddir.com/

  17. Derek Pearce says:

    Asteria Diner (Danforth, north side/ west of Chester) and Motorama diner (Danforth, north side/east of Donlands) both have great greasy breakkies!

  18. Ted Paul says:


    In-N-Out Burger. Only in the American West.

    They bake their own buns, grind own meat, fresh cut fries, fresh toppings. It is so perfect, Steve Jobs liked it.

    Toronto independents:
    Props to Johnny’s Hamburger, Golden Star, and Apache Burger.

    Five Guys is the best GTA chain, Mississauga Woodbridge, Scarborough

  19. Mark says:

    If you’re ever way at the opposite end of town, try Woody’s Burgers in Etobicoke (Lakeshore at Brown’s Line).

  20. kre8tv says:

    More Ottawa picks for my fellow hambourgeois fans: in addition to the already mentioned Hintonburger (which moved to a new location without affecting the burger-shack feel of the original), there’s also Dick’s in the West end. Same good eatin’ without getting fleeced.

  21. Lawrence Stuart says:

    In Ottawa, downtown? In my hood, gotta be the Rideau Bakery lunch counter. Straight out of the early 60’s.

    Used to do Nate’s Deli for breakfast, but they paved paradise, and put up a Shopper’s Drug Mart. Sigh.

    I go all fancy schmansy for dinner, generally. Neither my daughter, nor wife, will tolerate a burger. WHat can I say?

  22. James Curran says:

    Sorry buddy, but this is signs of another burger joint that started down in the Beach waaaaay back when. Then they thought they could go national and be bigshots. A little place where people lined up around the corner like the Priest. LICKS.

  23. Rob says:

    Why not add to the burger joint list?

    In Calgary, I second the nomination for Boogies Burgers. I’ve been going there for 30 years, 3 sets of owners, and it’s still good. Mushroom burger (with wine in the mushroom sauce)…yum.

    And of course Peter’s Drive In for sheer volume and value for money. Owned by a couple of lawyers now, but have kept the same standards and the same staff.
    Order a single burger, get a single-and-a-half burger. Order a double burger, get a double-and-a-half burger. And a large fries will feed a family.

  24. mrburnsns says:

    So read the blog before lunch and hit up my local equivalent (Mo’s) for a burger. Stopped in at the junk (er consignment) store down the street and bought myself a nice Denon turntable with a decent cartridge and a half dozen 45s for $16.50. Further testimony to the incredibly good karma that comes from eating burgers.

    Someone mentioned Dick’s above – I lived in Seattle for a long time and that is a place that is as serious about its burgers as it is about music.

    If you’re heading to Dick’s make sure to go to the original Wallingford location (complete with rotating sign). Make sure to bring your friend’s station wagon or something with a tailgate so you have a place to sit – then check out a movie at the Guild 45th a couple of blocks away – it’s like watching a movie in the 30’s if the 30’s had digital projection and sound.

    Wally’s Drive-in, Buckley – stop by on your way to Mt. Rainier. Great food & authentic drive-in experience, down to the order screens and brackets for your car window.

    Scott’s Dairy Freeze, North Bend – a favoured apres hiking/ski spot, the food is great and the blackberry shake is heaven in a Coke cup. Also a couple of blocks from a fantastic, family-owned 1940s theatre that somehow manages to get all the big new releases.

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      Hey…..thanks for the tips……Seattle is a favourite place of mine to visit……and Dick’s is always on my list, but Ive only been to the one on Broadway…..just opened a new one in Edmunds, apparently…..
      Its great that corporate America hasnt wiped all the small independents off the map…..yet…….

  25. Joice Guspie says:

    i’ve only been to BP once, last year – just hamburger meat, no silly”designer” additives and a hot griddle – i still remember the warm rivulets of hamburger juice and grease. making their way down my hand and under my cuff – next time i’ll bring my own roll of paper towels – that is if i can stand the line ups –


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