Monday, May 9, 2011

Burger quest: the Lower Mainland's best

How do I feel about burgers?

Well, Samuel L. Jackson (a.k.a. "Jules") kind of sums it up best in the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction:

"Mmm-mmmm. That is a tasty burger. … I do love the taste of a good burger. Mm-mm-mm..."

Could not have said better, myself.

Of course, these days, if you want to guarantee a really tasty burger, your best bet is to make it at home, with your own ingredients, varying it depending on your tastes. I make Mexi-burgers, Teryaki burgers, lamb burgers ... you get the idea.

That's because most of what passes for burgers these days is fast food crap you get at places that feature golden arches, marketing monarchs or little girls with pigtails prominently displayed outside their establishments.

However, there are places you can still go to get a good, homemade-style burger in a restaurant. I'm constantly on the lookout for great burger joints, and this blog post is the result of a few years' worth of research I've conducted since moving to Vancouver in 2003.

(Hey, travel writers get hungry too - and I can't always be roaming around other continents and countries, eating exotic food, you know...)

Greek God Burger: one of many offerings at
New Westminster's Burger Heaven
Around B.C.'s Lower Mainland, there are a handful of places to get decent burgers, but for me, hands-down, the best burgers in Lotusland are to be found at Burger Heaven in New Westminster.

I've been sampling their burgers there since the spring of 2010, and I have never been disappointed. Just recently had their "Greek God Burger" which comes with feta cheese, black olives, tomato and onion. Yum!

The burgers are hand-made, of course.

In addition to great burgers, BH also offers awesome onion rings. In terms of beverages, they have a cool daily offering called "Just Gimme a Damn Beer" - you never really know what brand it is you're getting on a given day, but again, I've never been disappointed.

If beer is not your thing, try one of their spiked milkshakes: a Bailey's shake, a B-52 shake ... the list goes on.

Occasionally I will go elsewhere for burgers - mainly if I'm nowhere near New West - but if I'm going to make a serious burger run, it'll be for Burger Heaven.

It's the best, here are the rest ... (a.k.a., the runner-ups - and a few others worth at least a mention)

Flying Beaver Bar & Grill.

I haven't been there in a few years, but obviously the burgers there made an impression, because I still remember them. (Try the Bi-plane Burger) One of the cool side benefits to eating there, is the fact it's located in Richmond, across the road from the YVR South Terminal and you can watch Harbour Air seaplanes landing and taking off on the Middle Arm of the Fraser River while eating. Good draft selection, too.

Sunshine Diner

Just tried this one a few days ago. Not bad...I liked the fact they offered orange milkshakes (my fav) and they're REAL milkshakes, that is, they come in those big steel drum-like containers used for the old-style milkshake mixers. Speaking of old-style, they really did this up nice with decorations, lots of 1950's memorabilia featured inside and out, including close-to-life-size statues of Marilyn and Elvis on the sidewalk outside the diner. The Sunshine Burger - this West Broadway restaurant's specialty - is nice and juicy. This might be my go-to burger place, except, well, it's not as close as Burger Heaven and parking is more of an issue. But if you're in that part of Kitsilano, you can't beat it. 

Marilyn, if the breeze is that bad, come inside and
join me in a burger at the Sunshine Diner.

This one is in downtown Vancouver at Bute and Davie Streets. It features a retro look as well as some good burgers - with plenty of options: beef, organic beef, chicken breast, veggie, wild (ostrich, bison, venison), turkey, and occasionally, lamb. Good shakes, too. If I lived closer, I might go there more often, but I'm at the opposite end of the city, closer to Burnaby, Richmond and New West than the downtown area, so ...

Wally's Burgers

If you need to grab a quick burger on the run in Southeast Vancouver, Wally's is probably your best bet. Located in the Killarney Centre at the corner of East 49th and Elliot Street, it's a grab-n-go kinda place, although there are a few seats there. Good burgers, quick service, but not a place I'd make a special trip to, just to have burgers. Certainly nothing wrong with it, it just ain't Burger Heaven. No website I could find, either.

Moderne Burger

Just down the street from Sunshine sits this icon. I was there last summer, and frankly, I was disappointed. I'd heard so much about this place, and I took a friend visiting from out of town there. The burgers were okay ... but I can get "okay" burgers just about anywhere. I'm looking for outstanding. Sorry, Moderne. They just weren't as juicy as the ones at Sunshine. At least they served orange milkshakes, there.

Get it on the run at Wally's Burgers.

Vera's Burgers

This company certainly tops everyone when it comes to slogans: "You can't beat Vera's Meat."

The problem, is you can. There's a reason why this place is at the bottom of my list.

At one point, they may have been pretty darn good. But there are several outlets around the Lower Mainland, and that means even though the burgers are "hand-made" there is an institutional quality to the food at Vera's that is almost a necessary evil when you want to maintain consistency across the chain. Again, not bad, better than most of the other chain fast-food burger places - but not at the top of my list.

Do love the slogan, though.

Special mention: The Rod and Gun Club Cafe and Pub

This isn't in the Lower Mainland; in fact, it's not even on the Mainland, it's on Vancouver Island. But if you are ever in Parksville, stop here to satisfy your burger cravings. If this place was located in the Greater Vancouver Area, it might be up in the #2 spot for me.

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