Right about now, we could all use some good food news that brings a chin-drippy smile to the face. And in my experience, there is no food that makes people happier than a hot, juicy beef burger. These newish (or new to me) hand-held wonders are no-fuss takeout options that travel well, won’t break the bank, can be eaten al fresco and remind us of sunnier days ahead.
D.I.C.E.D. Discovery Café
- 1515 Discovery Street, Vancouver
- Takeout; large patio; open Saturday and Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (extended hours begin in May)
At $5.95, this handcrafted classic is the best dang burger deal in town.
And there’s even more to love about this hidden gem at the Jericho Hostel in West Point Grey, which boasts a big, grassy, fenced-in patio with loads of picnic tables and free parking. Proceeds from the menu help sponsor at-risk students in the D.I.C.E.D culinary school program. And it’s all cooked up by chef extraordinaire Quang Dang (formerly of West), who now works alongside founder Don Guthro.
When Mr. Dang joined last year, after going through some health problems and wanting to give back to the chef community, the two burger aficionados decided to create one that they would want to eat themselves several times a week.
It had to be wholesome. The griddled beef is fresh, local from the Fraser Valley and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. But it couldn’t be monstrous (quarter-pound patties straddle the line between thick and smash). And not too fancy – squishy potato buns from a local bakery would do just fine.
They opted for Canadian cheddar over American because it tastes better. And topped it simply with crisp lettuce, onion, tomato, pickles and a Big-Mac inspired vegan mayo sauce.
The chickpea vegan burger also looks great. But I’m actually partial to the Cuddle burger with crispy and caramelized onions.
- 162 Water St., Vancouver
- Takeout; curbside patio; delivery, ubereats.com; open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The iconic Gastown watering hole recently unveiled a new, burger-forward menu that offers several elevated smash-style burgers, including a terrific brisket-chuck patty melt with smoked bacon and a lacy cheese skirt.
Still, you will never go wrong with the dry-aged Pourhouse Burger ($20), a Vancouver classic since 2010.
Over the years, this burger has gone through several iterations and now comes sandwiched between a sweet, marshmallow-soft Martin’s potato roll, the same brand famously used by Shake Shack.
It’s a thick, hefty (seven-ounce) steak house patty made with dry-aged brisket-sirloin chuck from Two Rivers Meats. The 30-day aging process gives it a good funk without tipping into blue-cheese territory.
Confit pork belly, aged cheddar, caramelized onions and grainy-mustard mayonnaise crown it like a king.
The Gull Bar and Kitchen
- 175 1st Street East, North Vancouver
- Takeout; patio; open Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 9 p.m.
Rare-burger lovers, rejoice. This nifty North Vancouver pub grinds its Blue Goose Cattle Co. organic beef in-house, allowing it to serve its patties thick, pink and juicy – which has become increasingly hard to find because of food-safety restrictions.
The standard Animal Burger ($20 with fries or kale salad) has a massive following, though the brie-and-caramelized-onion-topped Gull Burger has a bolder flavour profile (insider secret: add Calabrian chili sauce to balance the sweetness).
Shredded iceberg lettuce on the Animal will alienate some. I’m not joking. To shred or wedge is a polarizing point of contention among serious burger connoisseurs. But in this case, the softer slaw creates an absorbent pillow to soak up all the runny juices that give these burgers their edge.
The Gull’s sunny back deck, currently open all day and fitted with plexiglass dividers between tables, is a fine little hideaway to wash it all down with beer, wine or craft cocktails. You can also order burgers for delivery from nearby Streetcar Brewing, Beere Brewing and House of Funk.
- 566 Powell St., Vancouver
- Takeout, exploretock.com; delivery, ubereats.com and fantuan.ca; open Wednesday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
For something completely different, this lovely homestyle Japanese restaurant has a cheese-stuffed menchi katsu burger ($17) that was recently put back on the menu because of popular demand.
Technically impressive, the baseball-sized patty of freshly ground beef is stuffed with American cheese, crusted with panko and deep-fried to medium-rare. The cross-section looks like meaty cream egg with an oozy, orange filling.
The meat will continue cooking if travelling long distances for delivery, but the breading maintains its crunch.
The house-made milk bun is surprisingly durable, assisted by a light toast, which prevents the soft, squishy centre from collapsing.
Topped with loads of umami – caramelized onions, pickles, Tonkatsu sauce and koji mayonnaise – it all melds together with a dark, tangy moreishness.
Chef-owner Nathan Lowey was chef de cuisine at Robert Belcham’s Campagnolo, which, until it closed last year, had one of the best burgers in the city. He knows what he’s doing.
Golden Era Burger
- Roaming Food Truck
- Instagram: @goldeneraburger
- Only accepts cash and e-transfer
- Open Tuesday to Sunday, check Instagram Stories for times and location
Operated by a former steamfitter named Carlos, this Lo-Fi food truck with a graffiti-sprayed exterior and fickle schedule, has been roaming the streets of East Vancouver for five years.
Posting grainy videos with hip-hop soundtracks from behind the front windshield, he has become an underground sensation on the strength of his grouchy charm and old-school smash burgers with an unparalleled crunchy sear.
Thin, deeply brown and crispy around the edges, these nostalgic beef patties are completely unseasoned. He only adds a little salt to the onions, which are fried underneath.
They are gloriously messy, with tangy yellow mustard, diced pickles, thick wedges of cold lettuce and gooey American cheese oozing out the edges. Carlos recommends you let them rest in their wrapper for as long as possible. But the beefy, steamy caramelized aroma is hard to resist.
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