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the dish

Child eating a burger in a stock photo.

It doesn't have a name. The owner is elusive. The menu is limited to a burger, a cheeseburger and a handful of canned drinks. Yet somehow, this new food truck in downtown Vancouver has become a local phenomenon.

It must be the price – only $2.85 (plus tax) for a hamburger; $3.50 with cheese.

Online fans have dubbed it Burger2.85. And the praise is effusive.

"I already ordered one and it tasted – like another!" So shouted one gentleman, who was lined up for his second burger of the day on Wednesday afternoon.

Located at the corner of Granville and West Pender streets, the cart is manned by several young Japanese workers. They gave me the owner's e-mail address, but he didn't reply to an interview request. According to the City of Vancouver website, the vending spot is owned by Japadog. That didn't respond either. City officials said they couldn't release any information.

The menu is just as mysterious. None of the ingredients are labelled. The lettuce and tomatoes are stored in clear ziplock bags. How can they offer such an inexpensive cheeseburger?

"Aren't you worried about the provenance of the beef?," I asked one satisfied customer.

"No more so than McDonald's," Nick Ellan replied, licking his lips.

Fair enough. So we put Burger2.85 to the test, comparing it several fast-food hamburgers around town. The results were pleasantly surprising.


Cheeseburger, $3.67 (incl. tax)

Wait time: 5 min., 40 sec.

Patty: The frozen patty is thicker than most, but has a smaller circumference and probably weighs about three ounces. Cooked on a flat grill, the beef is grey inside but has decent Maillard browning. Smells awesome. Has that old-time beefy goodness of a home-style burger you remember from childhood.

Toppings: The teriyaki sauce is lightly glazed and perfectly balanced with a small squeeze of mayonnaise. But it's the iceberg lettuce that really makes the burger. Piled high atop simple tomato slices, ketchup and gooey processed cheese, the cold burst of crisp crunchiness is a standout.

Bun: A good white bun, perfectly sized to the patty, spread with butter and lightly toasted. It holds together in the hand.

Overall: Terrific value. Great flavour. The best of the bunch.

Carl's Jr.

Famous Star with cheese, $5.24 (incl. tax)

Wait time: 5 min., 10 sec.

Patty: This 3.5-ounce U.S. Black Angus burger is wider, yet thinner than the others (except McDonald's). Charbroiled flames lick up the grease, leaving a clean flavour and dark grill marks.

Toppings: Thick processed cheese, sweet relish and rich mayonnaise overwhelm the beef. The iceberg lettuce is warm and limp. Onions and tomatoes aren't spread out well.

Bun: A sesame seed bun is burnt around the edges and too large for the patty. The crown quickly falls apart in the hands.

Overall: Ugh, what a tacky mouth feel. The meat and cheese really stick to the teeth and get caught in the molars. Not impressed.

Five Guys

Little Cheeseburger, $6.60 (incl. tax)

Wait time: 11 min., 37 sec. (long lineup)

Patty: The fresh-ground (never frozen) beef locally sourced from Alberta does make a difference. This 3.5-ounce single patty is very flavourful, nicely greasy and crumbly.

Toppings: Your choice. For consistency, I select mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, onions and lettuce. They're piled way too highly. I can't even taste the beef until I scrape off half.

Bun: Toasted around the edges but cold.

Overall: The best Maillard reaction – brown on the outside while still slightly pink on the inside. But the toppings are overkill and the cold bun is disappointing.


Quarter Pounder with cheese, $5.24 (incl. tax)

Wait time: Less than 2 min.

Patty: How does the largest pre-cooked patty, 3.9 ounces, end up so puny? Must be the special electric grill that cooks it from top and bottom – while extracting any semblance of flavour.

Toppings: Those chopped onions really stand out because the beef tastes like cardboard.

Bun: Dry and stale.

Overall: Is it considered good value if you can still taste the grease two hours later? Disgusting.

Triple O's

Original Cheeseburger, $6.18 (incl. tax)

Wait time: 2 min., 10 sec.

Patty: I don't remember the fresh patty being this big. Impressive. It's not as beefy tasting as Burger285, but the greasy goodness really shines through.

Toppings: You just can't beat that secret Triple O sauce – white on the top, red on the bottom. The balance of shredded lettuce, tomatoes and single slice of dill all come together perfectly.

Bun: Meh. Thick, pillowy Wonderbread quality.

Overall: Wow. The homegrown B.C. burger trumps the U.S. imports. If only the bun were better. A close second to Burger285.