It’s time to announce the winners of my Halifax Gourmet Burger Quest! Just to review: I ordered signature beef burgers and French fries at each place. Veggie burgers were also reviewed. I don’t believe in numerical ratings passing as science when it comes to food analysis, but I do like categories. My bias is towards big, juicy, beefy Nova Scotia grass-fed burgers and the spirit of Haligonia! However, I tried to incorporate the perceptions and experiences of others. Hamburgers are highly subjective, so always venture forth and form your own opinions.
Best Customer Service
Yes, the service at Relish is annoying on first encounter. “Welcome to Relish!” However, on my two trips to Relish I found the staff to be friendly, helpful, and hospitable. They were eager to answer questions, give recommendations, and seek feedback.
Nothing is better than hanging out in this Hali-favourite destination dive on Agricola Street. There are absolutely no airs of pretension. There are no gimmicky designs or signage. This is not modelled on American gourmet burger powerhouses like 5 Guys or Shake Shack. Ace Burger, instead, captures the spirit of Halifax. No frills, quality local food in a cozy non-pretentious atmosphere. FTW.
Serving up challah and focaccia buns, Ace wins for most tasty and interesting bun. The poppyseed bun at Relish could be a runner-up.
Both burgers I’ve had at Relish have really excelled by virtue of their toppings. Home-made mayo, sauces, and of course, their signature beet relish. The toppings are so good, they almost make up for the lackluster beef. Some of you are probably shocked I didn’t choose Cheese Curds, which also has some spectacular toppings. Thing is, Cheese Curds makes you choose your own toppings, which doesn’t always make for a good burger. I wasn’t impressed with any of my toppings at Cheese Curds, and I don’t enjoy the pressure of having to mix and match my own flavours. I want a burger pre-designed with the perfect balances of flavours, and this is the experience I’ve had at Relish.
Grass-fed Nova Scotia beef, consistent with the guidelines of the slow food movement. I found this neither dry, nor too thin. For me, it was just about perfect. One of my hamburger correspondents felt that the beef was not seasoned well enough. Therefore, I will suggest Cheese Curds as the best in beef for those who prefer a well seasoned patty. The beef at Relish was thin and dry. The beef at Flip Burger was thick and dry. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought the meat at Darrell’s was frozen.
Best BIG Burger
Cheese Curds – The Legendary CC Porker
This burger is a MONSTER! Big burger eaters look no further! This one is Big Mac style (read: extra bread) with bacon, onion rings and cheese curds. Aside from lettuce, tomato and “CC sauce”, you will have to choose your own toppings. If you really insist on looking further, Flip Burger has their “Flip Burger Challenge” at $15 for a triple burger with bacon, pulled pork, sauteed onions & mushrooms, a fried egg… yeah, yeah… we get it… some people wanna eat a lot to impress their friends.
Tie: Ace Burger & Flip Burger
If you want the cheapest gourmet burger on the market, Ace Burger’s Classic is a mere $6. But if you want fries, that’ll be an additional $5, and you’re probably gonna drink some beer too. Whereas a signature combo at Flip Burger can cost you as little as $9.50! If you have to pay bus fare to get to Clayton Park, then Ace is the obvious choice. However, Darrell’s is a runner up, with all of their combos coming to about $12.
Best Veggie Burger
Runner Up: Flip Burger
Every hamburger institution has their own unique version of the oft-neglected veggie burger. Ace’s version is a veggie loaf of roast mushrooms, shredded veg, lentils, oats, miso and tahini which is sliced thick and stacked on Ace’s herb focaccia bun, and topped with mint-chevre yogurt and pickled beets. Flip Burger gets credit for having a portobello mushroom burger AND a breaded, deep-fried quinoa and bean burger which I found to be addictive. Cheese Curds has an interesting rendition which resembles a spring roll as much as it does a burger, and Relish does a decent version as well, which is no doubt amplified by their delectable toppings. The only veggie-burger FAIL is to be found at Darrell’s. Frozen soy hockey pucks, anyone?
Tie: Ace Burger & Cheese Curds
What do I mean by this? Variety of toppings? (Cheese Curds) Variety of signature styles? (Relish) Variety of protein AND inspiration: Ace. The Clam Po’Boy combines fresh local clams with a Louisiana sandwich concept. The Pork Burger consists of thick sliced pork loaf dressed like a Vietnamese Banh Minh. Realistically, the menu is small and simple with 6 proteins. But it works. Tied with Ace is Cheese Curds, which has a vast selection of toppings, plus 6 types of protein, including pork schnitzel and salmon!
I admit, this is totally my personal opinion and most people will not agree with me. Yes, their fries are frozen. Then they are thawed. Then they are deep fried. The result is a perfectly crispy exterior and a luscious poofy interior with a buttery flavour. I think they are the perfect accompaniment to a Relish burger. There are times when I prefer a different sort of French fry, such as when eating fish ‘n’ chips. There are many among you who will only settle for hand-made fries, and you can satisfy this requirement at other establishments (NOT Darrell’s).
BEST GOURMET BURGER OVERALL:
1) Ace Burger
2) Cheese Curds
4) Flip Burger
Ace is winning for overall atmosphere, value, and burger flavour and quality. Cheese Curds is a close runner up, particularly if you like seasoned patties, Woodside, and choosing your own toppings. Relish is the master of delicious toppings and friendly service, but needs to improve their beef patties. Flip Burger has got some big, local, grill-marked beef, and is a good option for Clayton Park residents. Darrell’s will always be a classic value joint, but now it’s got a run for its money in the quality department.
That concludes the burger quest! Questions/comments are welcome below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @shipwrekkt on Twitter.
Future burger questing is inevitable, as I have yet to cover pub-style and diner-style burgers. Stay tuned by subscribing by e-mail or your blog-feed.