Burgers

Restaurant Review: Burgers n’ Fries Forever

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There is certainly no shortage of burger joints looking to re-invent the hamburger experience. Add Burgers and Fries Forever, aka BFF to the list. Nestled near Barrymore’s at 329 Bank street in Ottawa, BFF bill themselves as burgerologists, where you can find all things fresh, local, hand-cut, small batched and halal, with gluten-free and vegan options.

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Eating my way through Boston – Part 5

To travel to Boston is to be transported into a world juxtaposed between modern and historic. Gleaming contemporary architecture sit by centuries-old brick structures. Monuments to fallen heroes live side-by-side with Hubway bikes. It is a city that has carefully preserved its history yet is undaunted by the future. Always striving to move forward yet never forgetting where it’s been.

Much the same can be said for its cuisine. Classic dinning establishments are revered all the while new innovative eateries are championed. The art of good eating is a vital component of Boston. On my latest jaunt, I acted as if I had been suddenly dropped into the epicenter of this vibrant city and I set off on a little culinary adventurism. Determined to discover old as well as new heroes.

OTTO Pizza how do I love thee? I love thee purely, I love thee freely. You have won my heart. This is what pizza pie is supposed to taste like. Slender and crisp crust daringly topped with what seems like nonsensical ingredients. Butternut squash? Cranberries? White beans? Mashed potatoes? It’s unusual, creative and madly delicious. And it’s what sets it apart from other joints. I dream of one day living near an OTTO and indulging on mashed potato-bacon-scallions pizza every single day. One could be so lucky. OTTO Pizza I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life. Till we are together again.

Otto Pizza on Urbanspoon

229 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA
Margherita
Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Cranberry
Spinach, White Bean and Roasted Garlic
Mashed Potato, Bacon and Scallion
Saus elevates the humble potato to a fine art. Belgian style fries, hand cut daily and served with your choice of condiment are their specialty. And they whole-heartedly believe in the power of the condiment, which is why they offer over 15 unique sauces, not including homemade mayo, ketchup, and gravy. Try the Ole Chipotle (chipotle in adobo, lime juice, fresh cilantro, mayo), the Sweet Bill’s BBQ (onions, cider vinegar, spices, mesquite smoke) or the Bacon Parm (applewood smoked bacon, Parmesan). Just around the corner from Faneuil Hall, check out Saus at 33 Union St.
Saus on Urbanspoon
Depending on who you talk to, Regina is seen as the best pizza in Boston. At 80 years and counting, it’s a genuinely old-school joint, filled with wooden booths and photos of local celebs. As for the pies themselves, the crust is crunchy-chewy perfection and the sauce is light and tangy with a signature drizzle of garlic oil. I can’t not have a slice while I am visiting the city. You shouldn’t either. Pizzeria Regina is at 11 1/2 Thacher St. in the North End and in Faneuil Hall.

Pizzeria Regina on Urbanspoon

I go to Boston to see my beloved Red Sox play. Fenway is the happiest place on earth. It’s amazing to me that though generations have come and gone, Fenway Park remains, much like it did the day it opened on April 20, 1912. Fenway Park is a place where dreams are made, traditions are celebrated and baseball is forever. Williams, Yaz, Fisk and Rice all played here. How cool. There’s plenty of food at Fenway but Fenway Franks is my must-have when I’m at the park. These signature blended franks are meaty, juicy with a touch of smoke and garlic tucked into a steamed New England Style split top roll. This dog has the right spice balance, perfect juiciness and the best flavour. Perfection!

The best salad I ever had, hands down, was at Flour Bakery + Cafe. Quinoa, tofu mixed with roasted cauliflower, carrots, portobello mushrooms, diced celery, fresh edamame beans, a handful of baby spinach all coated in a ginger scallion dressing. This salad will turn even the most anti-tofu/anti-quinoa customer into a fan.
Gooey, cinnamony, warm and soft with layers of brown sugar-honey goodness. Pecans sprinkled on top add a touch of crunchiness. Yeah, I’m talking about Flour’s Sticky-Sticky Bun. I have them every time I am in town, as you should. So if you stop by for a Sunday morning treat, run. And make sure you call ahead. They run out quickly.

Flour Bakery + Cafe on Urbanspoon

New Salad! Quinoa, roasted veggies, tofu, portobellos, spinach, ginger scallion dressing. I could eat this salad every day. Actually, make that: I eat this salad every day. We roast tofu and mix it with roasted cauliflower and carrots and portobello mushrooms. We add diced celery and some fresh edamame beans and a handful of baby spinach. The salad is dressed with a ginger scallion dressing that you’ll want to put on everything. It’s the protein punch! Quinoa is the new superfood and this salad will turn even the most anti-tofu/anti-quinoa customer into a fan. This salad is vegan as is.     – See more at: http://flourbakery.com/news/summer-2012#sthash.2zKeld0B.dpuf
New Salad! Quinoa, roasted veggies, tofu, portobellos, spinach, ginger scallion dressing. I could eat this salad every day. Actually, make that: I eat this salad every day. We roast tofu and mix it with roasted cauliflower and carrots and portobello mushrooms. We add diced celery and some fresh edamame beans and a handful of baby spinach. The salad is dressed with a ginger scallion dressing that you’ll want to put on everything. It’s the protein punch! Quinoa is the new superfood and this salad will turn even the most anti-tofu/anti-quinoa customer into a fan. This salad is vegan as is.     – See more at: http://flourbakery.com/news/summer-2012#sthash.2zKeld0B.dpu
 

 

 

I stayed at one of the most historical hotels in all of America and I can’t recommend it enough. Opened in 1855 by Harvey D. Parker and located on School Street near the corner of Tremont, not far from the seat of the Massachusetts state government, the Omni Parker House Hotel has long been a rendezvous for politicians.

John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for Congress at the Parker House in 1946 and also held his bachelor party in the hotel’s Press Room there in 1953. That must have been quite the party. Ho Chi Minh worked as a baker at the hotel from 1911 to 1913. Malcolm X, then going by the name Malcolm Little, worked as a busboy at the hotel in the 1940s.

The hotel was home to the Saturday Club, also referred to as the Saturday Night Club, which consisted of literary dignitaries such as Charles Dickens, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Sr. Charles Dickens resided in the Parker House for two years in his own apartments and first recited and performed “A Christmas Carol” at the Saturday Club at the Parker House. The Parker House currently holds possession of Charles Dickens lock and key to his apartment door and also his mirror.

The Parker House perfected the Boston cream pie, which is more of a cake than a pie. Created by Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856, this pudding and cake combination comprises two layers of sponge cake filled with vanilla flavored custard or crème pâtissière. The cake is topped with a chocolate ganache.

The Parker House roll was also invented here during the 1870’s. Made by flattening the center of a ball of dough with a rolling pin so that it becomes an oval shape and then folding the oval in half, they are made with milk and are generally quite buttery, soft, and slightly sweet with a crispy shell. The story of their creation has several variations, but they all involve an angry pastry cook throwing unfinished rolls into the oven, which resulted in their dented appearance.Parker's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

The joint effort of a former Californian and a Boston chef, Dorado brings authentic Mexican to Boston’s Brookline area. Dorado tacos are the real deal. Made with soft homemade tortillas, they’re stuffed with your choice of grilled sirloin steak, marinated chicken or perfectly charred veggies. I went for the fish taco ensenada. Beer-battered Atlantic whitefish, cabbage, salsa fresca, pickled onions and Baja crema. Its the crunch of the fish and all those flavours that make this tacos irresistible. I’m still thinking about it weeks later. I also tried the house-made chorizo taco with guacamole and salsa fresca which was equally as delicious and flavourful. And for less than six dollars for two gourmet tacos, how could you go wrong?

Dorado Tacos & Cemitas on Urbanspoon

 

Now that Shake Shack is in town, there’s really no reason to go anywhere else for burgers and fries. Located in historic Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard Square Shack’s menu features all the Shake Shack classics (I had the ShackBurger) along with the MInT Chocolate concrete (chocolate custard, mint marshmallow sauce and chocolate truffle cookie dough), the Crimson Red Velvet (vanilla frozen custard blended with a slice of crimson red velvet cake from South End Buttery Bakery) and the Lobstah Shell concrete (Vanilla custard, lobstah tail pastry shell from Boston’s North End, strawberry puree and ricotta cream). Good times in the Commonwealth!

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

 

How could you not love a place where everything on the menu is $5 or less? This place I love is called Clover and I frequent it every time I’m in town. They serve a simple menu that changes daily. Clover relies heavily on fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and boasts on its website about the fact that the restaurants have no freezers. The kitchen is expected to get orders out within an average of 3½ minutes. Fresh, organic food, fast. Try the breakfast sandwhich. A sous-vide egg in a warm pita, with sliced tomatoes, a piece of Grafton cheddar, and a dash of salt and pepper. THE perfect healthy breakfast.
Clover on Urbanspoon
In May of 2014, Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe announced that it was closing at the end of June, ending its 87-year run. Though I had never been to Charlie’s, I decided to pay my respects.

Located in Boston’s South End, Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe is a neighbourhood diner known for its breakfasts. Charlie’s has been open since 1927 and has no bathrooms. There are only 32 seats, 13 of which lie along a counter across from wooden refrigerators purchased in 1927. For 32 years, the restaurant operated seven days a week, 24 hours a day. When Charlie’s finally decided to close on Sundays, the owners had to call a locksmith because no one had a key to the front door.
Though its story is in many ways about food, the diner is steeped in rich history. Charlie’s is known for serving African-American jazz musicians during the era of segregated hotels. The walls of the diner are adorned with pictures of customers like Sammy Davis, Jr., Vice President Al Gore, various former Red Sox players and managers, Governor Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama. As a child, Sammy Davis, Jr used to tap dance in front of the restaurant for change.

Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe has won numerous awards over the years (most notably for its turkey hash), culminating in the reception of a James Beard Award in 2005.

I’m glad I went. Throngs of people came and went to wish the owner good luck. Asked what he was going to do when the shoppe is closed, he was overhead saying, “I’m going to sleep in.” Very well deserved, I say.

Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe on Urbanspoon

 

Senator Edward Kennedy

 

The famous house speciality, Turkey Hash

 

Mello’s makes the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten

Last year, the owner’s of Mello’s came up with a cool idea to breathe new life into the 70 year-old diner. A permanent “pop-up.” Why not open in the evenings, reinvent the menu and offer new takes on old classics? Steak, burgers, noodles, dumplings and sandwiches have been elevated to a supernatural level, all wonderfully executed and kindly priced. The basic yet envelop-pushing dishes are some of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.

The word “best” is bandied about so indiscriminately these days that its true meaning has been distorted. “Best” has become slang-fodder for anything that’s remotely good, pleasing or enjoyable. But it should be reserved for a supremely incomparable, truly award-winning and momentous thing or occasion. So allow me to restore “best” to its original luster and speak about something that is world-class, top-grade and truly “the best,” the Mello’s Burger.

Now I’ve seen a lot of things, been to a lot of places and eaten a lot of burgers in my lifetime. Shake Shack, In-N-Out, Craigie on Main…all glorious. But I’ve never ever, NEVER EVER been sent to hamburger heaven as I did that night I visited Mello’s.

A flat-top griddle is used to sear the patty, creating a crunchy caramelized crust and a juicy center. The beef was beefy and each bite oozed with luscious flavour. Served on toasted bread, the burger experience was made all the more memorable with a just-right melding of cheddar, onions, mustard and pickles. This burger, folks, is a thing of beauty.

There is plenty of other fare to be had that is equally as delicious. My pals devoured the scallops with chorizo and rosemary cauliflower puree. It was declared a winner! My side-salad was huge, big on flavour and included a creative combo of ingredient (celery root, eggplant and mint dressing.) There is an inventive but affordable take on a braised beef sandwich with fermented chili sauce, daikon sesame slaw and rings. I spied guests devouring the roast pork cubano sandwich, which is made up of ham, spiced mustard, Swiss cheese and pickles. That’s on my list for my next visit. But really, the ultimate champion of the evening, was without a doubt the Mello’s Burger. It was, truly the best!

Photo source: Ottawa Citizen

Salad: Celery root, eggplant and mint dressing.

Mellos Restaurant on Urbanspoon

"Birthday Month" – My peeps take me out

My employees mean the world to me. If you met them you’d understand. Smart, funny, talented, hard working, good looking and they even smell good! Quite frankly, I’m the luckiest guy around to have the privilege of managing these terrific people. In addition to being great, they are also quite thoughtful and favour a good old beer and burger combo now and again. So with that, my birthday lunch was set at The Clocktower Brew Pub in trendy Westboro.
The Clocktower Brew Pub Westboro, 418 Richmond Road, Ottawa

This new location in Westboro is stellar. It’s also the largest of its four Ottawa locations. We took advantage of a sunny day to sit out on the patio. A big plus of the Clocktower is that they brew their own beer. Their website states that “attention to detail, authentic ingredients, no preservatives, no additives and small batches ensure our enjoyment.” They also have some cool imported beer. I had Kölsch, a lighter German ale. It tasted great.

House brewed Kölsch is a refreshingly crisp light blonde ale.

I ordered the Rise & Shine burger. Anytime I can incorporate breakfast items into my meal, I’m in! Eggs and bacon on a burger? Brilliant.

Rise & Shine Burger had a sunny side egg, crisp bacon and HP sauce.

One of the crew had a burger with goat cheese, banana peppers and spicy mayo with some soup on the side. His plate was wiped clean so I’m guessing he was pleased with his choice.

Angry Goat Burger: Herbed Goat cheese, banana peppers and spicy mayo.

 

 

Soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, fish & chips and steak & frites make up the majority of the menu. You can also find some unexpected items like the Kung Foo Noodle Bowl, the Chicken and Leek Crock Pot and a Hummus Platter. But in the end, my table went with the tried and true pub grub and we all left full and satisfied.

I wasn’t feeling the greatest that day but it was made better by hanging out at a great new spot with some of my fav people. This birthday month is really about spending time with the people in my life that mean the most to me. And if I get to celebrate at a great place like The Clocktower, then I’m all for extending my bday into September!

Clock Tower Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

"Birthday Month" – BBQ #5

My family knows how much I dig birthdays. Lucky for me they’re always willing to do it up big. This year’s celebration included gourmet burgers, salads and make your own sundaes. Sweet! My family is pretty fly. I’m a very lucky guy. Check out the party pics below.

Baseball balloon. Coolest thing ever.
Choice of drinks. And no, I didn’t go for the Skinnygirl cocktail.
Spectacular salad
Burger toppings: Guacamole, sun-dried tomatoes and aioli.
More burger toppings: Bacon, caramelized onions and mushrooms.
Burger and salad. A great combo.
“Make your own sundae” toppings
Sundae in a waffle bowl.

Sunday, Monday, Happy Days

Have you ever time travelled? Apparently I have ’cause I somehow ended up in the 1950s hanging out at Dick’s Drive-In & Dairy-Dip. Now the ’50s certainly wouldn’t be my preferred “Quantum Leap” destination, but I made the best of it while I was there. Dick’s motto is “Welcome back to the good old days.” And he ain’t kidding. I wasn’t around in the “Happy Days” era, but I’m thinking this is what things were like for the Fonz: A neighbourhood malt shop served juicy burgers grilled over charcoal with hand cut french fries on the side while a scary hulking sculpture of a milkshake hovered above the tables.

The burgers were quite scrumptious and tasted decidedly retro. They’re real meat topped with fresh ingredients and cooked to perfection. Nice concept. All beef burgers are Angus Pride beef and come with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, aioli, sautéed onions, Dijon or regular mustard, unless you say otherwise.

Blurry pics of food are my specialty. Sorry about that 😦
But here’s what’s “coolamundo” about Dick’s. While it’s unquestionably a 1950s joint with food that harkens back to pre-Kennedy times, its menu items are flat-out present-day diverse. Ostrich burgers, veal burgers, bison burgers and yes kangaroo burgers have a starring role along with the usual diner fare. While I wasn’t in the mood for a gamey culinary adventure, I now know where to go when I have a hankering for something a little more exotic.

While it was “neat-o” to visit the bygone days when they “rocked around the clock,” I was happy to time-travel back to 2012 when Dick’s ranked #4 in the Ottawa Citizen poll for Ottawa’s Best Burger 2012. But hear me out. I’ve been to the supposed top three haunts, and I can tell you from the bottom of my heart and the top of my palate, Dick’s is #1. But don’t just take my word for it, try it out for yourself. “Be there or be square!”

Dick’s Drive-In & Dairy-Dip is located at 1485 Merivale Road, near Clyde Ave.

Dick's Drive-in & Dairy Dip on Urbanspoon

Five questions, five answers about Five Guys Burger


What is Five Guys Burger?

A U.S. burger chain first opened in the mid 80’s.

Who are the Five Guys?

They are five brothers from the Washington D.C. area.

Where is Five Guys Burger?

It’s in 46 states and in 6 Canadian provinces, including the Ottawa location at Train Yards. An Orleans Five Guys is coming soon.

What’s on the menu?

Hand-formed burgers, dogs, sandwiches and fresh-cut fries. For the burgers and the dogs, you can choose as many free toppings as you want. Munch on salted peanuts in the shell as your wait for your order.

Is the food any good?

It’s not terrible. I had the burger and it was tasty. The price was a little disconcerting. Over $14 for a burger, some fries and a fountain drink. You do get an inordinate amount of fries but it all gets thrown together in a paper bag that gets very greasy. I don’t think I will be going back. In my opinion, you can get this kind of meal at any food truck for half the price. Try FGB and let me know what you think.

If you’re travelling to the west coast of America or to Texas, go to In-N-Out burger. Sweet Baby Jesus that’s the best burger anywhere. How I miss that burger. It makes you weak in the knees. Say a prayer that one day In-N-Out will come to Canada.

Five Guys Burgers & Fries on Urbanspoon