Monday, February 28, 2011

Ongoing Discussions About Food Icons: The Bacon Cheeseburger: m:brgr review

Slumming it @ m:brgr

M:BRGR ranked #2, behind Buns Hamburger House, in the 2010 Mirror Best of Montreal burger category. The is rather fascinating because the two places are complete opposites, so how do we explain these burger rankings? Buns is no-thrills hole in the wall eating. People complain that Montreal does not allow street cart food but it has begat some interesting food joints and Buns is an example. M:BRGR is all about style and hype. 
Location, location, location, Buns has a prime great spot on the Main for that 3 a.m. post last call bite. This clientele, at least I assume, does represent a major portion of the Mirror’s readership and when asked to name their favorite burger these people must have Buns on their mind. How many people have had had one of these 3 a.m. burgers? When you consider the quality to price ratio, Buns is a really good burger bet but hell, Whoppers taste really good if you have had enough to drink. The way Buns restaurants are set up, unpretentious, they have nothing to hide behind and their focus is on their food. M:BRGR’s success in the surveys is not so much about location and good food but rather dedicated effort in creating a reputation as Montreal’s prime location for gourmet burgers by creating an image.


M:BRGR is like one of those a velvet rope clubs when it comes to their burgers. Buns is like drinking at Le Bifteck on the Main. M:BRGR is a place to be seen eating a hamburger so combined with the velvet rope it is about dressing up. How does this work? Simple, create status with your burgers. First pick your meat, there is the basic “AAA” beef but you can go all the way up to Kobe. Condiments, yes, two of them are free with your basic burger, tomato and “Moishes” pickle slice. The more expensive meat selections include V.I.P. ingredients like truffle aioli. 
The bun selection at M:BRGR is a little less sexy with regular, whole wheat and the lettuce wrap, that I assume is something for the carb conscious generation, as possible options. Speaking of sexy, the staff look like cast offs from Next Top Model but if this is not the case with your server there is some sort of “it” factor guaranteed. The host that sat me looked like the Smith Jerrod character from Sex in the City when he worked at a hip New-York restaurant. Remember the velvet rope? This place is designed to look high end trendy so why stop at the burgers? Anything besides the above mentioned meat, tomato, pickle and bun comes with an extra charge. In reading the menu I was scared that I would be charged for the mustard and ketchup and thus ensues the whole burger status vibe. The condiment options are amazing in range and scope and you could drive the price of your burger way up especially if you went with some of the Kobe and truffle options. This is the whole burger bar concept but it seems to be about quantity rather than quality. Proving our point there is a $100 burger option on the menu.
Embarrassingly, or is it shamefully, we chose some of the modest selections for our burger. We did this not just as a way of keeping the competition fair but also to see what a stripped down M:BRGR tastes like. What are the basic building blocks of this uber burger joint? The vast selection of condiments is a great way of charging extra but also to take focus away from your basic product. Remember this is a burger joint. We chose the “AAA” meat ($8.75), regular bun, cheddar cheese ($1.25) with “House Smoked” apple bacon ($2.50) and voila the $12.50 hamburger, with taxes you are closing in on $14.25 for a basic bacon cheeseburger with tomato and pickle slice. 

The $15 burger
The verdict:

Going to M:BRGR I was expecting a lot because I had heard and read the hype but that is what this place is about. Have you heard the news? You can order a burger with truffles, you can order a hamburger that costs $100. Great topics of discussions but what about the food? Is grilled pear really good on a hamburger? I have not tried this but it almost sounds like a joke. 

One word: bland, bland and bland... oops sorry
I was a bit surprised, since they claim to be burger kings, I thought I would be asked how my burger should be cooked. Despite all the luxury and opulence, or rather distracting choices, it is cooked the way they see fit. This is not a negative point because if they are the experts they should know best. The free condiments pickle and tomato take a cue from the fast food chains because they are micro thin and add no flavor to your burger experience. The apple “House Smoked” bacon offered no special qualities or flavors except that it was just bacon. M:BRGR has dressed up the fast food approach and charges you extra for it. You want condiments sure but get ready to pay for them. You need these condiments because there basic burger is a bland experience. By being bland you are taking the safe route this is obvious from the size of your pickle. This burger was nothing special and fails to live up to the hype and price. M:BRGR seems to be about $TATU$ rather than good food. Save your dough and eat at Buns. 

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