Searching for Vancouver’s best hamburger

Photo Credit: Flickr | Ron Dollette

The mighty hamburger, an icon of North American food, is never far from a food writer’s mind. The burger is adaptable; it adjusts to every food trend. It’s a valid menu staple any season of the year. Every diner speaks burger: upscale diners, budget diners, carnivores and vegetarians.

Remy covered Vancouver’s gourmet burger options in 2011. But the Vancouver burger scene waits for no man. Max’s Burgers recently opened at 521 West 8th Avenue. This new joint serves a blow-your-hair-back, $55, 24-oz., behemoth burger that’s piled with a pound of toppings and comes on a ‘custom-roasted,’ garlic bun.

Meanwhile, Refuel Restaurant is closing doors March 24, leaving many Vancouverites  wondering where to go for a medium-rare, dry-aged burger. Apparently medium-rare burgers are virtually taboo in Canada. The National Post just wrote a great feature on Canada’s burger health standards. On top of that White Spot at 580 W. Georgia closed Feb. 25 in preparation for the construction of the new Telus Garden development. And one of the applicants for Vancouver’s next round of food trucks, to be announced in March, is an ethical burger wagon.

With all this hamburger shake-up, it’s time to revisit the question Vancouver’s best burger, before patio season – also known as burger-and-beer o’clock.

With so many versions of the burger, the best way to break down the contestants for Vancouver’s best patty is by category. I’ve gotten started below. Add new candidates by commenting.

Oakwood's $15 locally-sourced AAA burger. Photo Credit: Oakwood Canadian Bistro

Best Locally-Sourced Burger

This is Vancouver. Eating local is as natural to us as carrying an umbrella in winter. While there are many strong candidates to highlight, I’ll go with Oakwood Canadian Bistro, the new Kitsilano hotspot.

Young chef Mike Robbins is the master of unpretentious but powerful Canadian fare. His fat $15 beef burger is locally-sourced, organic, hormone and antibiotic free. The patties are made with hand-cut AAA meat and topped with buttermilk fried onion and smoked applewood cheddar, before finding a snug home in Oakwood’s house-made, poppy seed bun. The burger is so popular it makes an appearance on Oakwood’s Sunday brunch menu.

Best Old School Burger

It’s reassuring to know that the patties at Vancouver’s White Spot predate McDonald’s (the first White Spot drive-in opened in 1928) and began with Nat Bailey and his Model T Ford lunch counter.

Meanwhile Save on Meats also slings a quick, budget burger platter. This restored Hastings Street diner/butcher/bakery uses hand-ground chuck from their butcher shop, along with house-baked buns. The favourite here is the $6 bacon cheese burger with a choice of sides like mashed potatoes and gravy instead of fries.

Smoked Salmon Slamwich by Kaboom Box. Photo Credit: Flickr | karen_neoh

Best Non-Beef Burger

Some burger innovations flop, like the recent attempt at bagel burgers in NYC. But the non-beef burger is here to stay. Kaboom Box, at the northwest corner of Robson and Granville, grills a lean, mean venison burger with maple-mustard mayo and organic mixed greens. Their salmon slamwich, arguably a salmon burger, is another strong candidate. The salmon (local and wild) is hot smoked on the cart. Kaboom adds their signature mustard-maple slaw which melts into the whole grain bun.

Best Fancy Burger

A fancy burger is a burger served in a fine dining establishment, i.e. the kind of place that has real art and also serves lobster sunchoke soup and foie gras parfait. At a recent dinner party, I heard a story about a a gentleman dining at Hawksworth Restaurant who dropped half of his Hawksworth burger on the floor and nonchalantly picked it up and continued with his meal.

If this is indeed true, it speaks to the quality of the deluxe Hawksworth patty, which is made from tenderloin, ribeye and chuck. The house-made sauce is also impressive with ancho chillies, sweet smoked paprika and herbs de provence. And what upscale burger would be complete without a fresh-baked, house-made bun?

Best Veggie/Vegan Burger

For the best veggie burger, I’m turning to The Naam Restaurant: Vancouver’s oldest veggie joint that’s open 24 hours a day. The Naam’s crispy, dense and tender vegan patty is made from tofu, nuts and grains. It comes with sprouts – one of the best burger garnishes around. But if you’re like me, you probably ordered the Naam Burger Platter for the legendary sesame fries with Naam’s miso gravy – a much-loved, original Naam condiment.

Best Foodie Burger

Check out Remy’s 2011 post on Romer’s, Vera’s Burger Shack, Splitz and Moderne Burger.

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16 Responses to Searching for Vancouver’s best hamburger

  1. Francisco

    I would definitely recommend Stackhouse on Granville and try there Signature Stackhouse burger. One of my top pics.

  2. I have been very disappointed with White Spot burgers as of late. I had one a week ago from the one on Lonsdale in N Van and ate only half before throwing the rest out. One of the problems – they used to shred the lettuce but this one had just one slimy leaf. And the tomatoes looked like they’d been frozen – had that sort of translucent look to them. I am sad because the White Spot burger used to be the best ever.

  3. Stephen Aberle

    My personal, selfish opinion is that if a burger joint *doesn’t* serve a veggie option, it doesn’t qualify as a burger joint. C’mon, folks, if you can’t be bothered to make your own, buy a few bags of Schneider’s or Yves’ or whatever and give us salad hounds a share in the fun.

    For my money, the best veggie burger in town is at Vera’s. A former enthusiastic meat eater, I find Vera’s veggie patties so convincing that the first couple of times I had to ask my carnivore companion to verify (or Verafy?) for me that what I was eating was actually not meat.

    A sad loss to the veggie burger world was the long-ago demise of Isadora’s on Granville Island. Their Go-Nuts burger, still manufactured somewhere or other and occasionaly to be found in the frozen foods section of some stores, while not at all meat like, was delicious.

    • RS

      It’s a burger joint. Not a veggie joint. It specializes in making meat patties. The whole essence of that type of place is not vegetarian/vegan so why expect that. It’s like expecting a steakhouse to offer tofu a tofu steak.

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  6. For the best non-meat burger, I’d have to suggest going to Dharma Kitchen (Broadway and Alma). The patties are red-wine marinated tempeh, and they have excellent choices on conditements – the Bengal State Burger, with spicy peanut sauce, is especially good.

    They come with fried potatoes and, like The Naam, miso gravy.

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  10. jon

    You have to go try the burger @ HousexGuest with the Crab tatertots AMAZING!!!

  11. Liz

    Local has amazing burgers!! And Romer Burger’s Americano is a classic!

  12. truenorth

    I vote for Market Grill in the Granville Island market as best Old-School burger – awesomely tasty, with nice crisp bacon.

  13. Ethan C.

    Has anyone tried the burger with gruyere cheese at Tableau Bar Bistro? Definitely a city highlight on the Vancouver burger list.

  14. HighlandBerserkr

    Rogues burger is incredible, house ground, served pink and it’s super fat and juicy, served on a black and white sesame sees brioche bun. Soooo good. Def gonna have to try Oakwood though and that burger from hawksworth.

  15. Caroline Neufeld

    Pourhouse on Water Street has a fantastic hamburger. It’s all about the meat, which is fresh ground in-house, therefore you can order it any way you like. It’s the perfect ratio of meat to bun, it’s juicy and it tastes like meat should – a little bit charred, and moist but not greasy. It comes with excellent fries in a paper bag.
    Worth every penny.