One of the greatest inventions in food history has to be the burger. Hotly contested is the origin of burgers, with claims of its creation going as far back as the 1800s. The burger is a timeless piece of dining history that resonates with childhood, with beer, and being a meal you can deliver to your mouth with two hands (sometimes one).
As I looked back in my dining history, I've been through a lot of burgers. I've come to the conclusion that the majority of burgers fit in the "gets the job done" kind of category. Some burgers however, have a little extra oomph that give a boost to my overall demeanour during and after consumption. And some burgers are just terrible.
This hyper-local list is no casual walkthrough of the prettiest photos on Instagram. I actually ate and ranked every burger that appears. Nothing was prepared especially for me.
For this guide, I ranked 13 venues in search of the best burger. This is a ranked list of my own tasting preferences. There will be a winner, many burgers that score average, and a loser. To start off, my criteria for a good burger:
- Must have a patty inside
- Must have a carrying vessel (i.e. a bun) that's fluffy enough to be squeezed in the hands and fluff itself back out
- Must be large enough to constitute a meal if you ordered it. This means sliders do not qualify for this ranking.
- Must be readily available on a sit-down restaurant's menu. Limited-time, fast food, and rotating burgers do not qualify.
Note that the doneness of a patty is not a criteria of a good burger. The tl;dr of this is that in Canada, you are only permitted to alter the serving temperature of your patty if you grind your beef in-house. This is a choice made by the chef and is constrained by the design of the restaurant so I didn't want to make it a requirement because it's really just one factor of a burger. In some cases though, it's a big factor.
Ranked from best to worst, here are the best beef patty burgers in Vancouver that I have personally eaten myself:
- The Red Accordion – TRA Burger
- Pourhouse – Pourhouse Burger
- Two Rivers Meats: The Shop – Boss Burger
- Downlow Burgers – Merch Burger
- Hendricks Resto-Lounge – Hendricks Burger
- Cannibal Cafe – Bacon Bad
- Chef's Playground Eatery – Truffle Mushroom Cheesy Burger
- Hundy – Bacon Cheeseburger
- BRGR BRGR – BRGR BRGR
- Tap and Barrel – Tap Burger
- Cactus Club Cafe – Feenie Burger
- Lamplighter Pub – Classic Burger w/ all the fixings
- Glowbal – Glowbal's Ultimate Burger
- Pourhouse – Pourhouse Burger w/ all the fixings
- Drew's Fresh Window Cafe – Burger Noir
- The Score on Davie – Checkmate Caesar
Winner: The Red Accordion ($22)
It's almost unfair that The Red Accordion so easily tops the list but they check all the boxes I have on my wishlist of burger wants. Their namesake TRA Burger is fully made in-house, including the grinding of the beef and the creation of the bun. The bun is spongey so when the burger juices come flowing out of the house-ground medium-rare patty, the bun can press into the plate to soak it all back up like a steak basting in its juices. Combined with the sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic aioli, crispy pancetta, house-pickled red onion, double mozza and jalapeño havarti cheeses, this burger exceeded what I thought possible in a restaurant burger in Vancouver and really pushed a lot of the $20+ entries further down my personal ranking.
Runner-Up: Pourhouse ($22)
Savoury, tangy, and above all else, juicy are the three elements that make the Pourhouse Burger great. I wouldn't add in all the possible options (more on this later) because I believe the base burger is where most of the magic is. The base burger comes with dry-aged Cache Creek beef, aged cheddar, pork belly, and and the big secret: mustard seeds in the burger sauce. Like The Red Accordion, Pourhouse also grinds its meat in-house so they can serve their burger medium-rare which gives their patty extra juice. The bun is lightly toasted to give it some extra texture and most diners will be glad they ordered this. There wasn't much in the way of vegetables unlike at The Red Accordion but everything that was present was executed magnificently.
Runner-Up: Two Rivers Meats: The Shop ($19)
There are two burgers available at Two Rivers but The Boss is what you're ordering. This is a butcher-to-plate kind of experience meaning you save a bit of money by ordering a burger directly from the supplier. In The Boss, you're seeing two 65-day dry-aged beef patties, house smoked cheddar, bacon, charred tomato, house pickles, iceberg lettuce, white BBQ sauce, and a brioche bun. The presentation is divine with the cheese spilling out over the sides of the burger. The 65-day aged patties also had their own tangy twang too which was a really engaging flavour in my mouth. With all the jazz going on inside, which was all amazing, the buns themselves disintegrated by the second half of the burger. If the buns were only a little sturdier that would have probably ranked this burger higher.
Downlow Burgers ($14)
Now here's a homey burger. Made with a potato bun, the merch burger is in the middle of the pack as far as standard bar pricing. Featuring an all-beef patty, cheddar lettuce, tomato, onion, house pickle, and "merch sauce", this patty (sourced from Two Rivers!) was extra juicy and the mayo-based merch sauce was expertly lathered across all of the bun, spreading itself evenly as my hands pushed the buns into my drooling mouth. Terrific value can be had here if you're okay with counter service. Downlow Burgers is the food vendor located inside The American.
Hendricks Resto-Lounge ($18)
Most people won't see this one coming, but here is a terrific burger priced pretty lean from a hotel restaurant of all places, arriving at under $20 in a space that usually charges >$20 per entree. This burger just does everything really well even if it doesn't push the envelope too creatively. The double helping of mozzarella and cheddar cheese are a great complement to the onion marmalade, the brioche bun is dense enough to hold things together despite all the butter, and the crispy onions add a ton of texture. Holding this in your hand demonstrates how heavy the whole thing is too because it's stuffed to the gills. Such a design is never a bad thing though in burger land and I'm happy shelling out the $18 for this every time I'm at Hendricks.
Cannibal Cafe ($16)
Casual diners are the home of homey burgers and I think Cannibal Cafe tops the list for me in this category. This "cafe" is full of burger choices and the Bacon Bad burger is scientifically delicious. Featuring a bacon and cheddar-stuffed patty, applewood smoked bacon, Canadian cheddar (i.e. real cheddar), maple bacon bourbon jam, roasted garlic mayo, and the usual suspects of lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle, this is the most stuffed burger. While the texture wasn't as nuanced as Hendricks' burger above, and the raw onions really didn't do it for me, everything else was a joy to stuff into my mouth. Bacon bourbon jam is the burger sauce I never knew I needed in a burger. This bun also held up to standards and kept the giant burger together in a neat $16 value.
Chef's Playground Eatery ($14.50)
If you live near Steveston, you're in for a treat. The truffle mushroom cheesy burger is joy in a plate and probably the best value option on this ranking based on what you get. The addition of truffle oil for this burger adds a ton of depth to the flavour and is one that leaves a lasting impression in your mouth. Caramelized onions also shoot the umami up to the sky for extra savouriness. The fries are a little salt-less, but I can easily supply my own salt if needed to enjoy this burger.
Not sure if I did a disservice to myself with this choice but the bacon cheeseburger from Hundy looks like a burger and tastes like a burger, but the seasoning was lacking in my case. This makes sense if you think burgers in general are overly salted but I do like a medium amount of seasoning, personally. Maybe I'll try the Hundy Burger ($15) next time and rerank Hundy. I know some people have it as their number 1, but aside from having a cool name, Hundy wasn't that high on my list. This was only $12 at a somewhat full-service eatery so value-wise you're getting what you paid for.
BRGR BRGR ($15)
This burger, BRGR BRGR, is the namesake of the restaurant and is a classic homage to the double cheeseburger with double processed cheese and patties sourced from just up the road. The cooking method here was a little on the overcooked side but the seasoning was passable on the palate. Note that this guy doesn't come with fries so you'll need to order your side.
Tap and Barrel ($17.50)
If you're a restaurant that serves a lot of beer, you must love burgers, right? The Tap Burger felt more like a burger that had to be on the menu rather than one the restuarant wanted on there. It featured certified angus beef, white cheddar, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and house mayo, which is pretty standard fare at this price. At least it didn't have Chef Feenie's name slapped on it like it made a difference like the entry from Cactus Club. The char on the patty might be worth writing home about and the buns did hold up, so this is the type of burger that gets the job done and nothing more.
Cactus Club Cafe ($19.75)
Here's where we get into the "meh" category. At the sub-$20 price point, the burger has to be a marquee item and not an afterthought. The Feenie Burger at Cactus literally has Chef Feenie's name on it but in reality it's just the Cheddar Bacon Burger with mushrooms added in. You get a bit of a discount versus adding mushroom to your Cheddar Bacon Burger but there's no secret sauce involved here. It feels like you're just buying some branding when you order this burger. The buns are also flimsy and don't serve much justice for the otherwise juicy patty inside.
Lamplighter Pub ($29)
When I see a burger with multiple add-on options on a menu, I order them all for the full experience. Welp, I think the $29 classic burger from lamplighter is a classic and nothing more. You get your patty, the usual fare of shredded lettuce, tomato, American cheddar, and everything else you pay for. I imagine this being a pretty paltry burger if you order with 0 add-ons, but it's also pretty hard to enjoy a regular tasting burger you're paying $29 for to enjoy every add-on option. The bun also disintegrated by the end so I had to resort to a knife and fork. Think you qualify for a discount for adding every option? Think again.
For a $23 burger a la carte I was expecting a lot more. Sure you get a 9oz beef patty, braised short rib, mushrooms, double smoked bacon, mac & cheese, onion rings, truffle aioli, tomato, lettuce, and pickle, but the thing that bothered me was that this burger lacked any discernible sauce. Not even mayo nor ketchup! What was up with that? I need a spread on my burger and it doesn't matter if you have mac and cheese bites stabbed into the bun. I need my burger sauce to tie everything together. See also, an onion ring served with breading that's already falling apart.
Sorry Glowbal. Can't recommend this one.
Want to know how you can order a $39 burger? Order the Pourhouse Burger with all the options (crispy chicken skin, fried egg, and foie gras). Want to hear a bad idea? Ordering a sunny side egg with your burger. Sure, it looks good to see the yolk in your photo, but in practice, the yolk drips everywhere. The serving platter at Pourhouse is a flat wooden board so you can expect the yolk to spill over the side pretty easily so you won't be tasting all of it. In addition, foie gras is a pretty acquired taste but when I bit into the foie gras-filled burger, I was instantly filled with regret because the butteriness of the foie gras was way too intense. It destroyed every other taste sensation on the burger. The chicken skin was a thumbs up but was the one shining star. For reasons of logistics and cleanliness, I can't recommend adding the egg or foie gras with your Pourhouse burger. Normally I just order all the add-ons and be done with it, but I felt the Pourhouse Burger necessitated splitting into separate entries because the foie gras really makes this a different burger. Can't recommend the burger like this.
Honourable Mention: Drew's Fresh Window ($12)
Now here's a treat. A black brioche bun is already a feast for the eyes, but the burger noir from Drew's Fresh Window takes the cake for most creative burger in Vancouver. It's a shame they fill the burger with a 24-hour braised beef shortrib instead of a traditional patty because it would have done really well on this ranking. To complete the burger was a savoy cabbage coleslaw, horseradish aioli, and shoestring potato. Nonetheless, this was a treat to gorge on and pushed the envelope of what a burger can be. This burger appears to only be available seasonally or through catering services.
Honourable Mention: Score on Davie ($60)
The checkmate caesar comes with a cheeseburger, but the burger is just one of many treats on this cocktail that requires 2 diners at your table in order to be served. It's not a burger worth writing home about but is one way to get a burger onto your table.
One-liner: All the burgers I've been documenting in Metro Vancouver, ranked
Highlight: The Red Accordion's TRA Burger
Price per burger: $12+
Any other burgers that should be represented in this list? Let me know in the comments or on social!
2020-08-29: Added in an entry for BRGR BRGR, slotting it in at #9