November 3, 2012 by Allanah M. Pinhorn
I love hamburgers.
More specifically, I love cheeseburgers. I love fancy, complex and varied food, prepared with fresh ingredients, but damn I love cheeseburgers too!
My Mom makes incredible homemade burgers, ones that I can’t quite replicate yet. With onions, garlic the finest ground beef and spices mashed together into thick, uneven patties they are perfect for the summer BBQ season paired with a cold beer; often at a restaurant you can’t get that.
You get processed meat, flat or thick; doesn’t matter. You get grey looking and tasting ground-something between toasted buns and limp lettuce. Places like Kelsey’s are famous for this: where once they had real meat and pepper corned patties you now get unoriginal, frozen and boxed crap.
This doesn’t have to be the case, though and we’re lucky in Kitchener-Waterloo to have many places to find amazing real hamburgers.
The Grill – the best traditional
It’s your basic burger. It’s juicy, but simple. Pick your toppings from the usual fare, although they do have a variety of sauces.
The burgers are grilled, so if you get an inexperienced cook it may come out a little dry, but usually it’s dripping with natural juices.
I’ve heard people complain about the small size, but I for one think they’re decent; you won’t go hungry.
The Works – the most original
New to Uptown Waterloo this chain has over 75 burgers on their menu, from plain-Jane to spicy as hell.
They have 3 types of bacon, cheeses into the double digits and six different patty types to choose from. From avocado to peanut butter, eggplant to pineapple you’ll find all the exotic toppings you can handle, along with the traditional and expected garnishes. Part of a chain each location caters to their specific area, in both toppings and burger names.
Go for the Bison burger – at only $3.39 extra it’s worth it!
Ethel’s – the best “like Mom used to make”
Ethel’s Lounge is a Waterloo staple. Know for their “grumpy” staff and fresh, never fried food they’re a good-time place with the busiest patio in KW. What most people wouldn’t expect is that their burger is to die for! A great hangover cure it’s just the right amount of greasy – staining the bun without dripping down your forearms.
Being able to taste the ingredients that go into a patty is rare when they’re not made in your own kitchen but Ethel’s does it perfectly: onions and garlic are balanced with good chuck.
Toppings are old-style – lettuce, tomato, onions – but it’s paired with potato chips and veggie sticks instead of fries.
Frat Burger – cooked and topped to order and best veggie burgers
After sampling Ethel’s fantastic burger it’s no wonder their owner opened a solely burger-based joint. Their burgers are ground fresh daily and they cook their patties to order, even doing the highly debated pink.
They have a slew of sauces – including spicy “frat sauce” and aioli – and toppings including sautéed onions and mushrooms (although their onions are more deep fried than sautéed). Their extras include fried eggs, peameal bacon and more than six cheeses.
They cater to the veggie crowd with quinoa and Portobello patties and even do poultry burgers.
Failte (Molly Blooms) – the largest
Failte pub in Uptown Waterloo shares the same menu as the Molly Blooms chain of restaurants: typical pub food. One of the few exceptions is their Blooming Burger, which comes topped with both regular and peameal bacon, two cheeses and onion rings in addition to the typical toppings.
It’s huge. I can’t eat it without cutting it in half and taking off the onion rings to enjoy separately.
Burger King – the best fastfood burger
Flame-broiled makes all the difference when you’re talking a generic, pressed flat patty. At least the buns are sesame.
Who am I kidding? I love them.
Mel’s Diner – for insanity
While I’ve never tasted the infamous Godfather burger from Mel’s it’s a legend: three lbs of beef consisting of nine (yes, nine!) patties topped with cheese and bacon on a gargantuan bun. You get an hour and a half to finish it, fries and all, but the reward is mostly bragging rights – plus a t-shirt and your picture on their wall.