Whenever we eat at a restaurant, our eyes often wander on the menu to see the burger list – hamburger for him and veggie for her. Regardless of whether it’s a higher-end bistro or a greasy-spoon diner, the humble burger has, in recent years, seen a resurgence in popularity. As the #foodies industry has grown on Instagram, so too have the cooks and restaurants that are dishing out mouthwatering, stacked, cheesy, elaborate, and unique burgers.
In Ottawa, there is no shortage of fine places to grab a tasty burger whether you love the classic hamburger or prefer a plant-based patty. Here are our three favourites on each end of the spectrum, with one honourable mention (may it RIP).
The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro
Arguably the chain that started the gourmet burger craze, this spot has now expanded across Ontario after getting its start in a small outpost in Rockcliffe, just east of Ottawa’s Byward Market. The best part of The Works’ lengthy menu is the choices, and that starts with the meat.
You can choose the 100% Fresh Canadian Beef patty (ideal), but they also list options like a Portobello mushroom cap, lean domestic elk, or a cheese-stuffed patty.
My favourite: The Three Ring Binder (sautéed mushrooms, chipotle mayo, gouda cheese, and three onion rings).
BITE Burger House
Located in the Byward Market next to upscale bistro Murray St. Kitchen, BITE Burger House is a no-frills restaurant serving quality local burgers with homemade sauces. They call it ‘basic comfort food with added flavor profiles.’ Burgers aside, BITE probably has the best nachos I’ve ever had (its pulled pork nachos with espresso bbq sauce and pineapple salsa are to die for), but the standout menu item is its basic burger.
Sometimes, a classic is all you need.
My favourite: Bite Me (8oz chuck, cheddar, double-smoked bacon, brioche bun)
With five locations across Ottawa, the Clocktower is becoming more and more well known. It’s my favourite place to bring buddies from out-of-town for a great meal and even better beer, so it should be no surprise that its burger menu is both extensive and delicious. Clocktower gives the option of substituting a vegetarian patty, as well.
My favourite: Angry Goat (banana peppers, spicy mayo, goat cheese). Special mention: The Red Ale BBQ sauce used on the Canuck Burger is tremendous.
Honourable mention: Mellos Diner
Although Mellos iconic diner is no longer open, its burger (simply called, the Mellos Burger) was probably the best in the city. Although it may have been an even more unhealthy choice compared to any of the other burgers listed, this greasy masterpiece was cooked inside a grilled cheese sandwich (no bun), with sesame aioli, pickles and American cheese and a huge stack of fries was as comforting as the place itself. The diner, and the burger, will be missed.
Local Public Eatery
This new hotspot nestled in the city’s revitalized Lansdowne Park has a lively and diverse menu of elevated pub fare, including its House-Made Organic Veggie Burger. Given veggie burgers can be hit-or-miss, I was hesitant to order their version but was pleasantly surprised when a colourful, thick burger neatly stacked with crunchy dill pickle, tomato, swiss cheese, avocado, sprouts and onion came out – and even more delighted when I bit into it.
The patty made of brown rice, arugula and almond, piled atop a fresh brioche bun, is spiced wonderfully and pairs exceptionally well with its toppings. The delicious item is oddly nestled on its menu not under the Burgers or “Trusted Gardener” meals, but under “The Rest,” where its sandwiches are listed.
BITE Burger House
Given this spot is known by some to have the best hamburgers around (see above), one might presume their veggie version would hold its own, as well.
This was true. Up until recently, BITE’s veggie patty was chick pea-based, flavourful, dense and didn’t fall apart. So outstanding that I went back eager to have another taste of the healthy delight but, to my dismay, learned they swapped it for their traditional black bean and beet patty.
This version was tasty, still, but its thinness and crumbly consistency left it falling short of the previous iteration.
I could write an entire post just on this exciting new restaurant and juice bar in Westboro, which is popular for vegetarians, vegans and healthy food lovers (like me) alike. But I’ll focus on one of its three burgers – Elevated – for now.
This burger is served without a bun and sits below an onion ring, which provides for a nice added crunch. The greens, avocado and slaw it’s served with are nice complements, as well. The main attraction – a smoky walnut mushroom patty – is quite moist and, true to its name, has an unmistakeable smoky flavour.