Lunch Pick

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Delivering on the promise of a real, big, messy burger at Beech St. Burger

The new Little Italy burger joint takes the Five Guys burger experience up a notch

Happy National Burger Month!

What — you didn’t mark your calendar?

Okay, technically it’s an American holiday, but I bet there are plenty of people in the National Capital Region who would be willing to join in the festivities. We do love a burger.

It’s no surprise to see new burger joints popping up like crazy, even as we gear up for the invasion of a new fleet of food trucks to help diversify the world of fast-food eating in this city. The burger trend is indeed mushrooming (mmmm, mushrooms are great on burgers) and shows no signs of burning out. Ottawa’s own burger chain, The Works, at 19 locations and counting, has apparently had about 600 franchise requests from across Canada. Holy cow!

I wish I could find some local statistics on our burger consumption habits, but I suspect we’re in line with the results of a recent foodservice consultancy survey of more than 2,250 online US and Canadian consumer: it revealed that 91% of people that responded said they eat a burger at least once a month, and 44% said they consume burgers at least once a week. The report claims: “burgers are one of the hottest trends on today’s dining scene.”

Again, no surprises there.

I had TWO burgers last week. Both of them were from the new Little Italy gem, Beech St. Burger.

The charming eat-in/take-out shop was formerly called Danni Panini. The amiable owner (Danni?) is still behind the bar, but he replaced the diner-style breakfasts and Italian deli meat sandwich shop with a classic American-style no-frills burger joint. And while business hasn’t quite picked up to what it was (presumably we eat more sandwiches than burgers per week), he seems pleased to be bringing something new to the neighbourhood.

Chatting while he cooked, he told me he had originally planned to go with a charcoal grill but then realized that all of the tastiest burgers he tried were made on a griddle. He says he uses fresh local beef for the patties — nothing but pure meat. It’s what I’ll call “meat forward” — in other words, it’s a burger that’s about the taste of the meat, not the toppings (only the basics on offer here). There’s no brand name-dropping going on, but it’s delightfully apparent that the meat is treated with respect.

I’m guessing one of Beech St.’s inspirations is the mega-franchise Five Guys Burgers and Fries because it’s practically a clone — and slightly better. Buns are still industrial-squishy, cheese is processed and orange, and each patty is flattened with a heavy press so it cooks evenly and gets a fantastic sear on the surface. There is no pink left in the centre of the patty (it’s not trying to be that kind of burger) but it remained juicy, properly seasoned and the flavour was really good.

Also Five Guys-esque is the way a regular burger (here it’s called Beech Size) is actually two patties, while a single burger is called Baby Size. Both rings and fries are excellent: crisp, hot, and solid. There’ a black bean veggie burger on the menu for, well, you know.

Cost: Beech St. cheeseburger $7.75; fries $2.50; rings $3.25

Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Beech St. Burger, 40 Beech St., 613-237-1641.

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