It’s tough to get a good hamburger in Montreal. Usually, the hamburgers are tough as well — because we’re in Montreal. Good buns are hard to get a hold of, unless you make them yourself, or have them made to your specifications. Most of the shops here just opt to stick with what’s already available. Perhaps Costco rolls; who knows. But the bun is half the burger and can make or break the whole thing.
No, I wouldn’t want to open a burger joint in Montreal unless I could somehow set myself apart from the pack. Rise above the Dilallos, the Anecdotes, the La Paryses, the scores of burger joints in this city that never really seem to score.
Hop across the border to New York, or across the country to San Francisco, and you’re in burger heaven. So why not Montreal?
Well, a fellow named Georges Najjar took it upon himself to set things straight, to devote himself to all things Burger. He flew around the States analyzing different burger places and what set them apart from the pack. Surfed the Internet. Krazy-glued his remote control to the Food Channel. Bought videos. In short, did massive amounts of research before he was even about to try opening a burger joint.
Thus: Le Gourmet Burger. There’s m:brgr, of course, but Georges wasn’t about to start charging $19.95 for a Kobé burger with truffle oil.
No, he charges about $5 for a burger with truffle oil (truffle oil three bucks extra!) And Georges has his own dedicated butcher to whom he specifies which cuts he wants and how he wants them ground. His rolls are all custom-baked.
Gourmet Burger doesn’t have those fancy names for each burger — you know, “The Italian” or “The Singapore Swing” or some other such nonsense that so many burger joints indulge in. Here, you start with a charcoal-grilled burger, made in front of you, which comes automatically with grilled onions and tomatoes in a brioche bun. This is $5. Extras, such as cheeses, coleslaw, hummus, fried eggs, pesto, beets, hot peppers, Caramelized fig walnuts, truffle oil, foie gras etc. are all less than $3 (except for the foie gras at $5). There are several condiments available, which include wasabi mayo, Dutch mayo, garlic mayo and so on, but also includes good ol’ French’s (hello, Dillalo).
I opted for the regular burger with bacon and Swiss (pictured). Others at the table went for the foie gras, mushrooms . . . I can’t recall exactly, but the grill chef, with Georges’ help, whipped them out in about ten minutes. Sides were grease-free fries, either straight, sweet, or a combination.
Those among us who prefer to be able to specify how we wanted our burgers done (I like mine medium) were swiftly admonished, and rightly so. There are the handcuffs on burgers in this city. They MUST be cooked to well done, by law. “You’d have to sign a waiver,” said Georges, “absolving us in case you got sick.” Hmm. I’ll cogitate on that one. Got any forms at the counter, Georges?
But the burgers? Redolent of wood-smoke, large but manageable, on a soft, slightly sweet roll, the fries a tad more Montréalais than I prefer (you know, thick instead of matchstick, dark instead of golden — but I’m a Yank so it doesn’t matter) but still great with the multiple sauces — well, it looks like Georges seems to be on track to compete on the Montreal burger circuit.
And with a bill for myself and my wife including all the extras and dessert, including tax and tip hovering around $20, I’d say Georges has a good thing going here. It’s all still a bit young, but beer and wine are in the works and when they arrive I know where I’ll be going for my Montreal burger fix.
Oh, christ, almost forgot. CHECK OUT THE BATHROOM!!!!!
Le Gourmet Burger
1433B Bishop street, Downtown Montréal
Open late most nights