Ranking every hamburger in Vancouver: #31-11

“13 of the very best spots to get burgers in Vancouver”

“Best burgers in Vancouver you need to try at least once”

“10 must-try burgers in Vancouver you can get your hands on right now”

These are real articles, on real websites, listing good burgers to be had in this fair city. And there’s a reason these sorts of article proliferate, in urban centre after urban centre:

  • Lists get clicked on
  • Burgers are delicious
  • Burgers are an archetypal food; similar enough from option to option to be repeatable, yet different enough to inspire creativity and passionate differences in opinion

Yet before this very moment, nobody had thought to rank all the burgers of Vancouver: not just to say which ones were good, but a systemic and gluttonous examination of every solid burger in the city, and to display it to the public in a clear manner. 

Why?

Because that would be silly. It would take too much time and stop being fun. It would be too local and too niche to get the type of online #engagement required to be #content, relative to the amount of time spent on the project.   

Nobody would rank every burger in Vancouver except somebody who a few years ago decided to start ranking things he found interesting on his personal time, and some people liked them, and then people started liking things he did in his professional career, and sometimes life just takes you in strange directions, where you wanted to be like a sportswriter or investigative journalist for a newspaper, and then you’re in the middle of a small town 900 kilometres from vancouver or a serene disc golf course on a gulf island and a stranger will notice you and shout “justin! where does this rank?” and i promise both of these things happened this summer, and part of you laughs and takes it in stride and responds genially, because that’s your schtick, and you have to give the people what they want, but is that all there is to life? ranking things? did we ever explicitly decide to become this person, and are we now trapped here forever?

Anyways let’s rank every burger in Vancouver. 

EXPLANATIONS

Here’s how we decided what the best burger in Vancouver was.

Entries: we googled pretty much every variation of “best burger vancouver” you can imagine, and came up with a long list based on everyone else’s non-ranking listicle. Then we* said “is there any place we’re missing?” Then we said “are we missing any iconic burger options that are distinct to British Columbia? Are they still open at this time (RIP Hundy, Campagnolo, Trans Am), and are they within the borders of the City of Vancouver? 

That got us a list of 31 places, and frankly that seemed pretty good. 

*Many thanks to friends and rankers Steve Masuch, Isabel Ferreras, Ricardo Bortolon, Nick Rogers, Mary Leong, Layne Bruin, Sam Bruin, Andrew Forshner, Geoff Lister, Yara van Kessel, Ross Howell, Danika Strecko, Ross Howell and Andrew Carne for indulging me on this particular project, and ensuring nearly every place had at least three scores that weren’t from me.

Qualifications: People had to get a traditional hamburger of some sort, by which we mean: it was meat-based, there was a patty in the middle, and there was a cheese and bun somewhere too. A place that had multiple hamburgers on menu could benefit by people getting the one that suited them best, but a place that had only one choice was likely to have a really good one choice, so we figured that balanced out. We realize there is a whole universe of outstanding veggie burgers, but that would require a further time commitment and palate that we did not possess. 

Scoring: Ah yes, the thing that truly matters in any quantitative, scientific ranking. Ultimately, each person was asked to score on the following metric.

  • Richness/Patty (6 points): there is a lot to a good burger, but the essence is in that first bite, the flavour within the patty, the interplay with the cheese, the crispness of the exterior and the juiciness of the interior. How well does the burg pull this off?
  • Balance (4 points): but a burger isn’t just about that first bite and initial flavour bomb — it’s about whether everything else comes together. Do the toppings enhance the main flavour, add a second important layer, or merely distract? Does each bite taste similar, or do massive amounts of lettuce or cheese dominate different sections? Does the sauce spill from bun to mouth and plate in a way that is pleasing, or unfortunate? 
  • Ergonomics (3 points): and let’s not forget about the basic question of “can you eat the burger easily, and does it fall apart before you finish it?” Because some places forget about that basic question, and we sort of feel like that’s important! Bun construction and size proportions matter, people. 
  • Value (2 points): a burger should be accessible to all — and if it isn’t, it should be damn good, or at least come with decent fries       

Our scoring system attempts to give equal weight to all different types of burgers, be they your chain burger bars, your modern craft burgs, your retro or diner standards, simple food truck concoctions, or gourmet statement burgers. 

But only one can be the best in Vancouver, and we hope this exploration gives you what it gave us: a better way to determine which places we would want to get burgers from in the future, and for what specific reasons.

Let’s start on that journey.   

#31: The Whip (6.56 points) 

Type: Modern

Address: 209 East 6th Avenue

Price Range: $15-21

For a bar that is such a reliable community standard and won a social media award last year, the Whip’s burger disappoints. The patty was as dry and parched as the mighty Sahara, with few qualities to redeem the desiccated puck of beef served up at this Mount Pleasant watering hole.

While our testers found the burger to be, at least in the technical sense, food, there was little in the composition to entice anyone to come back for seconds. Which was disappointing for many reasons — chief among them a higher quality in the past, but also the fact that we came back here on three separate occasions, hoping that our initial impressions were wrong, only to find again and again that they weren’t.

Diners are recommended to steer clear, and, if their hunger for a burger at the establishment is insatiable, order the veggie burger, which was less of an absolute mess.

#30: Moderne (7.36 points) 

Type: Retro

Address: 865 West Broadway

Price Range: $8-15

Moderne aggressively brands itself with a nostalgic neon vibe that says “we make burgers the old fashioned way!”, which is all well and fun if the actual product is good. 

It is not. 

Visually, the burger does give off that crisp 50s diner sheen that one would hope for. But an oversized bun surrounds a smaller, drier, somewhat lifeless patty and generic cheese. A mayo/ketchup-based sauce is applied inconsistently, making sauce spills a possibility. 

The one standout to us was the bun — nice and firm, with a touch of flour. Even that is slightly too large though, leaving to excess amounts of boring chewing at the end. 

And if the highlight to your burger is the top and bottom of it, it’s probably not much. 

#29: Wakwak (8.57 points) 

Type: Truck

Address: Varies

Price Range: $4-8

You might remember $2.85 Burger, the beloved food truck of the 2010s, which delivered exactly what it promised and was a pleasant counter programming to the more bougie food truck offerings that permeated downtown back in the day. 

Some time ago they rebranded as Wakwak, took a year off and raised their prices, and without the price gimmick and with the passage of time the hard truth is Wakwak is a place that serves tiny and an assortment of generic burgers, larded up by lettuce or cabbage and sauce to hide a fairly tasteless middle.  

Given the still incredibly affordable price, some of that is to be expected. If you’re need of a small cheap lunch, Wakwak will provide. 

#28: Cannibal (8.61 points) 

Type: Burger Bar

Address: 1818 Commercial Drive

Price Range: $14-18

An Eastside mainstay, Cannibal is one of those establishments that serves a bevy of burgs with exciting sounding names, all with mounds of toppings going higher and higher, promising a customized food coma depending on your preference for bacon jam or blue cheese or whatever accoutrements you’re in the mood for. 

And dear reader, in most of these places the actual burger suffers as a result: too much focus on size and not enough on balance or being able to satisfyingly bite through it, sauce going any which way, a generic bun and patty that’s a direct consequence of having to work with all types of burgers.  

Cannibal is one of those, slightly more expensive than others, a patty slightly blander than others, and so here it sits. 

#27: Cactus Club (8.67 points) 

Type: Gourmet

Address: Varies

Price Range: $20.75

It’s Cactus Club. Next. 

Okay, okay, let’s separate the Feenie Burger — the premium burger option on the menu and named for its head chef — from our collective opinion of everyone’s 2nd favourite premium casual chain restaurant when we were 21 and Didn’t Know Any Better.  

It’s a big, beefy burger, with mushrooms, cheese, bacon, relish, mayo, ketchup and mustard, the mustard coming through the strongest, on a bun that you know from the get go isn’t going to hold it all together. 

The overall taste is one of an upscale Big Mac, just a mound of meat and toppings coming at you, and while there’s a decent char on the burger the patty is secondary to the toppings in presentation, and the toppings are ultimately just fine. For your $20+ spent, you get some sea salt fries as well — pleasant enough, but not enough to justify the price. 

#26: Romer’s (9 points) 

Type: Burger Bar

Address: 1873 West 4th & 8683 Kerr 

Price Range: $15-20

There are 20 burgers available at Romer’s, spanning the gamut from “eh” to “that was fine”. 

We jest somewhat, but in two different trips to the two different Vancouver locations, we came away with the distinct feeling of not feeling anything: there are plenty of options to be sure, yet they all suffer from being in love with the toppings rather than a real focus on making sure it comes together. With fries costing an extra $2, it’s not particularly a bargain either. 

Credit where credit is due: there’s a consistency in the slightly above average patty used, and the toppings are relatively fresh. 

It’s not enough to make us want to return. But if diversity of choice is important in choosing your burger place, you’ll find what you need. 

#25: Bin 4 Burger Lounge (9.18 points) 

Type: Burger Bar

Address: 2996 Granville 

Price Range: $15.75-19.25

There are 18 burgers available at Bin 4 Burger Lounge, spanning the gamut from “meh” to “that was fine”. 

We jest somewhat, but okay, we won’t completely cut and paste the same review, even though Bin 4 suffers from the same focus on toppings and experience rather than, you know, taste and consistency.

Bin 4 scores better than Romer’s though because there was a little more praise for the patty (though a little saltier and greasy than some would like), and a nice wide bun that ensured the toppings didn’t spill too much.

Still, it’s a burger bar. You get what you’re promised, for good and for meh.

#24: D.I.C.E.D. (9.29 points) 

Type: Diner

Address: 1515 Discovery Street 

Price Range: $6-10

Where else can you get a lunch for $6 on the west side of Vancouver? And put money towards to help train aspiring chefs from at-risk communities? And do so in the shadow of the city’s 3rd best park? 

Head to the D.I.C.E.D. Discovery Café in the old Jericho hostel, and you’ll get all three, often with two or three shockingly affordable quarter-pounder burgers on the menu. 

Of course, the price wouldn’t matter if the burger wasn’t good, and this is where our group differed: while some enjoyed the zingy mustard/mayo sauce, others found it a little sloppy and acidic. While some enjoyed the onion explosion of the cuddle burger, with both crispy and sautéed ones stuffed in, others found it too overboard. Most places we were able to come to a decent consensus; D.I.C.E.D. was not one of them.

However, virtually everyone agreed the burger was at least passable, and the atmosphere and price are worth a sidequest for anyone the next time they’re at at Jericho.

#23: Vera’s (9.3 points) 

Type: Burger Bar

Address: Various 

Price Range: $8-16

Another place ideal for six friends who want six different burgers, Vera’s offers about a dozen “regular burgers”, in addition to allowing people to put on any gosh darn choice of toppings and patties they want in near infinite combinations, which is all well and exciting when you’re in university at UBC and being nineteen is GETTING WHATEVER I WANT MOM!, and hey they also serve pitchers, and that’s pretty cool, and oh hey where did the last two hours go, but now you’re 34 and have less energy, just give me three burgers you do really well, I do not need fancy names or a foot of peppers and onions and four different condiments to have a good time. 

Anyway. It’s a good toasted bun and the toppings aren’t *bad* — there’s just too many, often loaded up in ways that make it too messy 75% of the way through, and the cheese and patty are fairly generic. 

This sounds more pessimistic than it should be, because having experiences that don’t live up to nostalgia is never fun, but Vera’s is a fine burger should you like to customize toppings and have an honest burg. 

#22: The American (9.4 points)

Type: Modern

Address: 926 Main  

Price Range: $13.50-20

How much you enjoy burgers at The American will depend a lot on how much you enjoy sloppy sauce dripping over everything by the time your meal is half done.

If you don’t mind that, or straight up enjoy the sensory and textual experience, then you’ll find much to like in the six or seven burgers on offer: the burgers are done by Downlow (home of the justifiably famous chicken shack on the Drive), the meat comes from local all-stars Two Rivers Specialty Meats, and it’s a quality smash burger with good ingredients. 

But oh, that salty tangy sauce is poured on, with plenty of lettuce on most of the burger well, taking away the simplistic goodness of the patty and making it somewhat of a chore to get through.

#21: Hendricks Resto-Lounge (9.51 points)

Type: Modern

Address: 433 Robson 

Price Range: $19

The hotel restaurant for the downtown Hilton, Hendricks’ burger has shown up on a couple of lists by virtue of winning a social media competition a couple of years ago, but those looking for an amazing burger might be left wanting. 

The burger that won the competition is gone; what remains is a perfectly adequate smash burger that holds together well and has a good mix of toppings, the red onion jam and garlic aioli playing well together. 

At $19 it can’t be considered a bargain and the patty is fairly generic, but it’s good craftsmanship and a solid option should you be in the neighbourhood. 

#20: Au Comptoir (9.92 points)

Type: Gourmet

Address: 2278 West 4th 

Price Range: $18-$27

There is but one burger available at Au Comptoir, and only available for lunch, but it’s a noteworthy one in the city: a reasonably decadent offering with raclette cheese, house ground beef and caramelized onions. The gravy feel to the juice from the burger and the height to the patty give it more of a hamburger steak feel than most modern burgers.

And overall, it’s a perfectly cromulent burger with a rich and hearty taste, if expensive for its size. The biggest strike against is a lot of juice spillage and the height makes it a slog to get through, but if those aren’t impediments don’t deter you, it’s a solid option with no caveats, just like the rest of the places from this point on in this list. 

Plus, we’re pretty sure it’s the only burger in the city where a $6 foie gras topping is available. 

#19: To Dine For (10 points)

Type: Diner

Address: 333 Terminal 

Price Range: $13-15

At To Dine For, what you see is what you get. 

A place open from 8:30-5 on weekdays, it looks like your standard slightly dated and somewhat nostalgic diner in an industrial strip intended for nearby workers, serving well-prepared straightforward food. 

And it delivers: the burgers are well cooked with a bit of char, the sauce and toppings are plentiful, the quality of the cheese and patties is middle of the road, and there are plenty of options for the exact type of burger one would want. 

This doesn’t make it an amazing burger, unless you fetishize a certain platonic ideal of the form that is more about aesthetics and culture than taste. Still, it’s a hearty enough product made decently enough that it’s a solid choice if you’re in the area.  

#18: Vonns (10.1 points)

Type: Burger Bar

Address: 1184 Dennman 

Price Range: $13-23

A recently opened option in the heart of the West End across from the laughing statues, Vonns offers a number of halal burgers, from chicken to cheesesteak to veggie. 

Unfortunately for the purposes of our rankings, they offer but a single hamburger, a standard cheese/onion/pickle/lettuce/tomato option. You can get it with one, two or three patties. 

And it’s pretty good: the bun a bit too thick, the meat a bit too basic, but the caramelized onion and sauce work well together and the overall burger holds together well.  

There’s a good if basic foundation here, so the minimalism of what’s offered for pure hamburgers is somewhat unfortunate. But accept that and you won’t be disappointed. 

#17: Bells and Whistles (10.32 points)

Type: Modern

Address: 3296 Fraser 

Price Range: $16-20

Bells & Whistles certainly provides what the name promises. 

From a burger with goat cheese and truffle aioli, to one with banana peppers and a sriracha-based sauce, to a basic smash burger and basic traditional burger, you’ll have plenty of premium options, in addition to the fancy ice creams and craft beers and arcade games in this paean to Millennial disposable income. 

What you may not get is a consistently amazing experience: we had 12 different judges for Bells & Whistles, and their experiences differed wildly, some citing a dry patty and some having one that was juicy and well charred, some praising the toppings and some arguing they overwhelmed the patty. 

But nobody believed they had a truly underwhelming burger, some thought they had an excellent one (those people often citing above average topping quality that were expertly laid out), and the menu hit the sweet spot of selections: enough to satisfy everyone, not too many to appear gimmicky. 

#16: Fable (10.44 points)

Type: Diner

Address: 151 East Broadway 

Price Range: $14-17

One might describe Fable as a sort of gentrified, hipster rehash of a 1950s diner; they would be right, yet also underestimate the inherent quality of the burgers offered up at Main and Broadway. 

There are a couple of basic burgers, and a couple with small gimmicks (house kimchi on one, jalapeños on another), but it’s all done in a straightforward and cleanly executed manner. Some might consider the cheese a little plastic while others might think it authentic, others might think the sauce a tad excessive, but serious complaints are minimal: this *is* what you want from a diner burger, excess and all, and it’s done well.  

And we would be remiss if not mentioning the onion rings, an incredibly well done side that comes as part of the order. 

#15: Per se social corner (10.48 points)

Type: Gourmet

Address: 891 Homer 

Price Range: $33

You walk into a mish-mash of casual-chic decor that screams “you have money and don’t know better”. There’s a pizzeria corner, a bar section, and an out-of-reach decorative shelf stacked high with a confused mix of Peroni kegs and bottles of Stoli. “Casual dining with an upscale twist” you think to yourself. “I’ll have myself a burger; food of the people. It’s one burger. What could it cost, 33 dollars?”

It’s big, meaty, juicy and extravagant — the best richness score in the entire competition. For a cool 22 more, you can get some foie gras on this bad boy because why the hell not. Ultimately, though, no burger has any business being 33 dollars — and that’s without getting into the fact the truffle aioli and carmelized onions and fontina cheese are all good but contribute to a heavy, salty rich taste that will leave you in a coma for several hours after.

But it is certainly 33 dollars. 

#14: Red Accordion (10.5 points)

Type: Gourmet

Address: 1616 Alberni 

Price Range: $27

There is a single hamburger at Red Accordion, the $27 TRA burger, with wagyu ground chuck, two types of cheeses, and arugula and “roasted garlic aioli”, the menu description doing everything in its power to convince you that this will be no ordinary burger. 

It’s…an ordinary burger. 

Done well! Very well! You get quality with that wagyu, and there’s a hearty amount of pepper put on as well, cutting against the richness of the beef in a very pleasant way. And while one can quibble on whether all burgers need to be on giant buns where taking a first bite is a chore, it’s definitely warranted with a $27 burg, and holds all the toppings well. 

And yet, the non-pepper toppings just sort of sit there: the cheese and garlic aioli aren’t distinctive enough to give an extra flavour, and the lettuce/tomato/onion are what they are. 

A solid burger for a fancy time out, but like Per Se, don’t expect a burger twice the price is going to be twice as good.  

#13: White Spot (10.69 points)

Type: Retro

Address: 1616 Alberni 

Price Range: $15-19

Strip away the nostalgia and ferry dinners and the commercials and the thorny reality that it is now essentially a Vancouver real estate company owned by Shato Holdings, which first and foremost describes themselves as “developers of prime office, commercial, and residential developments”, and White Spot burgers still deliver.

And honestly, that fact surprised us somewhat: a middle-class chain restaurant of 90 years would not on first blush be a strong contender for top tier burgers.

And yet, the secret sauce of the entire operation is not the Triple O’s, sweetly good though it may be. No, it comes from the shockingly well balanced construction of each burger: From the squishy bun to the expertly proportioned lettuce, cheese and bacon, it “comes together” in an undefinably solid way that amplifies the meat and sauce of the burger, which is what we’re here for in the first place. 

So embrace the past and get your kid a pirate pack: this is a burger deserving of its loyalty.  

#12: Popina (10.69 points)

Type: Modern

Address: Granville Island 

Price Range: $12-15

Located on the northwest corner of Granville Island, many people may know Popina for their gourmet ice cream confections, but their burger game is no slouch. They serve up a juicy, tasty, and highly competent rendition of a fairground burger with American cheese. 

The burger is well balanced, and while there’s no huge taste surprises, it’s a tasty patty with a good crisp outside and a juicy centre. Order a double, and there’s a mild tendency for it to fall apart due to the sauciness, so we recommend eating this burger over the ground, as the components of the burger may leak.

Once you’ve crossed that hurdle, you’re in for a treat, particularly if you have time to sit on the far corner of Granville Island, watching the tourists and avoiding the seagulls, and letting a perfect Vancouver afternoon pass itself by.

#11: The Ellis (10.8 points)

Type: Gourmet

Address: 2204 York 

Price Range: $19-25

The Ellis produces a pair of excellent burgers from the fantastic Two Rivers Meat operation, and unlike the American, doesn’t overload the burger with toppings and sauce to overly detract from the fantastic patty. 

But one place out of the Top 10, this is the spot for nitpicking, and so here we note that the bun is a little too small and thin to hold all the juice from the burger, making for a fun race against time/your stomach to keep it from falling apart. And the Bone-In Beef Rib Burger, while a fun lark, is more a novelty than something that is easily eatable. 

Still, The Ellis is an affordable indulgence with a concept for its burgers worth checking out.

Part 2: the top 10 burgers in Vancouver 

Categories: FeaturesTags: , , ,

6 Comments

  1. I eagerly await your top 10. I suspect Mimi’s burgers will rank high.

    On another note, I really enjoy all your segments for CBC radio, and your analysis of the whole Meng Wanzhou trial was oddly satisfying. You’re very talented, Justin, and I expect your career arc will bend towards further journalist excellence and perhaps even stardom.

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