The 10 best hamburgers in Vancouver

Hey! You know what’s fun? Ranking things!

You know what people have spicy takes on? Burgers!

Let’s combine those two things!

In the first part of this exercise, we through the scoring system and explanation for this project, and we apologize in advance if our metrics are unfair and your favourite place isn’t included. Our stomachs can only fit so many burgers and our scoring system can only prioritize so many Good Burger Elements.

But now it’s time to announce the Top 10 burgers in the city. So let’s go.

#10: Wally’s (10.88 points)

Type: Retro

Address: 2661 East 49th Avenue 

Price Range: $7-12

A nostalgia burger doesn’t mean much if the meat is bad, and a sauce filled burger doesn’t mean much if it dominates everything else between the buns, but Wally’s is a nostalgic and sauce-filled good time because it adjusts for both of these things.

The east side strip mall burger joint, whose Instagram account explicitly promises “a bite of the past”, can’t really compete when it comes to a deluxe patty — but it’s good enough, and the cheese and the sauce is plentiful without tipping over into excessive. 

The bun was cited as a standout by everyone, holding it all together well, and while the 14 burger options were slightly excessive, the fact they were all under $12 (or $15, if you wanted fries and a drink) makes it an excellent choice for families. 

In short: Wally’s is still kicking, and a more than solid choice should you be in the area.

#9: Hawksworth (11 points)

Type: Gourmet

Address: 801 West Georgia 

Price Range: $25

If you go to Hawksworth — generally acknowledged to be among the swankiest of restaurants in the entire city — for a burger, go between 4 and 6pm.

That’s when the cocktail hour is happening, and it’s when you can get both their burger AND an old fashioned for $19.

If you go outside those hours, your joy for their sole burger offering could vary wildly, as it did for our group. 

The $25 price tag is one thing of course, but that’s honestly justifiable in a restaurant as upscale as this, particularly given how decadent the patty is. 

The big question is how much you love the chief gimmick for the burger: a giant fried onion ring between the patty and the lettuce/tomato up top. 

You might think of it as a great crunchy enhancer of the rich meat at the bottom, tying the whole thing together. You might also think of it as an unnecessary impediment to actually, you know, eating the burger, adding to the impossibility of actually finishing it without the bun disintegrating, to say nothing of it making the lettuce and tomatoes incredibly superfluous.  

And so, we have our division. There’s no doubt the Hawksworth burger has solid ingredients and is well prepared, but know ahead of time what your mouth — and your wallet — is getting into. 

#8: Alibi (11.06 points)

Type: Modern

Address: 157 Alexander 

Price Range: $17-21

We will acknowledge our collective bias: the Alibi has long been a wonderful place to grab a beer, it’s also part of the team behind our favourite brewery in Vancouver, and its new sister restaurant The Magnet is no slouch either. 

All that would mean nothing though if their main burger wasn’t good — but thankfully it is. The “All Natural Beef Burger” is a stout dinner offering with a above average patty, though it’s the interplay between the toppings that really sets it apart.

In particular, the smoked onion mayo and zucchini pickles gave it a tartness that was unique compared to other burgers, adding an extra level to the traditional bacon/cheese/patty in the middle, providing a good mix of savoury and acidic. 

Our only major complaint is all that sauce (and all those toppings, if you pay $4 for the deluxe version) contributes to a burger that starts to fall apart at the end. 

Which just means it’s best to have over a beer or two in their bar. 

#7: Between Two Buns (11.1 points)

Type: Modern

Address: 105 East Pender 

Price Range: $10-14

SMASH SMASH SMASH

Between Two Buns is very much the burger of the moment in Vancouver: having gone from a food truck to more or less the permanent occupants of the old Bestie location in Chinatown, they won the Vancouver Magazine best burger award earlier this month.

That’s partly the product of it being an ideal burg for the times: an easy to hold, delivery-focused product, under $15 and done in the smash style that is getting deserved raves for a better-browned crust and a thinner size that doesn’t dominate the rest of the burger. 

If anything, Between Two Buns’ choices go too far in that direction, with mounds of delicious melty American cheese becoming the focal point of the burger more than anything else, particularly given the pickles and shredduce don’t really pack a bunch. Which isn’t necessarily a complaint: the cheese is delicious, the patty holds onto it very well, and the jalapeno burger in particular is a standout. 

Just be aware of the genre’s inherent limitations. 

#6.5: Hundy (11.25)

Type: Modern

There are a lot of excellent burgers not on this list. 

Some of them are places that closed in the first part of the pandemic. Some of them are from chains that aren’t centred around British Columbia, or don’t have  a location in Vancouver proper. And some of them were places we didn’t see on any best of lists, but who have plenty of fans that are already making us feel guilty in Justin’s twitter replies (Red Wagon, Rogue, etc.)

Hundy was probably our favourite of these: a well-proportioned basic burger done with care, with no gimmicks and excellent consistency. 

It’s gone for at least now, but a couple of us got to it in our research before it shut down, and here’s where it would have sat. 

#6: Burgerholic (11.31 points)

Type: Truck

Address: Varies 

Price Range: $10

Darting from Vancouver parks to Port Moody breweries and everywhere in between, Burgerholic is more of a pleasant surprise at the place you’re already at than a food truck one absolutely needs to visit, but it’s one that scored above average to high marks across the board for nearly all our reviewers. 

At its core, this is a fancy fast food burger: think the processed craggy puck patty and sesame seed bun charm of a Big Mac or A&W, but with a peppery hue to go with the classic setup, produced with excellent balance, all for ten bucks.

Ultimately, the patty is Just There, which is what prevented an elite tier ranking, along with only one person putting it in their top three. Yet if we stumble upon it in the future, we’ll be hard pressed to say no.  

#5: Golden Era (11.95 points)

Type: Truck

Address: Varies 

Price Range: $8-14

It’s a man with a truck making burgers: some of the very best no-nonsense burgers in town. 

Hunting down Golden Era can be something of a white whale. The truck’s location and operating hours are shared daily through a series of cryptic Instagram Stories on a private account that may or may not accept your follow request for months. While it’s part of the experience, some reviewers wrote off Golden Era entirely because they simply weren’t able to get there.

If you’re lucky enough to find them, you’re in for a treat. True to the food truck’s name, the burgers harken back to the comfort food of a drive-thru or the neighbourhood greasy spoon. The patties are deliciously juicy and drippy, freshly made to order on the grill straight from ground beef, with three options revolving around a few simple but delicious combos of flavours. The burgers are a bit of a sloppy mess, in the best, most Ugly Delicious-way possible. You can see the care put into them, and while some might wish for a little less sauce, the Instagram tag — “If You Know, You Know” — is a case of hype delivered. 

#4: Pourhouse (12.06 points)

Type: Gourmet

Address: 162 Water 

Price Range: $15-20

Want a fancy night on the town sort of burger? Go to Pourhouse. 

Of all the decadent, order it medium rare, spend too much and be in a food coma burgers in this city, Pourhouse is arguably the champion.

And while they have a number of burgers to choose from (including an underrated Portabella), it’s the main Pourhouse Burger that gets the most plaudits, for good reason: the aged cheddar, caramelized onion and mustard mayo come together in a rich experience, the potato bun providing the perfect amount of cover.

On top of it all is a slice of pork belly, delivering some crunch and extra fatty goodness without overwhelming the rest of the burger. 

It only sits here because there’s only so many people truly excited to spend $20 for a burger with no sides, and only so many people who will truly enjoy the richness of the Pourhouse (truthfully, a sharper cheese could assist here).

If you’re one of those people though, you’ll probably be quite happy with what you get.

#3: Argo (12.31 points)

Type: Diner

Address: 1836 Ontario 

Price Range: $13-17

You may not like your burgers loaded down with toppings and fixings, the way some places will throw half a charcuterie board on a burger and slide a greasy egg on top. 

Such gimmicks are divisive. Which is why it was so noteworthy that so many of us liked the Best Burger from Argo, a vintage diner in the heart of the Mt. Pleasant brewery district. 

Along with the regular beef, lettuce, and tomato, it’s got bacon, cheese, regular AND carmelized onions, and, yes, a fried egg. 

It sounds like it should be a stack of sins that collapse in hubris halfway through. But it all comes together in a way that makes it taste light, a way that doesn’t leave you feeling like you ate a brick with cheese. 

The thin fried egg gives it a crispy crunch, and the soft bun helps it all blend together in your mouth. A soft bun is an underrated aspect of a good burger (it’s a key quality of those surprisingly high White Spot burgers), and it’s used so well here. The richness of the meat, cheese, sauce and egg work with the traditional veggies to be perfectly balanced. 

The Best Burger is the perfect Diner Burg: a hamburger that sounds so complex, but is simply delicious.

#2: Mimi’s (12.5 points)

Type: Retro

Address: 2287 West Broadway 

Price Range: $9-18

The top two burger places in Vancouver are both relative newcomers to the scene; both having spent the majority or all of their existence in the middle of the pandemic, earning a hard-won reputation for great food in a difficult time.

Our silver medallist is Mimi’s: a somewhat confusing pop-up style establishment within Kitsilano’s retro arcade bar Glitch.

But don’t be dissuaded by the distance to get there (if you’re on the east side) or the strange ordering system, because these are expertly produced smash burgers.  

What you see is what you get: your standard lettuce/tomato top, a mayo/ketchup sauce, with options for bacon and cheese and extra patties. Everything is well proportioned, there’s the perfect small amount of spill, the ingredients are fresh and the well seasoned meat neither dominates the package nor recedes into the background.   

In particular, we’d like to highlight the bacon and lettuce for being crisp and distinctive, providing an extra layer of flavour instead of being mere facilitators for the meat/cheese middle. 

It seems simple, but if it were easy there wouldn’t be hundreds of people in cities across the world looking for the perfect burger, because they would be everywhere. 

We may not have found perfection at Mimi’s.

But we definitely found a platonic ideal we’ll keep coming back to

#1: Boca’O (12.67 points)

Type: Truck

Address: Varies 

Price Range: $16

The best burger in Vancouver is a Spanish food truck open where the burgers are almost a secondary element?  

You better believe it. 

Boca’O, which typically makes its home around Jonathan Rogers Park, is what you might call a gourmet food truck: fresh, high-quality grub that wouldn’t be out of place in a restaurant, but slightly cheaper and a lot more portable. 

And ultimately, that’s one of the big reasons many of us loved Boca’O: it blurs the lines between the different genres and moods for burgers in a fantastic way.

Want to quickly scarf down a burger in a park? The offerings at Boca’O are just compact enough to quickly eat on the grass, affordable enough to not overthink, and come with tasty patatas bravas.

At the same time, they’re also decadent enough to be a dinner unto itself. The four basic burgers, all the same price, follow a basic pattern of fancy Spanish cheese + a greasy top, whether it’s onions, mushroom cream or a fried egg in olive oil. They’re all distinct from one another, and all straddle that line between too rich and just rich enough. 

They’re saucy burgers, but they hold together well. They’re unique burgers, but they’re fundamentally anchored by great beef with expert construction, the interplay between the meat and cheese sticking the landing each time.

What your favourite burger in Vancouver is depends on a lot of factors. We’re not here to tell you to change your preferences, but rather give you a guide for where to go depending on your mood, depending on your budget, depending on what type of burg you have a hankering for on any given day.

But we’re also here to tell you where, when you sweep everything away, and when you set all factors being equal, the best burger in Vancouver is.

And it’s Boca’O.

Categories: Features, RantsTags: , , , , ,

10 Comments

  1. Fred Eiserman

    Now to venture to North Van where I thought Bridge Brewing Pub on Lonsdale was best burger I’d had in ages (their homemade sauce is amazing). But then I went to The Gull and was in medium rare heaven as they grind their own Two Rivers Meat chuck. (Both places source from Two Rivers)

  2. I’m really looking forward to you getting out to New West and experiencing I:T Char Burger. I wonder where it would rate against your Vancouver listings.

    The I:T Char experience is loaded with things that seem right up your street:

    * weird name – how DO you pronounce it?

    * weird location – it’s in an almost Kingsgatian mall away from any major eating/shopping area

    * weird hours – sometimes it’s open… sometimes it’s not

    * cult status – New West residents break down into two categories: those that rave about I:T Char and those that have never heard of it. There’s barely any third category

    * a really great burger – without this what’s the point?

    * amazing toppings – the onions especially get a lot of praise

    * great fries – the garlic fries… omg

    Sure, sometimes it’s a bit slow but it’s just one guy cooking. And there’s a highly rated food truck in your top ten that’s never managed to serve me in less than 20 minutes, even if there are only 2-3 people in front of me… so apparently quality is worth waiting for!

  3. Ace

    To rank Popina’s on Granville Island and look over The Market Grill’s masterful meaty morsels is an offence! This list is a sham! Otherwise I agree with much of what you have to say.
    -Local Burger Enthusiast

  4. Peter

    You put white spot on the list but missed Red Robin!? They’re not the best burgers but certainly better than white spot and a Vancouver staple!

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