National Hamburger Month started innocently enough. You went to the revamped The Next Act to celebrate. The menu arrived and excitement turned to wonder over a list of modern comfort foods. Enter the burgers …
Your friend identified with the Director ($13) and rejoiced in its slightly burned, onion-blended patty, green chilies and buttery avocados. You like things simpler and ordered The Producer ($13) for its two ingredients: grilled mushrooms and thick, melted Swiss. Your partner, a vegetarian, appreciated the Drama Queen’s ($12) fresh pea shoots and avocado. The sweet, sticky, seedless bun got six enthusiastic thumbs up.
But then you ordered the Frigid Sandy ($6) and it took a dark turn. It’s just like a burger, you told yourself, with vanilla bean ice cream sandwiched between white chocolate macadamia cookies. It came to you with a saucer of homemade berry compote like ketchup and thin strawberry slices like fries. Clever.
You picked it up, bit into it. Cream dripped down your shirtsleeve. You tried the fork, but it just squeezed out the filling. You resigned, scooped it up, dunked it in the compote and smeared it across the saucy plate until your hands, like Lady Macbeth’s, were awash with a deep red substance. “Out damned spot!” (8224 104 St., 780-433-9345)
NY State of Grind
Fulton Market Burger Company names its signature burgers after New York landmarks. The gourmet toppings set this chain apart from other burger emporiums.
If you’re looking for a spicy burger with some bite, try the Hell’s Kitchen ($7.95 for a 5-ounce burger; $9.95 for 8 oz.). It features an abundance of jalapenos and Cajun spice, with a cooling smear of guacamole. It doesn’t have a paint-peeling ferocity, but it’s not tame like most of the so-called spicy burgers you’ll find at fast-food joints. And, despite the heat, the peppers don’t overpower the meat.
If you’re not into heat, the Mulberry Street burger ($7.49 or $9.25) is sweet with caramelized onions, roasted red pepper, a grilled portabella mushroom and Dijon mustard for counterbalance. And, for the famished, the Empire State ($10.95 or $14.49), with two prime-rib patties, is for those who prefer to taste more meat than condiments.
The Coney Island fries ($5.95) with chili and cheese are a nice side, but, being Canadian, I’d recommend the poutine ($4.95) . Either way, you’re probably not counting calories if you are walking into this place. (144, 160 Broadway Blvd., Sherwood Park, 780-467-8388)
Tasty Tom’s owner, Thomas Hennig, says 80 per cent of his customers are regulars. And the one thing they kept asking him to add to the menu is burgers. Now the burger list reads like an atlas with European-themed sandwiches and others.
The tour begins with the Greek burger ($13.95). The homemade 8-oz. beef patty topped with feta, tomatoes and olives harmonizes with the creamy tzatziki sauce. The Sicilian burger ($13.95) pairs grilled chicken breast with melted Swiss and Monterey Jack cheeses under a layer of tomato sauce with hints of basil.
Hennig’s Germanic ancestry is the inspiration for the schnitzel burger ($12.95), a crisp, lightly-breaded pork cutlet with a zing of mustard, mayonnaise, tomato and onion.
Not everything is worldly, though, the mushroom garlic burger ($12.95) is just straight-up delicious. The mushrooms are sauted with garlic and white wine.
Each burger comes with a side of half-moon-cut home fries and the sweet and tart house ketchup which, Henig says, is inspired by German recipes. Or you can substitute fries for the creamy, paprika spiced potato salad or chili fries topped generously with spicy beef and cheese. (9965 82 Ave., 780-437-5761)