Tuesday, April 17, 2012

MAXimized at Max's Burgers

Max's Burgers on Urbanspoon
It was dead quiet right at their 11am open on Monday when I walked in. Perfect -- just before the 12pm-2pm lunch rush, which our lovely and friendly server Jenessa estimated was typical. Hockey nights of course were busier, and the bright and airy modified garage was proudly Vancouver Canucks. Although they have alcoholic beverages, daily burger specials, and a flat screen TV visible wherever you sit, it's not really pushing to be the neighbourhood sports bar.
Music that morning was '90's hip hop. TVs were on a sports channel but the volume was not on.

The $10 daily special for Monday is the British Columbian (normally $12.50), but I thought I'd go for a "Max"-everything theme. So it was the Big Max ($10; token side upgraded for $1.50 into onion rings) and $2 Big Max Sauce for the onion rings. There was no "Max's Shake", sadly, so I let my dining companion choose a shake to share (Strawberry). I was half-hoping she'd be adventurous enough to try the salted caramel, but in truth, I was a bit ansy about that as well. Too much salt and it would have ruined dessert; although I'd had sea-salted chocolate before, so it wasn't a new concept.

Max's Burgers uses a toasted-on-the-inside soft brioche hamburger bun, as does Romer's Burger Bar. Maybe because of its comparative airiness, the result is a softer bun that seems less intrusive on texture and taste than a regular hamburger bun. It just shields your hand from the gooey burger mess inside, and doesn't feel like it adds a lot of filling to your burger.

The Big Max is "5 oz. of Max's specially seasoned, secret recipe of fresh, never-frozen, griddled Alberta chuck, on our house-baked brioche bun, served with 'The Fixins' (shredded iceberg lettuce, vine-ripened tomato, pickles, red onion & Big Max Sauce). Ask for it "Max's Style" with fried red onions!"

The $10 price tag is on-par with what you get at Romer's Burger Bar. Except Romer's is typically a fancier burger with more interesting ingredients, but no sides. Here, you get either hand-cut kennebec fries, fennel slaw, or broccoli salad for free. You can upgrade to yam fries or onion rings for $2 (on the online menu; only $1.50 according to our server and on my bill).

The patty itself is firm yet moist and holds together quite well. The "fixins" are okay, but the overall product was very wet and sloppy. Because of the small basket, my patty wasn't centered, and it took a bit of delicate scooping to get the burger out of the basket without having everything slide out. Once I picked it up, it was really too messy to put down.
After being spoiled on it-stays-together cheap-ass McDonalds burgers, I do believe there is a science to compiling a burger that doesn't make a huge mess when you eat it. The Big Max is tasty, but can be tricky to eat. So, er, don't wear a white shirt.

It's not a "wow!" burger, but it's a good burger, and at $10 it's competitively priced.

The onion rings were really quite good. They aren't super-huge ones with big diameters, but they are wide-cut, about twice as wide as the often thin-sliced onion rings. The batter is very crunchy and stays that way for quite a while. The server immediately suggested Maple Mustard dip when I inquired about whether a dip came with the burger-upgrade-onion-rings. I probably should have gone with that, but I was going with my "Max" theme and went with the Big Max Sauce. Which turned out sort-of like Thousand Island Dressing, but not as sharp/sour.

My dining companion opted for the broccoli salad. It was lightly blanched or possibly raw broccoli, in some sauce. Kind of blah, bordering on yuck, actually. Go for either the slaw (which I haven't tried but can't possibly be worse than the broccoli) or the fries. Since the onion rings turned out really well, I would suspect Max's Burgers knows how to make really decent fries.
If you're not getting a full side and have just a small side that comes with your burger, I recommend against $2 for dip. You probably won't use half of it unless you insist on killing the taste of your fries or onion rings.

Our server helpfully offered to split our strawberry shakes to share, and they came in two small filled-to-the-brim glasses topped with a cherry each, plus the remainder in the tall metal mixing container. They were so thick I had trouble sucking it up the regulation-diameter straw. It was easier to mix it a bit with the draw and drink it down.
Here again, it's not "wow!", but that doesn't always have to be the standard, especially when they're not putting an excessive price on it. It was good, and the price seemed fair for $5.

My bill came out to $16 including half the milkshake (normally $5), and just under $18 after tax and tip. I think the bill would have been more acceptable had I dropped the Big Max Sauce, which turned out to be ho-hum and not really necessary on the crispy and tasty-enough onion ring batter.
That said, it's still a couple of bucks more than one of the really good burgers from Loving Hut Express, but only if you're not a beef burger connoisseur. If you rate burgers on meat content and quality, then Loving Hut doesn't even qualify since they are vegan. If you just rate on taste, Loving Hut Express has burgers that are a notch up from plain good.

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