Burger Wars Heat Up in Peterborough

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EDIT: This just in. I seem to have gotten the attention of The WORKS.

Apparently they have a PR team.

“Hi Donald,

My name is Alexandra and I work for a PR agency out of Toronto that that does PR for the WORKS. We have just come across your blog post online entitled “Burger Wars heat up in Peterborough” and we were hoping that you could make a couple of factual changes about our client. The official name of the WORKS is “The WORKS gourmet burger bistro” and there are currently 13 franchises with Peterborough being the 14th. We would really appreciate it if you could make these changes and if you have any questions please let us know.

All the best,

Alexandra Muszynski-Kwan
The Siren Group Inc.”

My apologies to the fine folks at The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro. I had counted the number of locations on their website, and came up with the number of 30 — the problem is that this is the list of places that they want to franchise to, not the list of actual locations. A bit on the confusing side, but, hey, I’m not their PR team (please note: I do have a writing and communications consulting business; find it at www.smallprint.ca).

I’ve updated their name in this blog.

Hopefully, I’ll be hearing more from The WORKS as this challenge goes on. On Facebook and Twitter, I’ve asked questions about the meat that all of these restaurants serve. Local? Fresh/Frozen? Grass fed? Pasture? Drug/Hormone free?

I look forward to hearing more about all of our local burger sellers.

The "Trail Burger" from the Cabin at Beavermeade Park. On the plus side: bacon! On the other side: griddled and squeezed with a spatula.

Reviews to Come; Looking for Your Peterburger Thoughts/Reviews

There’s a burger war heating up in Peterborough. Look for it to reach a hot, juicy, grill-fired mess later on this summer.

With Reggie’s Hot Grill, the brand new Canteen of Kawartha “Cabins,” The Holiday Inn Gazebo, and the soon-to-be-opened Works Burger Emporium all looking to attract the Burgertelle of Peterborough, the question has to be asked: Is our local food economy big enough to support this kind of beef? Or will our Peterburger scene sog and mush like a poorly made hamburger bun?

Some backstory here:

There was quite a bit of ink spilled when the City announced that both Reggie’s Hot Grill and the Hippy Chippy had lost their bids to operate at their respective popular locations.

Actually, only a moderate amount of ink was spilled. In this digital age, much of the anger, dismay, and protest occurred online. It is safe to say that many bytes were taken in this burger incident. Many people have pledged boycott.

Many of the people who Tweeted, Facebooked, blogged, and commented were duly concerned that two respected small business-based entrepreneurs were being tossed unceremoniously from locations in which they had built very impressive client bases.

In the end, it seemed to come down to money. In the case of Reggie’s, for instance, the competition, Canteen of Kawartha, scored a perfect 25 out of 25 in its financial bid. Reggie’s scored 18. The highest bid won.

Curiously, the City also awarded Canteen of Kawartha a higher score in the “Experiences and References” section. Apparently, they believed that a new operator would have better experience at a new (to them) location than an extremely popular one did at a location they held for five years.

As a food writer, I did not once – in the past five years – hear a negative peep about Reggie’s Trent University operation.

Makes you wonder what they were basing their scores on.

Could it be, as some people have suggested, that there are close business ties between a mobile fleet of coffee trucks (Canteen of Kawartha) and another fleet of trucks, tow trucks, and taxi cabs (the Liftlock Group, owned by Mayor Daryl Bennett)?

My guess is no. But there did seem to be some awfully interesting scoring going on when the final decisions were being tabulated. And this town is one for gossip.

The story with the Hippy Chippy seems remarkably similar. This time, though, it was a much more humble chip stand being bumped. Canteen of Kawartha successfully won that bid too, though they at least had the advantage of offering a fuller menu than the existing Chippy.

While all this was going down, a new challenger quietly entered the fray – though I’m willing to bet that they won’t stay quiet for long. The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro has begun renovating the former Trasheteria building at Water and Simcoe Streets. For those not in the know, the Works is an extremely popular franchise that began in Ottawa and has since spread across much of Southern Ontario. Now 30-franchises strong, the Works has begun to show some growing pains, with some burger connoisseurs questioning whether this franchise-based (semi)fast food is worth the hefty price you pay for it.

Finally, there is one more burger source to pay attention to: The Gazebo at the Holiday Inn. The Gazebo hosts the Kawartha Choice Burger Challenge all summer long – with different burgers being featured each week. The Challenge brings you beef, pork, chicken, lamb or elk meat from 12 area farms, in a variety of different recipes. While the burgers tend to be decadent and delicious, they change from week to week and don’t have the consistency that you look for in a regular burger haunt. This makes them awfully difficult to compare to the other big three.

When to comes to regular burger locales, fan-favourite Reggie’s is certainly not without its detractors. A few commentors on my previous burger musings have pointed out that Reggie’s East City location isn’t quite as dependable as it once was. Talk of dry burgers, missing toppings, substandard condiments… Well, let’s just say that things ain’t perfect in our home-grown burger shack.

I’ll fess up here. I’ve had some great burgers from both the Works (in Ottawa) and Reggie’s. I’ve also had a fairly mediocre one at the WORK’s Glebe flagship location. And, sad to say, I’ve also seen some sub-standard product from the Reggie’s kitchen – the last two my wife, Krista, got were burnt and dry. For the most part, though, both hit more than they miss. But will they both continue to do so?

At the Gazebo, I’ve had everything from a succulent lamb burger to a most questionable maple-glazed concoction that no-one at my table would take more than a bite of. The problem with burger experiments is one of glory or gory. Again, an issue of consistency – though you can hardly blame the Gazebo in this case. It is a rotating burger challenge, after all.

As for The Cabin of Canteen of Kawartha?

I just had my first sample earlier this week – it was a free lunch, bought for me by one of my very generous clients. I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag on this one, because that review is coming…

And it is coming alongside reviews of each of the combatants in Peterborough’s BATTLE OF THE BURGS!

That’s right, readers.

Throughout the summer, I’ll be sampling burgers from our 4 big challengers. And I’ll be posting the results here.

I think it is only right that we prepare ourselves for this burger war. With so many options, it is important that we find out, truly, who serves the best in town. As a result, I’m girding myself for battle – one that I hope doesn’t turn into a Battle of the Bulge.

Look for my review of The Cabin’s “Trail Burger” later this week. Please note, this review might not be for the burger-squeamish. There was a griddle involved, and some heavy squeezing out of juice with a spatula.

Look for reviews of Reggie’s, the Works, and The Holiday Inn Gazebo throughout the summer.

Now, I don’t want to be the only one judging these burgers. I want to hear what Peterborough has to say as well. I want to hear your thoughts and reviews on the Cabin (both Trent and Beavermeade), Reggie’s Hot Grill, the Gazebo, and (when it opens) The WORKS.

Let me know, Peterborough, which one of these is the best burger in town?

Or are any of them truly the best burger in town? Let me know who you think is currently “topping” these big four.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, tasting some great burgers, and sharing the results with you.

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

May the best burger win!