Burger Wars: Round 1. Introduction

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There’s a burger war heating up in Peterborough. And it’s a hot, juicy, grill-fired mess.

With Reggie’s Hot Grill, the new Canteen of Kawartha “Cabins,” and the recently-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 earlier this year 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.

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 — and has since started making a burger ruckus. The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro has begun pumping out burgers in 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 14-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.  They are also big enough to have a PR firm, who scolded me earlier this year when I mistakenly gave the incorrect number of franchises in a blog posting.

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?

As for The Cabin of Canteen of Kawartha?

I had my first sample earlier this summer – 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…  Along with reviews for the WORKS and Reggie’s.

That’s right, readers, over the next week, I’ll be reviewing what many are seeing as the Big 3 in Peterborough Burgers.

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.

My Reggie’s review will appear, hopefully, on the weekend.

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 Three.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Burger eating is a tough job, but someone has to do it.  And I’m looking at you Peterborough!

May the best burger win!

NOTE: I’ll be writing about some other great burgers in the future, including the Holiday Inn, Brio Gusto, and Rare Grill House.  These establishments, while they make great burgers, are not really burger restaurants the way that these ones are — they’re more full-menued, with burgers appearing beside other main entrées.  I’ll include them in a separate category, and perhaps compare them to the three in this series.

Also, please let me know if there are any other places to consider, either in the full menu category or in the mainly burger one.

EDIT:  Find my review of the WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro here.