Burger Wars: Round 2. The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro Review

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For Round 1, and the introduction to this feature, please click here.

OK, I’m going to cut the WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro a bit of slack here.

I sprung a take-out order on them, you see… While the entire Peterborough Petes team was standing in line to be seated.

I’m also going to totally praise the staff who went out of their way to help me out.

“I usually don’t mind doing take out,” explained a burly fellow who appeared to be a manager of some sort.  “But we’re expecting a big group of guys to come walking in at any second.”

Cue the army of 6-foot-plus hockey players that came streaming through the doors.

“Let me see what I can do for you,” he said.

Meanwhile a waitress swooped by and shouted out, “Don’t worry, I’ll grab his order!”  She was back in seconds to see what I wanted.  And she was darned chipper about it too.

So, yes, I was ordering take-out from a primarily sit-down burger bar.  And I was doing so while they were trying to attend to a hoard of very hungry — and very large — hockey players.  Several waitresses popped by during my wait to let me know how long my order was going to take.  They didn’t treat me like the pain in the ass that I was.

For that I say thank you, WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro!  Your customer service knocked one out of the park.

But, really, we’re not here to talk customer service — though if your restaurant doesn’t have it, your patrons aren’t coming back.  We’re here to talk burgers.

And how were the burgers?

Not bad.  Good, but not great.

The particulars: I ordered the Smokey Mountain (and added a “Gourmet O-Ring) for myself, and a Downtowner (with an upgrade to double smoked bacon) for Krista.  See here for the menu and for our burgers.  We split an order of fries.  The damage?  30 dollars.  A very pricey burger outing, and definitely more than we usually pay at Reggie’s.

Was it worth the money?  Good question.  Those are some expensive franchise burgers.

I’d probably swallow the price a bit more if the beef were local, and if I had any clue as to where it came from.  As it is, they are made from a half-pound (you read that right, a half-pound) of “fresh 100% Canadian Beef.”

So, yes.  They’re big.  According to Krista, perhaps a bit too big for her needs — though I’d be hard pressed to ever say such a thing myself.

Now, here’s the surprise: I was all set to write off the Peterborough WORKS as all style and no substance.  My previous few WORKS experiences featured dry, dry over-cooked burgers, with generous (and sometimes ingenious) toppings.  Again, don’t look for local or seasonal in the toppings, but do look for diversity.

This time around?  Bizaro-WORKS.  The total opposite.  OK, not completely total, but…

We know that the WORKS has to cook their burgers to 71 degrees.  It is a sin against beef, but it’s the way they do it.  And my previous forays led me to believe that our burgers would be cooked well past that.

Maybe it was the fact that they were trying to serve 23 Peterborough Petes, but my burger was a lot less dry than my previous WORKS samplings.  They were by no means juicy.  But they weren’t pucks.  I would have to say they were pretty good — but, again, not great — burgers.  Now, roughly 3/4 of the feedback I’ve received about Peterborough’s WORKS has been about the fact that they have been far too dry.  Perhaps the secret is going in when they are absolutely slammed.

The beef itself is fairly generic tasting.  It definitely lacks the flavour of some of the local, pasture-fed cow that I’m used to.  It is somewhat bland and really calls for a heavy hand with the condiments.

Of course, the flip side to ordering when busy is the condiments.  Both Krista and I found half our burgers to be utterly lacking in taste and the other half to be vastly improved.  The reason?  Both or our burgers had the cheese dripping off one side, the bacon crammed into a corner (yes, I know the bun is round, but cut me slack), and our respective sauces to be concentrated in off-side goops.  The kitchen staff definitely needs to work on its aim.

Krista was quick to point out the lettuce on the burgers.  Wilted, weak, and probably past its life expectancy, it is something that just didn’t belong on a burger.  I agreed whole-heartedly.  I’m hoping this is an anomaly for this condiment-first restaurant.

Other than that, the toppings were tasty.  It is the WORKS’ claim to fame, and they definitely don’t let you down.

But you don’t pay $30 for toppings.

The verdict?  A quite pricey (though definitely large) franchise burger with an impressive array of tasty condiments.  Hand cut (and somewhat crisp) fries.  Excellent customer service.  7/10.