Burger Wars: Round 3. Reggie’s Hot Grill

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Awhile back, I started a blog mini-series on the “burger wars” of Peterborough.  Here at Farm to Table, we take our burgers pretty darned seriously and feel that it is our responsibility to report on the state of burgerdom in this here Peterburger town.

The first part of the series gave a bit of recent burger history.  You can find it here.

The second part was a review of the new burger kid on the block: The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro.  You can find that review here.  The conclusion:  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.

Next up in the better burger battle is Reggie’s Hot Grill.  Reggie’s has a soft spot in the hearts of many local burger aficionados.  While this soft spot is most likely made up of a combination of cheese and french fry grease, it exists nonetheless.  In short, Reggie’s is definitely a favourite in this town.  It became so as a result of a combination of innovative burger options and a pretty darned good product.  It didn’t hurt that they ran the best darned burger/chip truck in town (sadly, now closed).  For a good long while, Reggie’s could do no wrong.

Of late, however, Reggie’s grill-flamed halo has begun to sputter.  There have been reports that the once-keen eye for detail has begun to wander. After all, owners Cameron Green and Rejean Maranda have opened a few other restaurant properties over the past few years, including El Camino’s, Kettle Drums, and the newly purchased McThirsty’s.

In fact, whenever I have posted about the restaurant over the past year or so (on Facebook and Twitter) I’ve heard fairly equal measures of praise and regret.

The Reggie burgers that Krista and I have bought over the past two years have ranged from pretty good to disastrous.  I mean, ingredient-wise, they are better than fast food franchises, but sometimes burned, other times missing condiments.  On one occasion, both.

For the sake of this review, I decided to give the Reggie’s kitchen the best opportunity they could to knock it out of the park.

I popped in midweek, at 11:15am.  Knowing I would likely be the only customer, I wanted to check out what a fully-attentive staff could do with a burger.

The woman working behind the counter was fresh-faced and keen.  Say what you will about Reggie’s, those kids that they hire are always a chipper bunch.

Having had a few very well-done burgers from the restaurant before, I decided to try to mitigate the over-grilling.

“I know you folks have to cook your burgers to 71 degrees,” I told her.  “But if you could keep it as rare as you can, that would be great.”

She nodded.

I took off for 10 minutes and returned to find my burger still on the grill and the waitress talking to her co-worker.  The conversation quickly ended and the cook hightailed it back to attend to my food.

The result?

My Pepper Jack Burger was blackened on one side and definitely a very, very well-done puck of beef.  The cheese, I have to believe, was thrown on when I came in the door and quickly wrapped up with the burger — definitely without any time to even slightly melt.  While the other condiments, including their quite delicious Creamy Jalapeno sauce, were bang on, the burger itself was a bit of a grilling disaster.  And this was with me being the first and only customer of the day.

The fries, on the other hand, were excellent.  Piping hot and golden brown, they almost made up for the burger.  Almost.

Before assigning a score on this one, I’m going to factor in my previous visits to Reggie’s — and the fact that I have had some great burgers there in the past, and likely will again.  That bump, however, is not enough to put it into the above average realm of burger mastery.

As with the Works, I’m pretty certain that we’re not dealing with local ingredients.  Other than the generic “6oz Ontario Beef Burger,” I’ve seen and heard no mention of local sourcing.

The verdict: Reggie’s has the history and potential of a great burger shack.  They have good, fresh condiments (even if they are sometimes mislaid), notable fries, and great customer service.  They also have some consistency issues and a seemingly growing list of disgruntled patrons.  Their burger is quite a bit smaller than the Works, but comes in at a lower price.  I got away with just around $15 for a burger, fries, drink, tax and tip — still pretty pricey for a overly-charred chunk of cow.  While they remain my burger go-to, they need to return to the level of detail that made them so good in the first place if they are going to keep my business. 7/10.

It’s your turn, folks.  Chime in with your Reggie’s experience.  Let us know what you think of the Works.  Or tell us where you think the best Peterburger is served.