Some say that the test of a truly great restaurant is how well they do a burger. The beauty of a beef patty wedged inside a bun with toppings ranging from simple ketchup and cheese to house made aioli or a fried egg is hard for a carnivore to resist, and Calgary has more than its fair share of excellent burgers. While it’s hard to pick favourites, here are the Calgary spots I turn to when I want to sink my teeth into a perfect burger:
Blue Star Diner
The lineup to get into this relatively small diner is usually long, but the burgers are worth the wait. Blue Star’s spicy chorizo pork burger is the cult favourite here, but those with milder tastes can opt for the more standard Dairylane Burger (named after Blue Star’s sister restaurant Dairy Lane Café, which boasts a similar burger menu) or a pesto and pancetta-topped Bison Burger.
The Renfrew Boogie’s Burger location (famed for its arcade games) has been a Calgary institution since the late ‘60s, but the restaurant’s newer Marda Loop outpost also has a fun sense of nostalgic charm. Both boast over a dozen cheekily named super burgers, topped with anything from deep fried mac and cheese to mini-corndogs.
With its buns baked fresh daily, five-ounce Alberta beef patties, and fresh toppings, Burger 320 is a step above your typical counter-service burger joint. Customize your burger with a selection of fancy cheese, flavoured aioli and house made relishes.
Briggs Kitchen + Bar
Briggs’ menu is full of beautifully formulated comfort food, but the star of chef Xavier Lacaze’s menu is his juicy chuck burger, which comes on a perfectly soft egg bun and can be loaded up with a fried egg, avocado, thick bacon, blue cheese or a number of other toppings.
charbar’s double stacked gaucho burger, topped with dry-aged provoleta cheese and crushed avocado is a deliciously sloppy belly buster, made all the better with a side of parilla beef fat fries. For something simpler, the restaurant also sells its popular alley burgers through a walk-through window at lunchtime on select weekdays.
Though it’s a bit of a drive from Calgary to Turner Valley, it’s more than worth it to make your way to this charming cattle country café to try its famous burger. Topped with grilled onions and mushrooms, cheese and bacon, it isn’t fancy, but it certainly does hit the spot.
Clive keeps its burgers relatively simple, but the secret is in quality Alberta ground beef and a delightful concoction known as clive sauce. “Clive style” your burger with the sauce, pickle, lettuce, tomato and cheddar and be sure to wash it down with a signature custard shake.
The Guild’s burger starts with a great foundation: a big juicy patty made of dry-aged chuck sourced from Beretta Farms. That lovely slab of meat is finished off simply with cheddar, smoked mayo, pickles and ketchup to let the flavour of the beef shine.
Naina’s can whip up a tasty classic quarter-pound burger, but its real draw is a menu full of stuffed burgers. A variety of treats — pulled pork, poutine, jalapeno poppers — are packed right into the burger patty for uniquely delectable, and extremely filling burger.
Native Tongues may be an authentic Mexican taqueria, but one of the best items on its menu is the mouth-watering hamberguesa al carbon. There’s nothing particularly Mexican about it — it’s a messy thin-patty burger styled after a Big Mac — but it is nearly impossible to resist.
Plowshare Artisan Diner
Not only does a trip to Plowshare give diners a chance to bask in the exquisite wood-paneled beauty of the historic downtown Grain Exchange building, but the casual restaurant also does a fantastic burger. Expect six-ounces of ground chuck on a pretzel bun with roasted garlic aioli, bacon and cheddar.
“Regrub” is “burger” spelled backwards and this whimsical restaurant has been known to turn the idea of a standard burger on its head. The restaurant offers several versions of its six-ounce grassfed beef burger, with topping combinations that may include deep fried pickles, onion rings and several varieties of cheese.
The Wednesday Room
A downtown ‘60s-style lounge, complete with plush banquettes and carpeting straight out of The Shining doesn’t seem like the place for a perfect burger, but The Wednesday Room delivers. Its wagyu beef burger, consisting of two slim patties, American cheddar, onion relish and crispy “frizzled” veg on a fresh brioche bun, is a welcome surprise.
And these are just the beef burgers at these great restaurants — after you work your way through these, there’s a while city of chicken, fish and veggie burgers to explore.