Thursday, July 16, 2020

Eating off the Hill: Burger's Priest comes to Ottawa

The Burger's Priest began as a small streetfront operation on Queen East and Coxwell in Toronto that usually had a line out the door for its delicious burgers, with its religious theme (closed on Sundays) and secret menu making it an early favourite as the fancy burger craze swept the city.

I remember making the pilgramage from Scarborough one day, and it was a trek. A bus to the subway, subway down the Danforth line to Coxwell, and a bus down Coxwell. Lineup out the door on a cold, wintery day. Make it to the front of the line, place my order. No where to sit inside (just a few bar stools against a shelf on the wall) so back outside on the street to eat my burger. I made the mistake of ordering a single patty and, while I could tell it was good, it was a small patty overwhelmed by the bun. Disapointed with myself after the long journey and wait in line. It was a mistake I would never repeat -- double burgers only from here on out.

As Burger's Priest expanded -- a location up Yonge, and then the other end of Queen, and then to suburban strip malls, thankfully for my health none located conviniently near me in Scarborough. I would make the occassional trek to Queen East for double cheeseburgery goodness -- the other locations helped reduce the size of the lines -- but the inconvenience kept it as a rare treat.

News hit Reddit early this year of two locaitons coming to Ottawa, one in the deep South of Bank Street, and one on Baseline near Clyde in west Ottawa. COVID-19 delayed their opening, but the Baseline location opened last Friday and so Wednesday I made the trip out. Thankfully, at about 40 minutes and two busses, it's far enough to be in the occassional treat category and not a regular bad decision.

In the corner of a strip mall parking lot that's anchored by a Walmart, the first Ottawa location is spacious with all the seating removed. COVID protections are in full force with masks required, spacing markers and a plastic shield at the cash. I place what has become my regular order -- The Vatican City. Once on the secret menu, it has long since been beatified and moved to the regular menu. It's a double cheeseburger sandwiched between two hamburger-bun grilled cheeses. If you like cheese, this is the choice for you. But you see why I try to make these trips rarely. For a $1, I add bacon. Because why make healthy choices at this point?

I move aside and wait for my order. It's about 2:30pm, well past the lunch rush, and there's maybe four other customers here for a late lunch. They had taken my name for the order. "It's for Jeff," I had said a few times, having difficulty being heard over face masks and plastic shields. An order is called for "Vergel". It's unclaimed, and they move on to more order prep. I look down at my receipt just in case, and see the name Vergel on it. So I claim the burger, saying that, for their purposes, today I am Vergel. Out of curiosity, they ask who I actually am, and we both smile wondering how Jeff became Vergel.

While there's no seating, they have blocked off a few parking spots for a makeshift distanced patio for those of us that don't have a car to shame-eat in. I sit down at a freshly sanatized table and dig in to find the right angle for food photography. Oh, and to eat.

The burger was hot and juicy and cheesy and messy. Everything you would want a burger to be. As mentioned, I only added bacon and ketchup. I like the burger to shine through and not be overshadowed by lettuce and tomato and all that acroutement. And shine this burger did. No fries needed, just a drink to help wash it down.

The only difference from past Vatican City experiences is that I didn't feel horrible an hour later; praise the lord. So I'm happy to welcome them to Ottawa, and am thankful they're far enough away to not be an impulse meal. Although, if you're looking for someone to join your bubble to make a pilgramage, my arm could be twisted...

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