Here are seven words I wasn’t expecting to hear in a Canadian restaurant: “How would you like your burger cooked?”
You see, burgers up north are generally cooked till the critter is well and truly dead, devoid of the flowing juices one expects of another cattle product, namely a steak. It’s something to do with health regulations and fears of nasty e coli outbreaks.
Truly, I understand being on the safe side. But that hasn’t stopped many U.S. restaurants from offering flavourful medium-rare pucks, without accompanying trips to emergency.
Apparently, a way around these Canadian regulations is to freshly grind the meat in house and scrupulously clean the equipment used to do so. This allows National, a restaurant/pub with three locations in Calgary, to grind its chuck steak into burger meat and ask customers how they want it cooked.
I’d heard The National could be hit-and-miss about producing medium-rare burgers. But mine is perfectly tinged pink in the middle and all the more succulent for it. I add some American cheese and a runny egg, but really, this is a burger on a brioche bun that doesn’t need dolling up.
You can get your burger with a side of what I’m sure are perfectly good fries. But just go for a sizable bowl of excellent salad, whether it’s arugula, pear and walnut or quinoa and bacon. If a burger’s not your thing, the open-faced short rib and oxtail ragu sandwich is also first rate.
National has an impressive 60 beers on tap, though at a rather pricy $8.50 a 20-ounce pint ($5 during weekday happy hour, 3-5 pm). But hey, this is Calgary, so the $15 tab for an unadorned burger is not surprising. And maybe worth it for one of the best in town.
The latest National outlet is in a bright, former Blockbuster video store in the West Hills shopping mall, with lots of windows, an expansive patio and shared, picnic-style tables.
180 Stewart Green SW, (and two other Calgary locations)
Weekdays 11 am-late, weekend 10 am to late
What are your favourite Calgary burger joints? Just hit the reply button at the top left of the page.