Category Archives: burgers

It’s Well Worth the Drive to Mile One in Pemberton, B.C.

Whistler BC

Mile One Eating House co-owner and chef Randy Jones runs a professional kitchen in Pemberton, B.C.

I’m sure there are some fine, inexpensive places to eat in Whistler, B.C. Indeed, I often head to purebread, which produces perhaps the best bread and baked goodies on the west coast. Mind you, I always stop at their little Function Junction location, a little ways south of the madness that is central Whistler.

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purebred’s fabulous hazelnut fig bread

Whistler is certainly not organized for the road tripper looking for a quick bite or beverage. Between the tourist hordes, all the side streets off the highway, the confusion about where to park and the baffling naming of pedestrian retail spaces—Village Square, Village Stroll, Village Lane, Village Green, Village Idiot—I usually just give up and get the hell out.

Instead, I often head 30 km north on Highway 99 to Pemberton, where I can easily locate, and find nearby parking at, my favourite restaurant in the region, Mile One Eating House.

Yes, there’s a growing lineup on a weekday night in late September (Tip: get there early). But it’s well worth the short wait at this family-run, chef-driven spot that produces fabulous, locally sourced burgers (they recently even bought their own, historic cattle ranch), upscale poutine and the best, gourmet mac ‘n cheese I’ve ever tasted.

I normally go for the divine Southern Comfort mac ‘n cheese—B.C. chicken breast, smoked bacon and brocolini in a creamy aged cheddar/mozza sauce. But there’s a Wednesday night special: a burger and craft beer for about $12. How can I resist?

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Best mac ‘n cheese I’ve ever eaten

My Mile One burger features a five-ounce Cache Creek natural beef patty, smothered in smoked bacon, aged white cheddar and beer-braised caramelized onions, all stuffed inside a house-baked buttermilk bun. It’s so thick I have to cut it in half to funnel it into my gaping mouth. Still, it’s a messy, two-napkin job, washed down with a fine bottle of Russell Brewing’s Punch Bowl IPA.

Whistler BC

The delicious, jaw-stretching Mile One burger

Mile One’s got everything I’m looking for: high standards, excellent ingredients and hard-working cooks, in an open kitchen. And despite the crowd, there’s enough of a personal touch to keep things casual and friendly.

Whistler BC

Lots of regional craft beer available

Right across the street, with parking right in front, is another road tripper’s delight: Mount Currie Coffee. Yes, they also have a Whistler location. But when it might take me 10 minutes just to find it, is there any comparison?

Mile One Eating House
7330 Arbutus Street, Pemberton, B.C.
Wednesday to Sunday 11 am-9 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday
604-384-3842

Mount Currie Coffee
7331 Arbutus Street, Pemberton
Monday to Saturday 6:30 am-6 pm, Sunday 7 am-6 pm
604-894-3388

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Primed for a big burger in Fort Nelson, B.C.

Woodlands Inn, Fort Nelson

A perfect post-backpack prime-rib burger at Woodlands Inn in Fort Nelson, B.C.

Fort Nelson is in the middle-of-nowhere northeast British Columbia. Yeah, it’s on the Alaska Highway, and there’s lots of oil and gas activity. But it’s more than 1,000 kilometres from the nearest big city, Edmonton.

So when we pull into the town of 4,000 people after a week-long backpack in nearby Stone Mountain Provincial Park, I’m expecting it to be easy to find a place to eat, even on a Saturday night.

But the pub we go into is crawling with people attending a fundraiser. Strike one! Across the street, the local Boston Pizza is full to the rafters with folks watching the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather “fight”. Strike two!

It’s now pouring with rain, and we’re starving for a pint, or two, and something with lots of carbo calories to wolf down. Almost in desperation, we head across the highway to a hotel, Woodlands Inn & Suites, with odd concrete hallways.

The lounge is quiet—not a promising sign—and the two beers on tap are definitely generic. Finally, the food prices are rather northern expensive.

All that is except for a prime-rib burger and fries for $15, which all five of us order. Sure, the extras, like bacon and cheese, are another $2 or $3 each. Still, there are enough fixings on the basic burger to keep the cost down.

Now, it’s always hard to objectively rate a restaurant when you’re ravenous and just off a big mountain trip. But we all agree these charbroiled burgers are excellent: juicy, flavourful and big. And lots of hot, greasy fries. Yum! Several of us even order a second pint of Kokanee Gold.

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A Fort Nelson highlight, an excellent new rec centre

Woodlands Inn & Suites
3995 50 Avenue, Fort Nelson, B.C.
250-774-6669

Perfect Pre-Concert Drink-and-Dine Spot in Downtown Calgary

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Lamb burger and lentil soup at Sandstone Lounge in Calgary’s Hyatt Regency Hotel

It’s a familiar conundrum. You’ve got tickets for a downtown concert or play and want to meet for a drink and a bite before the show. But where to go that’s not too expensive, formal, busy, slow or loud?

Well, in downtown Calgary, my go-to place is the Sandstone Lounge in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, a hop and a skip from the cultural hub Arts Common. It ticks all the boxes of what I’m looking for in a pre-show drink-and-dine spot.

First, it’s casual and comfy. Seating is at small tables, by the fireplace, at the vintage long bar (especially if you’re flying solo) or, in summer, on the outdoor patio amongst historic sandstone buildings along Stephen Avenue Mall.

Second, you don’t have to shout to be heard, with quiet jazz on the sound system. Third, the service is always understatedly professional. On a recent visit, the waitress subtly unwrapped just the soupspoon from the napkin-wrapped utensils.

The critical fourth, Sandstone’s food and drink, is consistently good. There’s a whack of cocktails and wine selections, and it passes my craft-beer test with a nice list of local pints, including a fine, not-to-hoppy White Raven IPA from Edson’s Bench Creek Brewing.

The varied lounge menu ranges from house-spiced nuts to charcuterie to haddock bites. I go for a great lamb burger—featuring all-natural meat from Lambtastic Farms in Vulcan, Alberta—topped with balsamic onion relish, cumin gouda and tomato garlic aioli. This time, my side is a piping hot lentil soup, though the rice-flour-coated fries are darn good, too.

For downtown dinner-time Calgary, it’s reasonable value: $25 for burger/soup and a pint. All in all, an efficient yet relaxed prelude to a fantastic concert, featuring Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and special guest icon Ian Tyson.

Sandstone Lounge: Hyatt Regency Hotel
700 Centre Street SE, Calgary
Daily 10:30 am-midnight
403-717-1234

Fast-Food Gourmet Burger in Victorville, California

Just your basic, fast-food sirloin, brisket burger at Apollo Restaurant in Victorville, California

Just your basic, fast-food sirloin, brisket burger at Apollo Restaurant in Victorville, California

Talk about false first impressions. I initially figure Apollo Restaurant, in Victorville, California, is just another faded burger drive-in joint in a dusty desert parking lot.

When I step inside, though, I’m quickly overwhelmed. I can negotiate the seven burgers on the big board, ranging from a fiery Mexican to a two-patty Narcissist. But I’m then handed a sheet listing a dozen other burger permutations, which can be further customized to please.

Help! Finally, I take the path of least resistance and order a basic Classic ($3), adding just crispy bacon and caramelized onions.

But the surprises aren’t over. I’m told the burger meat is ground in house each day from sirloin, chuck and brisket and then hand formed. With this purity of patty, is there any choice but to go medium rare?

My only quibble is the bun quickly falls apart. Oh well, all the better to savour the superior beef without many distractions.

As I’m about to tuck in, a woman at a neighbouring table sees me typing notes on my iPad. “You a reporter?”

“No, just a burger blogger.”

Her companion admits to eating here three times in the past week. Her parting advice: “Get ready to enjoy life.”

Apollo Restaurant
14950 7 Street, Victorville, California
Monday to Wednesday 10:30 am-8 pm. Thursday to Saturday 10:30 am-9 pm, Sunday 11 am-7 pm
760-245-4900

Not Going Slow as We Can in B.C.’s Slocan Valley

Lovely garden patio at Mama Sita's Cafe in Winlaw, B.C.

Lovely garden patio at Mama Sita’s Cafe in Winlaw, B.C.

Things are decidedly laid-back in southeast B.C.’s Slocan Valley, labeled Slow As You Can by locals.

So we’re quite prepared for leisurely service at Mama Sitas Cafe, a colourful, highway-side spot in tiny Winlaw. We use the time, after ordering, to soak in the culture, such as folks in dreadlocks wandering in and out of the attached natural foods co-op.

Still, we’ve just completed a punishing, six-day backpack in nearby Valhalla Provincial Park and are rather famished. Thus, we’re pleasantly surprised when our server promptly delivers teeming, affordable plates of taco salads and burgers fashioned from local, organic beef.

Working up an appetite boulder hopping in Valhalla Provincial Park. Photo: Marg Saul

Working up an appetite boulder hopping in Valhalla Provincial Park. Photo: Marg Saul

It’s all good stuff, wolfed down in record time. No way I’m going slow as I can.

This burger disappeared in about five seconds

This burger disappeared in about five seconds

Mama Sita’s Cafe
5709 Highway 6, Winlaw, B.C.
250-226-7070

All-Natural Meats Make This Small-Town Alberta Stop a Winner

Despite the looming presence of a Tim's, Meadow Creek Sausage & Meat is doing just fine in Claresholm, Alberta

Despite the looming presence of a Tim’s, Meadow Creek Sausage & Meat is doing just fine in Claresholm, Alberta

In small-town Alberta, it might be considered the kiss of death for an independent food joint to be located right next door to a Tim Hortons outlet. Yet in Claresholm—a town of less than 4,000 folks astride Highway 2 an hour south of Calgary—Meadow Creek Sausage & Meat is not just surviving, it’s intent on expanding.

“We’re a completely different market” from iconic Canadian juggernaut Tim’s, explains Meadow Creek owner Chantal Blokpoel. While the former is a national chain built on hyper efficiency, the latter is firmly focused on local and made to order, witness the little grill where all the meals are prepared.

At Meadow Creek, everything is built around the sausage and beef produced in the attached, federally inspected meat-producing/packaging facility, run by Chantal’s father, Peter. Indeed, the Texas Longhorn beef is from the family’s nearby ranch.

Meadow Creek produces its sausage in its attached, federally inspected facility

Meadow Creek produces its all-natural sausage in an attached, federally inspected facility

These ain’t your generic sausages. They’re produced with no antibiotics, no growth hormones, no nitrates, no fillers… nada. Just all-natural pork, spring water, sea salt and in-house spices.

You can buy these meats in Meadow Creek’s deli or at the Saturday Millarville Farmers Market, where they’re a big hit. Or you can sit yourself down at the 10-table restaurant and order, like I did, a fabulous whiskey garlic pork burger on a pretzel bun. Or Longhorn BBQ beef on a bun, with fried onions and melted Monterrey Jack.

A whiskey-garlic pork burger on a pretzel bun. Yum!

A whiskey-garlic pork burger on a pretzel bun. Yum!

With a couple of years under their belts, the Blokpoels are looking to expand into a full-scale restaurant, among other plans. In the meantime, it’s heartening to see folks with a vision and high standards pursue their dreams in small-town Alberta, where these days more independent places are closing than opening.

Of course, I had to take some all-natural chorizo sausage home

Of course, I had to take some all-natural chorizo sausage home

Meadow Creek Sausage & Meat
33 Alberta Road, Claresholm, Alberta
Monday to Saturday 8 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday
403-388-0155