Bin 4 Burger Lounge, 911 Yates St., Victoria, BC
Is it just me, or is the classic hamburger currently enjoying a resurgence in pop food culture? This seems especially so in Victoria with a spate of recently opened and soon-to-open burger places. It's an odd phenomenon, given the growing food awareness, locavore consciousness and healthy living times we increasingly find ourselves in. My sociological theory is this: The resurgence of the classic burger & fries is a kind of cultural pushback, a big SCREW YOU to the healthy living cultists that have been preaching their bird seed zealotry for a good two decades now, telling us we are bad, unethical people if we eat foods that raise our cholesterol level and allegedly destroys the environment.
When the burger revival began a few years ago, proprietors tried to appease this eco-health religiosity by offering veggie “burgers” (fuck that noise, I say no meat = no burger. Period), and by trying hard to get "ethical" beef via local sources. Some of these burger sellers employed subtle euphemisms to make their products sound less like hamburgers and more healthy and ethical. No longer was it a hamburger, but a gourmet burger, or a slider, or some such nonsense. The new wave of burgerism continues to employ these strategies, but the attitude these days seems to be packing a better, more honest counter-punch. The hot yoga healthy living vegan cult has for too long seized and controlled the conversation around food and lifestyle in this city, and the classic hamburger is now pushing back, saying enough is enough. We're not going to open one new burger place downtown. In your face, muthfucka, we got 6 either opened or soon to open! And there’s more coming!
For me, the issues around healthy or unhealthy food have not been about fast vs slow food, or the food itself, but about temperance. There's nothing unhealthy, wrong or unethical about consuming deep-fried foods or slabs of meat inside pieces of bread, as long as it's done in moderation. And by that I mean no more than 5 days per week. Okay, maybe not that much. But you get my point.
I decided to exercise my moderation last night by trying out the much-hyped Bin 4 Burger Lounge. I really wanted to love this place, mostly because it's only a block and a half from where I live. Bin's owners have clearly done a superb marketing and PR job getting the word out, evidenced in the jam-packed room late last night. They also seem to have done a great job getting their friends, staffers and family members to pad the Urbanspoon review section. Almost every single review there glows suspiciously with the same gleeful, enthusiastic diction. Go ahead, call me a cynic, because I am one, especially when it comes to hugely hyped Victoria restaurants.
As I say, I wanted to love this place, but came away disappointed. After placing our orders, it took nearly an hour for our burgers to arrive. And when they did, they looked and tasted as though they'd been cooking for that long. Both of our burgers were way overcooked, to a tough, hockey puck consistency. The patties were poorly seasoned, if at all. The bun they use looks exactly like the one J. Wellington Wimpy ate in the Popeye cartoons, but I doubt he would gladly pay anybody next Tuesday after eating this one. A couple of the fries on my wife's plate were uncooked. In sum, we found the entire burger experience at Bin 4 underwhelming. They do have some decent beers on tap, so if I do go back it will likely be to sit up at the bar and sip a cold one, rather than to eat. I do acknowledge that Bin 4 is just over a month old, so I may try another burger there after they've had a year to work out the kinks. But for now, no can do.
In my less than humble opinion, the best burger and fries in town is still at a place that's not even a burger restaurant (Brasserie L'école). Followed very closely by Pink Bicycle. And while I rarely stray from the classic definition of hamburger, Cafe Ceylon's chicken burger is so good, it warrants a spot on the top of my best burgers list.