Monday, 14 July 2008

The Works, Ottawa ~ NWR

As I've mentioned before, if your not going to have chicken wings, a burger is a great alternative. While most of my explorations of Ottawa have produced mediocre wings, it has produced an excellent burger joint: The Works.

I've been to 4 different locations of this Ottawa chain, with all of them producing a great burger experience. It's only now that I've gotten a chance to blog about it. There are several consistencies I've come across at each: small establishment, always packed, good food.

The decor are all the same but its hard to describe. There's kind of a steam/machinery/factory like feel with pipes, fake electronics, hatches and more on bare brick reinforced with wood tables. With a title like "The Works", its like a factory turned restaurant (although the title's double meaning also refers to the burgers, but more on that in a bit).

The particular location I was at ( St Laurent Blvd) is much larger, and even has a patio. The crowds are mixed from families, the elderly, teens and everything in between. That's because there's a great menu, which has great side dishes, but is pretty much burgers as the main course. Some key appetizers include:

  • 5 different poutine styles (and they use canned gravy & St Albert Curds)
  • Tower-O-Rings ~ lots of breaded onion rings
  • Steamrollers: baked wedges of flour tortilla stuffed w/cream cheese, peppers, chilies, jalapeno peppers & cream cheese
  • Milkshakes (over 20 flavours), floats, ice crush drinks

What I love is the giant measuring cup of Coke, with free refills. Its huge, novel, but it does take up a lot of room on the table.

But of course, the important thing to note is the burgers. The Works has over 434 combinations in which to make your burger. It's a 3 step process:

    -ground beef, whole chicken breast, ground turkey, Yves veggie burger, Portabello mushroom cap or upgrade for $2.69: certified organic beef or local 'elk ranch' patty

  2. CHOOSE YOUR TOPPINGS: over 50 different set ups. Interesting options include:
    -Avril's Avocado Avalanche: grilled eggplant, avocado, salsa loco & feta cheese
    -Down Under: caramelized onions, fried egg, pineapple, purple beets & Gouda
    -Hold the Phone: peanut butter, cream cheese & jack cheese
    -Kamikaze: jalapeno, chipotle & banana peppers, cheddar cheese & hotter than hell sauce
    -San Francisco Treat: real Kraft Dinner & cheddar

    -factory fries (fresh cut), sweet potato strings, spicy die-cut chips, lumpy mashed, green weeds, bold slaw
    -Upgrades (with extra costs): onion rings, poutine, Caesar salad, premium poutine, beef chili, Kraft Dinner

It seems like a big process, and just trying to decide what patty, toppings and sides can take forever. Once you've ordered, it takes about 20 minutes for these thick burgers to be cooked, so a fast food burger these are not.

On this particular trip, I went with the Smokey Mountain with my side being the Bold Slaw.

A ground beef patty, smokey bbq sauce, jack cheese and 2 stripes of bacon. Mmmm, so good. Oh, there was also lettuce on there too. An interesting construction technique that worked well (but would never work if I tried it at home) was the burger, then sauce, then cheese. The cheese melted over the bbq sauce making a nice blanket. The bacon is also really good - just the right amount of fat, crispy, but still just slightly chewy.

The two other burgers I've sampled here include the Roughriders Comeback, which is very similar to Smokey Mountain, except with 'bold' bbq, and caramelized onions, and the Rockcliffe Grinder. Technically, this is a chicken burger, with Cajun breaded breast of chicken that's fried in Frank's hot sauce with tomato and chipotle mayo (you can add cheese & bacon for extra). These are the flavours that appeal to me the most, smokey, spicy, cheesy, bacon. I also recommend the elk patty meat as a great tasting and healthy alternative.

For the sides I've had the poutine (good), the die-cut chips, and the fries (which go really well with their Hotter than Hell sauce). With the heat out this afternoon, the Bold Slaw seemed like a good alternative. There's a warning that it contains "jalapeno pepper & white pepper ... yow!!!" but I didn't detect any heat at all. But it was very creamy and just the way I like my coleslaw.

There's lots of sides and upgrades to keep you trying all sorts of different things when you come. However, as most of the burgers are $9-11 to begin with, these additions can really drive the price up quick. Add a drink, and The Works does not make for a cheap dinner or lunch. But the quality ingredients make most of them worth while. While some people don't like a thick juicy burger, for the rest of us this is THE burger place. If only they did wings . . .

The Works: Gourmet Burger Bistro
363 St-Laurent Boulevard, Ottawa (and other locations)

Click HERE for the menu

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