I certainly do subscribe to the above philosophy. We have been conditioned in North America to only believe that we are satisfied when we get that “sick-full” feeling. Rather, we should follow the French method of eating, which is to stop when the food stops tasting good. If you seek the “sick full” brand of satisfaction, it won’t be found at Clive Burger. My pre-burger research had me a little apprehensive as several customers complained about the small size of the burgers, making me fear that Clive Burger would be an over-priced hipster joint that would frustrate me. Well….the hipster part is true, but more on that later.
Clive Burger has opened recently (its website, much like the Death Star, is still not operational), located on the busy 17th Avenue, nestled between Melrose Café and Bar and Le Grand Fromage. I went here on a recommendation from my friend Nolan, who works in the area and frequents Clive Burger. Nolan is sparing with praise, and so when he speaks highly of a place, like Clive Burger, I listen. He described Clive Burger as one of the best “first bites” (referring to the initial bite into one’s burger) that he’s ever had. Since my friend Dylan was eager to be a part of Hamburger Pants, we set out, along with friends Jenny, Sarah and Allan, to track down this potentially delicious burger.
Clive Burger has a modern design, which I like. Though the burger has its roots as the working man’s meal, there’s no reason that one cannot make it hip and cool, like Loungeburger has already done. The restaurant features polished wood details and brushed steel, and drawings by local artist Twyla Yacyshyn. My favourite part of Clive’s brand is their relentless promotion of their commitment to green business practices: All customer waste is either composted or recycled, and the kitchen makes a commitment to be green as well. There is also a free water dispenser!
Ordering at Clive is as simple as walking up to the counter, placing your order and then you get a buzzer, similar to the ones that tell you your table is ready, and you wait. A very effective system as I do NOT appreciate trying to have a conversation while straining to hear your name called out over the din of a restaurant only to find out that they called Jamie not Amy and you’re sentenced back to restaurant purgatory. Clutching my buzzer, I went to the outdoor patio to join my friends as we waited for our food.
Prices for Clive’s food may seem unreasonable upon first glance, I spent about $13 dollars for my meal of a single burger (plus egg and cheese) and pop. But it’s important to balance that cost with the quality of the food. It may cost an arm and a leg (les yeux de la tete, as the French say), but it is worth it. If you’re looking to pinch pennies, skimp on your drink or fries, but get that burger JUST the way you want it.
I was one of the last people to order in our group, and so I had to endure the torture of the amazing parade of food as my friends collected their meaty treasures. And the praise that was given as they began to eat! Jenny said it was easily a 9.5/10, the 0.5 being deducted as her patty was a little dry, but the dryness also made it taste more homemade. Jenny, Sarah and Dylan agreed that the bun was above average, fresh and toasted, a perfect crispy compliment to the ingredients inside.
Dylan provided key insight on the shake. Clive has been winning rave reviews for their custard shake, a slight variation on the typical milkshake (usually prepared with ice cream – key ingredient is cream). Custard is made with egg yolk and cream, doubling the rich texture of the classic milkshake. Dylan gave the shake a 10/10 so definitely check it out when you have a chance. I would have ordered one but they were out of chocolate. When my buzzer finally buzzed, I rushed as quickly as I could without running (because I don’t want to look desperate), and picked up my bag from the counter. Unwrapping the burger was a feeling much like a kid on Christmas. Everyone else had already opened their presents, now it was my turn. I unwrapped the wax paper to reveal my delicious hamburger. The cheese was oozing out the sides, there was a pale white edge of an egg sticking out, and my nose was instantly filled with the salty, savoury smell of meat juice.
First bite, Nolan, you were right! Wow, I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming as I bit into the burger. Everything was in exact right proportion. There might have been an involuntary fist pump due to the assault of awesomeness on my brain. The meat was flavourful but not overpowering. The cheese was tangy and perfectly melted. The Clive sauce provided a slight zesty moment in every bite, and the toasted bun added a crunchy richness that just provided the perfect balance. The piece de resistance was the fried egg. NEVER, in all my hamburger experiences, have I tasted an egg so perfectly cooked. I saw another hamburger critic raving about Clive’s fried egg, which at the time I found to be extremely complimentary, but now I realize that he was right. The egg was cooked all the way through, no runny yolk, but it wasn’t cooked to a fried oblivion where the rich, creamy texture of the egg (which is why you pay the extra money in the first place) is cooked into a round piece of shoe leather.
I have a theory that I call “The Ketchup Barometer”. The more ketchup you use, the worse the burger is. It’s a pretty simple concept: you’re trying to mask the awfulness of the burger with ketchup. My theory is derived from Asian culture, where putting soy sauce on everything is seen as an insult to the cook. Additional ketchup would be an insult to the Clive Burger. I would have half a mind to give anyone who even asks for a side of ketchup (except if they’re ordering fries) a slap upside the head.
This is the burger that I have been searching for since Café Crepe, so many years ago with my brother. It is the burger that, with every bite, you are both in ecstasy and agony. Ecstasy that your taste buds are being treated to a ride rivaling most roller coasters, and agony that, much like a roller coaster, your moment of pure enjoyment will soon end. Upon polishing off the burger, Dylan and I wished immediately for another, another bump to keep on my plane of Burger Nirvana, but I knew that should I overdo it, it would cheapen the experience that I have just finished raving about.
My two cents on the “Clive Burger is too small” argument: balderdash. The burger is a ¼ lb patty which is a standard serving of meat. Anymore would overwhelm the rest of the ingredients, turning it into a subpar meat sandwich. The small size satisfies the hunger, and allows you to bask in the flavours, without having to make a choice whether to finish the last bite and feel sick, or hold back and feel ok. I’ll reiterate that this is an amazing burger, you’ve gotta try it, and if you do/do not agree with the above review, let me know in the comment section!