There are many uses for peanut butter, I’ve seen it on sandwiches, melted and called peanut sauce on a late night box of fried spaghetti “chow mein”, I’ve even seen it put on mouse traps. But on a burger? This is the reality at Darrell’s, a Halifax staple that I had the pleasure of visiting with my friend Leah and brother James on the Canada Day weekend. Darrell’s has won the title of Best Burger in Halifax with their peanut butter burger 10 years in a row, so this begs to be examined.
Darrell’s is nestled in a sleepy, leafy neighborhood outside of downtown Halifax. It looks like a beachfront restaurant with a sunny wooden deck and large front window, except without the beach. There’s a bar downstairs which I didn’t check out, and a dining room upstairs. Nostalgic tunes from the 50s and 60s set the tone as we push through the front door and walk in.
The ambiance at Darrell’s is homey and sweet. Vinyl booths generously spaced out so that you have room to breathe, and a bulletin board full of thank you notes and pictures from adoring fans stands proudly near the kitchen. A blackboard of specials decorates the far wall, promoting the newest burger experiment at Darrell’s. For more far-out choices, check out their menu. But I know exactly why I’m here: Peanut Butter Burger. Leah and I both order the Peanut Butter burger and James ordered the Nacho Burger. I upgraded to poutine and Leah and I split a strawberry shake and James had a chocolate peanut butter shake. If it is not abundantly clear to you, we’re not health nuts. But I’m on vacation, and everyone knows that vacation calories don’t count.
When the waitress arrived with our orders, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth in. The peanut butter burger is a revelation. The melted peanut butter adds a sweet creamy texture, nicely playing off the strong salty flavours of the mustard and beef. It enhances the burger, but does not overpower, which is a common pitfall of novelty burger ingredients. Leah loved the crunchy peanut butter, observing that it was a drippy burger, which is a good thing.
On the subject of drippy burgers, I’d have to agree: the messier the burger is, the better it is. A tidy burger often means that the establishment has gone easy on the sauce. And sauce is a cornerstone of a successful burger. If you think of burger layers like a brick wall, then sauces are the cement that holds all the layers together. Without sauce, a burger would just be a wall of disjointed flavours.
If there was one thing negative it was that the peanut butter eventually cools, solidifying the burger into a thick, gluey mess that sticks in your mouth. So take my advice: This is a dish best served hot, so wolf this sucker down.
Poutine was fantastic. When ordering poutine as a side, one really rolls the dice. Sides can be an afterthought, something that the owner put on the menu just to say they had it. But this poutine had amazing crunchy fries and savoury turkey gravy that would rival most poutine specialty stands. Not shy on the cheese curds, which is always important.
James’s Nacho Burger was good, he liked the Cajun flavour nacho chips that accompanied the dish. He believed that the burger was lacking sauce, but given that he had opted out of the guacamole on the burger, this could have been avoided.
To sum up, I love Darrell’s. It’s a relaxed, down home atmosphere that takes pride in serving food that is full of flavour. They’ve managed to combine peanut butter and beef, something that shouldn’t work, but has succeeded, nay, dominated the Halifax burger scene. I wish there was a place in Calgary that offered such a burger, but maybe for the sake of my waistline, it’s better that this meaty treat stays anchored on the East Coast.