‘The type of burger you get cravings for’

Five of the best downtown burger stops

Lynlea Combot

Hungry? Nothing satisfies quite like a local handmade burger.

However, like most things of beauty, great independent downtown burger places can be hard to find. They are often hidden amongst towering buildings, down back lanes and, in this case, even underground.
Braving the February cold and maze of downtown one-ways, The Uniter checked out five of the best places to satisfy your burger cravings whether they be meat, veggie or vegan.

1. White Star Diner
58 Albert St.
4/5 Stars

This cozy burger stop inhabits the location of the old Albert Street Burgers. Not exactly a diner as there is only counter seating for four, the small space does capture all the atmosphere of a 1940s diner.
There are lots of burger options like the Philly Cheese (mozzarella and sautéed green pepper) and the Blue Cheese burger, to name a couple. Toppings are aplenty with Dutch Edam cheese, bacon and mushrooms available.
The burgers here are leaner than most take-out stops but still juicy and full of flavour, and several veggie options are available.
A highlight is the offering of 10 different milkshake flavours, which include blueberry and Mexican vanilla. White Star closes at 4:30 p.m. and is only open for lunch.

2. VJ’s Drive-In
170 Main St.
4/5 Stars

VJ’s is a classic burger drive-in - a small burger shack and a parking lot with picnic benches. The menu is simple: burgers, fries and shakes.
If you’re looking for the real deal Fat Boy burger, this is the place to go. The VJ’s special is a classic chili cheeseburger, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and all the regular fixings. They do great home-cut fries as well.
The burger is rich and full of flavour, but be warned - it’s a little messy. VJ’s is take-out only, and cash only.

Nothing satisfies quite like a local handmade burger

3. Wagon Wheel
305 Hargrave St.
3/5 Stars

This diner has been a Winnipeg institution for over 50 years. Famous for their clubhouse sandwich, their burger is quite good as well. No frills here, just a handmade beef patty, lettuce, tomato, mustard, relish and mayo. The bun is more of a Kaiser then a traditional burger bun, giving it a very fresh and fluffy texture that works well.
While certainly the most straightforward burger experience, it’s a great value at only $3.50. The place has a relaxed feel accompanied by quick and friendly service. The Wagon Wheel is known to be very busy at lunch hour, and is cash only.

4. The Underground Café
70 Arthur St.
4.5/5 Stars

The Underground Café has all the atmosphere of a classic student stop. It’s local, independent, eclectic and clean.
Their veggie burger, the Sun burger ($5.75), is filling and robust like a burger should be. The patty is comprised of toasted sunflower and sesame seeds, eggs, rice and cheddar cheese, and the burger is topped with tomatoes, green peppers and a lime-dill sauce.
This dynamic combination certainly creates an explosion of flavour. It holds together very well, unlike many flimsy veggie options.
Fresh but filling, this is the type of burger you get cravings for, which for me is a first for a veggie burger.

5. Mondragón
91 Albert St.
4/5 Stars

Winnipeg’s most well-known vegan restaurant. It’s also a political bookstore and coffeehouse run as a workers’ collective modeled after a participatory economic model. Yeah, yeah, but what about the food?
They offer a variety of vegan choices including a delicious vegan burger ($5.95). The new recipe focuses on local Manitoban ingredients including beans, beats, carrots, yams, onions and more. Topped with lettuce, tomato and a vegan mayo, the burger is bright, colorful, and quite delicious.
With an open and comfortable atmosphere, Mondragón is worth checking out.

Published in Volume 65, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 24, 2011)

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