Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Dinner for two, excluding beverages and tip: Basic $25, loaded $50
As if -18C wasn’t bad enough, the wind was whistling down Jasper Avenue during the Friday, March 13 lunch hour.
Restaurant after restaurant, while open at that point, were deserted. Downtown workers were on the cusp of realizing the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. One suspects closure, or take-out-only, will be obligatory for all restaurants.
Royale Burgers itself voluntarily closed its doors on March 16 because of the pandemic, until further notice.
Restaurants were empty, until I turned the 104 Street corner and walked into the still-new Royale Burgers, with the intent of trying its Downtown Dining Week special (also since cancelled), being Royale’s Big Cam and Veggie burgers.
In a testament to the drawing power of a good burger, Royale Burgers was 60% full. From many walks of life, customers were chowing down on burgers and twice-cooked fries.
When Royale re-opens, it’s truly worth a visit. Because Royale Burgers are really, really good, worthy of being added to The Weekly Dish’s current best-of-burger list – Woodshed, Jack’s Burger Shack in St. Albert and 1ST RD sports bar.
What’s most impressive about Royale burgers is the restraint.
Royale doesn’t stuff onion rings into its burgers, or super-thick tomato/avocado slices. They do not require a mighty mouth with a double-hinged jaw.
The Big Cam consisted of two three-ounce beef patties, both slightly flattened but not protruding beyond the bun, a modest swirl of melted cheese, a thin layer of beautifully-caramelized chopped onion, a few slices of pickle, shredded lettuce and a “secret sauce” with what appeared to be a mayo base with a tinge of tartare.
One hates to fall back on an over-used word, but a Royale burger is all about quality.
Every ingredient – the server assured me – is made from scratch. The meat is ground and seasoned in-house, the pickles cured in a kitchen-created brine, the buns baked every morning and not from supplier dough.
The Royale bun is truly top-notch, fresh, billowy, with a lightly toasted sesame sprinkling for crunch: Soft but not falling apart, holding together right down to the last few bites.
The meat patties have all those intangibles attributable to much culinary thought and care. No short-cuts here, no frozen supplier-made patties. The rich flavour and just-right texture is all about fresh-ground meat, the seasoning subtle but present. Forget the Ketchup bottle – the last thing the Big Cam needs is a blast of overpowering sweet tomato.
Truly, the Royale Burger – judging from The Big Cam – is a joy to eat.
The veggie burger, I could take or leave for I have yet to eat ANY plant-based substitute burger that didn’t leave a mealy dryness in my mouth.
The Royale veggie burger had excellent toppings, the same bun, but in the middle, Dullsville. Even tofu is more lively than pretend burgers. Why would a vegetarian dine in a burger joint in the first place – unless needing the company of meat-loving friends?
Royale slipped up on the fries. They’d been cooked right – created in-house from Kennebecs, double-fried, all crinkly and rustic with a “top secret” fry salt. (A secret source says it’s ground-up ketchup-flavoured potato chips). The fries would have been great, if they hadn’t sat around before serving. They arrived barely luke-warm, cold and brittle by the end.
The Royale Burger premises is fun – a modern take on a ‘50s diner with two bar/counter-tops, red stools, globe lights dotting the high-ceiling room at different heights, blue and white weathered linoleum tiles and an exposed brick wall painted a kitschy white.
The effect is retro-charming, a suitable setting for the very simple menu – five burgers, three sandwiches, four sides (including a salad), two desserts – fresh pie or Royale doughnuts, both in-house. Milkshakes are a big deal – a table-top menu suggests “jacking up” the vanilla shake with a shot of Jack Daniels.
A fun, quality burger dining experience, but send back the fries if they arrive luke-warm.
As it appears most restaurants will soon offer take-out-only, or be temporarily shuttered, next week the Weekly Dish will be exploring home-delivery options, should they remain available.