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Hooray for Hamburgers! Where to find Great Burgers in Waterloo Region

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Lancaster Smokehouse Pagett Burger

by Andrew Coppolino

Summertime and the grillin’ is easy. That very often means the near-universal favourite:  hamburgers and backyard barbecues. But hamburgers are classic pub grub fare that also appear on both food truck menus and at upscale casual restaurants.

Here’s a collection of just a few burgers for you to check out over the summer, but the list could be so much longer. (Note: in virtually all locations where they serve hamburgers, there is some sort of vegetarian or vegan offering as well.)

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Marbles Burgerplex 5000

Waterloo 
Marbles
Marbles has long sold burgers. Under Fat Sparrow Group ownership, the Burgerplex 5000 has, given its name, upped the ante considerably, according to chef and co-owner Nick Benninger. The eight-ounce patty is a blend of cuts with the only seasoning being salt and pepper on the outside. “And that’s it,” Benninger says. “The blend gives us an incredibly rich and deep beefy patty to go on a pretzel bun from Grainharvest,” he adds. Toppings such as bacon jam and a pepper relish give further flavour depth. “Every time I eat one of those hamburgers, I fall in love with it again,” Benninger says.

Morty’s Pub
Famous for their wings, the 10-ounce “Morty Burger” is notable as well – and it has a great backstory, according to co-owner Jay Taylor. “It’s a burger 80 years in the making,” says Taylor. “That’s because it is my grandmother Katie Taylor’s meatloaf recipe, which we adapted for our burger.” The pure beef gets some spices and garlic and a grilling on the flat-top. “The burger reminds me of my grandmother. She loved it and lived to be 97,” Taylor adds. (Morty Burger special is only $8.99 on Sundays.)

Cambridge
Ernie’s Roadhouse
Well, the Dirty Burger isn’t really too, too dirty. But it is big and tall and made up of brioche bun holding peameal bacon, Cheddar, a fried egg, onion rings, lettuce, tomato, jalapeño peppers, roasted garlic aioli and barbecue sauce. Yeah, so a bit dirty.

L.A. Franks
The 80/20 ground beef comes from Toronto’s The Butcher Shoppe and is shaped into a “holey burger” – yes, a burger with a hole in the middle to achieve quick, even cooking. It’s been an institution on the Grand River in Galt for over 15 years.

Ayr
Willibald Farm Distillers
There’s limited access with this burger, says Willibald chef Byron Hallett. “Our burger is only served Wednesday nights and limited to 40 burgers. The beef used is from our cattle raised on our on-site farm and the burger buns are baked here too.” The burger’s creation acknowledges a couple of iconic burgers. “The McWilly sauce is our version of McDonald’s and we add pickles, sour cream and onion potato crisps, iceberg lettuce and medium Cheddar cheese.” It’s served with German-style potato salad or a green salad composed solely of vegetables from their garden. “The burger patties are square to pay homage to our favorite fast food burger, Wendy’s,” Hallett adds.

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Willibald chef Byron Hallett

Kitchener

The Lancaster Smokehouse
Lancaster Smokehouse’s Pagett Burger, the creation of chef and kitchen manager Mark Pagett, is an 80/20 blend of ground chuck that’s all about simplicity, Pagett says. “It gets a little salt and no fillers. The patty is flattened pre-cooking to maximize the surface area and increase caramelization. We toast a buttered brioche and dress it up with the toppings you want. We use American cheese because it’s the king of burger cheeses and melts beautifully,” he says.

Arabella Park Beer Bar
Chef Andrew Thorpe says the meat from Simcoe-based VG Meats is marbled like Wagyu. “It’s some of the best I’ve seen,” Thorpe says. Cooked to medium-rare with onion tanglers, shredded lettuce and bread and butter pickles, the burger is a sort of nod to the classic Big Mac, including Arabella’s secret sauce and Wonder Bread bun. “There’s nothing to replace that,” Thorpe adds.

Grand Trunk Saloon
Cooking on cast iron is a southern U.S. staple: Grand Trunk’s cast iron burger is just one example at this downtown Kitchener restaurant that captures the essence of the cuisine. Head chef Rich Hodge sears two ground-brisket patties and serves them with bacon, applewood Cheddar, a soft bun, chips and slaw.

New Hamburg
Jake and Humphreys Bistro
The J&H beef burger just happens to be the 2019 burger champion at the annual William Scott Festival in New Hamburg. J&H Chef and co-owner Klaus Ristanovic grinds the beef from tenderloin trim along with onion and garlic. “The Monterey Jack and Blue cheeses are from Oak Grove Cheese Factory here in New Hamburg. The bacon is applewood smoked from The Butcher Shoppe, and I make the buns. The Pickle varies as to whatever I am pickling at the time,” says J&H chef and co-owner Janet Duncan.

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Jake and Humphreys Bistro burger

Puddicombe House
According to chef Lance Edwards, the L&L burger started out as staff meal. It’s a blend of wild boar chuck and brisket with Cheddar, pickled red onion, hot peppers and an edamame aioli – oh, and peanut butter too. “It started about five years ago as a staff meal. We thought, why not try it on the menu?” Edwards says, adding the peanut butter gives it a touch of sweet and salty. “Customers ask if it’s a misprint on the menu, but it’s very popular.”

St. Jacobs
Jacob’s Grill
The Big Kraut speaks to the township, says chef and co-owner Nick Benninger. “It’s simply St. Jacobs,” Benninger says. “The proprietary blend for the patties is made at our own Stone Crock Meats and Cheese, and they sit between a toasted Kaiser from our bakery.” Then you get their home-made sauerkraut, brown mustard, bacon and Swiss cheese. “The Swiss cheese plays a key role in the burger flavour and cuts through the richness or the beef, sweetness of the mustard and the overall wickedness of the kraut. There’s a complex flavor arc that tells the story of our culinary landscape both as a region and a company,” he adds.

Find these Hamburgers in Waterloo Region

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