Today my wife and I decided to go on an adventure to Hintonburg to visit Hintonburger (1096 Wellington Street West, Ottawa) in the Hintonburg area of Ottawa. Hintonburger claims they are Ottawa's best burger with signage throughout the store. After two weeks of voting on July 3, 2012, The Ottawa Citizen wrote that Hintonburger made the best hamburger in Ottawa.
We arrived at Hintonburger at noon to find the old KFC restaurant location full of people. The sign outside still had the old style KFC Bucket on top with Colonel Sander's face still plainly visible. If the Hintonburger lightbox sign was not below, you would have rolled into the parking lot expecting the sights and smells of KFC Chicken wafting out the front door.
Inside the restaurant there are only six tables including two booths which are always full of people. You approach one of two windows to place your order. We waited perhaps not an unreasonable two minutes in line to place our order which was written down on old style carbon paper with a copy handed to us. As well we had to let them know which toppings we wanted on our burgers. These toppings were recorded in black magic marker right on the packaging the burger would call home after being prepared.
The Order: 1 Wellington Burger (6 Oz burger), Value Fries and a can of Coke and 1 Armstrong Burger (4 Oz burger), Value Fries and a bottle of water.
We clutched our receipt standing near the 2nd window, the pick-up window, waiting patiently for our receipt number to be called or a seat to open up. The little signs on the wall teasing us that the we could easily take our order to the Elmdale House to eat as well but no outside drinks were allowed in. But eventually a pair of customers vacated a table for two, I eyed the person who was in front of me in line when ordering as he corralled his toddler. He didn't seem interested as the the two former occupants moved past me. So I dove and got the table by the window. The sad part is, this is a new location (opened January 2, 2012) for the Hintonburger and yet seating is still an issue especially during the winter months. During the summer though, hopefully Hintonburger is allowed to utilize the pair of parking spaces that face Sherbrooke Street for picnic tables. This would provide a nice place to rest your feet and enjoy the sun on a summer night.
Fifteen minutes after placing our order our number was called. Those numbers seemed to take forever to be called out. It seemed like the person putting together the orders was also topping the burgers one by one while someone else fried the burgers in the kitchen. The length of time between orders coming out and the volume of people Hintonburger seems to be serving are not ideal. Perhaps another staff member could be added and efficiencies found to have the orders move at a more constant rate as opposed to three to five minutes between orders emanating from the window.
The orders come out in a brown paper bag just like Five Guys Burger & Fries. My wife retrieved the food, cutlery and condiments while I held our claim to a table from the vultures circling for a place to sit. On the way back from the food window my wife had to dodge a large baby carriage being positioned next to one of the booths as a family with young child sat down. It is hard to manoeuvre in the location if other customers are not minding the traffic patterns at the store.
I opened my Wellington burger and took a bite. The burger was juicy, but not overly greasy. Definately could taste the freshness of the patty. The toppings I could tell were lovingly cut and placed on the burger as opposed to the Wendy's burger I had on Friday. The burger was excellent tasting, but I was unsure if the burger was better than The Works in the Glebe. I believe the taste rivals what I had at The Works, but The Works has more of a variety of different burger toppings as opposed to the usual Ketchup, etc. expected at Hintonburger or even Le Bac a Frites at the University of Ottawa. But the basic burger would rival The Works burger and the paddy is definatly better than you would find at Le Bac a Frites because all Hintonburgers are hand made as opposed to brought in from some warehouse somewhere.
The fries though were both interesting and dissapointing. The Hintonburger prides itself on handmade burgers and not their fries. Thus, the fries are your traditional greasy truck burger and fries type fries you could find anywhere. Sure they were good but you could have had these anywhere which means they were mediocrly expected. The dissapointing part is that the Hintonburger had not attempted something different with their fries to set the apart from the local greasy fries truck.
We left the restaurant feeling full but not really grabbing us as the best burger place in Ottawa. For a complete filling meal with great fries and burgers Five Guys Burgers & Fries is so far our favourite. For variety of burgers to choose from with awesome fries, The Works is a great destination. Overall best burger? Tough one, but the Hintonburger is not there, Chez Lucien, Five Guys Burgers & Fries and The Works are all right there. Nothing really sets them apart except for their atmosphere and great tasting fries that accompany the burger.
Overall, Hintonburger provides a better than average burger taste wise. Service wise, waiting fifteen minutes during the lunch rush seems a little much to expect your order. I've perused other reviews both in the blogosphere and the Ottawa Citizen's own review to find the average waiting time is ten to fifteen minutes. This seems a little unreasonable during busy times as the burger paddies should be hitting the grill on consistant basis until the line shortens. Moving customers efficiently from ordering to gathering food needs to be improved. If Hintonburger wants to set themselves apart from the others, they have to be not just good at burgers but provide a tasty variation on the common french fry.
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