Monday, May 14, 2012

Big Wheel Burger

Address: 341 Cook St.
Phone: (250) 381-0050
Price: $7-10 for a burger, $11-17 for a combo
Notes: a local alternative to fast food chains

Big Wheel has joined the burger craze sweeping the city this winter. They are the least frivolous of all of the options, but they seem to be hitting the sweet spot between quality and price, surpassing 5000 customers [iirc; can't re-find the source of that stat] in two weeks of business! They seem to be attempting to compete with mass-market chain fastfood burger joints rather than compete with the established Pink Bike and other new kids on the blockand Bin4 or their more direct (but still with the fancy toppings) competition Jackalope.

Their menu is the essence of simplicity: you choose your meat delivery system (burger or Nathan's hot dog), then add on your extras (fries + ?). OK it's a bit more complex than that - they also have salad (if you're feeling the need for balance), poutine (so trendy!) and chili cheese fries which I have not tried but look absolutely Epic. The restaurant is in the location that used to be a laundromat in cook street village, so it is rather long and skinny although I think that adds to the fastfood feel. I like what they've one with the place with a very modern, simple and clean decor. Definitely my style - it was all I could do to quell the ridiculous urge to shove one of their purple modern bar stools under my winter jacket and try to saunter casually out with it. It's definitely not a stay and linger over your dinner kind of a place but there is definitely a space for that kind of food in most people's lives.

I appreciate the consistency with which I have received my food. I think this speaks to the experience the collective partners (from Zambris and Pig) bring to the table. I have been several times this first month they have been open, including opening night when they were slammed to their eyeballs, and a lunch time. Each time I have received equally tasty food. A testament to focusing on doing one concept really well!

Buy a deck of Taste Locally deals & get a free fries and soda combo with the purchase of any regular priced burger at Big Wheel! 

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May 6, 2012
The 18 Wheeler
So there is a whole secret menu on their website (shhhhh...  ..... *wink*). After discovering it, there was a bit of a flurry of discussion on twitter between myself and some other food nerds about the 18 Wheeler: 3 burger patties with cheese, 1 hot dog (I swear there was more in ours!) between two grilled-cheese bunwiches and all the toppings! It was decided that this required more than one person to defeat, so we formed a team of three and set a date.

There were quite a few of us - I think 6 in total, who came to witness the blessed event, and I owed favours or food to several of them so I ended up ordering one plain hamburger, a pop, a strawberry shake and an 18 wheeler. "I am so incredibly happy for you!" the gentleman behind the counter replied with awe. I think others also ended up ordering fries and more burgers, but I was too excited/distracted by that point to keep track.

In the end, three of us split the 18 wheeler - 1/4 for the two ladies and 1/2 for the gentleman who we were saving from trying to eat the whole thing himself. It was hard to prevent it from falling apart, but with a little contorting we managed. If you are planning to attempt this yourself, I suggest mouth exercises the night before to prepare your jaw. The end result was supremely delicious - somehow even more delicious than just a regular burger. I highly recommend this tag-team approach on your next visit!

February 8, 2012
Slider special
Popped in for the slider special. I've been craving a big wheel burger for ages now - although I noted on twitter they referred to these sliders as "little wheels" (tee hee!). They felt a wee bit on the expensive side at $8.50 for two before adding on your combo sides. Even 50 cents cheaper probably would have contributed to perceived value although when I stopped to think about it makes sense since a cheese burger alone is $7.50... However - these are also not your White Castle-style sliders, these are proper miniature burgers. I was still stuffed and ended up bringing the side of fries home to share with the dog (stop judging, she loves me and I demonstrate my love for her the best way I know how with ends of french fries).

The fries here still seem to be a moving target! They have switched again - now they are fries with a bit of skin on, which is nice as they add to the authenticity of being 'hand cut' even though the kitchen staff admitted on a previous visit there would be no way they could handle the demand of cutting their own fries. I also noted they have switched from some kind of seasoning blend to simple sea salt - a change I enjoyed.

December 15, 2011
I started with the coffee milkshake this evening. It reminded me a lot of a mocha frappe, reaffirming my long-held belief that frappes are really just milkshakes that Starbucks has rebranded as trendy for grown ups. It was quite thick, and not overly strongly coffee flavoured. I have seen a number of complaints on twitter about the cost of their milkshake ($5 alone; $6.50 with fries as a combo) but when I think about the cost of Real Dairy products (aka not some freaky pre-mix) I am pretty sure it is near to a fair mark up.

Cheeseburger via

This has rocketed up to the top of my favourite burgers in town list, although it's a totally different beast from the fancy burgers I have adored elsewhere. This is a really filling burger - to be honest I could probably do without the fries and still be really, really full! It is pure, unadulterated comfort food in the style of classic fastfood tangy sauce and sweet bun. The meat is locally sourced from two rivers meats in Vancouver and they clearly have a great system for cooking the meat that leaves it not overcooked but with lots of nice char on the outside. The bun is also supremely good with a flavour that stands up on its own. 

Crinkle Cut Fries via

The crinkle cut fries - we had these the first night and were excited because they weren't the same cookie-cutter fries that were served everywhere else. Also, my p.i.f.a.l. always points out that crinkle cut fries have more surface area for ketchup! Anyhow, they were rapidly pulled from the menu because apparently we were in the minority... but on our last visite we were informed there is a secret stash in the back that you can request. (Dear Big Wheel: more secret menu items please!) They conjure memories of childhood burgers and fries - and although I know they're not local etc. there is a soft spot there. 

These are the fries that the crinkle cut fries have been replaced with. I'm not really wowed by them, but they're ok. The texture is nice, it's just something about the flavour that I personally am not a huge fan of. Objectively they're probably just dandy but personally I will probably be crinkle cutting it in future.

May 6, 2012
Have visited a few times in the last few months (ok maybe more than a few... it's just so GOOD and I have been so incredibly busy... which is when my fast food weakness kicks in the worst!). They seem to have their system down solid. I swear, though, the staff love the secret menu because our 18 wheeler came up in Record time!

February 8, 2012
A little laxer post-lunch crowd, both on the front counter and in the kitchen. There was one person covering calling out the orders and the counter, which was a bit awkward because there isn't a line of sight between the two but they handled it pretty well. Could be someone was on their own lunch break... still, it was friendly and genuine.

December 15, 2011
The service here is pretty fastfood-esque. Order at the counter, and then wait for your food to be delivered. Everyone I've been served by so far has been super friendly, and I love that you can see into the kitchen while you wait for your food although I am a bit short to see what's really going on back there too much. I am assured by my partner-in-food-and-life that it's an exciting view if you are a few inches taller.

The set up of the space is a little bit awkward for this - on a busy night when all the chairs are full there isn't much space beside the pick up 'window' to hover for your take out order. There also seems to be a lack of a waste receptacle of some sort next to the pop machine (perhaps a compost? almost everything at the restaurant is compostable!). This did leave me scratching my head for where to place the wrapper from my straw. Still - these are little things that really only effect the take-away peeps as when you eat in things are a bit more streamlined.

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