During all our visits to Penticton (across 8 years), we have almost consistently visited the same taco shop for at least one of our visiting meals. It shares the same parking lot with a burger joint, across the way. We have often thought about it, but have never actually tried their offerings, until today. We just really haven’t heard too much about this place, not even from the locals that live here. But it is always so busy when we pass by, that it was worth considering today.
The patio was pretty enticing despite the smoke that engulfed it, (smoke and cloud from the fires along the countryside, when we visited. Hence the discolouration in my photos). Yet the red golf umbrellas and the restaurant’s bright orange exterior stands out. Its sign is painted in a bold blue that matches the blue of the patio’s picnic tables. Each table is set with a napkin dispenser and a ketchup bottle. We bared the poor air quality and sat outside. I preferred it to the cold factory-like setting within. This burger joint felt like a Costco concession stand, specifically the one that is located under Rogers Arena in Vancouver, with concrete floors and dim yellow bulbs. They even have a Canucks jersey hanging on display. A quick and easy spot for cheap food, served hot. Except here they boast that they “don’t make fast food, they make good food”, a promise scrawled on their one of their exhaust ducts, visible from the dining area.
If you have never visited them before, figuring out just how to order may be a challenge. There is a blackboard spelling it out, but it’s towards the back in a fairly dim warehouse. And if there is a party seated at the table in front of it, reading the how to’s become even more challenging.
So here it is in short form. You take a menu from off of the wall by the front door. Each is a laminated page, attached to a clipboard with a wax pencil. With it you check off boxes of what you want. The options down the left column are their specials, burgers they have crafted with their favourite combinations. But its your ability to make a burger your own that they promote. You can customize a burger with over 14 patties to chose from including lamb, bison, ahi tuna, and vegan options. The patty sets the price, with a number of sauces and ingredients included in said price, but many more available at an additional cost. These were premium ingredients like Mac and cheese, fried pickles, and/or a grilled peach.
You start by choosing between 7 different bun options including flour tortilla and a whole wheat version 10 different cheeses like crumbled feta and jalapeño harvarti. You can choose how many of their sauces you want in the included price, or go for premium stuff for 75 cents more a squeeze. With toppings you had your choice of 4 between 18, but chances are you will probably choose lettuce, tomato, and then go a little wild with others like roasted garlic, pico de gallo, and/or banana peppers.
They were too many unknown variables for me to dare to customize and pay more for pretty unique ingredients. So I thought to play it safe for my first taste of “Burger 55”. I decided to simply try one of their burgers as how they intended it. Although I liked the idea of making a completely zany burger, choosing what I thought was the most wild option of each category. For example: a bison burger sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwiches in place of actual hamburger buns with bleu cheese and their house made dill pickle sauce, a curry sauce, and a fig jam spread, potato chips, and beet strings… the possibilities are endless.
Once you have spent the 10 minutes customizing and are ready to take your imagination into reality, you proceed to the counter to pay. They didn’t ask to clarify our order, simply taking the check on the card for granted. However I insisted on clarification, as both my partner and I wanted amendments on our burgers. My partner can’t have onions, nor is he a fan of mustard, where as I didn’t want the spinach in my burger.
You then claim any available seat and wait for them to call out your name when your order is up. I saw some folks enjoying their burgers on a wooden plank with fries. I was hoping of that set up when we got our meal, but ours were wrapped up in foil ready to go. I suspect that we walked in during a busier time of day, as orders made were being unclaimed, and majority of the tables needed a good wipe down. My partner felt the Costco concession was a lot cleaner, and that is telling considering their increased foot traffic. But as soon as the crowd died the manager was out on the floor scrubbing down menus and tables, whilst chatting up his guests.
My partner got the most basic of their prebuilt burgers. “The 55 cheeseburger”, AAA Angus beef on a brioche bun with ketchup, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and aged cheddar. (It normally includes onion and deli mustard too). The bun was cold and definitely not fresh. The patty was thick, but lacking in terms of a beef to bun ratio. The patty round was half the size of the actual bun, therefore you ate the meat and was left with soggy bun and smeared sauces. The seasonings on the beef was at least good, but as part of a whole, the whole need some ketchup.
I got the next step up, “The signature burger” for $1 more. AAA Angus beef on a onion bun with their 55 signature spread, 55 Buddha sauce, Dijon mustard, vinaigrette, tomato, sprouts, roasted corn, spinach, and Parmesan. I made a point to say “no” to the spinach, but still got some anyways. I ended up removing each and every leaf from between the bun halves, along with all the sauces that separated bread and greens. All said sauces made the spinach wilted with a texture I cannot stand. And all this was just as well, as I didn’t end up liking one of the sauces, but was it the “signature spread” or the “Buddha sauce”? The menu didn’t explain much, nor did I think to ask the clerk behind the counter. Therefore, I cannot be sure of which one of these sauces I would suggest omitting, if you were to order this for yourself. But it was the one with a very overwhelming horseradish flavour. So much so that my first few bites had me steaming from the nostrils, I felt that tell-a-tale wasabi fizz in my face. I ended up also adding ketchup to my burger, something to mask everything that I didn’t like about this burger. Sadly, it didn’t work and I eventually just gave up on eating. Although I must say, it had so much promise and already wins with the inclusion of sprouts, and corn. I would suggest loosing the spicy sauces and instead, add in mashed avocado and an egg for a better balanced burger. I did also like the use of the onion bun, but could tell it wasn’t fresh by its dry texture, a thorough toasting could have helped in this regard.
We shared a regular poutine as a side. The poutine was far too salty, there was too much gravy. Besides salt it doesn’t have much of any other flavour. Although if you are eating it in conjunction with my burger above, the poutine has enough punch to compete and offer up its service as a bite between bites, a way to rejuvenate and change the taste of your food between bites.
By comparison their milkshake of the month was the best thing I got. This was a Penticton peach fest Melba shake with berry coulis. The peach part tasted like pie filling with nutmeg and cinnamon in cream, and the coulis gave it sweetness and some depth once swirled in half way. A nice drink that transitions towards dessert.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Now that I know what they are about, I feel I would be able to make myself a better burger. Although will not be in a hurry to return, it is very seldom that you see my not finishing my meal, or at least packing it to go. Don’t deny your cravings.