Today we were invited to the media opening of Monzo. A fast food burger joint with Italian influences courtesy of the city’s popular Italian restauranteurs: Kitchen Table Group. Their portfolio includes fan favourite pasta and pizza stops: Ask for Luigi, Carlino, Di Beppe, Bacaro, and Pizzeria Farina, amongst others. And this would be their first venture into the world of fast food.
And what sets them apart from Fast Food burger giants McDonalds, Wendy’s, A&W, and Burger King is time.
“Monzo” means “beef” in Italian. And their promise is that they will be preparing their food as “fast food the way it was meant to be.” Claiming that they have “taken their time and considered every detail to develop their menu” (As taken from the press release). And today we were invited down to get a first taste before they officially opened on September 9th. With regular hours from 11am to midnight, daily.
I was most enamoured with their cohesive theme. They were “inspired by the energy and creativity of the 1980s Milanese youth movement dubbed the ‘Paninari’, and had developed a concept where food, fashion and culture intersect.” Their mascots were a group for “cool teenage cows” dressed in denim, puffy jackets, and fleece-lined bombers. They were pictured posed casually outside of their local Monzo with a meal to go and their dirt bike.
Not unlike Vancouver’s Monzo location, with its all glass entrance and a couple of Lamborghinis and balloons to mark the opening occasion. Within, brand fans can also pose with these “cool cows”, sticking their head through the face hole for a group photo op.
Seating includes group size booths, a lounging area, barstools, and two top tables. Our group of five were lead to what the staff call the “hot tub table” a semi circular booth bathed in their trademark citrus lemon yellow glow. Here, we had a vantage point of the ordering counter and the kitchen just behind it.
Between all five of us we basically ordered the entire menu with all six of their signature burgers, alcoholic drinks, and desserts.
Our visit coincided with a full restaurant churning out food en masse non-stop. As such take my notes with a grain of salt, because the experience isn’t true to their goal for their brand. The odds are customers are not going to come in waves, all at the same time to fill all of the seats all at once. This volley of customers gave them little time to but think, let alone react. So I will need to and like to return for a regular meal in the future.
The Classic Monzo burger is a custom ground beef burger topped with ketchup, mustard, diced onions, and sour pickles; all between a plain brioche bun. As the base of their burgers you have the option to add on American cheese, to make it a cheeseburger, and/or keep the patty as a single or make to a double with two.
The beef patties are smashed and its edges charred crispy, which I prefer. But I would have liked a more tender patty at its centre. Here the condiments have only done so much to add moisture into the mix. All their burgers are prepared with a secret blend of beef cuts that are custom ground and cooked to order on a high-temperature griddle.
The King Monzo almost remedied the above with some added vegetable for freshness and their secret sauce. This is their flagship Canadian beef burger, a custom ground double cheeseburger with shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato, onions, sour pickles, and their signature sauce. This was a nice saucy and fresh burger that faintly reminded us of a BK Whopper, given the burger sauce and charred patty.
The Bacon Double is a Classic Monzo cheeseburger with ketchup, diced onions, sour pickles, and American cheese. This is what I think of when I image a classic cheese burger. Thick cut salty bacon, melty salted cheese, and an over all garlicky flavour with plenty of classic condiments for tang.
For something a little different and smoky, look to The Wrangler. A take on the Bacon Double, but given some smokey sweetness from there our house bbq sauce, aioli, charred onions, swiss cheese, and spicy pickled jalapeños. The sauce really makes this something different. I will be ordering this one again. But if it is your first time, would recommend the King Monzo.
For something completely different, they also have a chicken burger in their Chicken Milano. But this is not like another other chicken burger. This is hand-breaded cutlet, flattened, and fried to the point that the crispy chicken patty is double the size of the sesame brioche bun it was sandwiched in between. Then topped with arugula, parmigiano, and garlic aioli. The chicken is great as is, but between the bun it lacked sauce for moisture. I would advise picking up some of their side sauces to accompany it. Sauces like honey mustard, sweet and sour, smokey bbq, and/or chilli aioli.
These also went great with their chicken tenders, available as a side or the main in the kids meal. For the kids they have “Per i bambini” a take on the wildly popular White Spot “pirate pack”, but a lot more stylish that even the parents will want one.
With this kids get a choice of either hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken strips, fries, onion rings, and/or apple slices. Two of which are placed in the front seat of a cardboard foldout period-correct Italian supercar. Basically a Lamborghini Countach in either white, yellow, or red.
For kids only, but parents need not be too jealous, they can have go their own fun with one of two combo options. You can have your burger as is, but it is a lot more tastier with a side and drink.
Combo Americano is the addition of beef fat fries and a fountain drink or milkshake to any burger, with the price varying between the latter two.
And the Combo Paninaro is the addition of beef fat fries and beer or house wine to any burger. Once again the price varying based on the drink. And at the end of the day, everything is customizable for a price.
Sides include the aforementioned beef fat fried fried or onion rings. The former are thin cut potato seasoned in salt, and cooked in rendered beef tallow. And the latter are breaded and fried sweet onion. Both crispy, both extra tasty with the beef fat. Have it with the classic ketchup or ask for more of the dipping sauces, mentioned above.
As for the drinks enjoy classic fountain style soft drinks or opt for something more decadent in one of their real ice cream milkshakes churned from either vanilla or chocolate.
And to make it a true adult combo have your mills shake “Paninaro”. These are premium soft serve gelato milkshakes with whole milk and spiked with boozy mixers. For this choose between The Godfather with Vanilla, Scotch, and Amaretto. The Monzo Di Milano with Chocolate, Fernet Branca, and Amaro. Or like I did, the Almost Tiramisu with a twist of Kahlua and Baileys. With this much whip cream you can hardly taste any of the liquor.
Looking for a dairy-free, alcohol-full option try their Granita as is, as a frozen cocktail with the option of a prosecco float add on. Either the Aperol Granita or the Limoncello Margarita. I had the former for the full Italian experience.
Monzo also had high balls, wine by the glass, and even cans of Lambrusco for a fulsome bar offering.
And for dessert they have an apple filled handpie that is also beef fat fried before getting a dusting of cinnamon sugar. It was serve hot with a crispy shell. Similar to that of other fast food interpretations. Here, I thought they could have done a phyllo dough number or something more custom and specific to them.
Similarly they have their Monzo Sundae which features the same premium soft serve gelato used in the milkshakes, with your choice of chocolate or salted caramel as the topping. This felt like another already recognizable take, on another dessert done, by another fast food chain. I wanted to see more of their personality and flourish on this, like everything else.
In conclusion, Monzo serves as a fun and trendy approach on fast food. Great branding and aesthetic in their Westbank property home. They definitely deliver on their goal of offering “a lively gathering place for locals and revellers from morning-to-night”. (As taken from the press release.) And now open for you to be able to try them for yourself.
1401 Granville Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1R8