No matter how many wonderful and varied things there are to eat in the world, sometimes there's just nothing like a nice burger, and the bigger the better. Vera's Burger Shack has become one of the best places in Vancouver to indulge in your hunger for burgers, and Olympic fans with an appetite, a love for beef patties and a sense of humor will find themselves very pleased indeed!
About the restaurant: Vera's Burger Shack is a local Vancouver-owned franchise of restaurants sprinkled all over the city, particularly downtown and in Kitsilano. They all share a very basic and sparse decor that echoes that of a 50's burger joint, with simple booth seating at small square tables. The walls are covered with tongue-in-cheek menus and posters listing all the available trimmings and asserting that their version of a "low fat" burger involves taking off the bun. All in all, it's not the best in terms of comfort or atmosphere, as there isn't much in terms of music or television and the seats aren't the most comfortable, but it's certainly servicable for what it is. The servers at the cash register are friendly and boast a cheerful sense of humor, often joking with customers and laughing. However, there is no table service; you come up to the counter to pick up your meal. Also, the food here takes a bit longer to prepare than other fast food restaurants, so be prepared to wait a little while. Many people take this into account and prefer to phone ahead (or order online).
The food: Like Memphis Blues, Vera's Burger Shack makes absolutely no pretense at being a "healthy" eating establishment. This is not where you come when you're on diet; this is where you come when you're dying for a giant juicy burger and a mountain of crispy fries drizzled with sauce. And boy, does Vera's nail it. Their burger menu reads like a love letter to meat, cheese and veggies, with dishes like the Cantor (which is topped with a giant slice of salami and fried onions), the BBQ burger (provolone, BBQ sauce, fried onions and bacon) and the Baja Burger (cheese, guacamole, salsa and hot peppers). You can also customize your burger with a huge variety of toppings, including "The Usual Suspects" (ketchup, mustard, lettuce, etc) and more unusual trimmings like roasted garlic, fried egg and blue cheese. You can also select different patties such as veggie, lamb and turkey, allowing for further customization. Naturally, by the time you're finished crafting your monster burger, it's the size of... well, a monster.
All the ingredients are fresh and tasty, and the burger is moist, savory and absolutely perfect. The beef patties particularly are of really high quality, with a taste that evokes that of a sirloin steak. The juice soaks into the toppings and bun and makes the experience a satisfying (if somewhat messy!) affair. Just try to have one on an empty stomach, as the sheer weight of meat and toppings is extremely rich and filling.
If burgers aren't your thing, try one of Vera's hot dogs, which applies the same love of mountainous toppings to wieners. Vera's fries also deserve special mention; they're thick and crispy, with the skin still on, and fantastic for any fry fanatic. And yes, you can also order poutine here! Round it up with some yam fries, onion rings, milkshakes and so on, and you have a superlative burger experience!
My favourites: The Cantor, the Vera Burger, the BBQ burger, Vera's fries.
Cost: Vera's burgers are a bit more expensive than in comparable places (certainly far more than McDonalds) but that befits the excellent ingredients and giant size. The basic burgers cost about $6, while the speciality burgers loaded with meat and cheese go from anywhere from $9 to $11. Upgrading to a combo (drink and fries) is an extra $4. You can often get slightly better deals by ordering their daily special; each day features one burger at a reduced price.
Take-out?: Yes. Not only that, but you can order ahead online or over the phone.
Website and menu: Here.
Location(s): There are several branches of Vera's located downtown, in Kitsilano, and in other areas of the city including the airport. Link to Google Maps.
Summary: Burger lovers both local and international should take the time to try Vera's Burger Shack. One bite and you'll be converted. Just be sure to use the napkin... you'll need it!