THIS TOWN IS overrun with burger joints. And you don’t need to be a vegetarian to feel the strain.
Restaurateurs who decide to open up yet another place for patties best have a dedicated, original spin on the theme. Retro Burger approaches the trend with a 1980s angle, and in this way, they succeed. Unfortunately, the ’80s weren’t exactly an era worth remembering in terms of fast-food experiences.
Custom-made comic book-like collages — complete with “OMG I’m so retro!” speech bubbles, coming from blonde damsels in distress and Atari logos — hang on wall sections painted bright orange and yellow. Grey tiles under foot run up to hip height, a colour mirrored in the ceiling above.
Dark wood chairs screech back and forth under marbly topped, woodframed tables. It’s a loud, upbeat space, serenaded by the likes of Madonna and Duran Duran on the speakers.
Despite the moniker, Retro’s menu lists only two kinds of burgers: a veggie patty and a fiveounce beef burger done up in seven different ways — with swiss and mushroom, say, or with tomato, feta and Greek sauce.
There’s more variety in the list of chicken options, with souvlaki, fingers and a crispy chicken sandwich. Also up for grabs: fish (with chips or salad or on a bun), hot dogs, Philly cheese steaks, plus the usual smattering of sides — four kinds of poutine, fries, onion rings, sweet potato fries.
Two salads seem the healthiest of plates, although Retro — embracing a less health-focused food era — may not feel the guilt.
Patrons choose their meals from the wall-mounted menu, place their order with the cashier at the back, then sit down to wait for their number to be called. Orders are announced from the back open-kitchen area, and the hungry line up to direct staff on how to dress their burgers.
The classic burger ($3.79) sees a five-ounce patty on an untoasted and unremarkable white bread bun. The burger’s biggest flavour is char grilling, made interesting with choice of the usual ketchup, mayo, mustard, relish, raw or fried onions and hot peppers (free), plus bacon, various kinds of specialty cheese or mushrooms ($0.50 to $1).
It’s a good meat-to-bun ratio, but the “100% premium burger” (which means what, we’re not sure) is processed tasting and dense and therefore hard to finish.
Elsewhere, the halibut fillet, hand dipped in simple batter, is expertly timed, but the deep-fryer renders the assembly so greasy that even the paper wrapping can’t absorb the excess oil.
A white rectangular cardboard box opens up to reveal a substantial serving of plain-Jane skin-on fries, from frozen[CK frozen].
No little crunchy bits here; these are standard cut and soft ($2.49 on their own or as part of a combo).
Classic poutine (this time in Styrofoam) uses the same fries, but makes a passable choice, with real cheese curds and gravy ($3.99).
The excellent homemade vinaigrette on garden salad ($3.39) refreshes with just enough vinegar and balanced seasonings.
Bottled water, milk, decent milkshakes that stand up to the straw test and help-yourself fountain sodas round out the offerings.