It was by far the toughest decision of the day.
Delhi-licious, Lipstick on a Pig, Ex-Montrealer, Martini, Chez Guy.
I scanned and rescanned the menu, frightfully aware of the girl with the nose ring hovering over our table. She had her outstretched hand shoved up in my face, as if to say, “Will you make a goddamn choice before I fork you in the nostrils with my dirty fingers.”
I looked across the table at Dave. “What do you think?”
He shrugged and buried his nose in his iPhone.
I turned to Colin in the chair next to me. He stared back, helpless.
“I’ll haaaave,” I began — but it was only a stall technique. I unfolded the menu, while Nose Ring withdrew her hand and let out a sigh.
It was Thursday evening in downtown Halifax — and the grand opening of The Works Burger Bistro on Doyle Street.
The Works serves semi-affordable and “trendy” burger platters to young professionals in happening communities across the country. There are locations in Burlington, Guelph, Kingston, London, Oakville, Ottawa, Toronto, Peterborough and Waterloo.
Specialties include Tower-O-Rings, fried onion rings looped and stacked around a 10-12 centimeter rod, homemade shakes served in trademark measuring glasses and a cliche-ridden, cardboard menu with more options than Aaron Sorkin will ever flip during his industrious writing career.
An hour before doors opened, I decided on the Halifax-exclusive Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love beef burger. It came with peanut butter, banana slices and strip bacon.
When I told Dave and Colin, they scoffed.
“Yuck,” spat Colin, throwing his head about. It was as if bananas and peanut butter were a form of culinary lice and he wanted to shake them.
Dave was more subtle. “Indoctrination,” he muttered, as we moved up in line.
There had to be 200 plus Haligonians lined up along Doyle Street, all of whom were there for the alleged “free burgers.”
Soon a man in a down jacket stepped out from the line. He raised a bullhorn to his mouth.
“WELCOME EVERYBODY TO THE WORKS GRAND OPENING,” he began. A cheer erupted from the line. “IF YOU GUYS ARE HERE FOR FREE BURGERS, YOU’VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE. BECAUSE IT’S THE GRAND OPENING OF OUR HALIFAX LOCATION, WE’RE GIVING EVERYONE FREE BURGERS. AND BECAUSE TODAY IS EXTRA SPECIAL, WE’RE GIVING YOU THE OPTION OF FREE EIGHT OUNCE MILKSHAKES (kiddie size), ONE FREE APPETIZER PER TABLE AND ONE FREE SIDE WITH YOUR BURGER. WE’RE ALSO ALLOWING YOU TO UPGRADE YOUR SIDE TO A POUTINE, FREE OF CHARGE.”
“Indoctrination,” muttered Dave again, shielding his face from photos from a peanut gallery across the road.
The man with the bullhorn went on. “ALL WE ASK IS THAT YOU BEAR WITH US. WE TREAT THIS OPENING AS A TRAINING EXERCISE FOR OUR STAFF. THINGS CAN GET A LITTLE SLOW. THAT SAID, WE ALSO ASK THAT YOU STAY AND EAT WITH US TODAY. SIT BACK AND ENJOY A FREE MEAL WITH YOUR FRIENDS, ON US.”
The man shut off the bullhorn and stepped back.
The lecture done, people immediately began to cram forward. You could feel a riot brewing.
Luckily, it wasn’t five minutes before Dave, Colin and I were shepherded inside. We were seated in a side table and fed our Tower-O-Rings.
That’s when the waitress posed the question: which poutine would I like to upgrade to.
Which one? Hmm.
“I’ll just have the normal poutine,” I said, handing back the menu.
Dave waited for her to leave. “You’re in a hole,” he said.
He informed us his girlfriend had worked a grand opening before in London. According to her, they bring in too many employees and hire the few they like.
Hence our waitress’s impatience.
When the food came, I’d all but lost my appetite. The milkshake was fair. I scarfed down the 2001: Shake Odyssey flavour, a sort of Oreo, chocolate, caramel blend. But as far as burgers go, and burgers with peanut butter, this one was lacking.
Darrell’s Restaurant knows the key to a good PB Burger: spread the peanut butter on the bun like you’re spreading mustard on a sandwich. The Works heat their PB up and drizzle it overtop the burger like a sauce.
What I was particularly fond of were the straws. They had wider straws for the shakes, but not the wider red-striped ones. They brought those with our water, ironically.