Monday Magazine columnist
In 2014, Chuck’s Burger Bar featured on CBC’s You Gotta Eat Here, by its Hamilton, Ont. location was a bit too remote for Victorians to drive for lunch.
In 2016 owner Chris Preston shut down Chuck’s in Hamilton and flew the restaurant to Sidney (the Hamilton street sign now hangs over the bar), but rather than set up shop on the tourist friendly Beacon Street corridor, he opened – illogically perhaps – on the other side of the highway, on a dead-end street across from Slegg’s Building Supply, squeezed between a woodworker and an auto glass shop.
It’s a bit out of the way and very industrial and busy during the lunch hour.
A long driftwood light fixture hangs above a thick slab of wood that that serves as a long table and lays across the top of a battered piece of warehouse shelving. This defines Chuck’s decor: Industrial Chic comes West. Pressed-metal stools surround the bar, window counter and high-top tables, but with foresight – and you won’t arrive here by accident – two low tables with six armchairs can be reserved.
Once seated, build your burger. Start with the patty, which may be beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, bison, venison, or bacon. Whoa. Bacon? Yeah, and that’s an all bacon patty: all real ground bacon. So, I like bacon, but … I’m assured it is very popular and some regulars order one every time. Good for them. The list of available toppings for your burger, to write out, would require an entire second article.
I took the easy route by ordering one of 13 pre-configured burgers. My smoked gouda and wild mushroom burger was mouth stretching with a thick patty cooked to a juicy medium doneness (unless you insist on well done), a slice of real smoked gouda and a delectable concoction of oyster, shiitake, portobello and white-top crimini mushrooms. All burgers include lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle and are served with a dollop of coleslaw, a firm, crunchy, tart quarter dill pickle and fries.
But there is a second star on this menu.
For an extra $4.50 your fries may become Poutine Québécois, which is a beyond standard side of fries with cheese curd and chicken gravy. Or why not just order a tray of poutine to share among friends. To heck with the French, how about Spanish sausage poutine, or BBQ chicken, BBQ brisket and smoked cheddar, flatiron steak with mushrooms and caramelized onions, or Angus cheese burger poutine. Or maybe chilli and cheese, pulled pork or lobster (in season: no frozen food here).
Vegetarian? Try the wild mushroom and goat cheese poutine. Most are available in small (yeah, right) and large sizes.
This all sticks quite heartily to your ribs, waist and arteries, so you’ll need to wash it down with a local craft beer or a Vancouver Island white wine or pinot noir from Alderlea Winery near Duncan. Or choose from a selection of eight local ciders and the usual non-alcoholic stuff.
Is this the best burger in Greater Victoria? If you’re in Sidney and digging the sea-air quaintness of downtown, get over it, get back in your car and cross that highway. You’ll thank me. It’s worth the trip and you’ll be too fascinated by the food to miss that sea-view.
These burgers are not cheap, running from $9 to $18 each, while the poutines run from $7 to $14.
Chuck’s Burger Bar, 2013 Malaview Rd. (778-351-2485), is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday. chucksburgerbar.com