Restaurants & Bars 8

Chili Hamburger Bar - A 10-minute visit

liquidrawhide | Nov 30, 2009 12:21 PM

Not sure if any fellow foodies have ventured to this place (on MacKay just below Ste. Catherine) yet, but after hearing it advertised on the radio this morning I figured I'd pop by to at least check out the menu at lunch.

From the outside I'll admit I was on the fence as to whether I'd venture *inside*. The signage reminded me of the cover of some old techno/rave CDs I had in the mid-'90s, but the menu, though certainly featuring inflated prices for a burger ($9 for the basic patty with lettuce/tomato and a side of chili, then $1-$3 for each additional accoutrement), did feature some tasty-sounding toppings. Jalapeno-smoked bacon, that type of thing... I still wasn't sure if I'd chance it until I saw they also offered (presumably) homemade clam chowder (curiously described as "lightly grilled") as an appetizer, so throwing caution to the wind I headed in.

The decor of the place kind of threw me. There's a nice, rectangular bar located just off to the right of the entrance, but then the rest of the space was laid out in an upside-down "L" shape with basic, laminated tables. Flat-screen TVs surrounded the walls to account for the very spartan decorations of the place, and I was reminded of the comment I had read that the number of TVs in a restaurant is usually inversely related to the quality of the food. The Feng Shui of the spot is definitely off... It's like the place is having an identity crisis, unsure of whether it wants to be a homey bar and lounge or an upscale, minimalist gastropub.

After a perusal of what is, to its credit, an appealing menu (minus the aforementioned upscale prices), I settled on the clam chowder ($6 or so) and the "Inferno Burger" ($14 or $16, can't recall...), one of several special combination burgers identified on the menu that come with fries and the restaurant's titular chili as sides. My sense that something was off with the place was confirmed when minutes after having taken my order of two things, the waiter returned to confirm that I had ordered the Montana burger. No, I reminded him, it was the Inferno Burger. Right, he said, and he hurried away. Several minutes later he returned with my soup, accompanied by a packet of Saltines. It was at this stage that my Spidey-sense really started tingling; while the "lightly grilled" description given on the menu supposedly indicated the soup had a dusting of cheese that was then put in a broiler to melt, the bowl in front of me had sprinkles of non-melted processed multi-colored cheese you'd buy (or not) near the butter at your grocery store. I took a skeptical spoonful of the soup and tasted it, and lo and behold, it was not warm, it was not luke-warm... it was cold. As in out-of-the-refrigerator cold.

Deciding to cut my losses before getting exasperated any further, I simply got up, put on my coat, and left, mentioning to the surprised waiter on my way out that the soup was cold and that I would return after they had worked out some of their early post-launch issues a few weeks (or months) from now. From there, I proceeded to have an excellent lunch at what amounted to (what would have been) half the price over at Burritoville on Bishop, still for my money one of the most satisfying spots in the downtown core for tasty, healthy food on a student's budget.

If any of you actually go to the Chili Hamburger Bar and get through a meal there, I'd be interested in hearing about it. LIke I said, the menu seems promising, but they definitely may need to make some adjustments to establish themselves as a place with any kind of staying power.

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