STACKED GOURMET BURGER BAR
152 2nd Ave. S.
There’s a new burger joint in town — and if burgers are your thing, you need to check it out.
Hamburgers are classic North American comfort food, beloved by children (and the young at heart) everywhere, although they’re also somewhat polarizing if you aren’t a meat-and-bread kinda person. But Stacked Gourmet Burger Bar, the new incarnation of Matthew Schryer’s downtown location (formerly Woodfire Grill), has turned a burger into a meal that excludes no one.
For example, I invited a friend to check it out at lunchtime. Her question: “Do they have anything besides burgers? Ground beef doesn’t agree with me.” My response: “They have veggie options, salmon burgers, chicken burgers, turkey burgers and lamb burgers. They also have items that aren’t burgers at all.” She was sold.
Another example: I invited a vegetarian friend for lunch, and she was delighted to have the choice of either a vegan burger made from portobellos and ground veggies, or a falafel patty, substituted for any of their regular burgers.
You can build a burger with a beef, chicken or falafel patty and house it in whatever bun or non-bun you like — brioche, pretzel bun, gluten-free bun or lettuce wrap.
On my first visit I went all-out. I’d never seen Wagyu (a fancy Japanese breed of cow that’s reported to produce the best beef in the world) beef on a Saskatoon menu before, so I decided to try the Kobe burger, in spite of the hefty $22 price tag. (That’s the highest price on the menu, FYI.) My husband opted for a prime rib burger, which is basically a chunk of prime rib ground up and burgerized.
The whole Kobe burger was very good, and I love the concept of letting the quality of the beef speak for itself — it was simply adorned with smoked cheddar, lettuce and tomato — and the classic brioche bun was wonderful. But compared to the flavour bomb of the prime rib burger, topped with caramelized onions, cheese and bacon, my Wagyu beef just couldn’t compete. I kept wanting to steal bites of my husband’s burger. (Sadly, he wasn’t keen on sharing.)
I was pleased to see that the place is licensed for kids. One Friday when we were still not home by 5:30 and there was no dinner started, we decided to just drop in for burgers. Our kids were super excited about cheeseburgers, and I was salivating over the prospect of a Friday night pint of micro-brew to go with my burger.
Unfortunately, the micro-brew wasn’t meant to be.The place was hopping, and while we did manage to get a table, there’s a fair amount of smoke from the wood-fire grill in the back, and my kids were just getting over a cold. Within minutes of our arrival, they were wheezing and coughing, and their eyes were watering. We couldn’t stay, so I gave up my hopes of a relaxing meal and a beer, and we ordered our burgers to-go.
We were treated very well by the owner throughout the whole event. He apologized profusely and sent us on our way with ice cream desserts for the kids to make up for it. I appreciate how the situation was handled, but would still warn anyone with respiratory issues to be cautious, particularly on a Friday night. The ventilation system doesn’t seem able to compete with the magic going on in the kitchen.
The burgers themselves were good even out of the takeout containers, and my kids were mollified by French fries and ice cream. I tried the blue cheese and grilled pineapple burger — very satisfying (and messy, although not as messy as that killer prime rib burger). My husband went for the brie burger, which he enjoyed as well. We cleaned up the kids’ leftovers, too, and it was at that point that I established my personal preference for the brioche buns. Damn, they rock! And you know, I think that ice cream is homemade. It was simple, but fabulous.
More recently, I opted for a non-burger lunch, and went for the French onion soup and Caesar salad, while watching my vegetarian friend try to manage the vegan burger on a lettuce wrap. It was quite entertaining, and more than a little messy, but I’m totally going to take advantage of the lettuce option the next time I’m in. My friend said, “I think I missed the bun, but my belly feels very happy with that meal, and prefers not having the bread.” She was delighted with the vegan burger, saying it was really tasty, and marveling at how the cashew cheese got somehow melty and toasty.
I enjoyed my soup and salad as well. It was a relatively light take on a Caesar salad, which was okay by me. The soup was quite intensely seasoned and heavy on the cheese and croutons, like a French onion soup should be. It was obviously homemade, and just the ticket on a chilly November day.
Smoky room aside, I like what Stacked is doing. They have a good read on Saskatoon diners. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to go to a casual yet upscale restaurant for a comforting burger, even if you’re vegan, or can’t eat bread? It’s a beautiful thing, and I hope it’s well-supported.