Editor's note: Please welcome Chris "Zeke" Hand of The Montreal Burger Report to AHT! He's starting off his reviews of burgers in Montreal with one of his favorites, the ground-to-order burger at La Flammée.
3638 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal QC H2L 1G9 (map); 514-843-6425; Facebook page
Cooking Method: Lightly pan fried then broiled to finish
Short Order: An amazing ground-to-order burger for under $10
Want Fries with That? Yes, please. Their shoestring fries retain their texture and remain crisp even while cooling down.
Price: Burger w/fries, $9.95; bacon, +$1; cheese, + 50¢
For the longest time I have been extremely reticent to make a definitive answer when asked, "What's the best burger in Montreal?" There are far too many different styles and different types, so I would diplomatically say, "it depends on your mood, the time of day, who you're with..." and so on. Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case might be) I have recently discovered a burger that renders that whole dance of diplomacy moot.
La Flammée is the name of the restaurant inside Brasserie Cherrier, an old man's bar that's been around since 1986. (The restaurant is named after its specialty, flammekueche, an Alsatian dish similar to pizza but made with crème fraîche, thinly sliced onions, and lardons. It's very good.) The restaurant is separate from the bar, so one person will serve you drinks and a second person will serve you your food. It's quirky, but that's the way we roll here in Montreal. The drinks are nothing to write home about, but since I'm not officially an old man (yet), I don't go for the drinks. I go for the burger. As often as I can.
La Flammée's burger is insane. It's not just cooked to order, but it's ground to order as well. They start with top round steak from grain fed Canadian beef, nothing fancy—it's a $10 burger after all. Top round is a lean cut, but by being ground only after you order, the result is juicier than any burger I've had in recent memory. The beef is given a medium grind and very loosely packed (more like piled and gently pushed). After grinding and forming the beef into a 150 gram (about 1/3-pound) patty, then seasoning it with salt and pepper, they pan fry it in butter and finish it in the broiler. It's served on a dense housemade brioche-style bun (baked on Mondays), which is more than sturdy enough to absorb all the juices from the burger.
Served open faced, it comes with lettuce, onions, pickle, and tomato, along with a dollop of housemade mayonnaise. Bacon and cheese are optional additions for 50 cents or a dollar respectively. With all of the toppings it can get very tall. When ordered with cheese, the Canadian cheese (like processed American cheese) slice melts evenly over the entire top of the burger due to it being finished in the broiler.
The burger came out medium rare as requested, pink and juicy on the inside, with an effective but not overdone crust. Its beefy, buttery flavor goes down smoothly and lingers after you chew and swallow; if you just inhale the burger, you'll miss it. That being said, invariably once I've picked up the burger, I don't put it down until it's all gone.
The Flammée's burger is served with a generous portion of fresh cut, skin-on shoestring fries that are also quite good, along with some fresh housemade and very crunchy coleslaw. Since I eat the burger first, I've never experienced the fries piping hot, but warm to room temperature they retain their crispiness and have a surprising amount of crunch.
I presume that there are other places in the world that make a grind-to-order burger, but my understanding is that they tend to be high-end steakhouses that then charge accordingly. The La Flammée burger is $9.95. At that price, what is an extremely good burger becomes better than a great burger.
About the author: Chris 'Zeke' Hand reads, writes, and breathes culture and the arts in Montreal. Most of his opinions can be found on Zeke Dot Com. As the arts and culture are lacking in many essential vitamins and minerals, Zeke does his best to eat a hamburger as often as possible.