10910 Boulevard Pie-IX, Montreal-Nord, QC (map); 10 more locations in the Greater Montreal area listed at dicanns.ca
The Schtick: Burgers so thin you can slide them under a door
The Burger: Not quite slider, not quite smashburger, served with a homemade spicy meat sauce, these are a 50+ year Montreal tradition still going strong as ever
Want fries with that? Yes; they're standard issue, frozen thin-cut fries, but made better with the addition of Dic Ann's sauce. Skip their poutine.
Setting: The 1956 location seats 15 at a counter; all other restaurants are more like your standard fast-food restaurant
Price: Hamburger, $2.40; cheeseburger $2.95; Hi-Boy, $2.90; Hamboughini, $2.90
In 1954, Canadian bebop accordionist Ann Collecchia and her American husband, Dominic "Dick" Potenza, opened their first location of Dic Ann's in Collecchia's home town of Montreal. After two years, they realized that they had a hit on their hands and moved from the trailer they were using to a real bonafide brick building right behind a high school.
Over 50 years later, the Potenza family is now in its third generation making burgers "so thin you can slide them under a door" (the tagline from old radio ads for Dic Ann's). Today there are 11 Dic Ann's in Montreal, but to see the original—and my favorite*—head to the location on Boulevard Pie-IX, where things haven't changed much since 1956.
* I've been to a couple of the other outlets but keep returning to the one from 1956 because it's special; and believe you me, getting there is not easy. It's at least a 45 minute drive through the city at the best of times, and I have to convince someone to drive me because I don't have a driver's license.
The Dic Ann's burger is an anomaly. The patty is less than two ounces (about 50 grams) and pressed as thin as possible, almost like the smashburger technique except it's pressed prior to cooking. After being griddled for about 30 seconds per side, it's placed on the bottom of a standard white bun that has also been lightly toasted after being squished to a quarter of an inch of its life in a sandwich press, garnished with their secret spicy meat sauce, some chopped onion, mustard, and relish (personally I omit the relish), covered with the top bun, and served on a paper plate with a tongue depressor to help you prop the burger up so that your hands don't get messy.
From this baseline burger, Dic Ann's makes three variations: a cheeseburger; the Hi-Boy, which adds lettuce and tomato; and the Hambourghini, which adds a slice of pepperoni underneath the sauce. You can add patties to any burger; according to president of Dic Ann's, second generation Dominic Potenza, the largest burger they've ever served was a six-patty burger (and the customer who ordered it ate two of them in a row).
Dic Ann's uses 100 percent AA Inside Round Alberta beef bought from and ground by the same butcher, Marche St-Sylvain, for over 40 years, delivered daily to each restaurant. (Marche St-Sylvain actually has one corner of their facility with a grinder that is dedicated the beef for Dic Ann's.) The buns are made to their specifications by POM Bakeries and also delivered daily to each restaurant. The secret spicy sauce—so closely guarded that only three family members know the recipe, and the three never fly together—is made in-house at their Chomedy restaurant Wednesday through Saturday in 55 gallon batches that takes seven hours to make and is delivered weekly to all the other restaurants. The only cheese they use is Kraft Blue Ribbon Swiss Slices, and according to Dominic, they use more than anyone else in Quebec. They only serve Pepsi drinks, and for as long as I have been going there has always been a designated "customer of the month." Dic Ann's is extremely loyal to customers, employees, and suppliers.
As you'd expect with a burger this thin, it comes out well done, despite being cooked so quickly, and only has a very slight crust. The beef is complemented well by the spicy nature of the thin, tomato-based meat sauce—spicy enough to leave a nice tingle on your tongue, but nothing long lasting (think spicier than your standard chili, but not as spicy as Tabasco). Since the sauce's ingredients are a secret, I can't give much more definitive information about it, but I'd guess it includes paprika, garlic, some pepperoncini, and a lot of slow cooked onions.
There's a distinct awareness of layers when biting into a Dic Ann's burger, despite its thinness—from the toasted bun, through the wet sauce, to the gooey cheese and/or tightly ground pepperoni, the beef, and finally, the bottom of the bun. The flavors come through, but so do the textures. The differences in textures are what make this burger great, just like in a BLT or a club sandwich.
Over the years I've had just about everything on the menu; right now, I'm going through a phase where I'm just ordering a Hambourghini with cheese. The pepperoni in the Hambourghini, like bacon on a bacon cheeseburger, adds another dimension to the burger-eating experience.
Overall, a Dic Ann's burger is a quirky, unique, and enjoyable experience any which way you cut it, even if it's obviously not a regular burger by any stretch of the imagination. I see it as a bastard lovechild of White Castle (due to the size of the burgers) and In-N-Out (because of the fanatical customers) midwifed by WWE champion John Cena (you need someone strong to squish it that thin) dressed in a special spicy sauce. While the burger may be the same no matter which Dic Ann's you visit, their oldest location has a history and atmosphere you won't find elsewhere.
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