I made a promise to myself that I wanted to go to Burgoo before my birthday in December. Why? I’ve heard some good things about it which got me really curious about this restaurant, yet every time I went it was just too busy that I couldn’t bear the long wait. Finally came the day I celebrated my birthday with some friends, I told myself I had to make it happen. No matter what.
So, I tweeted them asking if they took reservations for a party of 8; they advised me to phone and they’d try to accommodate. Unfortunately, when I called to make a reservation, I was told that they don’t take reservations on the weekend. I was then advised that I should get there by 5pm or 5:30pm if I wanted to secure a table for 8.
So here we were on a Saturday evening, Mr. and I got to Burgoo on Main Street at around 5:30pm. Sadly to learn that there’s already a party of 9 in front of us waiting, so likely they wouldn’t be able to seat all 8 of us together. It would need to be 2 tables of 4. Well, I said I would make it happen no matter what, so I did. I took their offer. When it’s finally our turn to be seated, about 20-25 minutes later, our two tables were a bit far away, not the ideal side-by-side situation. Close, but not close enough. We ended up having one less person, so 7 of us tiny Chinese people ended up squishing around a table of 4. Seriously, we made it work. Cozy but it worked.
After this long-winded intro, let’s talk about food. I heard the cheese fondue was good, so I ordered not 1, but 2 fondues. The Fonduemental uses Gruyere and Emmenthal, the fundamental (lol get it?) ingredients of a traditional cheese fondue from Switzerland. It was rich and savoury, and I could taste the pungent flavour of the two cheeses as well as white wine and herbs. The Brie Fondue, on the other hand, was creamy. It’s rich, but relatively lighter, and the roasted garlic definitely popped in this one. The 7 of us shared these as appetizers, and it didn’t take long before we finished them all. We even got a second serving of bread. Tummy felt really good afterwards and I was looking forward to entrees.
And that turned out to be a bit of a letdown. Admittedly I didn’t find out what entrees were well-rated, so I ordered what looked good on the menu. What caught my eyes in the Irish Stew was the use of Guinness in the braised lamb and frankly, that was the only thing I enjoyed in my dish. I could taste the Guinness in the tender, braised meat but I wish the size of meat chunks could be bigger. Missing the “bite”. The flavour was on the mild side, thus the potato, rutabaga, dumplings (think gnocchi but softer) and mashed potatoes were lacking a rich sauce to make them super tasty. This could be the authentic way to make an Irish Stew, but it’s all kind of a mush and missing some texture, so, not my cup of tea.
Tried others’ dishes and they were all better than mine. What are the chances?! Paella was flavourful, with generous serving of mussels and prawns. The portion size was great bang for the buck. Español Mussels were also of decent portion size. The mussels were juicy and plump, and the broth was light and perfect for bread dipping. Mr.‘s Kentucky Burgoo had a similar texture as the Irish Stew, meat and veggies all mushed together, but it had a lot more flavour. You have the option of mashed potatoes or biscuit, or half-and-half. Mr. recommended to order biscuit only (less of a mush).
Every dessert at Burgoo is served with vanilla ice cream, which is perfect since, as I recalled, they were all warm desserts. We shared two. The Peach Crumble (the daily crumble feature) was a standard affair. The crunch of the crumble mixed with warm peach slices, plus vanilla ice cream – a great combination for a winter dessert. My favourite was the Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding. Chunks of banana bread were stuffed in this little container, along with pieces of melted chocolate chips. It’s rich and decadent. I would get that again.
It was a busy Saturday evening, but our server had tried her best and overall I was happy with the service we received. However, while I understand that Burgoo is a popular place and they’re in no shortage of customers to fill up the space, I wish they would take reservations. It’s a strange system to ask your customers to show up at your door, jot down their name, and send them wander around the block until their table is ready. It could be a 1-2 hour wait if you arrive at its peak hours. And you would lose your spot if you don’t answer the phone when they call you. They could’ve taken reservations over the phone, set the tables as required and wait for their guests to arrive. Serve, turn over and get ready for next seating. They could even limit the maximum party size so they don’t have to worry about accommodating tables of 8 all the time.
I’m guessing they are established as the neighbourhood bistro and want walk-in guests to feel welcomed, but it does create some inconvenience for planners like me. Next time I will remember to not plan a big party there.
Now that my birthday wish was fulfilled, I was left a bit disappointed. I suppose I had really high hopes so with flaws here and there, it became a less enjoyable evening for me. Based on what I had, I would return for the cheese fondues and maybe desserts, but I will need to choose carefully what I would order for entrees. Paella and mussels are not a bad option. I should’ve ordered the onion soup but I realized it was difficult to share among us. Or the grilled cheese sandwich, but I had my fair share of cheese already. Burgoo is all about comfort food; perhaps I haven’t learned to appreciate all kinds of comfort food. Yes, lots to learn still.
Burgoo Bistro (Main Street)
3096 Main Street, Vancouver