We were invited to the media event for Max’s Burgers, which is opening next Monday, January 23. The restaurant is at Cambie and 8th, the location that was formerly the Max’s Deli. Owners Bruce and David transformed it into this burger concept and invited Chef Connor Butler to come onboard.
At this event we were served several items from its regular menu, as well as beverages, only in smaller size (e.g. slider vs burger). Since the portion is smaller, this may not necessarily reflect the true quality of the food, but I think it serves as a good indication of what you could expect at Max’s.
I admit that I’m not a burger person, especially when it comes to beef burgers (I know, I’m weird in many ways), but I know when food tastes good. Overall, I was very happy with the food. I’m a sucker for brioche, so the fact that the burgers are on house-baked brioche buns is already a +1 for me. Here are the 4 sliders I tried, in the order of my most favourite to my least favourite. Keep in mind, there were no bad burgers on that day, in my book anyway. I just preferred some over the others. I’ll explain it below.
Rooster on a Tailgate (Chicken)
I’m probably biased, because I think this burger is created for me, but this was by far my favourite burger of the evening. Why? It uses chicken thigh meat instead of chicken breast! I am not a white-meat person and I often find chicken (breast) burgers dry if not cooked properly. This one was more moist and fattier compared to chicken breast, more flavourful, and the crispy onion ring was a great addition. I enjoyed the sweetness from the red onion ring and the BBQ sauce, as well as the little kick from the chipotle mayo.
The British Columbia (Beef)
You’re probably surprised that the beef one would rank higher than the next one, but on that evening, I did like the beef one more. The patty was quite moist and well-seasoned. There was a lot of pepper in the patty, but I didn’t mind it. Flavour wise, it’s less complex than the chicken burger, straight up bacon burger, with house-made bacon marmalade.
“Hail to the King” Crab Po’Boy (King Crab)
King crab – sounds fancy eh? According to Max’s, the filet they use is from inside the head (body) of the crab and it’s a part that usually goes to waste, which makes it sustainable since they’re maximizing the use of every King Crab. The best way to describe this burger would be McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish but with King Crab meat and fennel slaw. I liked this one less than the beef one was because, well, I had a smaller piece of crab meat! The crab meat is deep-fried, so size matters. Mine was a little bit on the dry side, and I don’t know if I liked the slaw in the burger. The crunch was nice but in certain bites it was a bit too big and too hard to bite through – this could be resolved by having better control in slicing the fennel and cabbage.
Gargamel’s Stuffed Toadstool Slider (Veggie)
Then there was the veggie burger. Frankly it’s ranked last because it has no meat in it. But like I said earlier, this was still a good burger – I just like meat. It’s a long process to cook the portobello mushroom. They were first marinated in balsamic dressing for a day, then baked, cooled and then grilled to order. The burger was so juicy that the juice dripped out of the burger right down to my table. Made a mess. You can taste the sourness from the balsamic marinate and a little bit of tartness from the charred tomatoes, which were charred in-house.
I also tried the Poutine and Schloppy Chili Fries. Poutine is your basic gravy, cheese curds and fries combo. The schloppy chili is available, on the regular menu, in a bun; but in this case, it was served with fries and cheddar cheese. Meaty chili with just a subtle hint of spice. Not bad.
Not trying to get drunk and make a fool of myself, I took sips of the six beverages served that evening. They are all very interesting, and may not be liked by all. Not an expert in drinks, so here is my quick recap: A Sailor’s Life Punch has some ground nutmeg and cinnamon, so it has an earthy tone to it; Tequila Paralyzer Float tasted like a root beer float, even though it’s supposed to be more like a Coke float, and there is also a root beer float on the regular menu; The Pop Shoppe Pina Colada Float was refreshing, a bit too sweet and I could definitely taste the malibu; Orange Creamsicle Shake was okay, couldn’t taste the orange flavour so it’s more like a milk shake with vodka; Liquid Lunch was Caesar with bacon-infused vodka, probably my least favourite, but I don’t really like Caesar so a Caesar fan might actually enjoy it; Fraser River Mud Shake was my favourite because it tastes just like a chocolate milk shake, dessert in a cup, but it could be dangerous for ladies since you can’t really taste the alcohol in it.
Lastly, dessert time. Because Max’s Burgers is a sister business to Stuart’s Bakery, the bakery supplies its desserts. They have a showcase right by the cash register that displays their dessert offerings. Nothing fancy, but it would be out of place if you saw complicated desserts at a burger restaurant. The Chocolate Mousse Cake was not very sweet, which is good, and the mousse was creamy and silky smooth. Took a bite of the Lemon Tart, and it’s not bad. You can taste the tartness of the lemon curd and the meringue on top was a bit foamy.
By observation, the staff seemed very nice and friendly. But since it was a private event, I couldn’t tell whether they will be able to handle the traffic and keep up with service level when it’s open to the public. Only time will tell.
The restaurant has installed a few TV screens so it would be a great spot to grab a bite while watching parts of a sports game. I like the open kitchen/grill concept so you can watch as the cooks prepares your food right in front of you.
While I don’t eat burgers often, I did enjoy what I tried at Max’s Burgers. I like that they make a lot of components in-house and source ingredients locally. Looking at its pricing ($9-$14 for a burger), it may not be your everyday burger place but I think it’s worth adding to your list of “go-to” places when you crave for a good quality, fancier burger. A quick shout-out to my new friend Janice from Guestaurant who kept me company throughout the event. See more photos below.
521 W 8th Avenue, Vancouver (at Cambie)