Max’s Burgers recently popped up across the street from Whole Foods on West 8th & Cambie Street back in January (the former location of Max’s Deli). We were excited to try out this new burger joint because of their premise of using fresh local ingredients (just like everybody else!).
When we visited it was in the afternoon and the restaurant had only a couple customers. The sign at the front said ‘Please Wait to Be Seated’, yet there was nobody around. Do we seat ourselves? Order at the counter, then sit down? The cook in the open concept kitchen saw us but was of no help. Finally we were seated in a comfy booth in the corner, and menus and water (one of the glasses was actually dirty) shortly arrived afterwards. We ordered a couple Pop Shoppe bottled sodas: lime and root beer. The lime bottle was literally slammed down on the table shortly afterwards, and then our waitress casually told me they were out of root beer. Fine, no big deal–bring me a cream soda instead.
There was one burger I had my eye on prior to my visit–‘The British Columbia’ for $12.50. This classic had applewood smoked bacon, homemade bacon marmalade, cheddar cheese, and toppings. The in-house baked brioche bun was soft and buttery, and the subtle hints of sweetness were almost a bit too much for my tastes. Other than that, the burger itself was nicely seasoned and the bacon marmalade was smokey and flavourful. I enjoyed this burger, which is made using fresh chuck steak from Alberta. It’s quite messy as there are lots of ingredients slapped together.
Rather than plain old hand cut Kennebec fries I opted to turn them into a poutine. The generous order of fries were seasoned nicely but I found them to be quite ‘pale’ even though they were cooked throughout. Amazingly, Max’s Burgers cooks their fries in beef tallow, or rendered beef fat for more flavour and taste. The cheese curds were good but I found the gravy to be more lukewarm and light tasting.
Taya opted for the ‘Pushing Buttons’ for $12.50. Sauteed mushrooms, truffle mayo (this sold her), and swiss cheese. Her burger arrived exploding with ingredients and she enjoyed the truffle mayo along with the juicy mushrooms–except her burger was pink in the middle. We didn’t have time to wait for another burger to be made, considering up until this point the service was less than desired for, even with only a couple patrons on a slow afternoon. So only the cooked parts of the burger were consumed.
Now, I understand if you’re going to cook your burgers medium or rare, it’s the job of the restaurant to let customers know in advance. It’s actually required by law for restaurants to have an approved food safety plan that addresses how they will make the underdone burgers safe as per section 23 of the BC Food Premises Regulation.
Sure, you might have fresh ground chuck steak–but our server didn’t inform us about the menu at all about the doneness of their burgers. She just coldly asked what we wanted when we appeared ‘ready to order’ and that was it. At the end of our meal we informed our waitress that 1/3 of Taya’s patty sitting in the basket was raw and just way too rare. She became defensive and told us that was the way it was done here, and blamed us for not requesting a well done burger. Well that’s strange because, unlike my wife’s, my burger was cooked all the way through. All the server did was tried to throw their chef under the bus and said we could talk to her if we wanted to. We’ve both been servers before and this is never a way to talk to customers, ever. We were shocked. Not even a feeble attempt was made by the server to notify the kitchen or the manager regarding the incident; she just disregarded the situation.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience the $50+ burger at Feenie’s (yes, that Rob Feenie; it consisted of 100% certified Angus beef, pan seared foie gras, beef short ribs, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, bacon, and maxed out at 4000 calories!) when it was still around. Back then, I still remember our server telling us it would be served medium–that was four years ago.
Max’s Burgers are delicious and have some amazing ingredients–but they need to invest in hiring some friendly, competent staff that actually enjoy their job, and have passed proper training. If they want to compete with the likes of StackHouse Burger Bar or Romer’s Burger Bar for the same prices, the front of the house needs a major overhaul, big time.
Considering the cut throat restaurant industry in Vancouver, it’s all about first time impressions when it comes to new restaurants for both food and service (just ask The Mac Shack–great service and environment but lacklustre and underwhelming mac and cheese during their opening; we haven’t been back).
We felt the burgers are definitely top notch here–but it’s unfortunate the service was the exact opposite. Numerous diner comments online for Max’s Burgers actually share similar experiences to how we felt on our visit. I would advise Chef Butler and Redpath Foods to check them out and get past these early growing pains.
Have you eaten at Max’s Burgers? How was your experience there?