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Review: Monarch Burger is royally good

Whole-animal burgers arrive at The American
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The cheeseburger at Monarch Burger features a winning combo of beef from Hopcott Meats in Pitt Meadows and slices of Kraft singles cheese.


Monarch Burger @ The American

926 Main St. |

Open Sunday-Wednesday, 5pm-10pm; Thursday-Saturday, 5pm-11pm.


The “Dirty” burger at Campagnolo Upstairs has long been a byword among burger enthusiasts. The brainchild of chef/owner Robert Belcham first came to life at the long-closed Refuel. As burgers go, it’s deceptively simple; no Gruyere, beet strings, caramelized onions, or whisky-glazed anything. A housemade bun, a pure beef patty with no filler or even seasoning, some American cheese, lettuce and tomato. Oh, and a little dollop of sauce. Secret sauce. Don’t even ask. Everyone has and to no avail.

In the early fall of 2016, Belcham heard that Ezra Kish and Patryk Drozd, two long-time Campagnolo regulars and the owners of neighbouring businesses The Cobalt and Boxcar, had taken over the old Electric Owl space down the street and were going to relaunch it as a family-friendly pub complete with pinball machines and arcade games. Knowing that the previous owners had done a significant renovation on the kitchen, “I sent Patryk an email and asked who was doing the food service,” says Belcham in a phone conversation. “I wanted to do a simple pop-up and see how it went.” The Hallowe’en launch of the Monarch Burger pop-up at the newly opened American was a sell-out from the first night.

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Monarch Burger operates inside The American, a family-friendly pub complete with pinball machines and arcade games. - Contributed photos

The partnership has continued and now Monarch Burger is a permanent fixture at the beer-forward pub. What makes it work, according to Belcham, are the people on both sides. “Everyone at the American is fantastic. We’re food guys, they’re bar guys. They do beer well, we do food well.”

But, why do it in the first place? “I’ve always wanted to do a simple, whole-animal burger and with the volumes we have at The American, it’s possible,” says Belcham. Unlike the Dirty burger at Campagnolo Upstairs, you can’t order fancy add-ons like foie gras and crispy chicken skin. It’s a simple classic burger, wrapped in paper and served in a cardboard box for $10. But, oh, what a burger it is.

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Monarch Burger's veggie burger with kale salad. - Brett Beadle photo

Belcham sources his meat from Hopcott Meats in Pitt Meadows. “I live close by and have been a customer for years,” says Belcham. The beef is grass-fed and comes from one of three family farms in BC. The animals are finished at Hopcott and then sent to a small slaughterhouse that is also in Pitt Meadows. “It’s great that we don’t have to deal with the huge, corporate slaughterhouses or farms,” enthuses Belcham. “My identity as a chef has always been to know exactly where my food comes from and I know everything about this animal, from start to finish.”

Premium cuts like the ribeye, striploin and short ribs get used at Campagnolo, Campagnolo Roma and Campagnolo Upstairs, and every other part of the animal is ground daily into burger.

The result is a four-ounce patty of pure beef. The only seasoning is a light sprinkle of salt on top when it’s done. It’s juicy, perfectly cooked and aromatic AF. Seriously, take a deep sniff before you chomp. The bun it sits on is baked every morning from a recipe based on Scottish bap and developed by one of Belcham’s former chefs at Refuel. The result is a bun that is soft and springy, but holds its shape through to the last bite. It also gets just a bit crispy when grilled, which is always appreciated.

The cheeseburger ($11), surprisingly, uses a Kraft singles slice. My not-so-inner food snob wants to scoff and lament, “Oh, for some artisan aged cheddar!” — but I can’t. That slice of processed cheese is what takes this burger from great to awe-inspiring. I am forced to agree that the sum of this burger is so much more than its parts.

You can get a double patty for $15, but the single is more than enough, even for hearty appetites, especially when paired with a side of the thrice-cooked fries ($4) or poutine ($7) and a beer. Take your kids (before 10pm) or a date, order at the counter, play some pinball and enjoy a burger fit for the queen.


All ratings out of five stars. 

Food: ★★★★★

Service: n/a

Ambiance: ★★★★

Value: ★★★★

Overall: ★★★★1/2


Anya Levykh is a food, drink and travel writer who covers all things ingestible. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @foodgirlfriday.


Star guide:

★: Okay, nothing memorable.

★★: Good, shows promise.

★★★: Very good, occasionally excellent.

★★★★: Excellent, consistently above average.

★★★★★: Awe-inspiring, practically perfect in every way.