For over a decade now, when talk turns to where to find the "best burger in Vancouver," one place is always championed: Pourhouse.
Probably one of the city's worst-kept culinary secrets, the sole burger on the Gastown cocktail bar and upscale pub menu up until now was a standout, thanks to its thick patty made of a blend of ground chuck and brisket (mercifully cooked to a standard blushing ruby medium, unless you foolishly request it cooked longer), topped with aged cheddar, caramelized onion, and a slab of pork belly. Want your burger to stand out - and up - more? Layer on a shimmering fried egg and a piece of seared foie gras, because, why not?
The Pourhouse burger became legend with reason; this is not the kind of burger you eat in your car, and it doesn't run in the same league as your favourite family restaurant's burger combo plate.
And now the burger has become the soul of Pourhouse's just-launched revamped menu.
Showcasing hearty Americana with premium ingredients, Pourhouse now offers a mix-and-match style menu packed with brand-new dishes, with a few key carryovers: there's, of course, the Pourhouse burger, but also its cherished Scotch egg. Pretty much everything else is new.
Taking a cue from the current comfort food culture craze (have you ever seen so many burger or fried chicken joints in Vancouver?) and some influence from the bar, the menu - driven by Pourhouse's team of Executive Chef Alessandro Vianello, Culinary Director Alex Tung, and Chef de Cuisine Jason Saruya - is designed for enjoying with Pourhouse's craft cocktails or pours from its extensive wine list. Offering distinct flexibility, it's really a choose your own adventure situation; belly up to the bar at happy hour and keep it pared down with their single smashburger and a glass of their HH red (it's a delightfully bold Merlot from Mt. Boucherie), or sit down to sup with your household bubble and do some sharing.
Salads, like their new bacon-forward Caesar or the beautifully vegetal simple green salad (punctuated with thin full-length ribbons of rainbow carrots and crunchy cuts of fennel), come in half portions and still make for good share plates. You'll feel a bit more virtuous about "health" as you alternate forkfuls of peppery arugula and bites of Pourhouse's new fried chicken, which is made using boneless thigh pieces and a gluten-free coating that is shockingly grease-free. Dip it into the honey mustard sauce to balance out all that salad.
All hail The Queen
For the main event, burgers take centre stage. Beside the Pourhouse is The Queen, which is the same chuck and brisket patty, but adorned with a golden-fried onion ring, peppered bacon, aged cheddar, tomato jam, and shredduce (aka shredded lettuce); I highly recommend crowning this regal lady with a fried egg.
Pourhouse will make anyone missing travelling to Southern California's heart sing with the Patty Melt; the L.A.-born diner staple emerges here with hints of that other SoCal burger star, In-N-Out, thanks to smashburger patties complete with all those lovely craggy bits, a "cheese skirt" griddled onto housemade bread, tangy pickles, thick bacon, and their "secret sauce," in addition to the requisite melty Swiss cheese and caramelized onions. That person missing Southern California, obviously, is me; having come of age on diner grub and In-N-Out in L.A., Pourhouse is now making a prayer-answering Patty Melt.
The burgers come a la carte, so you can take your food-venture in whichever direction you want by adding on classic Kennebec fries, truffled dotted tots, or even veg like chili garlic broccoli. The sides would all pair nicely with Pourhouse's selection of steaks, or even with stuff back up in the starters zone, like the Mac and Cheese.
Save room: New desserts, new brunch menu
When Pourhouse said it was pretty much all new, they also meant the desserts, a trio that each features a little something from the bar - for example, a pecan and apple tart with housemade vanilla ice cream and swirls of lush caramel made with Fernet, the Italian digestif. They've also got a whole new brunch menu launching Jan. 23, so that's going to have to wait for another visit. Besides, I've still got half a leftover burger and some tots to heat up and enjoy.
Pourhouse is located at 162 Water Street in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood. Dinner is served Sunday to Thursday 5 to 11 p.m, Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight; Lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Weekend Brunch (Starting January 23) Saturday and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Happy Hour seven days a week 3 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close.