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Mar 30, 2009 01:12 AM

Charlie's Burger?


Has anyone been? Or been invited? What was your experience like if any?

  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. Folks, we want to clarify something regarding posts about Charlie Burger.

      We don't allow discussion of "underground" restaurants because of reasons we explain here Primarily, it's to protect small unlicensed businesses from notice by authorities that would shut them down. We initially thought that was the case with Charlie's Burgers, and have been removing discussions of it in keeping with that policy. However, our research indicates that does not seem to be the case with this operation, and so we're going to allow discussion of it.

      24 Replies
      1. re: The Chowhound Team

        I knew it. Charlie's Burgers is just a gimmick. I'm pretty sure they invite everyone who signs up.

        1. re: Negaduck

          I haven't been able to get to one as yet, but that is very doubtful - if only because of limited capacity. Events fill in minutes.

          1. re: embee

            embee is right. I went to last night's Charlie's, and from talking to one of the organisers, I learned that they had roughly 250 responses for the 30 person dinner.

            I'm also curious to know what "research" was done by the Chowhound folks to make them think that Charlie's isn't a quasi-legal underground restaurant. The venue where last night's dinner took place was definitely not an establishment licensed to serve food or drink.

            That said, there were a couple of media people present with full knowledge of the organisers, so they're obviously not shying away from publicity.

              1. re: stonedtoronto

                Umm... filling. Very, very filling. :)

                (My wife is writing an article about it, so I don't want to reveal too much and scoop her...)

                1. re: gregclow

                  And she wrote a fantastic article, at that! Seems like you guys had a good experience, Greg! Wondering about all the press that was present though. And the illegalities of it all? Health code violations etc?
                  I've received my questionnaire in the "mail" but wonder if I'll even get in - it's such a popular 'event', now!


                    1. re: foodyDudey

                      Yes, I read those this morning - great articles....but no pictures. Sheryl Kirby got some nice ones.

                    2. re: tp24

                      There are no Illegalities... per se.. You do not pay for the food or wine you offer a "suggested donation" .. you do not make a reservation you are invited to a private party peronally.. therefor it is not a public place it is like having a dinner party in your house. Health department had commented in a previous newspaper story that they are not going to police this type of event unless there starts to be complaints. Also since the events are heald in places with no liquor licences the licencing police cannot do much especially since the locations and dates & times always change and are secret except to the attendies.

              2. re: embee

                i think that unless you send them a truly horrendous application only then will you get rejected and so by that line of thought... they do invite everyone who signs up.

                considering what gregclow just said, it seems like their invite list may have doubled recently as the previous one has about 125 rsvps come in. they've gotten a lot of press recently and it's looking like that is part of the goal as they hand pick who is to be at an event (recently only newbies) and a number of seats are given away to "press" of sorts. it is a fun event though i think the last one veered a little off course from their mandate as i understood it (the higher price may have reflected this as well) and i'm curious to see if they morph into just a dining club and/or if all the press starts encouraging more of these to pop up.

                and i really can't see how this place is completely legit but hey, if ch says so....

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  I think it'd be cool if more were around. There's bunches in NYC, LA, SanFran.

                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                    Again, we'd like to clarify that our intent in not allowing discussion of underground restaurants is because we don't want to be the cause of them being brought to the attention of public health authorities if they are operating "off the radar". However, in this situation, Charlie's Burgers seem to be having some meals at licensed operations, and based on the article in The Star, the Public Health department is aware of the operation.

                    We certainly don't claim to be experts in assessing whether or not this or any other operation is up to snuff when it comes to health regulations, so please don't take our decision to allow discussion as a stamp of approval and safety.

                2. re: Negaduck

                  I signed up approx two weeks ago but never heard back from them. I bet my answers didn`t appeal to them, lol.

                  1. re: radiopolitic

                    If you signed up two weeks ago, there would be little chance in getting into the last dinner. They sent out the invites on March 17, (2 weeks ago) and there would be many people ahead of you. But then as you metioned not everyone gets invited, it depends on how you reponded to the survey.

                    1. re: foodyDudey

                      Ah, thank you for clarifying that. It would be appreciated if one of you guys posted when the next invite goes out. At least that way I'll know whether I'm in or not.

                      1. re: foodyDudey

                        I finally got a reply from Charlie after filling out their survey. But now when I try to open the email with the attachment, my e mail says there's an error, lol.

                        Anyone who has gone before or been added to their list know if this is an invite to an event, or simply, you're now added on the invite list?

                        1. re: stonedtoronto

                          I also received a reply last night... about 5 days after applying. The reply simply states that I have been accepted and will be notified of the next dinner at a date and time TBA. The attachment was a pdf of the last dinner and wine list, i.e. the duck in a can that was profiled in the Toronto Star.

                          1. re: cynalan

                            Lucky you! Send in my applications a couple of weeks ago! Havn't heard from them. Guess I'm not welcome!

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                Charles, though I don't know you, I have enjoyed reading your reviews. Your passion for good food would certainly be their loss. Are you sure that your message was delivered? Try again, perhaps?

                                1. re: cynalan

                                  Indeed, the first time I signed up, I never received a reply, but the second time I did. I think Charlie's workflow has a few cracks in it, so you might just try again.

                                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                                    Did you answer everything exactly the same on both applications?

                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                      The first time I signed up, I was never sent an application.

                                      1. re: Jacquilynne

                                        I haven't gotten an invitation, yet either. Why does this feel like high school. :)

                  2. A secret invitation to buy an $80 hamburger?

                    No thanks.

                    7 Replies
                      1. re: Non Doctor

                        I'd like to chime in and state I had a great time as well. The 'mystery' element to the event is fun, the food was great (especially the duck in the can), and the hosts/severs were knowledgeable and informative.

                        Jamie - loved the leather outfit - and you are one seriously funny guy. I think you made the night!

                        These events are heavily dependent on the crowd that attends and the personalities in the mix. As others mentioned, the crowd seemed to be comprised of 'younger' professionals, but not all were. These nights are definitely not intended to be a formal event of any kind - so if you're good at mingling, and are not too snooty - you'll have a good time.

                        Portions were extremely generous, the wines very well thought out - definitely well worth the $110.

                        As for getting in... you do have to be quick on the draw. I think those with Blackberrys and iPhones for immediate response may have the advantage - but those timed well sitting in front of a computer would fair just as well.

                        1. re: Tara9000

                          speed has nothing to do with it. nor do your answers. based on a conversation with one of the organizers i was told that they want to give everyone a chance.


                      2. re: Everythingtarian

                        It's just a name, there's no burger in sight

                        1. re: stonedtoronto

                          I was accepted and the menu they sent me featured Martin Picard as the guest chef and Jamie Drummond was the sommalier. The menu looked great actually and easily worth the 110 dollar price tag.

                          1. re: jamesm

                            Picard wasn't the chef. They just brought in the “Canard en Conserve” from Au Pied De Cochon as a main course.

                            And yeah, it was well worth the $110.

                          2. re: stonedtoronto

                            Well now I feel like a poopyhead for shrugging it off. Sounds like I missed the good seat on the boat.

                        2. My wife and I ate there last night. We met some other people who post here also. (Tara9000, Greg Clow, Sheryl Kirby)
                          We had a good time. I'll post a review in this thread as it looks like it's OK to mention CB's now. Yesterday I received an email from CH saying not to post anything about my experience but it seems something has changed.

                          There were roughly thirty to 35 people in attendance. Most seemed to be in their 20's and early thirties, in case that matters.
                          We arrived around 6:20 and dinner ended around 10:45. I think everyone enjoyed the food. I have some pictures taken with my wife's Blackberry but I don't know how they turned out yet, I will post them if the quality is good. There was a bit of a gap between each course, probably due to the fact that they were preparing food for 35 people at a time and tried to serve everyone together. The main dish was “Canard en Conserve” which was brought in from Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal. It tasted great but was very filling, I didn't notice anyone else that managed to polish off the complete serving except myself. Most people only ate 30 to 60% of it as it was so rich. (Each serving contained 100 gr. of foie gras and a magret) The cheese plate which followed was great but again a very generous size and impossible to finish. At least I have some good cheese to eat today. I told my wife I am eating only cucumbers for the rest of the month as I was still feeling it this morning. There was an article in Friday's Toronto Star which you can find online. The woman who wrote it was there last night with a photographer so I think you will see another article from her soon. Here is the menu:

                          Selection of Hors D’oeuvres
                          2006 Domaine Ostertag Pinot Gris "Barriques" Alsace France

                          Assiette de Charcuterie
                          Pingue Prosciutto, Goose Rillettes, Tartare de Cheval, Pickled Root Vegetables, Citrus Marinated Olives

                          “Canard en Conserve” from Au Pied De Cochon
                          Duck Magret, Foie Gras, Roasted Savoy Cabbage, Cauliflower puree, Balsamic reduction

                          Assiette de Fromages Francais Artisanaux
                          Camembert Normand AOC, Langres AOC, Pont L’Eveque AOC, Livarot AOC, Crottin de Chavignol AOC,
                          St. Nectaire AOC, Roblochon AOC, Bleu D’Auvergne AOC

                          Malbec Poached Bosc Pear
                          Almond, Walnut ice cream

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: foodyDudey

                            foodyDudey, would you & your wife dine at Charlie's again?

                            1. re: phoenikia

                              Yes I would. It's a different atmosphere from a regular restaurant, but I liked it. The only thing my wife didn't like was sitting down for over 4 hours, and the late end time on a Sunday night. I know she wanted to get home as she leaves for work very early.

                              1. re: foodyDudey

                                Good to know.
                                I considered trying to rsvp- but I thought I'd wait to see the next menu. I'm not a big fan of foie gras, and I like horses too much to get my mind around eating them for pleasure - no problem eating frogs or goats, though ;).

                                1. re: phoenikia

                                  The horse was a no-show last night - they subbed venison tartare instead.

                                  1. re: gregclow

                                    Did you like it? Would you be able to tell that it was venison if they hadn't told you what it was?

                                    1. re: phoenikia

                                      It was very good. I've had venison carpaccio before, and it was similar enough in flavour that I probably would've known even if they hadn't mentioned the switch.

                                      Either that, or I would've thought "hmmm, horse tastes a lot like venison...".

                                      1. re: phoenikia

                                        I can tell the difference, horse is much sweeter then venison and is a darker meat. Whenit arrived at the table I thought that was some funny looking cheval, then they mentioned the switch. I wish there was a way to slice off pieces of a horse with something like the cheese knives that have a slot type cutter, then we could enjoy cheval without the guilt as it would be sustainable farming.

                                        1. re: foodyDudey

                                          Is the horse served in TO raised for its meat? Or are they serving vintage 30 year old horses that were ready for greener pastures? I remember reading that horsemeat was one of AB's top exports to Russia, but I thought that the horsemeat industry was a secondary industry, after the horse owners decided it wasn't worth racing/dressage-ing (sp)/breeding/riding their horses anymore.

                                          Do any restaurants tell you the provenance du cheval?

                                          1. re: phoenikia

                                            I'm not sure where all the horse meat avaibale comes from, but there was a show on the CBC's "Doczone" last fall that mentioned the slaughterhouse in AB that was processing unwanted pet horses that were shipped in from the USA. (because it can't be done in the USA). There is farm in Quebec that supplies many restaurants such as Globe Bistro. It think it is called "la Firme"

                                    2. re: phoenikia

                                      Since we own a horse my wife won't eat it knowingly. I'll still eat them if it's on a set menu as they taste good and hey it's dead already, too late to save it now. But they substituted venison tartare for the cheval, so I didn't get to eat her portion after all. It is hard to eat horses after realising how smart they are.

                                      You may want to consider one of the winemaker's dinners at Globe Bistro, the next one is in May and we'll found them to be great value. I heard that some of the food for the next Globe dinner wil be prepared by a famous chef. I'm not going to mention his name yet in case it doesn't come together for any reason.

                              2. The original comment has been removed