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Nov 30, 2009 12:21 PM

Chili Hamburger Bar - A 10-minute visit

Not sure if any fellow foodies have ventured to this place (on MacKay just below Ste. Catherine) yet, but after hearing it advertised on the radio this morning I figured I'd pop by to at least check out the menu at lunch.

From the outside I'll admit I was on the fence as to whether I'd venture *inside*. The signage reminded me of the cover of some old techno/rave CDs I had in the mid-'90s, but the menu, though certainly featuring inflated prices for a burger ($9 for the basic patty with lettuce/tomato and a side of chili, then $1-$3 for each additional accoutrement), did feature some tasty-sounding toppings. Jalapeno-smoked bacon, that type of thing... I still wasn't sure if I'd chance it until I saw they also offered (presumably) homemade clam chowder (curiously described as "lightly grilled") as an appetizer, so throwing caution to the wind I headed in.

The decor of the place kind of threw me. There's a nice, rectangular bar located just off to the right of the entrance, but then the rest of the space was laid out in an upside-down "L" shape with basic, laminated tables. Flat-screen TVs surrounded the walls to account for the very spartan decorations of the place, and I was reminded of the comment I had read that the number of TVs in a restaurant is usually inversely related to the quality of the food. The Feng Shui of the spot is definitely off... It's like the place is having an identity crisis, unsure of whether it wants to be a homey bar and lounge or an upscale, minimalist gastropub.

After a perusal of what is, to its credit, an appealing menu (minus the aforementioned upscale prices), I settled on the clam chowder ($6 or so) and the "Inferno Burger" ($14 or $16, can't recall...), one of several special combination burgers identified on the menu that come with fries and the restaurant's titular chili as sides. My sense that something was off with the place was confirmed when minutes after having taken my order of two things, the waiter returned to confirm that I had ordered the Montana burger. No, I reminded him, it was the Inferno Burger. Right, he said, and he hurried away. Several minutes later he returned with my soup, accompanied by a packet of Saltines. It was at this stage that my Spidey-sense really started tingling; while the "lightly grilled" description given on the menu supposedly indicated the soup had a dusting of cheese that was then put in a broiler to melt, the bowl in front of me had sprinkles of non-melted processed multi-colored cheese you'd buy (or not) near the butter at your grocery store. I took a skeptical spoonful of the soup and tasted it, and lo and behold, it was not warm, it was not luke-warm... it was cold. As in out-of-the-refrigerator cold.

Deciding to cut my losses before getting exasperated any further, I simply got up, put on my coat, and left, mentioning to the surprised waiter on my way out that the soup was cold and that I would return after they had worked out some of their early post-launch issues a few weeks (or months) from now. From there, I proceeded to have an excellent lunch at what amounted to (what would have been) half the price over at Burritoville on Bishop, still for my money one of the most satisfying spots in the downtown core for tasty, healthy food on a student's budget.

If any of you actually go to the Chili Hamburger Bar and get through a meal there, I'd be interested in hearing about it. LIke I said, the menu seems promising, but they definitely may need to make some adjustments to establish themselves as a place with any kind of staying power.

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  1. Maybe it was a gazpacho? =D

    I like that you got up and left. I'm bad at that and would have just sat through a horrific meal in silence.

    Seems kinda pricey...

    2 Replies
    1. re: The Chemist

      I might have been inspired by too many recent viewings of Kitchen Nightmares on DVD; unlike Chef Ramsay, however, I wasn't getting paid to sit through poor service and questionably-prepared food...

      1. re: The Chemist

        Funny I would do the same! I always feel bad

      2. The place is just horrible. Zero atmosphere and bad food. Cannot imagine how it survives.

        4 Replies
        1. re: RicBer

          Sounds bloody expensive too. Compare the far better La Paryse, 302 rue Ontario est, Montreal, QC H2X 1H6 or Restaurant l'Anecdote, 801 rue Rachel est

          Unfortunately I'm not familiar with any good hamburger places dead centre downtown.

          1. re: lagatta

            gourmet burger on bishop is not bad at all

            1. re: lagatta

              M:Brgr for upscale burgers. Very pricey, but I do find them tasty. I had a big mac rip off at M:Brgr last year, and it was fantastic!

              Buns for good priced, honest burgers, with a nice side of pickle and fried potatoes. And Picks also had excellent burgers, but I swore off the place after several poor service experiences. I wonder if they've worked all that out?

              There is always the classic Mister Steerburger as well, which for nostalgias sake I went to last week. I found the big, fat patties to be well seasoned and cooked, and hit the grilled burger spot on a cold winter day.

              1. re: Gregoso

                Have too completely disagree about M:Brgr in my book it is on the same level as Queue de Cheval in complete lack of price-to-quality ratio. All the times I have been there (maybe 3-4 times on somebody elses dime) I was told a) I can't have a rare burger (a place that charges this much should be grinding steaks for their patties, Mister Steer can do it), b) was served a greyish, dry, tastes like sawdust, obviously precooked then reheated patty and c) could do without the "you are lucky to be eating here" vibe from the staff.

                YMMV but stay the hell away from this place...and this review is not directed at you Gregoso, taste is an individual thing! :)

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