Picking “the best” burger(s) to eat in this city is like being a teenage girl in 1998 and picking a favourite Backstreet Boy. It’s practically impossible. We are known for having some of the best beef in the world, so it’s only natural that this city would be teeming with diverse and tasty options for burgers. From local beef, ground in-house to outstanding veggie varieties, here are 11 places where you should make a point of ordering a burger.
The casual burger
When you’re just looking for a quick in-and-out bite, these spots are no fails.
1. CLIVE BURGER
If you’re familiar with Shake Shack in the United States then you’ll find a home sweet home in this busy little burger joint on 17th Avenue. Single, double or triples comprise the menu here, all of which can get dressed with anything from pickles to the secret “clive sauce”. It’s open past 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays too for all of you night owls out there. (cliveburger.com)
2. NAINA'S KITCHEN
Some people may tell you that this is, in fact, the very best burger you can have in Calgary. There’s definitely that made with love kind of feeling in the handmade burgers here, which is what I think people appreciate most. They’ve become famous for stuffing their patties with all sorts of fun, delicious stuff like mac and cheese or pulled pork. It’s the kind of place where you should be indulgent, so go all the way. (nainaskitchen.com)
3. ROCKY'S BURGER BUS
Calling this place a fixture would be fitting because it’s been a Calgary institution for years and it’s also immobile. The cheeseburger with a side of handcut fries or onion rings is the traditional order here, but a poutine on the side is always nice too. The bus is parked right outside of one of the city’s great farmers’ markets, so make sure you pop in to see some amazing local vendors once you’re done your lunch. (rockysburgers.com)
The pub burger
Calgary has a plethora of pubs (and gastro pubs), but these are a cut above the rest.
4. THE SHIP AND ANCHOR
The thing about this burger is the fact that there’s nothing really special about other than that it’s “The Ship Burger”. It’s the pub’s most popular menu item throughout its 25 years of business and at a modest $7.50 with a side of fries or salad, it’s pretty damn economically priced too. Grab a seat on the patio, order this with a pint of their signature Barnacle beer on the side to become officially initiated into the Ship and Anchor clan. (shipandanchor.com)
5. THE LIBERTINE
One of Calgary’s best gastropubs right smack dab in the middle of Stephen Avenue downtown prides itself on many things like a great microbrew selection and buzzing atmosphere, but especially on its burgers. Skip the Alberta beef here and go for the Elk Burger topped with blue cheese, mushroom ragout, and a homemade fig jam. It’s amazingly delicious. (thelibertine.ca)
6. OAK TREE TAVERN
Still a bit of a hidden gem, you’ll find this upper level pub in the Kensington area of the city making some good, honest food. The Applewood Burger (pictured above) is a perfect harmony of applewood smoked cheddar, grilled apples and bacon in addition to the regular fixings, but the real winner here is the vegan burger. The housemade patty is a secret blend of anything from panko bread crumbs to beans and mushrooms and achieves what most veggie burgers can never do: hold together while you bite into it. (oaktreetavern.com)
The ridiculous burger
Both for those not faint of heart and ones with monstrous appetites.
7. CRAFT BEER MARKET'S 20 NAPKIN BURGER
With a name like that, you know you’re in for some heavy eating. Two big patties, beef brisket, bacon and beer cheese are put between a bun and garnished with a slider. Tagged line with “a napkin for every ounce of meat”. Yup, that’s a big dinner indeed. (craftbeermarket.ca)
8. CHARCUT'S SHARE BURGER
At it’s base, this variation on the burger theme is a sausage patty with cheese curds and a fried egg. The major twist is that it costs $2.50 an ounce knowing no limit, so you can order a burger the size of your table if you really wanted. Best make sure the host of Man Vs. Food is your dinner date though. (charcut.com)
9. PIG AND DUKE'S THE PIG
For those of you who appreciate an eating contest any day of the week, try out this gigantic burger at either location (downtown and in the beltline) of this pub. A massive 16 ounce patty, guacamole, pulled pork, back bacon, house-smoked bacon, cheese and onion rings. It’s almost a foot tall! Best of all? If you can down it in 40 minutes (no sharing!) it’s free. Few have accomplished that feat, though. (pigandduke.com)
The unexpected burger
It may not be the first place you’d think to go for a burger, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
10. THE COUP
Open now for over 10 years, Calgary’s premier vegetarian eatery confidently holds its own in a city where steak is on practically every single menu. Not traditional by any means (even by vegetarian patty standards), bite into this to find a smooth mixture of cashews, smoked tofu, garlic and yams topped with dill, red onion and garlic aioli on ciabatta. (thecoup.ca)
11. NÛ BURGER
Sushi-inspired burgers, or “Burgushi” as they are called here are Nû are too unique sounding not to try. Try wagyu beef topped with shiitake mushrooms, teriyaki, wasabi mayo and more for a decent amount of fusion, but venture further into the unknown with the Shabang. Sushi rice wrapped in soy paper replaces a regular bun before it’s grilled and used to sandwich cured salmon and a myriad of toppings. After all, creativity knows no bounds in the food world. (nubsb.com)
Dan Clapson is a food writer and columnist based out of Calgary, Alberta. His published works include restaurant features and chef profiles as well as articles about creating recipes and hands-on culinary experiences. In addition to writing for Food Network Canada and for Avenue and WestJet’s up! magazine, Dan spends time with some of western Canada’s top chefs in professional kitchens to better appreciate the craft of cooking. In fall 2013, he co-founded Eat North, a food-focused media outlet specializing in Canadian cuisine.
Dan has appeared on the Food Network Canada shows Eat St. and You Gotta Eat Here and contributes to FNC online in his popular blog series, Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home. He believes culinary culture can be truly appreciated by approaching food from every angle, and his own appreciation of this is reflected in his writing and on his popular blog, Dan's Good Side.
When he’s not writing or eating, which is rare, Dan can be found teaching university students how to cook through his free cooking program Start From Scratch. He believes that the food he eats is only as good as the company that surrounds him, which is why he is lucky to have some the best friends in the whole, wide world. If you want to know what Dan’s up to, right this very moment, check him out on Twitter.