The Burger Questers discover if Belle Southern Kitchen’s picture-perfect patties are worth their salt

White Gravy’s Review

“Without darkness there can be no light”.

Fellow Questers … there is a deal that we must make.

One of the things that myself and “The Bun” wrestle with is how to handle bad burgers.

When we started this journey many years ago, we relentlessly attacked the subjects of our negative reviews with little regards to those that were our subjects.

With maturity comes greater empathy for others. And therein lies the struggle.

For if this is to work, and for us to be able to tell you where to spend your precious burger budgets, we must be able to be honest about what we encounter. If every burger was the same … if every burger was good … there would be no reason for our being.

Those criticisms must be measured and written with some humanity, for behind each burger is someone working hard to make it.

But the deal we must make is that you should still expect honesty from us. And if a burger is bad, we must tell you.

I bring this up, for this week, we encounter a disappointing burger from folks that seem to be trying really darn hard. 

Belle Southern Kitchen and Bar can be found on 4th Street in the Beltline, on that stretch where many eateries have found success, but many more have found failure. Opening earlier this year, Belle is one of the more recent entries into Calgary’s growing BBQ scene. But not surprisingly they also offer their own burger: the Two Four Burger. 

The name itself is confusing as it is available as a double (two 4oz patties) or a single (one 4oz patty), yet both are called the Two Four. I don’t get it. But it also doesn’t matter except perhaps as a sign of the lack of attention to detail that is the main reason why this burger underwhelms.

I went for the single, and upon arrival, everything looked in order. However, it is a burger completely devoid of any flavour balance.

In fact, there are only two things you can taste: salt (which I will defer to my partner on) and the bitterness of the mixed greens.

The latter, for me, is the biggest problem with this burger. Mixed greens are simply not a good choice. The role of lettuce in a burger is primarily for texture, but it shouldn’t be one of the main flavours, let alone the dominant taste.

The not-so-special sauce tasted good when tried alone, but was not present otherwise (again because of the overwhelming nature of the greens).

I couldn’t figure out if the meat itself was a frozen patty or simply poorly cooked. And that is telling in and of itself.

In short, it seemed it was prepared by someone who doesn’t love or understand burgers.

And that makes sense. Belle’s wheelhouse is BBQ and the sampling of their sauces suggests they are very good at it.

But this isn’t BBQ Quest (patent pending), this is Burger Quest.

And on that front, Belle fails.

Wonderbun’s Review

I think you have to experience things to have taste. You have to have a compelling concept, follow through on some form of execution on that concept. Sample, share your results, solicit opinions — then stack these opinions against your initial intent and personal ideas to see if you can live with the results. From there you tweak and nurture. Through a commitment to this process you creep ever closer to the sublime, transcendence or elevated state that you set out to achieve in the first place. Alternately you can take an idea for a burger, full of assumption — unscrutinized, and dress it up with luscious colour, great marketing, unbelievably slick photos, assume that it will be amazing and pass it off off as an instant burger classic.

You would think I would learn the lessons taught by the Quest, but lessons are in the now, they are boring and beg far to much introspection. As I alluded to in the last Quest, a picture is worth a thousand words. But until you experience what is in the picture you have no taste. You do not know if the thousand words will be joyfully wept upon whilst writing them or filled with self loathing vitriol for having been catfished yet again. And I have been. 

I know, I know, I hate myself for not seeing the greens and tomato underneath the patties — stewing in the post grill meat heat pressed down upon ingredients that typically are held high in the stack to maintain crispness. Now I could be wrong about this. There may, after all, be some of you out there that pop your salads into the microwave for a minute before diving into heavy, watery heaves of mixed greens and Romas.

There is a special sauce on this burger, that when tasted on its own, is on par with the delicious and skillfully crafted BBQ sauces that are brought to your table to sample with artisanal potato chips as you peruse the menu. Delicious. I decided on the Two Four Burger, which is crafted with two 4oz patties and four slices of processed cheese. On its own the cheese was every bit what you should expect of American cheese. I was confused when my burger was served on a larger industrial looking bun topped with every seed except sesame, while White Gravy’s was served on the more appealing looking bun from the picture of the Two Four that had hooked me in the first place. So started my ideal vs. reality hangover with this burger. The pickles look to be made in house and are really good. They don’t pack a heavy flavour, but there are a few more than normal added to the stack which should have been enough to impart their desired and intended flavour to the profile of this burger.

Belle Southern Kitchen is really well put together. From the walls stocked with yummy brown liquors to a menu that reads like a Southern bible. Everything fussed over and intentional yet relaxed and easy. This is except for the meat of the matter. As burger anatomy goes, this stack should be a few simple tweaks away from the sublime. Unfortunately the amount of salt and seasoning in the meat takes your mouth on a ride into the subversive.

For the kids: It’s like the chef ripped out a muppet tongue to be used for taste testing. For the grandparents: You know those Flintstone scenes where Fred gets a bottle of alum rubbed on his lips and they shrivel to little raisin flaps? For the Gen X/Y-ers: After two bites I felt like the shrunken head safari guy sitting in the waiting room staring at Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. For the millennials: It did to me what Bieber has done to you.

Besides the salt, these patties have the snap of a frozen burger though the meat is very much high quality. It leads me to believe that perhaps they are pre-made with quality cuts then frozen for convenience and longevity.

I get it, Belle Southern Kitchen is a BBQ house not a burger joint, but there is a burger on the menu that shows like a prize fighter on the web — of course this idiot is going to try it. I would be happy to try it again if you can convince the meat to stop crying like a baby in a movie theatre and let me enjoy the rest of the show. Remember, just my opinion and you should take it with a grain of salt. 

(Illustration courtesy Jeff Bray.)

White Gravy enjoys the visible looks of judgemental disgust he receives when glugging down an order of A&W gravy like it was Root Beer. Wonderbun is known as amenable in some circles, but is a punisher to the scales that weigh him.