The Rock puts a wedge between Wonderbun and White Gravy as the Burger Quest continues

White Gravy’s Review

Sometimes we get it wrong.

It is hard to admit, but let’s face it … getting things wrong is something we are all very good at.

I say this because with this week’s review I think I may have it wrong.

The Rock is located on that weird little part of 17th Ave. S.W. that sits west of 14th Street (1446 17 Ave. S.W.), just beyond the “standard stroll.” While it has been open since 2010, I only heard about it recently, and I suspect for many of you this is also the first time it will be on your radar.

Their premise is: “Quality Ingredients, Unrivaled Food. A menu designed with YOU in mind,” and “high quality food without breaking the bank.”

A noble cause to be sure.

When you walk into The Rock you are greeted by a warm and enthusiastic staff. These folks are proud of their food and what they are building. And it shows. The menu boasts an impressive array of burger choices starting with a lineup of meat options: bison, boar, elk, lamb and others. In many ways, it reminds me of a Calgary institution — Burger Inn.

These are all good things.

The available toppings are fairly standard, but it is always good to have the option to slap an egg on your burger (which I did). The staff also pushed brie as an option, but I chose to go with standard cheddar ignoring my curiosity out of fear that brie would overpower all the other flavours.

Boy this all sounds right up my alley doesn’t it? And yet as I dug in, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I looked up and observed Wonderbun gleefully consuming his burger with great joy, with moans of pleasure escaping from his lips. To my left, the third member of our merry band, was similarly wolfing down every bite with pure joy.

And yet as I returned to mine, that ecstasy remained beyond my reach.

I just didn’t like it.

And I don’t know why.

Was I having a bad day? Was I not hungry enough? Were my expectations too high?

I really don’t know.

All I can say is that while I cannot BQ certify The Rock, nor can I, with a clean conscience, tell you NOT to go there.

In fact I think you should. I think you should ignore this review. Go there. Try it. Decide for yourself.

Because sometimes we are wrong.

Wonderbun’s Review

The first cook-to-order burger I ever had was a medium rare 1/3 pounder at the Union Square Cafe in NYC. I liked my steaks that way, so logic would dictate if you have a burger cooked the same way then it should produce at least a similar result. I was a bit taken aback by the softness of the meat in relation to the bun. There was a squish factor that was very foreign to a kid raised in the well-done patty standards that fell under the Alberta Health Standards of the times. Despite the textural experience I was processing with this burger, the flavour of the meat came flying through.

As my burger journey goes, this was the moment when I made the connection between the cook on the patty playing a huge role in the flavour of the meat. Ever since then, and that was years ago, when given the opportunity to have a cook-to-order burger I always ask for half way from medium rare to medium. This may be splitting hairs for some (sorry for mentioning hair), but I have always speculated that there is a sweet spot between medium rare and medium where you get all the flavour of the beef with the right tooth or texture to balance against the rest of the stack. Every time I have ordered this way I either get medium rare or a medium burger and I am left wondering if I have been chasing a myth — or if there even is secret cook level for a burger that takes us one step closer to burger nirvana.

As a sage elder of the morals, ethics and taboos of burgers across my decades I will leave the movement of battle lines in argument of bison, boar, elk, lamb, etc considered as burger meat to the next generation. Upon entering The Rock I was very much met with enthusiastic and friendly service that urged towards these nouveau cuts of meat as featured in the specials of the day. I kindly waited out the waiters suggestions full well knowing that I already knew my burger path for this quest. While suggestions of “lamb and brie” this and “wild boar and blue cheese” that were falling out of our host’s mouth my mind was oscillating between ideas of my having become stuck in my ways versus the possibility that generations to come may never set any definitions or limitations on themselves — leading to a world where an escaped cow that has found its way between the head-on collision of two self-driving smart cars may be considered a hamburger.

Our hosts cadence of specials was slowing and after internally scolding myself as an apocalyptic alarmist, I stepped past the suggested specials, embraced my quest and assembled a classic bacon cheese burger from options on the menu:

• Cheese Bun

• Tomato, lettuce, onion

• Cheddar cheese and bacon

• Beef patty, cooked to order — half way from medium rare to medium

I left suitable condiments up to the chef.

I could see into the kitchen as my patty was sizzling in a cast iron pan over gas. I watched a man with passion and exactness tend to my burger, hence my use of the term “chef” in the previous sentence. This patty was not just cranked out and slapped onto the mix like a flapjack on a pile — it was fawned over and set like a hero onto its mantel.

Little brown jewels caught my eye as I pulled this distinguished looking burger to my mouth and there is was. A golden state where the render of fats, and the tensile fibres of protein had arrived at a state of perfect undulation — the balance of taste and texture had been achieved and a subplot of my quest had been realized. Succulence and texture with every bite.

I had to adjust my chair to angle away from White Gravy. Two small tears were forming in the corner of my eyes. I did not want this moment to be spoiled by the not-so favourable look he had on his face. I remembered the ol’ burger bible verse: “Don’t cast your jewels before the troglodytes for they are simple teeth gnashing gullet fillers who care nothing of a higher truth.”

As I enjoyed each bite I could not help but think that this burger may have planted a dangerous seed, a Trojan horse that could invade the almost unanimous views held by White Gravy and myself. 

The flavour profile of this burger was not perfect, but something perfect was within this burger.

Hear my words, because Wonderbun is never wrong.

(Illustration by Jeff Bray.)

Wonderbun holds American Cheese to standards higher than he holds to other burger lovers. Eat well you fat beasts. White Gravy is enjoying the return of Circle K to the Calgary market, but is disappointed that the “Two for 99 cent burger packages” are not part of that return.