Questers find delicious burger redemption in Inglewood Drive-In’s inspiring comeback

White Gravy’s Review

We love a good comeback … a story of redemption.

It doesn’t really matter who it is or what they did before … we are a forgiving people who love to see someone get back up on their feet, dust themselves off and crawl back on top.

A couple of weekends ago, literally millions of people sat glued in front of their TVs (or whatever device they use) rooting on Tiger Woods. We don’t need to delve into his sordid past, but suffice to say it was another example of what I’m talking about.

As is Inglewood Drive-In.

In the original Burger Quest, no burger joint scored lower than Inglewood D.I.

And no review sparked more anger or hate email.

And it was not without some regret that we rated it so poorly.

For some reason, I have worked most of my life in the Ramsay area, just a little south of Inglewood.

I love this area. And the people who live and work here.

I was a regular at Inglewood Drive-In (802 12 St. S.E.). Probably at least once a week … sometimes more. The menu was fairly simple, but the burgers were solid and good value for the dollar. The mushroom burger in particular was great, with a steaming mound of freshly fried mushrooms heaped on top of a “good enough” slab meat.

But then they changed ownership. I liked the folks that took over. They clearly cared and worked to renovate the aging building. They expanded the menu, offering a much larger selection to draw in the local business traffic, and families on the weekend.

But I didn’t like the food and rated it as such.

And I hadn’t gone back. For years.

Until last week.

Inspired by the need to get a quest in, and an all-too-short lunch break, The Bun and I made an “on the fly” decision to give Inglewood Drive-In another go, making it the subject of our first ever Burger Re-Quest.

And I’m glad we did.

I don’t know when things improved. For all I know, it could have been years ago. I can only tell you that the burgers are much better now.

The meat is fresher and the toppings well balanced.

The atmosphere is great, with the décor harkening back to your favourite burger drive-in. The folks behind the counter are the same that took over so many years ago. Hard working, friendly and clearly still caring deeply about the little slice of burger heaven they bought.

I debated giving them the BQ Certification, but Inglewood falls a little short. However, it is both the most improved burger I’ve had in some time, and worthy of your burger bucks.

I’m not nearly arrogant enough to think that our original review played a role in their efforts to improve the quality of their food. But I have gobs of respect for anyone that sees an opportunity to improve and then actually does it.

They’ve made a comeback. And as a result I will go back.

And so should you.

Wonderbun’s Review

Soggy, wilted, greasy, frozen, apathy, “good enough,” stale, uninspired …

These, or close to it, were the descriptors that White Gravy and I used to absolutely slay Inglewood Drive-In with a write up some years back. Circumstance and probably some wisdom called us back to investigate the opinions and perceptions that led us to one of our bloodiest crusades in Burger Quest history.

Memory is a blurry beast — the appetite and consumption of too many syndicated CSI type crime shows has taught culture that your eyewitness account of anything is a grease smear at best — which only gets more opaque as you get further and further away from the event. When I think back on my first Inglewood Drive-In burger, I recall a bun that seemed to have been stored under a warm, wet dish cloth and a stack of encyclopedias. The pickle hung out of the stack like a tongue making rude noises. The frozen patty was smoking a cigarette and the toppings were nursing a wicked hangover, having been out all night on a bender of hormones and antibiotics.

Despite my vitriol and memories of scorn for this burger, at the time, I do clearly recall finishing my burger in its entirety. Which calls into question my ability to be impartial with any burger — fact is if you stack it up sideways to disgusting, more than likely I will still chew through the lowest of quality to get to the wrapper. (I’m not proud just addicted.)

Stepping into Inglewood Drive-In for a second time felt like a perpetrator returning to the scene of the crime to revel in their handy work. I felt a sudden want for a fake moustache, nose and glasses. Unlike our first Quest the restaurant was filled with plenty of witnesses, this time in the form of customers. I ordered their version of a California cheeseburger with a bag of crinkle fries and a bottle of Coke — Single Bacon Cheddar Combo on the menu.

Hand-pressed patty with the right balance of fat, economical but tasty bun, a tangy slice of process cheese that brought flavour and creaminess, toppings and condiments that were fresh and crisp … It was not long before I was at the scene of the crumbs.

I love it, we lashed out at this burger and Inglewood Drive-In did not flinch. They seemed to have steadily moved towards their goal and have obviously upped their game. I would love to take some credit, but criticism is easy whereas change is hard. Someone has knuckled down and re-envisioned the food that is being served in one of Calgary’s last authentic drive-thrus. These burgers have been elevated to a level worthy of this historic joint.

Tiger Woods, Martha Stewart, Robert Downey Jr. — as a species, we are all up for a comeback story. Yes, we are selfish animals and can derive pleasure through the failure of others, but no one wants to fall through the bottom of schadenfreude to find themselves bitter and alone in an existential void shaped like a Big Mac. We wallow in the misfortune of others, but desperately hope they pull out of the nosedive. Inglewood Drive-In has done the work to pull themselves into a place far beyond that which we first found them. I would like to catch a ride on their tail winds as this burger joint ascends to higher levels, but this is all you Inglewood Drive in.

White Gravy recently drove all the way to Saskatoon to go to Fuddruckers, only to find that it was closed. Wonderbun constantly complains that they don’t make things like they used to in reference to his clothes continuously shrinking wash after wash.