Knights of the Burger Quest enter the Dragon’s Lair to slay the mythical, meaty beast

White Gravy’s Review

One of the unwritten rules of The Quest is that you get one opportunity.

Sink or swim.

Soar or plummet.

Impress or fail.

Second chances are rarely offered.

Consistent high quality is needed to earn our ribbon.

But this week we encountered an entry so confusing, that a rare exception was made, to ensure our verdict could be rendered with little doubt. 

Dragon’s Lair is located in the food court of Westsbrook Mall.

Walking into this aging shopping centre is a step back in time.

A wave of nostalgia washes over you, as you find yourself surrounded by an odd array of discount stores, way too many mobile phone vendors, tax services, barbers and a board game store that also sells small kitchen gadgets.

It smells of Orange Julius, bad cologne (coming from tax services office), cleaning product and sweat. 

That sounds rather unpleasant, but it is all that type of weirdness that is familiar and comfortable.

Local burger historians (is that a thing? Let’s pretend it’s a thing) will recall that Dragon’s Lair is set up in the same spot that Xtreme Burger used to occupy. I actually had a soft spot for that place and their spin on a Mozza Burger.

But Dragon’s Lair has taken things up a notch, with an extensive menu of burger options, fresh ingredients and not-frozen meat.

They’ve garnered their share of accolades including regularly taking home some hardware in YYC’s Burger Week.

A lot of promise. But the end results on my first visit weren’t great. It left me underwhelmed, confused and feeling that I was somehow to blame.

When confronted with all the options and combinations (and there are a LOT) I froze, before belching out that I wanted swiss cheese, an egg and mushrooms (not fried).

To no surprise, given those idiotic decisions, the flavours didn’t come together.

But I felt it was my fault.

Perhaps it was me and not you Dragon’s Lair.

So like my fellow knight I tore up the rules and returned.

And for this second quest I went back to basics.

A quarter pounder with cheddar cheese and standard toppings.

If one can’t produce a solid cheeseburger, then the ruling can’t be questioned. No reasonable doubt remains.

Going simple with my second quest isolated some of the root problems. The fresh meat was under-seasoned leaving it with an odd taste.

The inclusion of diced romaine lettuce was irritating. Stop over thinking the lettuce folks! It is there for texture only. I don’t want to ACTUALLY taste it.

Everything else was just….meh.

This is a good food court burger. But it isn’t a good burger.

It turns out it’s not me this time. It’s you DL. All you.

Wonderbun’s Review

Obviously, a Quest is bound to end up at a Dragon’s Lair at some point. The knight, who has travelled and battled through some metaphor of a dark forrest arrives at the mouth of a cave which harbours the most terrible of fears in the form of a monstrous dragon. Knight fights valiantly and inevitably defeats said dragon — goes home tells exaggerated tales of bravery, gets shiny new armour, the king’s honour and the hand of a princess. Yada yada, blah blah blah, so goes the way the British used make sense of their fears and also govern themselves long before the fires of Brexit.

Legends of The Dragons’ Lair have been all the buzz in burger jousting competitions around Calgarylot for a while now. I’m not sure if I got these completely right:

2016 YYC Burger Week Bronze medalist

2018 YYC Burger Battle Final Cook Off Champion

2015/16 Alberta Burger Fest Champions

I believe the list goes on.

The point is that they put their burger where their mouth is and stack up in competition. It appears that the Dragon’s Lair is leaving a long list of failed knights in its path to burger supremacy. I was ready to be slain.

On my first journey to the Dragon’s Lair I chose to dress one of their two patty 1/2 pounders up with my classic toppings: cheese (plus an extra slice), bacon (extra), tomatoes, onion, dill pickle mustard and mayo. I ordered onion rings and a fountain coke. With a modest tip this came to just under $20 dollars.

Looking for magic and an opportunity to earn a quest milestone to adorn my armour, I sat down and chewed through my stack. All the elements were in place. Good meat? check. Soft and fresh potato-esque bun? Yup. Zesty cheese? Yes sir. Wow factor? Meh! Bite by bite I slashed wildly at my dragon and it simply offered no fight. It felt more like buying insurance from the GEICO Gecko than confronting the grandest of all reptilian myths.

“Surely there must be another dragon in that lair?” I thought to myself quietly burping up my victory back at work. Too many of the town folk have raved of a mighty dragon that could inflict senselessness with one bite. I must return to the lair.

Searching for a battle, a story, a legend an inspiration to earn my armour and enchant the king’s court to knight me into treasures and pleasures unimaginable, this time I would face the 1/2 pound Jammin Dragon: two quarter pound patties slathered with pimento cheese, bacon jam, pickles, jalapeño and chipotle mayo. Certainly, this was my apex, my fate maker — the battle to end all battles in glory by victory or death …  (Insert “pherp” sound made by letting little blasts of air out of a balloon that you are pinching with your fingers.)

I believe that the greatest of dragon tales were told by knights that were far better at grifting than lifting a sword. The villagers outside the castle walls would fall victim to their imaginations. Animal farts in the night quickly became the roar of dragons to impressionable folk. All too quickly an upwardly mobile lad from the forest, knowing there is no such mythical beast, steps up to the king’s court with the promise of vanquishing this infectious threat overtaking the kingdom.

The king knows this is all theatre but he concedes to the idea that wagging this dog will put fears in check and more importantly systems of revenue back on track. The Lad, alone, back to the fearful crowd, grins as he disappears over the drawbridge, down the path and into the tree line of another innocuous fable. He camps for a week, smears some rabbit blood on his tunic and brings back a smooth unusual looking stone that he will claim was once the eye of the wildest and most ferocious serpent.  Whamo! A hero is born. 

(If you think this is a mischaracterization of human psychology just do a quick Google search for Space Force.)

I cannot bring you a fairytale. In spite of the expected path of the hero, I was hoping that my quest to Dragon’s Lair would have found me completely consumed by the dragon, never to have returned home. Alas, here I am typing — with no tales of bravery, no royal honour, just the carcass of a deflated balloon in my hand and $40 out of pocket.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad burger. It just is not as ferocious as the accolades and word of mouth had suggested. Perhaps this is not my kingdom? You are free to choose your champion but this dragon is too expensive for me to squire for.

Wonderbun embraces pimento cheese as a sacred food that was brought to us by ancient alien cultures for the purpose of achieving transcendence. White Gravy offers Burger Quest nation a challenge to recall the name of the burger place that used to be located in the Beddington Square mall back in the ’80s. He long ago forgot its name and it haunts him. Oh how it haunts him.