YYC Burger Battle 2018: Naina’s, the Embarcadero and Elwood & the Rabbit

This week was the annual YYC Burger Battle! From Friday, June 15 through Sunday, June 24, we were treated to some of the wildest burgers our local restaurants could cook up while supporting the Alex, a local organization dedicated to supplying health care, housing and food to some of our most vulnerable Calgarians.

Nainas Sugar Rush
Does anyone else still think about last year’s curd-stuffed beauty on the donut-glazed bun?

Naina’s Kitchen won last year with the Canadian Sugar Rush. You can read my love letter to that iconic burger here! For 2018, I decided once again to pit them up against some stiff competition.

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We started at Naina’s with the Corn Fritters & Honey Butter – OMG.

This year, Naina’s Kitchen made a splash with the Boozy Burger ($17.95), a concoction based on an 8 oz red wine-basted beef burger. In true Naina’s fashion, it was stuffed with tequila lime chicken, salsa and sauvignon-blanc brined feta, then topped with whiskey bacon, beer infused onion rings, lettuce, stout mustard, vodka pickles and martini mayo. Fortunately for the sake of our Sunday afternoon chores, the alcohol was cooked off in most of the ingredients.

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Naina’s Boozy Burger

Less fortunate was the burger itself. We found that there were just too many elements and they didn’t all work together harmoniously – last year’s Canadian Sugar Rush was oozing cheese and pickled onions and had a sticky-sweet donut bun, but those seemingly contradictory flavours all synched up to create a balanced bite. This year, most of the toppings felt a bit too acidic due to all the extra liquor. Even the bacon didn’t pack its usual savoury punch and instead served as a salty highlight to some of the more vinegary ingredients. It was also particularly difficult to eat. Don’t get me wrong – Naina’s is always a messy experience – but this time things felt a little slapped together. 

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A bit too boozy and also hard as heck to eat

We were disappointed by their entry this year, but Naina’s is still one of my favourite spots for the kind of meal that leaves you needing to lie down flat in a dark, quiet room and focus on your breathing. Until next time, Naina’s!

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Brussel Sprouts with Birch Gastrique, Bacon & Granola

I hadn’t heard of newcomer Elwood & the Rabbit before seeing them pop up on the list of Burger Battle contenders. They’re in an adorable space in Bridgeland and they definitely know how to rock a unique sharing menu. While we were there, we tried an order of the brussel sprouts ($12) with birch gastrique, bacon and granola as well as the soy marinated strip loin ($14.5) with charred green onion, smoked shallot coulis and kimchi. Both dishes were really tasty and well-balanced – we’ll have to come back for more soon!

Hungry in Calgary | Elwood Strip Loin
Soy Marinated Beef Strip Loin with Kimchi & Smoked Shallot Coulis

Their feature burger, the Figgin Blue ($23), was a 7 oz house ground beef burger stuffed with stilton cheese, sandwiched inside a house made bun and topped with smoked onion jam, fresh greens, ginger & honey ketchup and a fig and bourbon spread.

Hungry in Calgary | Elwood Fig
The Figgin Blue with Stilton Cheese, Smoked Onion Jam, Ginger Honey Ketchup & Fig Bourbon Spread

This was a really nice burger with good quality beef and unique toppings, though we were a bit disappointed by the stilton having dissolved somewhere in the cooking process, leaving a faintly blue-cheese flavoured abscess in the burger patty. The true star of the show was the side of potato rosti, which showed off a perfect, crisp sear surrounding the smoothest, most savoury mashed potatoes. They serve these as a side with their everyday cheeseburger, too – definitely worth a try!

Hungry in Calgary | Embarcadero Crab
Crab Dip with Warm Flatbread

Matt and I were both very excited to see the $21 Seafood Burger on the Burger Battle menu this year. Having never been to the Embarcadero wine & oyster bar before, despite living a five minute walk away for years, we decided to make a meal of it and split a bottle of rosé with the burger, crab dip ($12) and spicy calamari ($12). I want to make something very clear: the Embarcadero’s crab dip is the best new thing in our lives, and we’re expecting a niece in August (sorry, Kirsten and Brad). This thing was packed full of crab meat in every bite! The warm flatbread that was served with it was tender and chewy with a golden brown outer crust that held up to the dip wonderfully. I highly recommend you check it out, ideally on their gorgeous greenery-covered patio.

Hungry in Calgary | Embarcadero Burger
The Seafood Burger with a Panko-Crusted Lobster/Crab/Shrimp Patty on a House Baked Bun with Bacon, Avocado, Spinach, Onion, Pickles & Tarragon Aioli, Garnished with a Fried Oyster

The burger came with a panko-crusted lobster, crab and shrimp patty on a house baked bun with bacon, avocado, spinach, onion, dill pickle and tarragon aioli all topped with a deep fried oyster. It was like a lobster roll and a platter of shrimp tempura had a sweet, juicy, delicious baby. I would have left off the avocado and bacon, personally, because the seafood was really busy doing its thing. The freshly shucked and battered oyster was tasty, even to us non-oyster lovers. The house baked bun was fluffy and satisfying and held up well to all the slippery ingredients. The huge pile of steaming hot hand-cut fries were perfect for dunking into our decadent crab dip!

I didn’t think going into this that the seafood burger would be my favourite, but in terms of value, novelty and pure deliciousness, this burger (or sandwich, as purists would say) knocked it out of the park!

Going back and taking a look at this week’s burger offerings already has me excited for the 2019 battle! It was so great to be able to support the Alex this year while eating indulgent food (and breathing very heavily). I look forward to finding out which wonderful cause and wild burgers will be highlighted next year!

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