Metro: Atwater, Guy-Concordia
Bus: STM 15, 24, 57, 63, 66, 90, 104, 108, 138, 144, 150, 165, 166, 435
Visit: November 22, 2011
When I started the Burger Search 2 years ago, there was one place that was always mentioned as being a “worthy” contender to try. Here I am, 120 burgers in and I haven’t tried Picks yet. Located right in the heart of downtown, where many Concordia and Dawson students spend their days, Picks is perfectly suited to take on the avid Montrealer’s food cravings. I’m guessing now was as good a time as any to check another place off my list.
This location was supposed to be visited near the tail-end of the first season of the Burger Search. However, a large variety of mixed reviews really prevented me from taking that leap of faith in trying this place. Boasting one of the most unique pogos (corndogs) in Montreal, you’d think that I would come here sooner just to try the thing, but that wasn’t the case. I often choose locations based on how salivating they tend to be for me. I guess you’re probably wondering why I finally chose this day to come. To that, I have no answer for you.
So, I begin my visit by walking down St-Marc towards Sainte-Catherine. As I’m carefully keeping an eye peeled for the place, I notice a restaurant with lots of people in it. Well, the place I was looking for was right next to it. As I prepared myself to go in, I notice that the really tiny Picks is jam packed with something like 6 individuals filling the place up, leaving only 1 spot left to sit. But, before I entered, I noticed the owner leaving the building to check the parking meter, which seems like something of character, as he did that one more time while I was inside.
From mentioning the owner, you should know that there were only 2 people working the floor during this lunch rush. That’s pretty much double the manpower compared to a previous location named Billy Geez. The owner is a Korean man and the other worker, in the most likelihood, is probably his wife. So, this is a veritable mom and pop shop in the midst of downtown Montreal. He handled the ordering and general customer service as the “wife” did the cooking.
When you step into the restaurant, you’ll notice just how small the place is. As a matter of fact, I believe it’s the smallest Burger Search location I’ve ever been to. There were two tables and a counter attached to the store front. The two tables were monopolized by a group of five students, while one of the two chairs at the counter was taken by another random individual. I was lucky to get the last extremely wobbly stool at that counter. I think it’s the first time that I didn’t take off my coat or hat to eat a meal. Then again, size doesn’t mean anything, it’s all about the food.
Ordering isn’t as cut and dry as a normal kind of restaurant. At first, I wasn’t aware of the ordering system, so I stupidly asked started ordering at the counter like a moron. I was quickly stopped and told to fill out the carefully designed page with a marker. After I drew over all the choices I wanted, I took the 2 steps back to the cash. I think the order review process took more time than it took me to draw a few lines with my marker. I was kind of frustrated a little later when some other people ordered seconds without having to go back and hassle themselves with the paper. If the paper is supposed to speed things up, there shouldn’t be any questioning when you bring it in. Once I submitted my minimalistic art project, I took a seat at the counter and prepared myself for the wait.
When the food was ready, I was summoned to come get the food basket. Now, I watched the owner bring food to other customers. So, after the second time they called me up, I think I got the point. In combination with the experience with the ordering system, I really feel like the customer service aspect was lacking. It’s like all these mechanisms are being put in place to avoid customer contact, especially when you’re in a business that thrives on it.
Before I get to the food itself, I want to address something I overheard while I was eating the burger. Now, by the time I heard the statement, I already made my judgement about the burger. As I was halfway done, some more customers came in and started talking to the owner. Those customers mentioned something about the best burger in Montreal. I was wondering where those people ate regularly to come up with that assumption.
Burger and Kogo
A kogo is a corndog with quite a unique batter. From my research and what I know, there are pieces of potatoes incorporated into the batter, thus giving the unique shape you see.
Outside the burger, this was probably the only real reason why I wanted to come here. To this day, I have never seen any type of food that looks anything like this. It’s so geometrically wrong that it’s worth trying. It’s the kind of attraction that can really drive in tourists to pay their hard earned money to try this unusual pogo. For me, if I had to go on looks alone, I probably wouldn’t try it. I tend to eat food that I find appealing. This is just a little out there.
The taste of the kogo didn’t quite do it for me. I had no problems with the actual hot dog. I think it was the batter that really didn’t satisfy me. Now, it wasn’t the unusual shape that sunk it, but the consistency of the batter itself. I didn’t think it was crispy enough for my taste. You can attribute it either to the fact that I like my pogos really crispy or for the fact that it might of been a little undercooked. Either way, it was a little underwhelming for me.
The controversial thing is that I didn’t take any sauce of any kind for this first ever kogo in my life. I wanted to do that so that I could see how well this creation stood on its own. With the fact that the batter was a little weak, I don’t think something like ketchup or mustard would’ve changed my opinion.
This burger contains lettuce, tomatoes, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, and bacon.
While I was waiting, I was attentively watching the burgers getting prepared at the back of the restaurant. Having read all the various opinions about the burger, I wasn’t too eager or keen about what I was going to receive. So, I was hoping that the inclusion of bacon was going to make things okay.
I believe that the components of the burger that fared the best were the bacon and the caramelized onions. The bacon wasn’t overcooked and tasted fine. There were two medium sized pieces placed into the burger, but they didn’t really stand out enough to save things. The caramelized onions were plentiful in numbers and were probably the best tasting thing in the DoubleBurger. At a point, I had onions nearly everywhere.
The placement of the lettuce was interesting. I watched as they carefully tore pieces of lettuce to put in the burger. The lettuce was put under both patties. So, it soaked up as much grease as humanly possible. Now, after having 2 years worth of burgers, I can say that I need my lettuce on the top of the burger. A soaked piece of lettuce obviously changes consistency and dramatically changes roles in the bigger picture of the burger. It might of soaked up a lot of grease, but not enough as there was still a puddle of grease in the miniature basket.
By far the thing with the biggest impact on me was the meat. Now, usually I use that terminology in a positive light, but this wasn’t so good. Chewing on the meat was a little long and tedious. The taste didn’t really scream out burger to me at all. I’ve heard more than once that their patties are frozen. After eating the meat, I’m pretty sure that they are frozen. I think I had better burger patties at McDonald’s than I had on this day. I think the only burger that reminded me of this was the one I had at Buns. I really wanted to like the burger, but too much wasn’t going my way.
Montreal is a city where burger competition is extremely high. The sheer number of burger restaurants that are out there simply force you to up your game. Picks has so much potential to be bigger than it is, but it isn’t. The uniqueness of the kogo is something that, if consistent, can sell like crazy. The fact that you can customize your burger, even though quite common these days, is something that really draws in people looking for a decent burger. The prices are extremely reasonable and cater to the student crowd around the location. Most of the components to a successful burger restaurant are there, but the equation just wasn’t added up properly.