Bus: STM 106, 113, 123, 406, 495
Visit: March 29, 2012
As someone who keeps an eye out for new burgers, I am always very pleased to hear when something new shows up. The bigger joy is when a place opens up in an area where you can’t really find something you want. In that case, Lasalle recently welcomed a new restaurant opened by someone who is quite familiar to the restaurant scene. Saul Ettinger’s latest offering is his fourth stab at bringing us the very best in smoked meat and burgers. If we have learned from the other places he had a hand in, this one should be quite something.
Ettingers caught my eye a few months back, as I was doing my normal burger research. The fact that it was opening in Lasalle was a very big plus for me, as there aren’t any previous Burger Search locations that could be found in one of my favorite parts of town. When I heard the claims of having quite the burger on radio ads that aired on TSN 990, I just had to go. The ads also made claims of having quite the smoked meat and I wasn’t about to do both in one sitting, so that’s where regular eater Steakman comes in. With our two bases covered, we were off to Lasalle.
The anticipation was actually quite something. Steakman actually did some online research in preparation for this outing. I was surprised when he told me that he was looking forward to it. On our approach to the restaurant, the second he saw the sign, the very same one in the photo above, he knew that it would be something. He didn’t even have to set foot in the door to know that we were going to have quite the experience.
To ensure that we didn’t repeat our waiting experience from Del Friscos, I actually went ahead and made reservations online the day before. It was quite the simple experience. The restaurant actually called me the next day to confirm. On the phone, they seemed to be concerned on whether I wanted a seat next to a window. I didn’t really honestly care, as I thought the night time would make window sitting kind of useless for the sake of picture taking.
Upon entry, we were greeted by the person I believe I talked to on the phone. Before we got seated, the question of whether or not we wanted a window seat came up again. Like I just mentioned, they could’ve sat me on the roof of the place (I’m afraid of heights, if you must know) and I would’ve been as happy as can be. If something is worth it, you’ll tough anything out.
In all, the whole reservation process was done in vain. The restaurant wasn’t as full as we would’ve liked it to have been. There was still a fair amount of people sitting and coming in, but not enough to warrant an actual reservation for us. From where we were sitting, I didn’t quite get a good look at the entire floor of the restaurant, but the tables I did see were about half full.
For what it was, the decor was astounding. I don’t know how many times Steakman mentioned that it was higher class than any deli he’s ever been to. It really was something. The tables were quite nice for my taste. But it was when we got a closer look at everything on it when things stepped up a notch.
These are black table napkins. I’ve never seen these before in my entire 2.5 year search. I might be a bit oblivious, but to me, this is something. I’ll probably have people telling me that these are not so uncommon. The black napkins, to me, are quite the touch. I was ready to move one, when Steakman pointed out the next small detail.
I’ve never taken a picture of cutlery this close before and if you can see, you’ll know why I did in this particular instance. The knife has someone’s name on it. From what I know, Josef Strauss silverware isn’t that cheap. This is all the small little details and fine touches that makes a restaurant dining experience what it is supposed to be. We didn’t eat much of anything at this point and we were ready to call this a victory.
The other big time highlight was the service. The person assigned to our table may have been extremely busy, but they were quite good. Just about all of our interactions with this person were positive. All our needs and questions were taken care of. Unlike other servers who aren’t happy to be there, this person was full of energy. We all know of places where the server can just zap the flow of an evening. On this night, our server just added momentum to our evening.
We decided to start our evening by splitting mozzarella sticks. Now, in the first history-marking fact of the evening, I never, in my life, ever had mozzarella sticks before up to this point. Mozzarella sticks are basically battered up and deep fried. Who can argue with that?
The first we noticed was the size of these sticks. Steakman noted how they were the size of chicken wings. The crust was a little too overdone, but in such a way that it didn’t really bother you once you got to the inner gooey cheesy middle. For me, since this was my first mozzarella stick experience, I was more than happy with that. Then again, I didn’t have much to compare it with.
The sauce that came with the sticks was something a kin to pizza sauce. In reality, it was a spicy marinara sauce. To me, it wasn’t as spicy as I would’ve liked it to be, but then again, I’m not big on spice. The mozzarella sticks really hit the spot, whether they be with or without the sauce.
Saul’s Original Smoked Meat Sandwich
This is a smoked meat pile stacked on rye bread with Ettingers mustard. The platter is completed with curly fries and coleslaw. Steakman was the one who ordered this and he decided to switch his curly fries for sweet potato fries. The upgrade will cost you an extra 2 dollars. Having tried one of his fries, I can tell you that it’s really worth the upgrade, most sweet potato fries are.
Even though Steakman was satisfied with what he ordered, he still had a few points that he needed to mention. He pointed out the fact that the smoked meat was a little dry for his taste. What saved the sandwich experience for him was that it wasn’t salty at all. Steakman, in a way, can’t stand the Montreal icon smoked meat place because it’s too darn salty. This sandwich, for him, was better than that place on that point alone.
This burger contains lettuce, tomatoes, onions, Ettingers mustard, cheese, and bacon. To be clear, the cheese and bacon did not come with the actual burger. I had to ask for extra bacon and cheese to round out my burger experience. So, that addition will cost you 2 dollars for the bacon and a dollar fifty for the cheese. You can also get extra smoked meat or pulled pork for 3 dollars.
I have to make another admission, I wasn’t originally going to take this burger. My eyes were always on the Full Bull, a 1 pound monster burger. I’m calling it that just based on the actual half pound burger I consumed. I’m trying to eat less and not spend all my money, so this was the better option. I already had my lunch, a free Tim Horton’s double-chocolate doughnut (thanks to a colleague), an apple (thanks to a student, so I guess students do bring teachers apples), and the appetizers. I wasn’t about to die in the middle of the meal, with so many other burgers to try. So, in the end, I thought picking the simplest burger was the safest and more reasonable option, or so I thought.
Before I get to the actual burger itself, I have to mention that there is quite the variety of burgers you can have here. Ranging from BBQ to smoked meat, you’ll have just as hard a time of choosing as I did.
The first thing I have to note about this burger is the size. The picture doesn’t do it justice, it’s a real handful and that’s the way I like my burgers. For a half pound burger, believe me, it’s quite the conquest.
The placement of the burger is the next thing I noticed. I don’t really like it when my lettuce and tomatoes are under the beef, but this was somewhat different. Just to be clear, tomatoes have disastrous effects on bread, the juices can just demolish the bottom bun. The restaurant was smart here, placing the layer of lettuce below the bread, creating a buffer between the liquid coming from the tomatoes and the bottom bun. That really impressed me.
The bread was of quality as well. You’ll notice that the bread and meat are equal in diameter, which lessens any major structural issues you can have with a burger of this size. My only falling apart worries came at the very end, when I was too beat to be aware enough to keep this thing together. The bread was thick enough to hold the half pound burger in place quite well.
I won’t mention the bacon or cheese much because they played their role well enough. The player I will mention is the beef. I analyzed this beef quite a bit while eating it. It was cooked to a nice pinkish color. It also passed my squeeze test when I saw juices coming out. The only downside was that with the sheer size of it, I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I would’ve liked. Don’t get me wrong, when you combine it with the rest of the burger, it’s very much acceptable.
In all, I was very pleased with my burger here. I would actually seriously consider coming back to see the other options. I was also considering not putting bacon on the burger and instead going for smoked meat. But, you should know me by now, I can’t pass up bacon, ever.
In the past 2.5 years, since starting the Burger Search, I’ve had a single rule that I followed and broke only once (because that item was disgusting). That rule was to eat everything that I ordered for myself, regardless of how I felt. Let’s face it, that’s a pretty self-harming rule to have. I’ve actually managed to be almost 60 lbs. lighter since Burger 1 in 2009 and I hope to keep things that way. So, here is the proof of a change in the tide, leftovers.
The restaurant gave us so many curly fries that we didn’t know what to do with them. They were good and well worth it, but we had to pace ourselves if we wanted to finish strong. So, in a moment I’m proud of, the server took my plate back with curly fries left on it, though while waiting, I did pick a little bit more at it after taking this picture.
Originally, the plan was to do dessert at the same restaurant. But, Steakman saw a Dairy Queen on Dollard and he was quite ready to set out over there. If it wasn’t for the server pushing it a bit, there would be no dessert at all. I also made the decision tougher for him when I ordered something for myself.
The server’s role in the evening was at its greatest at this point of the evening. The dessert menu was mentioned and the point was made that it was in the process of being revamped. So, we were down to cheesecake, carrot cake, and chocolate cake. My choice was quite easy and I ordered a 7 dollar chocolate cake. Steakman’s choice wasn’t that easy.
At first, the choice between carrot and cheesecake wasn’t tempting him at all. For some reason, he never really considered the chocolate cake. So, he ordered coffee and called it a night. He was set on Dairy Queen and ice cream. It wasn’t until the server mentioned the magic words of Dulce de Leche that Steakman was torn. If you remember the last post on the GBS, you’ll know that we recently had Dulce de Leche. Steakman doesn’t like cheesecake and he mentioned that someone he knew boldy stated that cheese has no place in dessert. With a little Mr. Lew encouragement, he finally bit the cheesecake bullet and succumbed to Dulce de Leche cheesecake.
Dulce De Leche Cheesecake
When the cake arrived, he wisely asked to try a piece of the chocolate cake and waited for me to try his cheesecake before making his first attempt at it. I’ll you this, when you take a bite of this cheesecake, you won’t really detect cheese at all. I’m no fan of cheesecake either and can tell you that I wouldn’t of ordered it either. The bigger turn-off on this cake for me was the caramel.
So, with my bold no cheese admission to think of, he finally took a bite. What came next was the biggest sigh of relief I ever saw from him. He was the proud victim of a Dulce de Leche cheesecake. Would he ever eat regular cheesecake after this? Probably not.
Here is the other reason why I didn’t go and do the Full Bull burger, a nice decadent chocolate cake. For me, most normal chocolate cakes that I try are dry and I get tired of eating them after two bites. This cake was so much more different. The cake was quite moist and delivered from bell to bell. I cannot complain whatsoever about this cake. It was worth each and every penny of the 7 dollars it was price at.
I’m so glad that Ettingers set up shop in Lasalle or anywhere for that matter. What you’ll get is solid smoked meat and a pretty decent burger. The combination of service, decor, and quite good dessert made this visit one that I won’t forget for a while. I really do hope that Ettingers is around for a very long time and that it does well, because I really want to go back.