Burger 143: Hawgs Deli | Mr. Lew's Great Burger Search

6795 Jarry E.
Montreal, Quebec

Bus:  STM 33, 44, 193

Visit:  May 1, 2012

http://www.hawgsdeli.com/

The one thing I’ve stated time and time again was my disappointment with potential Burger Search locations in the eastern part of the island of Montreal.  After 142 burgers, I’ve only really found 1 real burger that was worthy enough to join all the others that came before it.  The burger at Hawgs Deli was another attempt to find a place in the east that would be worth the long trek.  Hawgs has a lot going against it, but it does have a lot helping it as well.

Hawgs is one of those places that can easily get lost in the shuffle.  That particular area of Saint-Leonard is quite jam packed with competition from places like Jarry Smoked Meat and La Station des Sports, both future Burger Search locations.  Up to six months ago, I haven’t even heard of the place.

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been running past my list with my loyal eating colleague Steakman.  When I got to Hawgs, what I got back wasn’t quite the glowing testament of achievements one would have after eating at a worthwhile place.  Even when I told him where I was going earlier in the day, there was a look of disbelief.  In the search, it’s my duty to make sure I turn all the stones, no matter how heavy they may be.  So, with some doubts in my head, I set upon a lengthy bus ride to Saint-Leonard to have my next burger.

If you’re half-asleep like I was on the bus, you might just miss this place.  As you can plainly see, it doesn’t quite look like your average restaurant.  I’ve been to a wide variety of places over the last 3 years and this place takes the cake when it comes to unique buildings.  For a location on the island of Montreal, it really stands out.  In my opinion, it’s the first step is distinguishing yourself from the other bland looking commercial buildings that house burgers or any other kind of food.  Just the plain fact that there were no golden arches to be found was already a plus in my books.

When you enter, you’re immediately hit by the next stage of individuality that this restaurant possesses.  It’s nice of me to say that, but since Hawgs is relatively new, it should thank the people who designed the exterior.  The interior is different, because you obviously can’t be the Eggspectation that used to be here.  It has to reflect the personality of the owner.  As you’ll see, there are a lot of interesting touches that sets this place apart.

This was the first thing that struck me when I was seated.  In the rear dining room, you can’t miss the huge Hawgs sign over the bar.  It was something that I couldn’t resist taking a picture of.  It was basically my first instinct, but something got in the way a bit.  I think I was a witness to the owner having a meeting with a supplier.  They were discussing new products for the menu and having some items brought out to taste.  I just mentioned that because I rarely get to see things like that.

Oinky Oinky Art Work

Banquette

The restaurant is unique for another reason, its opening hours.  Open 24 hours a day and serving breakfast the whole time, it sets itself apart.  There aren’t very many places in Montreal that are open all day, or even serving breakfast at all times.  Even if there are a few of them, their locations are sparsely distributed that it’s nice to have one in the East end.  During my hour there, I didn’t see anyone having breakfast, as everyone was on lunch.

Sometimes I think I have good timing.  I managed to get to the restaurant just in the right moment to take advantage of the daily specials.  For the price of the burger I ordered, I would get a soup and a dessert.  I can’t pass up a good deal when it shows up.  My only concern was whether I could finish all of it without blowing a gasket.  The bigger win in this scenario was the fact that the burger I wanted to order coming in was included in the daily menu.  As soon as I left Hawgs after my meal, I went to the closest lottery vendor and bought as many 6/49 tickets as I had money in my pockets.  Mr. Lew is feeling lucky tonight.  In all seriousness, lucky breaks don’t happen that often and I just had to take full advantage of the full course meal for the price of one burger.

Probably one of the biggest highlights of the meal was the level of service I received.  I just hate it when I show up a little past the lunch rush and the server is completely tuned out or making their clients feel like an imposition.  This server, from the time I walked in to the time I left, made me feel welcomed and comfortable.  Each interaction was done with the utmost enthusiasm and respect, which is what I look for in each server that I get the chance to meet on my treks.

The final thing that was really pulling in Hawgs favor was the glass of iced tea that I received.  In the 3 years of me doing the Burger Search, I’ve never seen a cup with a name brand iced tea on it.  I’ve seen plenty of beer glasses or soft drink cups, but never one for Brisk.  For those keeping track, Brisk is one of my favorite two iced tea brands and seeing that cup made me feel all gooey inside.

The service and the decor may have all hit the right strides, but the real thing that counts is the food.  I was hoping that the restaurant wasn’t overcompensating for their food.  I say that because it is so rare to see a restaurant that excels in all the important categories.  There’s always something lacking somewhere.  So, at this point, I was getting a little worried because of all the positive things I saw to that point.

Vegetable Soup

This was the daily soup.  I think this was the first ever soup to be slurped on the Burger Search.  I received the soup rather quickly after ordering and it was still piping hot.  So, after using my soup cooling methods learned in childhood, I was ready to tackle my first burger-accompanying soup.

Vegetable soups are pretty much hit or miss for me.  I always tend to like some components of a soup more than others.  This soup was good-sized vegetables in the broth, which was the part I obviously liked the most.  Even though the soup was cooled a bit, the remaining heat forced me to take it slower than I wanted to.  With that being said, it wasn’t half-bad a start for a burger meal.

Johnny B Good Burger

This burger contains lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cream cheese, and bacon.

First of all, when making a choice to order a burger, the option of having cream cheese is a no-brainer for me.  While it may turn people off, it pulls me in.  I can’t really explain what it does for me, but all I know is that all my cream cheese experiences have been more or less positive.  This was me trying to stack the deck in favor of the experience.

If you take a look at the picture above, you’ll notice that the cream cheese is presented in a scoop formation.  If memory serves me right, this would be the first time a cream cheese burger was presented to me open-faced.  So, I’m not sure how cream cheese is normally applied, but I have to keep the puzzled expression on my face going, I guess.

The formation of the cheese led me to one hypothesis for the consumption period, it’s going to make a freaking big mess.  I don’t know what it is about me and creamy burger components, but they always find themselves everywhere.  I remember the earliest burgers in the search and how many napkins I had to use to stay afloat.  I was convinced this would happen again this time.

Before I get to the conclusion of my hypothesis, I’m going to start with the two non-players of the burger.  The bread was there.  It was just there.  Though it was stable and sturdy, I didn’t get any sense that it was being affected by the ingredients.  I say that because I like to have my burgers get a little soggy during eating.  That’s where the second non-player comes in.  I was a little disappointed with the meat.  It was a tad bit dry for my taste.  I got a little bit of juice out of it, but clearly not enough for how I wanted it done.  I found myself fighting myself more than enjoying myself when it came to that aspect.

Looking at the bacon, I came to one observation.  They have got to be the narrowest strips of bacon I’ve ever seen on a burger.  However, despite saying that, they played their role in the burger nicely.  Though crispy throughout, you could easily feel and taste the bacon without any trouble.

The highlight of the burger was the cream cheese, thus proving to me one simple thing that it can save most burgers.  Yes, after I smooshed the cream cheese down to form the proper burger, it started going everywhere.  The cream cheese was in places I didn’t know places existed.  It’s okay for cream cheese to do that because it’s such a powerful player that it can do whatever it wants and we’d be like, it’s cool.

The combination of the cream cheese and the rest of the burger elevated the ingredients.  When you get a good bite of all the components, you have a decent burger.  I know my first bite came without and cheese in it.  That’s where my doubts just screamed out.  In the end, the soft creamy cheese soothed all the misery away.  The inclusion of cream cheese in the burger really made my day.

Cappuccino Cake

Dessert was the last component of the meal, which was included in the daily menu.  Choosing this particular cake became an easy choice.  There was a choice of two cakes, the other being a Boston Cake.  For the obvious reason of it being a Boston Cake, the Montrealer in me couldn’t betray my fellow Habs fans for that.  In a more logical and rational manner, the creamy custard portion of a cake isn’t really a favorite for me, thus making my choice simpler.

The first thing I immediately notice was that there were two layers.  When I put my fork down, the top layer just fell over.  That layer wasn’t my favorite park of the cake.  Aside from the shavings on the top, it really contained nothing I look for in my cakes.  Maybe I’ve been spoiled with my recent obsession with chocolate mousse cakes.  The bottom part of the cake was the half I really enjoyed.  The cream part of this cake saved it for me, making the remaining bites easier to take down.

As for taste, I’m not big on coffee type drinks, so I can’t really tell you if it tasted authentic enough.  For me, it wasn’t quite strong enough to finish with a bang.  I think that’s why I lean towards chocolate because you know that taste won’t be weak.  It wasn’t half-bad, but it, in a way, ended my meal in a whimper.

Final Verdict

I hate going to a place with a preconceived notion that’s been implanted by other people.  Either I’m going to prove it right or find other things.  When you eat at a restaurant, what you think of it is purely subjective.  All I know is that I saw a lot of really interesting things from decor to minor details.  The service was top notch and on-par with some of the better servers I came across over the last few years.  I wouldn’t mind spending a lunch here with  some colleagues, as I actually found the place to be quite nice, inside and out.

Hawgs Deli on Urbanspoon


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