Bus: STM 191, 495, 496
Visit: January 8, 2014
2014 is well underway and everyone is back in the middle of their normal routines. The same can be said when it comes to burger business. Even if the year changes, one can be assured that nothing will be different when it comes to burgers. With that in mind, the first burger of 2014 for the search comes to us from Dorval at Barbie’s.
Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve managed to make my way across every part of the island of Montréal. In the last few years, I’ve made it a point to keep my eyes peeled whenever I passed by a part of town that was unfamiliar to me. No matter how much online research you can do, there’s always that one place that is tucked away. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been on Bouchard in Dorval and Victoria in Lachine. Those passages have allowed me to keep an eye on Barbie’s.
My curiosity about the name and the restaurant has been something I’ve had for years. Years ago, Barbie’s was a name of a restaurant chain that has, since then, been significantly reduced in locations and prestige. Some locations closed down, while others, in remote areas, have opened up. But, what’s strange is the fact that the Dorval location doesn’t seem to be associated with today’s incarnation of the chain, though their menus are all identical.
It was a Wednesday afternoon and the streets of the city were covered in ice. I made my way into the restaurant and after a few moments, I was seated in a booth. I took those few initial moments to look around, all the while taking in what I thought I was going to be going through. After 223 burgers and a total of over 300 restaurant visits up to this point, I thought my expectations of what was to come would be enough. I believed that, in a way, this visit would be like the routine of eating and leaving. But, that wasn’t the case, as I saw a number of things that made the visit more interesting than I ever thought it would be.
At this point, the server showed up to my table and it was clear that the way to go was in English, but I just kept things in French. With that, the server kept up with me. The initial interactions for a first time customer might have been a tad bit intimidating, but what was to come changed that radically. I don’t think I was ever mistreated the entire time and that was a good thing.
One of the things I wanted to answer was how a restaurant in the middle of a large residential area could survive while other similar places went downhill. We all know what kind of food is being served, but the secret lies in the other half of the equation. Barbie’s in Dorval seems to have built a loyal following with the local residents. I wasn’t expecting the place to be as busy as it was on that particular evening.
The answer lies in how they treat their customers. The person who was attending the front desk, who I assume was either a manager or owner, was enthusiastic and did what was possible to make the incoming customers comfortable. The server, who I did watch during most of my visit, didn’t spend less time than needed at each table. When regulars walked in, it was almost like they were walking into a friend’s house. That, outside of everything, makes any restaurant visit significant.
As soon as I put in my order, this basket of popcorn was placed on my table. This is a commonplace practice at all of the tables. The second that basket was placed down, I knew one thing and that was that all that popcorn was going to be finished. It didn’t taste any more different than the ones that you pop yourself, but it was interesting to have that at a table. It helps the time pass by and it’s hard to deny how tasty they are. This is the kind of amazement that comes out if you haven’t had this on your table before like it was for me on this night.
Deluxe Burger ($14)
This burger contains lettuce, tomatoes, onions, 3 types of cheese, and bacon.
After consuming pounds of fries over the years, I made the request to replace them with a Greek salad. That upgrade will cost you an additional 3 dollars. Part of the excitement of getting that salad was what I saw on another customer’s table. At that table, there was a portly fellow who seemed to be working for the nearby airport. While that detail isn’t so important, it was the Greek chicken salad that got my attention. There, I saw pieces of feta that looked really appealing. That got my hopes up.
When the salad arrived, I could see that the size of the tomatoes and the portions were quite generous, that is, except in one department. The two singular pieces of feta were small and thin. The second piece I had was far from what I would expect in that type of cheese. Also, the appearance was also far off from the ones sitting on the table next to me. If I would have known, I would have spent more money on a regular sized salad. With the quality of the customer service, I let that one slide, as I did with other slight issues.
After the initial moments with the salad, I shifted my attention on the burger. Before taking a bite, I remembered a line I saw on the menu that bothered me a bit. I exclaimed that all burgers are well done. On the bill, that it somewhat contradicted as that says medium well. In a way, I can understand why all the burgers are well done, as you’re not taking much of a risk. But, for me, I knew right then and there, that there were going to be things that I didn’t like. I know a few people who prefer their burgers well done and some who even like things rare, but I lie in the middle in hoping that things are medium.
Having to readjust my expectations was a little hard, but necessary to properly assess the burger at hand. The burger has a few things going for it. The first element was the size. I can’t remember the last burger I had trouble finishing like this one. What you get here is hefty in size and it makes up for some of the cooking decisions.
Secondly, what I found interesting was the choice of the bun used for the burger. Usually, the buns are given as is and not much is done. This one was toasted and fact added an unusual aspect to the burger. The flakiness of the bun made biting the burger different and that contrasted well with the softness of the meat.
While I wasn’t thrilled with the way that the burger was cooked, it was a fact that I forgot pretty quickly. The combination of three cheeses was really interesting as that created something else to keep you interested in eating the burger. While the ingredients were simple, the combination of them all made for a unique experience for a classic burger.
There were a number of things that didn’t blow me away, but that’s life. The burger seemed hastily built and the meat was well done. But, when you compare that to some of the other things, the burger has a few things going for it. For the crowd and pool of customers, I think that the burger would probably be well received.
Chocolate Mousse Cake ($5)
The meal finished off with a chocolate mousse cake and that was a fitting choice for the first dessert of 2014. While I find it hard to dislike this type of cake, I can sometimes find fault. This particular cake seemed somewhat dry and that lessened my enjoyment somewhat. I did, however, appreciate the whipped cream a bit.
From my observations, the service was what brought a lot of people inside the restaurant. There seemed to be a rapport between the servers and their customers. That’s the kind of thing that makes a place do well. What’s also quite important is the food. While the burger wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t overly impressive either. To me, Barbie’s is that type of place where you bring a lot of people with varying tastes to eat for a reasonable price.