Edmonton·FOOD REVIEW

Fox Burger's 'dreamworthy' patties prove a smash hit

Nate Box has been in the restaurant business long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. 

These burgers are smash and seared, and utterly delicious

Triple A Alberta beef from chuck, brisket and flank make up the signature "smashburger." (Foxburger/Facebook)

Nate Box has been in the restaurant business long enough to know what works and what doesn't. 

Fox Burger — with dream-worthy burgers and a fine selection of Alberta-brewed craft beer — is no exception. 

The restaurant is part of Box's ever-expanding Edmonton food empire. 

Elm Café, a seedling of a sandwich shop which later transformed into Speedy's Cantina, was the first in the fold for Box but his Edmonton restaurant portfolio has since grown to include District Bakery and two new additions: June's Deli and Fox Burger. 

The two new eateries recently opened for business in the restored Gibbard Block on 112th Avenue. 

Under the canopy of Black Box Hospitality Group, Box and business partner Mike Forgie remain at the helm.

Bringing Red Ox Inn alumnus, Sean O'Connor, on as partner and head chef at Fox Burger only serves to enhance an already well-established reputation in the Edmonton food community. 

O'Connor has exemplary skill and vast experience in the kitchen but also an aversion to poor quality and waste. For those reasons, he's a perfect fit. 

The Mediterranean salad is one of Fox Burger's delicious meat-free options. (Twyla Campbell/CBC)

While the name, Fox Burger, states what this place is all about, the restaurant also offers brunch with dishes like pancakes, egg-topped poutine and pulled chicken Benny.

There is a breakfast burger available. It comes heaped with bacon, ham, eggs and cheese with the option to add Hollandaise, because, well, brunch. 

Smash and sear

A dream-worthy burger starts with quality beef ground from the proper cuts. Seems obvious, I know, but still, such a difficult ask in this city. 

O'Connor grinds Triple A Alberta beef from three cuts: chuck, brisket and flank.

A baseball-sized wad is then placed on a 575 F grill, pressed down to form a patty and left to sear on the grill for a few minutes before it's flipped. This is called a smashburger and the sear is vital to form a dark, flavourful crust that gives the burger the majority of its flavour. 

The cheeseburger and garlic fries did not disappoint. (Twyla Campbell/CBC)

The other flavour comes from toppings that aren't outrageous, but interesting enough to compliment the char of the beef patty. 

Buns are sourced from Popular Bakery, an Edmonton business that supplies some of the finest restaurants in the city, with gluten-free buns from Care Bakery in Calgary — in my opinion, untouchable in texture, flavour and taste when it comes to gluten-free products. 

But what of these burgers? Are they worth the lineups that formed since opening day this past September? 

The cheeseburger features both Havarti and American cheese, bread-and-butter pickles, iceberg lettuce and a blend of Dijon mustard and mayonnaise. It's a standard, non-fussy burger with no surprises.

Go for the blue

If you want to level up on the beef, you can add an extra patty for $4. The single version (accompanied by delicious garlicky fries) filled me up plenty. 

The blue cheeseburger has me thinking about it for days after. O'Connor tops the patty with a generous amount of blue cheese aioli and adds tomato jam, charred pickles and red onions for more oomph.

The oft-maligned, funky-but-flavourful cheese is present but subtle, so if you're sitting on the fence summoning the courage to go for the blue, this burger offers a gentle but glorious introduction.

The South Cali veggie patty is perhaps the softest plant-based patty ever held by these hands. The near-fluffy texture is due to the use of chickpea and quinoa mixed with fennel, onion and carrots that's blended with potato starch and almond flour.

The patty is coated with panko breadcrumbs and then deep fried. A generous amount of robust North African chili paste (called harissa) is placed on top along with a dollop of guacamole. Pickled peppers and feta bring some tang to an already flavour-packed patty. 

I'm happy to see O'Connor use thigh instead of breast meat for the chicken burger. Not only is the thigh a more cost-effective cut, it's also juicier and deeper in flavour.

The meat is tenderized by a buttermilk bath, coated in light batter, deep fried and layered with house-made sauces (a Buffalo hot and a jalapeno ranch) then topped with bread-and-butter pickles, Swiss cheese and iceberg lettuce.  

You're going to get messy with this one, but it's worth it. 

The thigh meat also appears on the appetizer menu in the form of popcorn chicken that's served with a spicy mustard sauce. 

The nuggets, simply rolled in panko and deep fried, are ordinary in comparison to other items on offer. Kids might find these quite appealing (in addition to the hotdog and a rotini-and-cheese offering) whereas adults might be more enticed to try the pickled green tomatoes.  

The pickling lends a piquant zip to the golden rounds and the accompanying jalapeno ranch dip does nothing to soften it. People seem to either love 'em or hate 'em. I am not a fan but any complaints I had in the moment were washed away with long full swig of Snake Lake's delicious Lakeshore Lager. 

The beer here, like all the other drink options (wine, soda, cider) are thoughtfully sourced and well-priced. 

Alberta gets the lion's share of representation with small breweries like Folding Mountain, Sea Change and Blindman appearing regularly on the rotational beer list.

The wine list is short and intriguing and features uncommon varietals like Cinsault and Zweigelt; both would pair well with anything on O'Connor's menu. 

My only beef with this burger joint is that it doesn't open until 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Nate Box informed me that those hours may change soon with weekdays opening at 4 p.m. and possibly even earlier in the day come spring.

Fingers crossed.

You can hear Campbell's reviews on Edmonton AM every second Friday. You can also see more of her reviews on her blog, Weird Wild and Wonderful, and can follow her on Twitter at @wanderwoman10.

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