The best burger I ever had was in Tokyo, at a place called Blacows located in the basement of a train station.
As I savoured each bite of the outrageously delicious and succulent beef patty, I wondered why we can’t get burgers like this in Canada.
First of all, wagyu (translation: Japanese cow). That’s why.
The burger at Blacows is made of meat from the Kuroge Washu (Japanese Black) breed. This is beef of another realm.
The appearance, taste and quality is beyond what our Canadian minds can fathom.
All about the beef
A local dairy farmer by the name of Jeff Nonay has been crossing his cattle with wagyu for the past few years. If you ever see his beef on a menu, order it.
Paul Shufelt has served Nonay’s beef in his restaurant, Workshop, for the past couple of years. So too has Blair Lebsack at Rge Rd.
Supply and demand determines what appears on the menus but this farmer’s wagyu cross and his 100 per cent Holstein are well-marbled, deeply flavoured, and worth the price tag.
In July, Shufelt opened a burger joint called Woodshed Burgers with a commitment to use Nonay’s Holstein beef exclusively.
He buys the full carcass, sends the steaks, brisket and offcuts to Workshop, and saves the short rib and chuck for Woodshed’s burgers.
The fat is rendered to cook the burgers and the bones are used to make gravy.
A commendable effort, to be sure.
‘All Killer, no filler’
Woodshed has eight burgers on the menu: four beef, one chicken, one fish, one vegetarian and one made of wild boar. Meuwly’s 100-per-cent pork hot dog appears every Wednesday as a special feature.
The Classic Burger is a fist-sized beef patty topped with cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato and Workshop pickles. A squirt of Woodshed sauce completes the package.
The words, “All Killer, no filler,” stamped on the takeout boxes refer to the patties being free of fluff like breadcrumbs and egg.
What you get is pure beef and seasoning, that’s it.
Grinding beef in-house allows the burgers to be cooked to order. Mine arrived medium as requested, leaving the juices to flow readily and the flavour of the meat to remain prominent.
The Juicy Lucy is a handful with two patties surrounding a wad of short-rib meat.
In this case, the flavour of the patties is overshadowed by the saucy rib meat, smoked cheddar, bourbon caramelized onions and aioli. Impressive to look at and lovely to Instagram, but I’ll take the Classic, any day.
McEffing Fish Filet
The McEffing Fish Filet—previously called the Effing Filet O’Fish until McDonald’s lawyers caught wind—is a mittful of Icelandic cod sourced from Effing Seafoods in St. Albert.
This chunk of fish is coated in a crispy Sea Change beer batter and topped with coleslaw, pickled red onions and tartar sauce. Definitely a keeper.
The issue of the bun falling apart well before the halfway point of the meal remained a constant with each visit.
I appreciate that most everything at Woodshed is made in-house, but in this case, outsourcing the buns or reworking the recipe should be considered.
French fries are a natural choice for a side, and no complaints here, but order the basket of brussels sprouts for an interesting experience.
These come deep-fried with sriracha sour cream for dredging.
A flurry of social media feedback over thin and greasy onion rings resulted in the rings increasing in breadth (with more batter) and decreasing in either oil temperature or cooking time.
The fat and fluffy rings I had on my third visit were nothing like the skinny, overly crisp rings I had on my first.
The price — $5 for five hand-cut, buttermilk soaked, hand-battered rings — hasn’t changed and Shufelt makes no apologies for the cost.
Does Woodshed’s burger surpass my Tokyo experience? No, but I’m not holding my breath that a Canadian burger will.
If Nonay’s wagyu ever made an appearance on that menu, though, I might change my mind.
Woodshed Burgers is at 10723 124th St.