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Boom or Bust? BOOMburger opens in Halifax

BOOMburger - a PEI creation - is now open in Halifax on the other side of Larry Uteck Boulevard from Sobeys. They have burgers, hot dogs, PEI potato fries, and poutine. Do they measure up? I had to find out.

I chose to brave the roundabouts of Larry Uteck around 8 pm or so on a Wednesday, and walked into a very clean and straightforward restaurant. Boom burger is very proud to call PEI home, with probably 20 or so large bags of PEI potatoes stacked in the middle of the flood separating the order queue from the seating. I ordered a cheese and bacon burger with the "BOOMworks" - mayo, lettuce, pickes, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup and mustard and to keep that company a "BOOMpoutine" with bacon, beef onions and mushrooms.

Looking around the restaurant, I noticed it was clean - almost too clean - to the point of looking sterile. The walls were completely devoid of any decoration or personality, with lots of stainless in their open cooking area. I'm not sure whether the stark décor was a concious choice or whether they haven't finished decorating yet since they've only opened recently. However, given that their menu is very simple and straightforward, the inside of the shop being just as simple could certainly be part of their grand design. Things are so simple that fountain pop only comes in 2 sizes, regular and large, with only a $0.10 difference in price, and both allow for free refills. Toppings for the burger or the BOOMpoutine are the same, pick what you want with no change in price save for cheese and bacon on the burger. I definitely applaud them for keeping their menu and pricing as simple as possible.

They called my number, I picked up my burger and poutine and headed over to one of the tables. Unfortunately the table I picked probably was labelled "arctic blast" on the floor plans, since it was directly under the coldest jet of freshly refrigerated air I'd felt in ages. I'm normally pretty warm blooded but this was colder than an ex after calling them the wrong name in bed. Again, they've only opened recently, they'll get it fixed. Hopefully.

BOOMburger's burger is a simple, no-nonsense burger. Nothing fancy, nothing pretentious, and it's a good honest burger. The sautéed onions and mushrooms were done perfectly, the burger was juicy, the ratio of bun to burger was right and overall it would be hard to find anything wrong with Boom burger's burger. At the same time, it wasn't exciting - you can get a similarly good burger from other places in town. Maybe I had higher hopes for the burger, maybe my expectations were set where they shouldn't be. Their burger didn't excite me and make me think "damn. when am I coming back here to get another one?" but at the same time it was a really good burger.

Maybe I'm just spoiled by some of the other amazing burgers you can find in Halifax. BOOMburger's poutine, on the other hand, is a completely different matter. I'm going to be somewhat negative about their poutine, since huge improvements could be made with just a few small changes.

Firstly, they got my order wrong. I've posted a photo of the kitchen slip from their point-of-sale system clearly stating I was getting a BOOMpoutine with beef, bacon, grilled onions and shrooms. However, compare that to the next photo of the poutine itself which has beef and bacon, but a distinct lack of onions and mushrooms. I may sound like a broken record, but they've only been open for a few days. They'll get things right.

Secondly, if you're making a "tall" poutine (ie in a fold up grease proof box) instead of a flatter, more spread out poutine, you can't dump the fries in the container, throw all the curds on top, and then pour gravy over things. The curds don't melt, you eat them as you eat the start of the poutine, and when you get down to the bottom of the box, you're just left with fries and some gravy. Sadly, this is exactly what happened - halfway through what could have been a completely awesome poutine, you're left with fries and gravy. No toppings, no curds, just fries and gravy.

Thirdly, their gravy kung foo is weak. Gravy should be thick, really thick. I'd even go so far as to say gravy should be a decent amount thicker than table syrup, but not as thick as cold molasses. BOOMburger's gravy is probably a little runnier than table syrup - at the bottom of the poutine, the last fries were swimming in a lake of gravy, rendering them a little on the soggy side.

However, their poutine does have some very big positives. The bacon they use on the poutine is possibly the most awesome bacon I've had in recent memory apart from the Getaway Farms bacon that Halifax Footlongs uses on their Hawaiian dogs. Their PEI fries are near perfect, I might prefer mine a tiny bit crispier but perhaps with better gravy this wouldn't be as much of an issue. The curds are fresh and tasty, but sadly the ones I had weren't squeaky.

Given the shortcomings of my first visit to Boomburger, I'm not going to rush back to try it again. I think I'll give them a month or so, and then check things out for a second time. That will give them an opportunity to work out any of the opening kinks present, and maybe I'll find less to be critical of the second time around.

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