Nearly one year ago, I wrote about an epic battle that was shaping up in downtown Kingston, whereby a handful of new burger and poutine joints had emerged to tantalize your taste buds. While Harper’s, Smoke’s and Five Guys have succeeded thus far, casualties of the burger/poutine war include The Poutine Place as well as our respective waistlines. Since the initial onslaught of new, bacon-wrapped, gravy-smothered establishments, we’ve seen Viny’s Subs change their stripes and get into the burger game, as well as the recent addition of yet another behemoth gourmet burger franchise. With seven popular location in Ottawa, The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro is expanding with franchises open and pending in four cities, including Kingston.
The Works officially opened the doors at their new Kingston location on July 28th, while they’ve already publicized visits from the Mayor and the Town Crier. Kingston’s newest burger joint resides at the corner of Princess and Clergy, in the former location of Canada Computers. The new resto has huge bay windows which open up to create an impromptu patio, while the storefront and interior have a gritty, corrugated, construction-site feel. As you’ll see, this hard working, industrial theme is also reflected in the menu.
In spite of The Works’ popularity, we were quickly seated and coached on how to tackle their massive menu, which contains 70 unique burgers, as well as dump truck full of appetizers, sides and desserts. To start, we settled on the Tower-O-Rings ($9.41, pictured above right), and chose Chipotle Mayo and Hotter Than Hell sauces. We were initially skeptical that this dish was popular simply because of it’s strange presentation, however we were quickly converted into believers. I don’t normally order onion rings, but these were without a doubt, amongst the tastiest I have ever enjoyed. Other shift starters at The Works include: Steamrollers, Belgian Frites, Quesadilla Milnero and the Rebuilt Starter, all of which sound like a meal all by themselves.
As previously mentioned, The Works offers 70 different burger flavours , which is to say that if you have a problem making menu choices, this is not the place for you. While I am usually a very decisive diner, I honestly had a difficult time determining which burger was right for me. The names of various selections pay homage to notable locals and institutions including Mark Gerretsen (All-In-Flavour), Chris Whyman (Bodacious Bellows), Don Cherry (Don Cherry Burger – not actually for sale), Queen’s University (Oil Thigh), the Kingston Frontenacs (The Fronts’ Burger), and a few for Avril Lavigne, although arguably she isn’t from Kingston. In the end, I settled on B-O-B ($13.27), which is a burger topped with caramelized onions, bbq sauce, jack cheese, and bacon. And of course, I treated myself to a side of Poutine Chez Guy ($7.92), which The Works describes as “a bucket of our best Fresh Cut Factory Fries layered with curds & smothered with thick, gooey, yummy gravy”. Needless to say, I rolled myself home afterwards and fell into a mild food coma. Both the burger and poutine were delicious, on par with the competition, and worth the advertised 20 minute wait.
My partner in crime also bellied up to the burger bistro, ordering the Sgt. Peppers ($12.38, pictured above right), a masterpiece topped with jalapeno & banana peppers, hotter than hell sauce & sour cream. He took his life into his own hands by ordering The Rear Ender poutine as his side, which is essentially fries smothered in jack & cheddar cheese, sour cream and chunky beef chili. While I am a poutine purist, I have to admit that his chili-topped fries looked special.
So where does the The Works rank amongst Kingston’s current burger and poutine superstars? With a top solid location, amazing atmosphere and massive menu, it should go without saying that I strongly recommend you pay them a visit. Having said that, the likes of Harper’s, Five Guys and Smokes also have a special place in my ever-clogged cardiac muscle. While The Works takes top prize when it comes to the shear number of burgers on their menu, I honestly don’t think they were any better (or worse) than what you can get from the major competitors. In the end, The Works is an extraordinary option for the local burger scene. And who doesn’t love variety?