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The Works

The Works, gourmet burger bistro, Kingston, OntarioNearly 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, gourmet burger bistro, Kingston, OntarioThe 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.
The Works, gourmet burger bistro, Kingston, OntarioAs 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.
The Works, gourmet burger bistro, Kingston, OntarioMy 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?

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

16 thoughts on “The Works

  • August 10, 2011 at 9:31 am
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    I really don't want to have to listen to their muzak blaring across the intersection. Five Guys is too loud as well, but they at least don't pollute the street with their choice in music.

    • August 10, 2011 at 10:03 am
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      Haven't noticed their loud music the few times I passed by, or during my first visit. Fully agree with your comment on Five Guys' volume level and choice of music, they're way too loud. That's why I've gotten take out the last few times at Five Guys.

  • August 10, 2011 at 10:25 am
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    Holy crap, do they cook with gold too? It's all so expensive!

  • August 10, 2011 at 10:30 am
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    Works was fantastic! Tried Harper's and was severely disappointed. Five Guys is good too when one is in the mood for quick and casual.

    • August 13, 2011 at 2:05 pm
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      Agreed! I have given Harper's 2 chances and have given up. The Works impressed me right away, everything was delicious. We went on opening day, when the menu was free, and the service was impressive despite the chaos and line up. But Five Guys is definitely my take out go-to for a great burger.

  • August 10, 2011 at 10:48 am
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    My experience there was: food – delicious, service – APPALLING to the level that we were shocked they asked us to pay, and many of the people I know who have visited had similar experiences. I find it very frustrating that even though they try to make it seem like they have a strong social media presence, they appear to refuse to address those issues through social media channels. They were tweeted at by numerous people on different days about the awful experiences people have had at the new Kingston location, and it's been radio silence on the topic.

    Call me crazy, but it looks pretty bad when someone says 'I can't believe they made me pay for that meal' and the restaurant refuses to respond. You can't just put out positive spins and refuse to acknowledge anything negative that's said about you. People will notice. And they already have.

    • August 11, 2011 at 9:54 am
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      We went the second night they were open, and were fully expecting the first day/week jitters throughout our meal. Our server was pretty good, but you could certainly tell that everything was new to her. While it sucks that you had a bad experience, I would give it time. More often then not I've returned to restaurants after their first week on the street and found that things improved immensely.

      • August 15, 2011 at 8:16 am
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        I should clarify – my issue was more with the company flat-out refusing to respond to any criticism. I've seen them respond to and RT positive things sent their way, but they simply seem to be completely ignoring anything else. The food was delicious and I'm certainly not against giving them another try, but I won't deny that ignoring customers who had problems (especially ones who were so damn excited for months over their arrival) makes me very angry.

  • August 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm
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    We went shortly after they first opened…food, awesome…music, just right! We've previously tried Harper's, but the atmosphere was a lot more subdued than the works. Last time in Kingston, we tried 5 guys, but it's a fried burger. My stomach doesn't agree with fried meat. My stomoch was gurgling and I had the spritzes all night!! Wish we had a WOrks in Torornto.

  • August 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm
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    I went on Tuesday of this week for lunch, and was totally unimpressed. Service was not good – food was very slow in coming out of the kitchen, server took my order….and then never came back. Food was delivered by someone else, and so was the cheque, because at that point I had 10 mins left in my lunch hour. I tried to flag him down twice in order to pay and to get more water, but was unsuccessful. Finally had to go find him to pay the bill.

    Food was just okay, and for almost $19.00 after tax and before tip, I expect a lot more. Had a Hamburger May, with onion rings and just water to drink. Burger didn't have much flavour, and rings were good, but not excellent. Harper's is miles better for both food and service and price is comparable. They support local farmers too.

  • August 15, 2011 at 7:40 am
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    my heart-smart lifestyle won't miss this eatery and the photo of the "Sgt. Peppers" looks like someone took a dump on the tray …enjoy!

    • August 21, 2011 at 5:40 pm
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      lol my friend, lol! Holier than thou much?

      Chris, you should know that there are many healthy options on the menu as well. You can have turkey, elk or chicken breast instead of ground beef. I think you can order organic beef as well $$. You also have the option of a whole wheat bun. Sides include a yummy coleslaw and salad. Something for everyone! Keep in mind, this is as Ottawa based chain, not the typical "made in the usa" let's take over the world franchise. This is something unique and I am flattered that Kingston made the cut for a franchise.

      Note: Harper's is awesome.

  • August 25, 2011 at 11:11 am
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    I agree with many of the commentors in the lameness of yet another burger bar opening …Geese, how original !!!And what's the deal with the burgers being named after well known locals – talk about pandering.. call me cynical, but it's obvious these 'out of towners' are trying to work themselves in as locals .. also, in general, when is someone going to wake up to the fact that a good burger is not rocket science, and most of these goofy burger bars won't last 5 years because they are ridiculously trendy, souless, bad value, and most of all unhealthy..

  • August 26, 2011 at 11:21 am
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    Well, I`ve been going to Coppers Pub on Brock Street since the late 80`s when I was at queen`s for burgers and never been disappointed. They make up their burgers fresh everyday and have had the same head cook ,Jeff, for years. He is very fussy about what he prepares and everything is fresh. Sorry these new places don`t measure up

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