899 Centre St S
The hot new thing taking Cowtown by storm is the CHARCUT alley burger. Unfortunately, you can't roll up to the restaurant on any ol' Tuesday with your posse and be like 'Yo I want an alley burger with fries'. No no no nooo. That's not how it goes down. No. You gotta creep the Facebook and Twitter. And once in a blue moon, an announcement will be made. 'Alley burgers tonight!' it will say and hundreds of alley burger addicts will rejoice.
Unlike previous announcements, this latest edition of alley burgers was announced the day before. This gave me plenty of time to shotgun fire emails and texts to friends to check it out with me. Unfortunately, I didn't know that many people who wanted to stand in line for two hours for a burger made of mystery meat... I know right? It's ridiculous!
Having read stories from the internet about how crazy it gets, I arrived at the alley (Update: For those that don't know - Dan..., the alley is behind the CHARCUT restaurant on Centre St and 9th Ave downtown and not Calgary's "classiest" bar The Back Alley) two hours prior to the prescribed time (10:30). There was not a single person in sight. I then decided to walk around for a bit. By the time I returned at around 9:30, there was already a lineup of 50 strong, with people hauling ass to the alley from every direction. Picture a zombie apocalypse but people are running to the zombie and the zombies are delicious mouthwatering burgers. It was madness I tell you! Madness! You never see people running to McDonald’s to wait in line for big macs!
The lineup had already extended to the edge of the sidewalk as I made my way to the alley. Steaming manholes and dumpsters provides an interesting yet appropriate backdrop. The mood was laid back with patrons taking photos and Tweeting and Facebooking the latest updates to the world. Police and security guards were on hand to keep the shenanigans under control as more people arrived. Members of the CHARCUT staff appeared in the alley to sell tickets to the lucky few as the clock struck 10. At this point, the line stretched to the end of the block with over 170 people. It made the bread line during the great depression look like a couple of guys standing around having a chat about their day. Tension began to rise as people were trying to figure out whether they were going to make the cut. How many were they gonna have? 30? 50? 80? 100? One for everyone who showed up? But more importantly, will I get one?!?!
YES! Upon exchanging my hard earned money for a ticket (cash only), I fist pumped like a champ and held onto the ticket as if it was my first born child. A chorus of boos erupted behind me as the tickets ran out shortly after. Some 90 disappointed hopefuls disappeared into the night.
Despite the temperature hovering a smudge above zero the entire night, it was getting a little chilly. I could hardly feel my toes! I can't even imagine how brutal it would have been in colder weather. They should set up a concession on the other side of the alley to serve up some sort of tasty beverage. I bet they would make a killing. Wait. I should do that. And I'd name it Bevies in the Alley. As we approached chow time, the aroma of alley burgers filled the air. My mouth began to water and my stomach was growling.
After more waiting, the back door suddenly burst open at 10:30. A man appeared through the door with tray upon tray of tasty alley burgers. Celebration ensued. It was a sight to behold, everyone was posing for photos with their burgers as if it was a celebrity. I grab my burger, snapped a pic for the blog and proceeded to devour it as I slowly walked back to my car.
Packaged in a little brown paper bag, the burger came with a small wedge of pickle. Sandwiched between a lightly toasted hamburger bun was a massive garlic sausage patty made from pork and lamb. The meat was so tender, so flavourful, so juicy and smothered in a special sauce. The bun was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Ahhh... Sooooooo good! Unfortunately, you are only limited to one burger per person. I'm jonesing for one right now!
For a mere $5, the portion is comparable to that of other fast food joints, except the alley burger taste better. Such a fantastic deal - If you don't mind waiting a hour or so in a dark alley. I would have to say that this is by far the longest I've ever waited for anything in my life and you know what? It was definitely worth it. The taste, the atmosphere, the people... I would definitely do it again. If waiting in line makes you vomit in the mouth, you can also order the sharing burger (The larger cousin of the alley burger) inside the restaurant like a total boss for $2.50 per oz, minimum 9 oz ($22.50).
Check out Twitter and/or Facebook (everyday) to see when the next alley burger will happen next. Don't call the restaurant. Bring a lawn chair. You have been warned.