I have been on a quest. My quest
has been to search for the best burger in our nation’s capital. Having been a resident in Ottawa for over ten years, I am happy to report that I have found what is my “five-star” pick for Ottawa’s best burger.
Ottawa has many amazing bistros and restaurants. But, when it comes to quality, if you have also been seeking Ottawa’s best burger, don’t deprive yourself anymore. Come to the Black Cat Bistro in Little Italy.
I first learned of the genius of the Black Cat Bistro, on having taken a cooking class at the Urban Element on Parkdale. Chef Extraordinaire Patricia Lankin provided a hands-on cooking class. Last time I ventured to the Black Cat Bistro, I had actually missed the Burger Special. At that time, it was available only on Tuesdays. But, having had an awesome cooking class experience with Chef Patricia at the Urban Element, I decided it was time to return to the Black Cat Bistro’s burger.
I thought, I must find out what was all this hype about the Black Cat Bistro’s burger? I needed to find out if this was just a case of a sexy venue with great “press gallery“ of “Black Cat Bistro groupies“.
My first impression of the Black Cat Bistro was its presentation of classiness with understatement from the outside. The Black Cat Bistro is not one of those places like the “Hard Rock Café” which tries to blow you away with garish signage.
I would not be surprised if when exploring Little Italy you may have passed by this bistro many times, without even seeing it. When I originally found the Black Cat Bistro’s, I was impressed with its upscale-designed frontage featuring a clean brick exterior. From the outside, this bistro also presents a lovely array of tall decorative windows.
Now, there are probably many of my fellow burger lovers in Ottawa, who might be more used to the vibe of Wendy’s, Harvey’s, A & W, McDonald’s or a variety of pubs and other restaurants in Ottawa. Some of my fellow burger “foodies” might be intimidated by such a classy looking place from the outside. But, don’t be intimidated.
Come on right in. My server I later found out from the bill was Chris. He was very friendly and open to explaining menu options. Black Cat Bistro is a place that you will want to dress up a bit, more than for your local fast food joint. But, no more than you would dress up a bit to go to the cool night club or lounge in the Market. The Black Cat Bistro provides a great alternative to some of those restaurants in the Market which aspire to be trendy, but have somewhat “questionable” food, if you know what I mean. I won’t mention any names of places, but you might have an idea. The Black Cat Bistro provides a great atmosphere, without being pretentious.
Upon entering the Black Cat, I noticed that the inside was spacious without being cavernous. Upon a first impression when you walk in the door, the Black Cat Bistro presents a modern, hip and smart-looking black and white-based décor, with an overall warm, and upbeat vibe. This is definitely a great place for a get together with friends or a date.
For starters, my server presented me with what I was told was a country white bread with egg wash. This is made right on site. This freshly made bread is served with a maple butter which tastes as scrumptious as the best caramel popcorn you might have ever eaten. Regular butter would have also been great, but the maple butter was definitely a treat.
I made my reservation via email with Richard, who attentively modified my reservation because of a scheduling clash. The Black Cat Bistro’s star burger was inspired from Richard’s experiences. Richard Urquhart is the Black Cat Bistro’s original owner.
I then quickly ordered the Richard’s Burger Special.
The kitchen recommends medium — just a little pink (and a lot moist). This is apparently a popular favourite. But I am a well done burger kind-of-guy. My burger was ready quicker than I was originally told by my server, and that was a definite pleasant surprise.
When my burger came out, it was definitely a delicious looking work of art. The culinary centrepiece of my burger was Triple-A Angus Beef fresh grounded on site. Triple-A Angus Beef is the best beef possible for a hamburger; and is even better than lean ground beef from the supermarket This burger is definitely not made with that “pink slime
” concoction that McDonald’s has admitted to having put in its “hamburgers”. And rest assured, your local supermarket probably does not use Triple A Angus Beef in the frozen meat patties that you buy for your summer barbeques.
My burger on this night also features smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, a secret Sauce, tomatoes, pickles and a truffle Mayo. One the side, this dish also includes sage-seasoned frites (french fries) in a tall elegant holder.
The sage-seasoned frites were fresh-cut, and delicious. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the Chipotle Aïoli in a porcelain dish. Every week at the Black Cat Bistro, Richard presents a different burger inspiration.
The burger bun is often an after-thought with burgers. But, I don’t think the Black Cat Bistro could have included a better hamburger bun. They make the burger bun themselves. I also give their amazing burger bun a rating of “five stars”. It was fresh, and fluffy, and moist -- not overly dry, as some “in-house” baked buns at bistros and bakeries can be.
Richard’s inspiration for his burger was the result of growing up in Boston. He was fascinated with Diners and the Boston Red Sox and with his grandfather, he got to see a lot of them in the 50's and 60's. His grandfather was a carpenter. Richard went with him in his Chevy Apache pickup truck all around New England when he was building houses. Richard’s favourite part of the day with his grandfather was having lunch in those classic stainless steel dining cars in Boston, and eating burgers.
Richard elaborates: “When I got older and still to this day I seek out burger joints in places like New York.... the Burger Joint at the Meridian, The Shake Shack, PJ Clarkes, Claires, 5 Napkin Burgers just to name a few.”
When you have on of Richard’s burgers, you share in his inspiration associated with summer, baseball, and his youth with his grandfather.
I am a crème brûlée lover, so I had to have that for dessert after an amazing burger. The Black Cat Bistro’s crème brûlée was similarly fabulous.
If you are not able to try the Black Cat Bistro’s amazing burger specials on a Tuesday, no worries. You can also try Richard’s burger on a Wednesday or Thursday. But, be sure to make a reservation, as word of Richard’s amazing burger, and the Black Cat Bistro’s cuisine travels. Every week Richard changes his burger, so be prepared for a delicious surprise.
Black Cat Bistro, 428 Preston Street
Monday to Saturday, 5 - 10 p.m.
Website: Black Cat Bistro