Friday, January 04, 2013

A Trip to Manhattan for a Burger

Today for lunch I visited Manhattan's Handmade Burgers (360 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa) and to investigate why this locally based restaurant chain hadn't made any top lists for best burger in Ottawa. 

I entered at 11:50 to a medium sized line and three employees working the counter of this store.  Two employees were working the food prep area and one employee working the cash register.  I found the back of the line and observed the menu overhead to investigate what I wanted.  The menu had a variety of sandwiches, burgers, wraps and salads

I first chose the club sandwich but changed my mind and decided to go for the Cheeseburger Combo.  I changed my mind as the name of the store did include the words "Handmade Burgers".  Thus, a challenge to see if they could add the word "Quality" to their store name I thought was in order. 

The line moved pretty consistantly with the two ladies behind the counter working efficiently.  I placed the order within three minutes of arriving which surprised me due to the length of the line.

The Order: 1 Cheeseburger platter (Cheeseburger & French Fries) and a can of Dr. Pepper.

The only slowdown in the line was the wait for the burgers to finish cooking.  But in the meantime your bun is garnished with the over 10 different garnishes and condiments to choose from.  The paddy comes next and then your entire plate is wisked over to the fryer and heaped in french fries.  

I took my full plate over to the cash register where really the only service issue occurred.  The employee working the cash register had to ask a question about how to ring up a salad another customer had ordered.  Thus three customers stood in line waiting for the query to be answered.

Also at the cash there is a little bit of a juggling act to obtain the ketchup for your fries hidden in the Coke machine refrigerator next to the cash.  You can place your plate down at the cash and then reach back and pick up the ketchup use it and put it back in the fridge.  Next is the juggling of the napkins which is on the other side of the cash.  This only slows the line down, especially during the busy weekday lunch rush.  Instead of juggling the items as you try and dodge your fellow customer who only wants to, just like you, pay for their meal, grab their condiments, have lunch and move on with life, the restaurant coule easily fit a condiment station after the cash register like at fast food locales like McDonalds. 

After the cash register/condiment station I found a seat at the window to watch the passing pedestrian parade along Laurier Avenue.  I finally was able to take off my jacket and oggle my food. 

The burger was the first victim.  A couple of bites in I could taste that yes the burger was fresher than your conventional McDonald's or Wendy's burgers but as good as Five Guys Burger & Fries contender.  Nonetheless, the burger was a decent burger for a downtown lunch counter like Manhattan's.  The toppings were fresher than the fast foodies but on par with Five Guys and The Works.   Was it a top Ottawa burger?  Not really, the paddy was thinner than The Works and Five Guys, but still juicy.  As well the buns were nothing special either. 

Manhattan's claims on their website that:

We specialize in hand-cut fries which are cut daily on site and cooked to order using our Trans Fat Free, Cholesterol Free, Canola Oil.

So why do the fries then taste and look similar to Swiss Chalet fries?  The fries were decently warm in temperature and were easily complimented with some ketchup.  But the similar taste to Swiss Chalet fries overshadowed the entire consumption. 

After finishing up my meal, I scanned the restaurant.  I had a china plate and a couple of napkins to dispose of.  Does the restaurant staff bus the tables like Tim Horton's staff do to retrieve the plates and cups?  Nope, Manhattan's has a bin for the plates and garbage can for everything else right at the start of the line to order your food.  Great placement during the lunch rush so those that are clearing their spot after a fine meal now must square dance to drop off their unwanted plates with those waiting in line dreaming of food.

Overall, Manhattan's Handmade Burgers is a decent lunch counter for local office workers looking for a meal either out for lunch or for take out while working on a project at the office.  The restaurant doesn't provide necessarily the best hamburger in town but does provide a solid meal to fill you up.  Fine tuning placement of the condiments and after meal plate and garbage bins would make this place into a practical place for a decent lunch.

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