The hunt for a great burger sometimes goes outside of the city limits. I was in Ajax recently and saw Retro Burger tucked in a strip mall on Bayley St. I went for two reasons. First, I left like a burger. Second, I wanted to determine what exactly made a burger “retro”.
There was a time when the word retro was used to describe things that occurred well before my time. As I get longer in the tooth (that saying in itself ages me), I realize that I am, in fact, retro. Although I can’t relate to the objects in the Grey Power commercials, I could relate to the Pac-Man icon on the wall and the fact that the smiling and enthusiastic staff were likely half my age.
Growing up, I remember two types of burgers. The first were the dry, underseasoned and overcooked ones I ate at home, likely the result of an exaggerated fear over some type of food-borne illness. The second were the oversalted fast food variety which included McDonald’s, Deluxe (a Sudbury staple) and A&W which,at the time, was served on a tray which hung off your car window while you sat in the drive-in.
Retro burger was neither. I would call it cross between Five Guys and Harvey’s. The burger was Five Guys except char broiled : moist and a nice thickness relative to the bun. What can I say? Bun:meat ratio is important to me. The toppings were Harvey’s style; choose your own from the offerings behind the glass. In addition to the standard condiments, they offer a number of sauces to spice things up. I went traditional, opting for cheese, mustard, onion, pickles and hot peppers. A sesame seed bun is always a good call. The fries were skin on and a nice thickness. The combo (including a drink), was around $10, taxes in.
There are a number of other items on the menu including philly cheesesteaks, hand- dipped fish and chips and souvlaki. The guy in front in front me order the cheese steak and it looked rather delicious.
After going to retro burger, I’m still a little perplexed at what makes this place retro. I couldn’t eat the burger off a tray hinged to my car window. It didn’t remind me of the pitiful, overcooked burgers I ate as a kid. Maybe it’s the fact that they pleasantly serve a decent burger at a decent price (including an after 2 pm special) without complicating things by offering kobe beef/buffalo patties topped with avocado, pineapple or a fried egg. Although the experience didn’t flood my brain with the nostalgia of 1982 , at least I wasn’t put through the torture of Tommy Tutone dialing phone numbers or forced to ensure one-hit wonder Buckner and Garcia’s “Pac-Man Fever”.