Haligonians filled local restaurants from Oct. 14 to Oct. 23, ready to consume anything from dessert burgers to kangaroo patties.
That can only mean one thing: burger week.
Halifax Burger Week
The Coast, Halifax’s alternative weekly newspaper, hosted its ninth annual burger week last month, with 144 restaurants participating.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last years’ event was postponed to October 2020 and held again in October this year. The decision to hold the event in October was due to the reintroduction of COVID-19 restrictions in the late February, when cases rose in the province, causing uncertainty about March 2021.
Going forward, The Coast said they will rely on input from their restaurant partners regarding timing.
The Coast has partnered with Feed Nova Scotia since burger week’s inception, with many participating restaurants donating a portion of proceeds. Karen Theriault from Feed Nova Scotia said there were 130 restaurants donating this year, compared to 114 last year.
Patrons could find traditional burgers or variations – including haddock burgers, dessert burgers and plant-based options – across the HRM.
Some standouts included the Kangaroo burger from Kai Brady’s Fancy Dive Bar on Spring Garden Road, with jalapeño pineapple beetroot relish; the vegan seitan patty topped with a deep-fried pickle from Wild Leek on Windsor Street; and the cool ranch and classic nacho cheese Doritos burgers from Bedford Neighbourhood Pub on the Bedford Highway.
Logan Robins, a Nova Scotian who has participated as a patron in Burger Week since 2015, described the vegan burger from Wild Leek as “meaty” and enjoyed the unique spin of the pickle as a topping.
Jessica Emin, a local food photographer and food stylist, described the doughnut burger from Vandal Doughnuts as “sweet and salty and shockingly delicious.” The angus beef patty was topped with pickled onions, cheese, spicy mayo and chips, sandwiched between glazed doughnuts with bacon bits.
Involvement with Feed Nova Scotia
Since the event started, restaurants offering the burger at the set price were not obliged to donate any proceeds. The set price has risen to $7 from the original $5.
Many participating restaurants donate between one to six dollars to Feed Nova Scotia from each burger sold.
Some restaurants offering the standard $7 burger still decide to donate to Feed Nova Scotia, like Le Bistro by Liz who serves a $7 crispy haddock burger for the event. Pete’s Frootique and Fine Foods offers a $7 burger as well but contributes to Feed Nova Scotia through their own annual food drives.
Haley Clarke, the sales and events manager at The Coast, said despite donation not being obligatory for $7 burgers, the inclusion of a more affordable meal makes the event inclusive.
“It’s great to still have those $7 burgers included, because [with] Halifax Burger Week being a non-ticketed event, it makes it really inclusive for as many people in the city to participate. If you’re a big family, you can still go out and eat economically,” says Clarke.
Theriault said they are thrilled The Coast and participating restaurants could host this event despite the challenges associated with COVID-19.
One of those challenges has been global supply chain delays due to COVID-19. Liz Ingram-Chambers, the owner of Le Bistro by Liz, said there has been a lack of availability of products, specifically beef tenderloin, oil and lobster.
“We’re always having trouble getting certain products, so the prices have increased dramatically on some things. Anywhere between ten to 12 per cent increase,” says Ingram-Chambers.
Last year, the event raised $126,000 for Feed Nova Scotia. Theriault said the event is a huge fundraiser for them. Every two dollars donated provides enough food for three meals. Funds are also used for the organization to advocate for social policy issues like affordable housing.
“We know that it is really critical that we’re providing food support to help people today, but people aren’t food insecure just because they don’t have access to food,” says Theriault. “We know the only long-term way we can really address food insecurity is by working with the government to implement strong social policies that make sure people do have the income they need and the basics of life.”
More than just food
While the event supports The Coasts’ advertisers, it also encourages supporting local businesses, raises awareness for issues of food insecurity and promotes a sense of community.
“Burger Week has this special magical power of bringing community together and about celebrating all that food has to offer,” says Theriault. “If we consider what food security is all about, it’s about more than the food itself. It’s about all those bigger benefits that food brings to our lives. In that respect, I think Burger Week absolutely helps to raise awareness about the value of food,” says Theriault.
Not without criticism
Robins said he’d love to see a similar large-scale event focusing on a more multicultural food.
“There are so many excellent restaurants in Nova Scotia cooking cuisine from all around the world and I’d love an event like that too,” says Robins.
Lumi Studios Media + Production, Spring Garden Area Business Association and Downtown Halifax Business Commission have partnered to start Off the Eaten Path, an Asian food festival. Its first ever event was hosted Oct. 29 to Oct. 31.