It’s nearly impossible to find an Ottawa area resident that has a moderate opinion on The Works; anyone who has been there is either a lover or a hater - nothing in between. Those who love it seem to rave about the overwhelming variety of one-of-a-kind burgers, towering stacks of onion rings, or some form of goodwill community initiative such as raising money for CHEO. On the other hand, those who hate it will complain about excessively long wait times and overrated burgers that are too expensive.
I can see both sides of the fence, but in the end I’m a lover. I have four or five burgers that I choose between, I always get a tower-o-rings, and if I’ve gone to the gym enough that week, I award myself one of the most underappreciated chocolate milkshakes this city has to offer. I’ll admit that the wait times sometimes get to me, but given the choice between a precooked/reheated patty versus one grilled to order, I’ll gladly choose the latter.
For this particular occasion, I went with my all-time personal favourite - Brad’s Breakfast on white, with a beef patty and a side of (even more) rings. The toppings, which include chipotle ketchup, caramelized onions, havarti cheese, and 4 juicy pieces of double smoked bacon, don’t immediately stand out as the most appealing or creative toppings, but after tasting (at least) 24 different burgers over the past few years, this one has left the best impression.
Some sad news: The Works will now only serve their burgers medium-well and up. For those of you who didn’t know, you were once able to sign a waiver in exchange for a temperature preference, but this option has quietly disappeared sometime in the past few months. I understand that this is a smart business decision, but I’ll forever count myself among the privileged few who were able to take advantage of this option while it lasted.
I love and hate going to amusement parks. I hate having to choose which ride to go on next, because I want to go on all of them right now. I also hate the sick feeling that I sometimes get after eating too much awesome fried dough and candy. I hate the lines that appear on a nice, sunny day when the rest of the world also had the great idea to show up. But more than these things, I love the anticipation of all the fun I’m going to have, the thrill of the rides, and the atmosphere of excitement that permeates the place. And that’s the way I feel about The Works.
I hate that I have to choose only one of the massive selection of burgers they offer. And once I decide on toppings, I need to choose from a selection of meats, buns and sides to accompany the burger. It’s torture. If I haven’t decided before I get into the restaurant, it usually takes a good 30 minutes before I’ve settled on something. And I can usually bet on having 30 minutes to decide, because The Works is a very popular restaurant; even though there are several locations, it will be packed on any given evening (your best chance of avoiding a line is to go early for lunch). After dinner, I always regret eating the meal so quickly, because I’m so full that I’m uncomfortable.
As with amusement parks, the positive aspects of The Works definitely outweigh the negative. They have a knack for combining toppings I’d never try on my own, but are so good together. As a result, I’ve never tried a burger that I didn’t like. My general default is the Crappy Tire (pineapple ring with sweet and sour barbecue sauce and a glob of brie cheese), but Sum Yung Guy or the Red House are also great choices. This time though, I opted for something new: the North of Fifth. I certainly wasn't disappointed.
I love that the drinks are served in Fire King measuring cups (get a milkshake!), and that the salt and pepper shakers are designed to look like light bulbs. Also, don’t underestimate what can be done with a potato. Their die cut fries are salty and spicy, and the onion rings are the best I’ve had, especially combined with two dipping sauces from their expansive selection. The service is always exceptional – I don’t know if it’s the training, or if The Works just attracts great servers, but I’ve never had a negative experience.
As much as The Works gives great service and food, it does take quite a chunk out of the wallet. It’s definitely not cheap to visit, but if you want a juicy and delicious burger and a fun atmosphere to enjoy it in, it’s worth the price and the wait.
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