Elora Burger Battle

Elora Burger Battle

Originally Published December 2022

By Vincent Oz

Elora Burger Battle

November 4th to 18th a battle was taking place in Elora, but it's one that I can guarantee you haven't seen before. We've all heard of food battles, but normally those are held at places like the county fair. This battle, however, had taken over a whole town and I was feeling up to the challenge.  Six burgers, six restaurants: The Badley, Elora Mill, Handsome Devil, The Friendly Society, Elora Brewing Company and The Evelyn. The cold weather always gets me pumped up and I was ready to start my dive into what promised to be the most flavourful fight of my life. Wish my stomach luck, I'm a tiny guy and six burgers is a lot!

Handsome Devil Bistro

The Handsome Devil is a place that seems perfect for all settings with its large patio and welcoming environment. I arrived to talk with Chef Sean and co-owner Sam about the burger battle. Sean and Sam get on like brothers, which is the exact vibe you want from two of the head people in a restaurant; friendly and wanting to meet the guests.
Vincent: So assume you guys are all doing your own special kind of burger. What have you got?

Chef Sean: So we do a 6oz beef patty with jalapeno jam on it, hollandaise, beer cheese sauce, pork rinds...

Sam: Fried egg.

Chef Sean: Fried egg. So um, cholesterol is a thing in that burger!
(everyone laughs)

Sam: That's what we should have called it, "The Cholesterol Burger".

Two new things you have to try: jalapeno jam and Sam's house made coffee tequila. I don't even like tequila, but it’s delicious! The burger itself was juicy, and the pork rinds give it that crunch that I find most places miss out on. Sam and Sean are the kind of people you want hosting a backyard BBQ. It'll be fun and full of great food and people.


The Friendly Society

Walking down the stairs gives you a feeling of somewhere you've been before, super homey, friendly even, and down those steps is where I met Chef Mark.

Vincent: So what is the burger you're making?

Chef Mark: Our burger is a little bit of a fancy burger. First of all we are using angus beef, just pure angus meat, so it doesn't have any inside. So you can feel the flavor of the meat and how fresh it is. We have our homemade thousand islands sauce. It also has iceberg lettuce, aged cheddar cheese and then inside it has grilled caramelized onions and tomatoes, plus grilled ham, and crispy bacon. And our bun, our brioche bun. Every time it goes to the table it will have aged melted cheddar cheese ready on the side and whenever a guest orders it, we pour it in front of them. And it will be a nice show. At the same time you have crispy bacon bits sprinkled on top and jalapeno cheese breaded.
It's served with homemade onion rings and a side of fries or salad.

The burger for sure lived up to its fancy messy hype. A tasty smooth collage of cheese and crispy meats and a great tang from the caramelized onions and tomatoes, all placed on top of a juicy angus patty nestled into a sturdy brioche bun.

Elora Brewing Company

A well established place in town and for a good reason, the beer is delicious! Award winning too. Let's see if the burger holds up to the beer.
I met up with Nathan Brady to tell me more about it.

Vincent: Elora seems to be very supportive of you whoever lives here, wants to be here or just wants to partake in the town.

Nathan: It is. It's very community-minded. There's always something happening like art galleries or community plays. The arts centre in town does a lot of cultural productions. I've been here for four years and there definitely is a sense of community, especially in the restaurant side of it. Let's take the burger battle for example. [...] Everyone is very supportive and collaborative.

Vincent: Let's talk a bit more about the burger battle. What burger are you doing?

Nathan: So, sesame, ginger lamb burger with kimchi and a wasabi aioli. We wanted to go a less traditional route with that. It's kind of gone gang-busters at any of the burger joints in town, in terms of locals wanting to try it. Our head chef Jordan has been in the industry for 20 years. Inspired by French cuisine. His main inspiration was to just do something people won't expect.

Unexpected it was, but also delicious. Kimchi mixed with lamb is an amazing combo and the wasabi gave the burger a nice smooth spice that didn't overpower the rest of the flavours.

Elora Mill

The Elora Mill restaurant, spa and hotel are all located along the Elora Gorge. As the name suggests, it was once a mill. And if you're lucky enough to go into the wine cellar you will see some of the old gears and workings of the original watermill which they have kept alive. It's very cool when a place lets you stand next to some history.

Restaurant director Michael Anderson and I sat at one of the sought after window seats in the dining room overlooking the mighty gorge to talk burgers.

Vincent: So why the burger battle?

Michael: We like being involved with this stuff, because our vision is for the town of Elora to be successful, right? It's not about Elora Mill, it's about everybody. So we have a really great collaboration between all the local spots here. Maclean put it on, but we've known Geoffrey since we opened (he was the original GM)[...] I just take the whole "tides lift all boats" kind of approach. If we're successful, we can help everybody be successful.

Vincent: So what is the burger for the burger battle?

Nathan: So, we've done a kind of classic smash burger. We wanted something that was incredibly consistent and that didn't necessarily have to be a certain colour. You know, burgers, steaks and eggs are very particular, right? We feel like with a smash burger we get a very consistent burger where the flavour shows though and it wouldn't be very colour dependent.

Watching the gorge’s waters roll by as the snow fell, it was like looking at a giant snow globe, which I think definitely helped out with the taste. Not that the burger needed any help. Everything was made in house and you could tell the care that was put into every little bit of the burger, sometimes it's care that makes things taste best. 

The Badley

After a little walk around town in an attempt to let all the deliciousness in my stomach settle a bit, I (with what felt like 10 extra pounds) made my way to The Badley. It’s definitely a chill spot to hang out with some friends and get some good eats. To tell me more about these good eats I sat down with Chef Dan.

Vincent: So tell me about the burger.

Chef Dan: Absolutely. So we launched The Badley with the intention of having really good, well-cooked, approachable food. In a beautiful setting, with a little bit of a twist. A little bit of high end. We wanted the food to be elite but approachable. A kind of gourmet comfort, so to speak. So when the burger battle came around we thought it was a great idea. We wanted to stand behind what we do. So we took our burger off our menu, which is the badley burger, we offer the staple traditional toppings: lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle. Then you get to choose three of our gourmet toppings to go with it: local bacon, aged white cheddar, caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms and fried egg as well. You can make it your own.

Vincent: I love that you guys are calling it a "battle", because everyone is super friendly about it.

Chef Dan:  Yeah, there's good comradery in this town, which is really nice. It's not often that restaurants work together to do things like this. I think it's pretty interesting that the restaurants all have this mind set of the better my neighbor does the better we do. There is this collective effort to bring people into Elora. Which is the difference between restaurants thriving or going out of business. The fact that we have this tourism from Toronto, from Guelph, from KW , from other areas is incredibly important. I think you have to work on stuff like that. There has to be a reason to come to town, right?
A good example of sometimes keeping it simple is best was this burger. Just a little salt, pepper and steak spice on the patty, perfectly sliced bacon, aged cheddar and a fresh farm egg. 

The Evelyn

This is where the whole thing started. Restaurant owner Maclean is the mastermind that put the battle together and Chef Dean and I had a quick chat about things. The setting of The Evelyn, by the way, is very quaint and beautiful; you could lose hours soaking up the vibe.

Vincent: So the burger battle, have you been enjoying doing it?

Chef Dean: Yeah, it's been a lot of fun. It's been quite successful I think.

Vincent: You guys all seem very friendly with each other. I've been everywhere else and y'all just talk each other up.

Chef Dean: It's a friendly competition, yep. And we've all tried each other's food a little bit too. Trading off burgers and testing eachother's out. So it's been fun that way.

Vincent: So what is the burger that you are making?

Chef Dean: Our burger is inspired by a french onion soup, following our kind of cuisine here. It has cheese, onion rings and a french onion dip spread on it. A great combination I thought. It has a lot of things that people like, so it's quite the hit.

Vincent: Do you guys like to change the menu up a bit?

Chef Dean: We try to change it with the seasons, so four or five times a year.

Vincent: Is that something you enjoy doing?

Chef Dean:  Yes. I think every time you need a little change, just to spice things up and get a little interest. It gets boring otherwise doing the same thing too long.

The burger was truly like none I've had before. The sweet savoriness of the french onion dip mixed with the caramelized onions and nice thick bun was exquisite. The kind of taste that lingers on your tongue for a while after and you will gladly let it live there rent free for a bit. 

After eating my own weight in burgers and meeting with all of the people that helped put this event together and keep the town of Elora vibrant, I don't think it's fair to call this a "battle". A battle implies a fight and fighting is something I didn’t see (unless you count me fighting with my own internal organs). All the chefs, owners, managers and staff had nothing but lovely things to say about each other. Elora has a real community of restaurants, which is something rarely seen. Everyone I met said they did this for each other and the town. They were all excited to try everyone's burgers and support an industry they clearly adore.
Which just adds to the almost dream-like quality that Elora provides. The view is one of the best, especially in the winter, but I recommend talking to the people. I promise everyone will say hello with a smile and greet you like one of their own. It’s sure to warm you up in the cold months to come.
While I focused on the food, truly it's the people here that make the town so magical.

Elora and its people are something that just seems to get better over time and I cannot wait to see what they have planned next.


Congratulations to Maclean and The Evelyn for winning the community vote for best burger - must have been that French onion dip!

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