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Retro meets modern: Clive Burger media opening

The burger-thon continued in Calgary with the media opening of Clive Burger, the latest venue from Justin Leboe (of Model Milk and Double Zero Pizza) and partners. Everything old is apparently new again, as Clive Burger steers away from the super-duper-gourmet burger trend by modelling itself after a fifties burger joint. Not being quite chronologically advanced enough to judge the fifties-authenticity of anything firsthand, I took my dad as my guest for the event.

The menu at Clive Burger.
The menu at Clive Burger.Heather Hartmann
Clive Burger is one of the three new burger spots that opened in May 2012.
Clive Burger is one of the three new burger spots that opened in May 2012.Heather Hartmann

Now, when I say that Clive Burger is not following the "gourmet" burger trend, I'm not referring to the food quality. It's just that the both the menu and the space are simple and sort of minimalist. It's tucked away in a long, narrow space on Uptown 17th beside Melrose Café. It features an open kitchen, with bar-style seating at a counter, some tables, and that holy grail of 17th Avenue dining - a patio. My arbiter of fifties-authenticity says that they need a jukebox to complete the vibe.

The menu is short. You can get a burger (single, double or triple) or a smokie, plain or with Swiss or cheddar cheese. Other than that you choose your own toppings. There's a decent selection available free (a choice of fried or raw onion, jalapenos, the usual condiments including regular or hot mustard, etc.) and a $2 charge for bacon or a fried egg. If it wasn't found in a fifties burger joint, though, you won't find it at Clive - toppings like avocado and sprouts are nowhere in sight. Prices are from a decade somewhere between the fifties and now, with burgers ranging from $6 - $13.

Dad and I both had burgers, him choosing a double with the choose-your-own-toppings, and me a single, "Clivestyle," which is the closest thing you can get to a 'feature' or 'theme' burger, with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and Clive sauce (it's a secret recipe, but I can reveal it's aioli-style, or mayo-based). The beef is probably my favourite thing at Clive. They use fresh, not frozen Spring Creek beef for the patties. Spring Creek is both an incredible Alberta success story, and a terrific product, and I've written about my regard for them before. Both burgers were perfectly cooked and juicy, but the patties aren't so large you can't get your mouth around them. I was alright with a single, but hungry-man types or teenage boys will want one of the larger sizes.

The only choice of side is fries, and I have to say, while I don't think peanut oil-fried fries will ever be my favourite, Clive's were probably the best I've had done that way. They didn't get too tough (my usual complaint about peanut-oil-frying) and were nice and salty.

To drink you can have wine, beer (again a local choice - Village Brewery), pop or a custard shake. I tried the white wine (a nice blend) and we had both the chocolate and cherry shakes. Dad and I had a hard time picking a favourite of the two. The chocolate was extremely chocolatey, and the cherry was very cherry-y, so both were great. That said, fruit flavours are harder to get the true essence of, and Clive did, so I'll give it to the cherry.

Overall, Clive Burger offers simple food, done well (not well-done!), and that worked for both me and Dad.

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