The third stop in my Calgary new-burger joint triple crown was Black Betty Burger & Wine Bar. To call Black Betty a ‘joint’ is a bit of a misnomer. It’s taken over the two-level space in the Lougheed Building that was briefly home to Sociale, whose tenure there was so short that I had never visited.
While I can’t comment on what has changed in the space since its previous incarnation, I like it now. It’s got kind of a New Orleans vibe, with lots of dark wood and really neat double-mounted ceiling fans. Of the three new burger ‘joints’ (including Smashburger and Clive Burger) that opened in Calgary last month, Black Betty is the closest to my much-beloved Tommy Burger (now closed) in terms of decor and menu.
They offer more than burgers, including tapas, soups and salads, flatbreads and sandwiches (including an entire section devoted to grilled cheese). To start, we chose the tomato bisque, baked brie and tuna tartare. The bisque was spicy, and a bit chunkier than most. The brie and tuna were both fine, but basically unremarkable.
The burgers though, are another story. Between Cheryl, her cowboy, and I, we tried the Betty, the lamb, and the Blue Elk. The Betty is a beef brisket patty, topped with, among other things, maple pepper bacon, frizzled onions, and a honey truffle Dijon sauce that was a little sweet. The lamb was topped with a minty-cranberry-cucumber yogurt that sort of melted into the ricotta cheese and made for a gooey, delicious mess. I loved them both, but the elk was amazing. I joke that I consider garlic a food group, and would eat an old shoe if it was stuffed with blue cheese, and if you’re at all inclined like me, this is the burger for you. (It’s nothing like an old shoe, by the way). Despite being elk, it was juicy (not as much as the lamb, though), not at all gamey, and the barbecue sauce (which I’m not normally a huge fan of) worked with the garlic/blue cheese pate topping.
The accompaniments were good too – particularly the pickle, which was crispy and really dilly, and reminded me of the homemade ones from Saskatchewan that I grew up with. The fries were crispy and salty, (though coated – which isn’t my favourite). There aren’t any fry options (like sweet potato, or dipping aioli) but they do offer a poutine with polenta fries, which they were out of the night we visited.
So – the burgers are amazing. In terms of everything else – Black Betty has a few kinks to work out yet. Bear in mind that when we visited they had not been open a month, and this likely contributed to the issues we experienced.
Our server was pleasant and attentive, but made a couple of mistakes with our bill. Beyond that, for a place billing itself wine bar, the list at Black Betty isn’t that long. There is a decent selection, at a good variety of prices, but if you’re expecting a list like the one at Vin Room, for instance, you’re going to be disappointed. They do have some nice cocktails, and alcoholic malts in lieu of milkshakes.
In terms of atmosphere – you’re going to love it or hate it. As the name says, Black Betty is a bar, and it is loud (when we were there, different music was playing downstairs when the band could clearly be heard from the floor above), and filled with extremely hip and good-looking young people. If that’s not your volume level, or crowd, you may want to go at lunch, or on a weeknight. If you are one of those people - congratulations, and you’ve found mecca, complete with burgers.
Just in terms of what’s between the buns, Black Betty is the closest replacement of the three newcomers on the scene for my deeply-mourned Tommy Burger. They have a few kinks to work out, and I really hope they do, because I liked the burgers so much I’ve already been back once.
Black Betty Burger & Wine Bar
606 1 Street SW