I was told about the rel-ish burger near the end of October, just before the competition had started. I forgot what was on it, which I was happy about because it meant no preconceived ideas, but I did remember that it sounded real good, so I was lookin' forward to it never-the-less.
I know rel-ish always serves up good stuff, and aside from that, when I did my burger tour in Nelson in 2017, I had rel-ish taking the number two spot with their Uncle Buck burger. They also have their, "Corporate Selection," as I call it...
The C.E.O. - Three 6oz patties
The Boss Man - Two 6oz patties
The Secretary - One 6oz patty
(The C.E.O. is an ass whuppin' behemoth of a monster. When you order that, the entire restaurant grinds to a halt to watch it get delivered to your table. I've had all three.)
rel-ish has rightfully earned its way into a sort of burger infamy in this town with the range and caliber of burgers that they do. My expectation has become really high with them because of what they have consistently put up on my plate. I've had burgers from so many places all over this town over the years, and rel-ish always brings the heat. A smackdown layin' machine in the burger realm!
When they brought this one to my table, I immediately had an indelible missile lock onto the top garnish of a bacon wrapped cheese stuffed jalapeno pepper.
"Holy sweet Jeezuz! Hot damn, maaan...lookkit that shit!"
It pretty much froze my mind still to forget about everything else except its sweet lullabies in the dreamland of food wonderness that echoed in my head.
"La la laaaa..."
Such was its potency, that I kind of went blank for a moment and became dismissive toward everything else! I couldn't do anything but to crack into that sweet beauty first!
Maaaaan...was it ever something! To the eye, it absolutely crushed every other restaurant as far as the top garnish goes, but then when you take it off and bite into it...
The smooth creaminess of the cheese, with that godliness in the saltiness of the bacon, and then the little heat from the jalapeno...
"Are you freakin' kidding me?!"
It was so good that it seemed like its intent was to make me forget about the burger itself. What a sneaky bastard it was! I was aware of the garnish's play though, and even though I was onto it, it got me to thinkin'...
"Now that's what I call a start to a tasting!"
Maaan, they have to put that on the menu as an appy, because if there is any way to engage the senses to foretell of an impending kick-ass culinary journey ahead, that is the perfect way to lay down that foundation to whup your taste bud's asses! Holy smokes!
(**Turns out that they are on the menu. I haven't seen their menu since before all the COVID madness kicked off, so imagine my joy in finding out this wondrous news!)
"OK...get it together maaan, there's still a kind lookin' burger to eat."
Once I pulled my head out of that beautiful garnish gutter, I zoomed in on the burger itself. It was packed full, but not stacked to the roof, so that was an enticing first take. These giant stacked burgers haven't been doin' it for me. I want to be able to taste from bun to bun, with everything in between, all in one bite. That's the only way you can see how all the ingredients work together, because they should all come to play off each other the way the many instruments come together to create one harmonious symphony of music.
I often liken the finished dish of a meal to a musical symphony, and the ingredients are the instruments that bring it to life. You don't get that with to-the-roof stacked burgers. Instead, they are more like listening to different individual instrument track lines, and then having to mentally try to put it all together at the end to figure out how the song actual sounded as a whole without the complete reference. It just doesn't work the same. I wanna hear a song as one, and not in pieces.
I was somewhat skeptical of the hickory sticks underneath the patty because I still had the overpowering burnt aftertaste left behind from the chips at The Hume stuck in my head. The hickory sticks were good though. Their flavour is definitely more suited for a burger than chips are...they're hickory after all. They had softened up a touch, but still held crunchiness, while at the same time, not being soggy. It would seem that rel-ish figured out the formula as how to navigate their way through any of that initial skepticism by pulling it off well.
There was a BBQ-y flavour sensation that would seem reminiscent of a good ol' backyard Q from down in the heart of a Texas family cookout. Aside from the flavouring, it added a hominess to the entire burger, which roped in that imagery of theatre that really good food can induce. It brought my mind to a really good place, and it seemed to get magnified with each bite I took.
There was also a smokiness that ate so well too. Even the iceberg lettuce was a good call because of the way its inevitable cool crunchy splash balanced perfectly with that smokiness. I was quickly falling in love with this thing. Then there was the patty...
"Ooooh, the patty!!"
The star of the show would not be outshone by that bacon-y godliness that tried to steal all the attention in the beginning. (That selfish bastid!) This patty was cooked beautifully. It was moist, it was juicy, it was proportionately fantastic! It was all the good things, and I have nothing negative to say about it whatsoever. This is what I meant by rel-ish being dialed into the infamy of the local burgers.
The bun held its integrity throughout. The gooiness of the cheese oozed into every thought I had with every bite I took. The flavourings all came together to speak of a storybook Texan-style backyard symphony. Even the structural integrity of the eat was solid throughout. It held together, and it was hearty, but it wasn't heavy. The plate stayed relatively clean too, rather than a sloppy mess. This burger crushed it from all angles! Freakin' dynamite!
To say the least, my anticipation of rel-ish was not in vain...
It was most definitely the BBQ'n'est burger of all of the ones I had for burger month. None of the others were even close to this one in those terms, which is really the true heart of the hamburger's roots, and an ode to its heritage. (Yes, the hamburger was born in its namesake in Germany, but let's be honest, it's real roots for what it has become are steeped in the U.S. American South!)
rel-ish was the restaurant that I had real faith in being able to challenge the top spot, and it didn't disappoint! It is no doubt on the podium, but in which position?
**rel-ish has got to be at the top of the list for the place in town to go for a burger though. No matter the kind you're looking for, or the appetite you might have, going from one like the Uncle Buck right on up through to that damned beast of a C.E.O. burger, rel-ish has you covered!
"Hot damn rel-ish...hot damn!"