With Top Notch Burgers Grill and Lounge temporarily shuttering due to COVID-19 restrictions shortly after opening in February, the fact it was selected as the winner in the Best Hamburgers category in the Best of the City survey is gratifying to David Peck, co-owner and executive chef.
Peck saw his gourmet burger restaurant on Church Street in downtown Nanaimo open for nine days, only to see a forced shutdown as part of pandemic restrictions. He said it was unexpected and he’s “never had more stress” added to his life.
“I own two restaurants here,” said Peck. We own the View Oceanside Grill as well … so I pretty much took most of our savings and dumped it into this place and opened it and the pandemic hit and it was pretty scary, that’s for sure.”
Top Notch has a variety of meat and vegetarian burgers; its most popular is a bacon cheeseburger offering.
“Hands down … basically double than any other burger, is the Bare Necessities,” said Peck. “That’s just the straight double-smoked bacon and aged cheddar, the bacon cheeseburger.”
In terms of non-meat, Peck said there are veggie burgers that even meat lovers may enjoy, including the How You Bean? burger and the Crisp Tofu burger.
“I have the bean burger,” said Peck. “I have our tofu burger, which a lot of people, even people that aren’t vegetarian that eat it, are just blown away by it and then I have a portobello mushroom burger. The tofu burger’s pretty unique, it’s got lots of different flavours on there. Even if you didn’t like tofu, you’d probably like it.”
As for Peck’s personal favourite, he points to the Right in the Bulls-Eye burger, a bison and chorizo patty with Top Notch’s house bourbon barbecue sauce with double smoked bacon, buffalo mozzarella cheese, onion rings, leaf lettuce, tomato and horseradish aioli.
“The bison’s really lean,” said Peck. “I have three different bison burgers, so if you’re looking for more lean, if you go to the gym and trying to stay away from fat, that’s what you want to go with.”
Top Notch Burgers Grill and Lounge also offers a range of cocktails, including martinis, all made in house, according to Peck.
“I’m really, really happy to make it through the pandemic and I’m really happy how much the city has supported us,” said Peck. “I’m happy I’m a finalist really, but the city’s been great. We’ve been getting lots of good feedback, lots of local business.”