Top Montreal chefs take over Uniburger

Every day this week, a star of the local culinary scene will prep a special dish to mark Uniburger’s 2nd anniversary. See the mouth-watering details here.

Uniburger week Stephen Leslie

Lamb Burger by Stephen Leslie


Montreal’s American-style burger restaurant is turning two this week, and to celebrate, Unibuger has called upon an impressive line-up of culinary all-star pals (and avowed fans) to jazz up the Quartier Latin restaurant’s signature item.

Each of the famous chefs will have a day devoted to their special burger. They’ll do the mise en place at their own restaurants the day of and then bring them over to the Ontario Street location for final preparation.

So how did Uniburger owner and burger creator Younes Bengeloune get Bottega Pizzeria’s Fabrizio Covone, Tavern on the Square’s Stephen Leslie, Le Bremner’s Danny Smiles, Nora Gray’s Emma Cardarelli, Maison Publique’s Derek Dammann, Toqué! vet/Lio Traiteur’s Lionel Piraux and Dinette Triple Crown’s Colin Perry to take time out from their own successful restaurants to remix the Uniburger? (Read till the end for the mouth-watering details.)

“I was humbled by the fact that they were really into it when I asked them,” says Bengeloune. “Some of them I knew, but others I called out of the blue. I picked chefs that have been to the restaurant. I didn’t just look at a list of the hottest chefs in Montreal. I went with people who had been to the restaurant and who had either posted about it on social media or have supported me in a way.”

And they’re not dogging it either — Bengeloune showed me a pic of Dammann’s page-long ingredient list, which covered every aspect of his pork, romesco and aioli burger. The plan is to donate the profits to charities selected by each guesting chef, although the specifics have yet to be locked down.

Bengeloune says Uniburger’s bday bash is also a way to give back to the chefs who encouraged him to get into the restaurant game after years of perfecting his skills at home.

“I don’t come from a restaurant background,” he admits. But he always loved burgers.

The Moroccan native picked up a taste for the American style burger while studying in California. When he moved to Montreal 12 years ago, he couldn’t find one with a similar topping structure and Thousand Island-esque sauce, so he made his own and kept the idea of opening a restaurant in the back of his mind.

“Every day someone comes in and tells me we taste like In-N-Out,” he says, referring to California’s most iconic burger chain. “I’m happy when I hear it and I welcome the comparison, but what we do isn’t exactly the same.”

Building the right burger and sauce was the easy part, but the French fries proved tricky.

“Lionel (Piraux) and I spent a whole day doing trial-and-error on the fries,” Bengeloune recalls.

As for the future of Uniburger, they opened a second location in Côte-des-Neiges, and Bengeloune intends to open a third around Concordia. He’d also like to add poutine to the menu eventually, but they make everything from scratch (they don’t even have a freezer) and currently lack the facilities to make fresh gravy.

You made it this far? Great, here are the special burgers set to be served at the 302 Ontario E. location. (Quantities will be limited to around 100 per day, so don’t dawdle.)


Fabrizio Covone’s VIVACE Burger


Chef: Fabrizio Covone (Bottega Pizzeria)

Burger: “The VIVACE Burger with a mustard, olive oil and parsley-flavoured beef patty, nduja (pork sausage spread on the bun), red onion, fresh spinach and ricotta.”



Chef: Stephen Leslie (Tavern on the Square, Monkland Tavern, le Sieur d’Iberville)

Burger: “Lamb Burger with merguez, feta bell pepper spread, grilled onions, pickles and mint yogurt.”



Chef: Danny Smiles (Le Bremner)

Burger: “Filet-O-Smiles” (aka Danny’s take on a filet-o-fish: “a battered fish filet, with a tartar sauce made from a Uniburger sauce base.”)



Chef: Emma Cardarelli (Nora Gray)

Burger: “Meatball burger with tomato sauce braised veal and pork patty, Nora Gray pepperoncini, a slice of Mozzarella di bufala, arugula and charcoal grilled marinated onions.”



Chef: Derek Dammann (Maison Publique)

Burger: “Pork burger with romesco (a Spanish sauce) and aioli.”



Chef: Lionel Piraux (Lio Traiteur/Chef Prive)

Burger: “A remastered Quebec classic. The All Dressed Cheeseburger with coleslaw, relish and yellow mustard (all homemade).”

Bengeloune says they’ll also make true Belgian fries, fried in beef tallow.



Chef: Colin Perry (Dinette Triple Crown)

Burger: “Double Pimiento Cheeseburger with the Dinette’s homemade bread and butter pickles, burger sauce, hot sauce, caramelized onions and fried pig ears.”