UPDATE: Hero Certified Burgers has since closed.
Like many Western New Yorkers that find themselves stuck at the light at Bidwell and Elmwood, I have been watching the slow unfolding of Hero Certified Burgers. Housed in the former home of Zetti’s Pizza, the windows have been mysteriously wrapped up like Willy Wonka’s Factory in Hero Burger branded paper for several months.
I like burgers an awful lot… so I have been anxious to see what it was all about.
I finished up a meeting on Bidwell and found myself not only hungry, but parked right in front of the newly opened Hero Certified Burgers. With all of the great burger joints opening lately, I have several on my hit list. Hero Certified Burger had a spot somewhere, but I would have hit a place like Allentown Burger Venture first. Regardless, the convenience of a lunch time stop with perfect parking and twenty minutes left on the meter was like a signal from the burger gods, so I went in.
Quick note: If you ever needed validation that Buffalo is arriving as a food destination, look no further than the presence of boutique mini food outlets made to look like local joints yet owned by mega companies. All of the cool cities have them. Hero Certified Burgers is a Canadian chain based out of Toronto. I believe that this location in Buffalo is their first US outlet. Their pitch follows along the lines of a Chipotle/Subway hybrid, with antibiotic free meats and custom assembled meals to order with plenty of accouterments to make it special. Because we are all special.
I headed inside and was met with a rather unique layout. It felt like it was something “from the future” as Marty McFly might have seen it. There is a huge menu dominating the main wall behind a single counter where one person on an iPad takes orders. When you cash out and pay, they flick the iPad around and have you sign, and then spin it back. Like from the future.
The menu selections are expansive. Similar to Subway, you choose your meat, bun, toppings, condiments, and so on. They have three different sized burgers along with wild salmon, chicken, veggie burgers, and some specialty sandwiches. They even had a tempura zucchini sandwich.
I selected the middle sized, six ounce burger. I chose their sesame poppy seed bun (there are some more “artisan” roll options as well), and I added roasted red peppers and fried onion strings for an extra 69 cents each. They offer several condiments but I went with regular mayo to keep it somewhat normal. They have sweet potato fries as well as a full selection of poutine. I got the
normal ULTIMATE fries and some “Hero Certified Sauce.” Spoiler Alert: It’s Ranch.
I got my tray, sat down, and got to eating as I was down to eleven minutes on the meter. I sampled some of the “Ultimate Fries” first. Thick cut, fresh, hot, and salty. I dipped them in Official Hero Certified Sauce (Ranch dressing) and swiftly decided to counter-option that for some good old ketchup. I asked at the counter and was handed three ketchup packets. If you are going to go through the effort of making fresh fries, don’t make me fight with a ketchup packet. Not cool. If they would add a self serve ketchup pump and maybe some malt vinegar, that would have made for a more pleasant fry eating experience.
I then got into my burger. With a name like Hero Certified Burger, the bar is already set pretty high. I was expecting a thick and juicy burger dripping with happiness and beefy love.
That didn’t happen. In fact, it didn’t even come close.
The bread tasted processed, like a roll from Subway. I feel like they make the rolls 100,000 at a time way up North, freeze them, and then when the weather gets cold enough, they drive them south in huge tractor trailers over seasonally frozen lakes. They then place these rolls into other freezers, distribute them, and then the shops let them thaw on the counters until someone like me comes in and orders a burger. They have a huge gluten free menu here, which is great, because they have really shitty buns.
The topping variety was interesting. They have all of the standard cheeses and a nice list of add-ons like crispy onions, roasted peppers, fried egg, bacon, and mushrooms. The onion straws and red peppers that I had were good. You also have your choice of about 15 condiments that you can slurry and slop on your sandwich to your hearts content. I highly recommend you get at least ten of these condiments because…
I guess I expected a Hero Certified Burger to be hand packed, but what I got was akin to a microwaved school lunch patty. Hammered far beyond the hinterlands of well done, there was no bringing it back. It had an odd texture, similar to a veggie burger, and had absolutely no independent flavor. This explains why they offer so many toppings. It takes a lot to prop up that hockey puck.The burger gets a failing grade. Better meats have slid out of an expired Lean Cuisine box.
I was bummed. This burger was not the Certified Hero of the sandwich. It was an imposter. The burger did come wrapped in this fancy wrapper with an elastic waistband on it that seems to be designed to catch juices and toppings… and it would be really cool if there were juices and toppings to catch, but this whole thing is just dry sad stuff packed together in a perfectly round circle of despair.
I guess this restaurant has its place somewhere. I just don’t understand what it is doing in the middle of Elmwood Village.
We have poutine on Allen Street and more amazing burgers have popped up in the past year than you can shake a bottle of thousand island dressing at. Hero Certified Burger is not cheap, it is not delicious, and it is not locally owned. What is it doing here? It reminds me of one of those weird chains that only seem to exist in airports and sports stadiums.
There was a time where we would settle for this in Buffalo. Where we would say “Thanks Toronto, we are not worthy,” and then hang our rust stained tail between our legs and limp away with our sub standard meal. But that Buffalo is no more. Are you testing us, Toronto? Are you checking on your little obnoxious bastard cousin south (technically east) of the border to see if we are really earning our big kid food badge?
What else have you got for us, Toronto?
Keep it coming, but we want the good stuff now. We earned it. We want your Shwarma shops and your Peking Duck stands. We want your European taverns and peameal bacon sandwich shops. We need your breakfast places with that amazing liquor license that serve booze with eggs and oatmeal. If you were going to send a chain burger joint, couldn’t it have been a Harvey’s?
Actually, Never mind. We’ll do it ourselves.
Who should go to Hero Certified Burger:
– People who love condiments and toppings.
– Homesick Canadians
– People who overuse the word “Epic”
– People who require an extensive Gluten free menu.