Is there anything more appealing than a gourmet burger purchased in a dark alleyway? There must not be, given the resounding success of Charcut’s foray into their version of street food, sold from the side door of their swanky downtown restaurant.
Many people (including Andree and Jerry) have blogged about Charcut’s novel idea, which involves tweeting out the availability of their “alley burgers” on select Fridays and Saturdays. For $5, diners wait in the alley next to Charcut for the chance to buy an individual version of their Share Burger. Of course, it’s never just about the food, as Mack and I discovered first hand.
Thanks to Andree, we found out that Charcut would be offering their alley burger that night at ten (two Saturdays ago). At 9:30, we put on our winter gear and headed downstairs; we happened to be staying at the Le Germain, the building that Charcut is housed in.
We joined the five people in line ahead of us, but we didn’t have to round out the back for long. In the half hour that followed, more and more people arrived, some in pairs, many in small groups. A truck illegally parked in the alley, its driver jumping out to join the fray. The woman behind us shivered in shoes without socks – her partner didn’t inform her that their bite to eat involved spending some time outdoors first. We also spotted a Mariott employee further back in the line. All in all, we estimated that there were about forty people waiting.
Except for those dragged unknowingly (like the sock-less woman), the crowd – ourselves included – were a bit self-congratulatory – no doubt there were numerous Facebook updates made, tweets sent and photos captured in that alley, everyone wanting to share the fact that they were in line to snag a limited edition burger. But as the clock ticked down, it was difficult not to get caught up in the anticipation, watching the door for any sign of movement – not as individuals, but as a hungry hoard.
I think it’s remarkable that Charcut has built up this amount of buzz in the community, using nothing more than the social media tools available to them – already, the Century Hospitality Group in Edmonton is looking to do something similar in the coming months.
Just after 10pm, a staff person peeked his head out – he commented that there were more people than he was expecting in line. A few minutes later, he returned, flipping up an adorable “open” sign (in the shape of a pig, naturally), and wandered down the line collecting money, remarking that he felt very much like a drug dealer. Unfortunately, he had to cut the line off halfway – apparently, they only had enough burgers for the first twenty people.
No burgers for you!
With a bit too much glee, we took our burgers upstairs to enjoy. The juicy, flavourful patty and the thick slice of melted curd cheese hit the spot (never mind that it was the second burger for each of us that night – hello, gluttony!). We were also not sure if it had to do with the “alley burger” package, but the meat tasted less like sausage and more like a well-formed patty this time, as opposed to our encounter with it in Share Burger-form.
Almost regardless of the burger, if you are in Calgary, I’d recommend the alley experience – it was like nothing else we’ve ever done before.