From afar, Dilallo Burger looks like a regular burger joint, and for the most part it is. But the first clue of uniqueness would have to be the unassuming upside-down hamburger on the storefront signage. I like the modesty of this hamburger. Sure, it knows it’s tasty and unusual, but it’s not bragging and begging you to step inside to discover that it’s the juiciest, the freshest, or the spiciest thing you’ve ever tried. Dilallo doesn’t have shiny backlit menus and framed pictures of what the place looked like in the ’60s. Instead, there’s a massive painting of the surrounding neighbourhood, which was helpful because it revealed to my friend and me exactly how and where we got lost en route to dinner.
Dilallo Burger’s full name is Dilallo Burger Original 1929 (yeah, it’s a bit of a mouthful). There is no longer a restaurant at its original location, but its flagship is in Ville-Emard on Allard, and that’s probably where you’ll find the memorabilia. Of Dilallo’s six locations, the closest one to McGill is on Notre-Dame Ouest in St. Henri, on a stretch of street that is referred to as “Antique Alley.” So whether you’re a wandering Solin-ite or famished after a long morning searching for the perfect 100-year-old harvest table, you know where to stop.
The menu of wonderful fried favourites is printed on the placemat, which reminded me how much I miss the days of colouring while my parents were deciding what to order. At five, I wouldn’t stray from the classic chicken fingers and fries, but I’ve matured (if only slightly) and since burgers are Dilallo’s specialty, I ordered the standard tout garni burger with poutine.
My friend decided to go with a steak sandwich and fries. This turned out to be a tasty choice, but my friend wasn’t thrilled with the “golden Italian” packaged dressing it came with. Service was fast and friendly as my burger did indeed arrive upside down. It came well done with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, relish, and mustard and I enjoyed every bite of it. The beef patty was spicy, delicious, and thin – so thin it crumbled. As for the upside-down presentation, according to local legend, Dilallo places the patty on the heavier top part of the hamburger bun in order to make the burger sturdier.
The poutine was pretty standard, but for the more adventurous customer there are BBQ, Italian, chicken, and beef versions. Perhaps putting French fries next to poutine on the same table was unfair, but our order of regular fries was disappointing. Although they were hot and the portion was generous, the fries were of the visibly-oily-bordering-on-translucent variety and had an unexpected crunch. “Better than BMH,” was all we could say, and that’s not saying much.
But if Dilallo loses points for its fries, it more than redeems itself with its highly affordable prices. The most basic burger is $2.75, and even once you’ve added hot peppers or capicole you won’t have to shell out that much more.
Compared to the last burger I had – which was one I accidentally stole from Buns on St. Laurent – Dilallo’s packs a competitive punch. Burgers are, after all, what the over 80-year-old establishment specializes in. Ed Hawco, co-host of The Burger Report, a weekly show on CKUT that can also be found online at montrealburger.wordpress.com, has said, “Dilallo burgers are not fancy, and that’s half the reason why they’re so good.” A Dilallo burger, like the sign out front, is a delicious bargain – plain, simple, and upside down.