The WORKS Waterloo: quantity over quality
Milkshake in a Pyrex measuring cupLuigi DiGennaro
The WORKS interiorLuigi DiGennaro
The Crappy Tire burger with a side of fries.Luigi DiGennaro
The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro already has a reputation that precedes it, so when I say that I’m unexcited by the place, I don’t expect anyone reading to really pay me any mind. You can’t fight the Man, after all. It’s ironic, too, especially for a place that hypnotically delivers the persona of society’s liminal degenerates; you know, the cool, laid back people that don’t get caught up in all that urbane ostentation? The kind of people that drink from Pyrex measuring cups and live in their parents’ sheds, listening to old Randy Newman? The admired burger eating Thoreauvians who’ve attained personal autonomy by being ironic, or thinking they’re ironic and eating seemingly repulsive combinations that aren’t really bad.
Well, The WORKS makes you think that you can too. It does it with its Brownfield, carport atmosphere; its visceral, oscillating menu of choices that make it a testament to the consumerist anxiety of too much choice.
That is, it is as rhetorically transparent as glass. Everything on the menu could have easily been listed and customers could choose their toppings instead of having everything done for them. But what fun would some six burgers and 70 topping variations be? How else could the franchise pander with sophomoric highfalutin titles like Limp Brisket and Dare Ya Desserts, or the orientalizing Sum Yung Guy; let’s not forget ‘the Beat Your Meat’ burger for all those haggard masturbators who work up an appetite.
Me? Well, as curious and intriguing as all the choices were, I opted for a tooth-shattering, lung-collapsing milkshake, blended with caramel, peanut butter and Oreo cookie crumbs. With a consistency reminiscent of the glue we used to eat in our childhoods, but thicker, it was a wonder I drank as much as I did; it was too rich for the rocky road in my blood.
At the request of one herbaceous cohort, I opted for a meal as unfactory farmed as the place could manage: a veggie burger with a gluten free bun and sweet potato fries, transformed into what the menu aptly named, the Crappy Tire. I can’t be more poignant than that in this instance. Set in front of me on what looked like an aluminum flower pot (or trough) was a burger topped with a ring of pineapple, a slice of balmy brie, and a limp, flaccid leaf of lettuce, which I happily removed.
The burger’s sweet and spicy sauce was nothing short of familiar, its sweetness overpowering and plummy, but nowhere near spicy at all. Sopping out, it eventually made the rubbery bun a slimy mess to eat. The pineapple was tender enough, and without any fibrous demure; and the brie? I can’t complain. But I can complain about the pliant demeanor of the patty itself. A combination of parsley, onions, and whatever other treacle is made to fashion a vegetarian patty, it lacked the savoury notes I was looking for and made the whole thing a textural mess. The fries were OK; thinner than usual, but well suited to the stubborn nature of a yam’s creamy composure, making for a crunchy and smooth bite.
Will I argue the price? No. Will I argue that you don’t want to pay for it? Yes. In a city that offers a lot of burgers and burger agencies, I hope The WORKS isn’t depending on its franchise’s reputation. But what does my opinion matter? I’m a 27-year-old living in his mother’s basement.