When Craig suggested we try the best burgers in Surrey at Donegal’s Irish House I’ll be honest; I hadn’t even heard of them. Apparently I’m the late to party though since this pub has won Best Burger in the Surrey Now-Leader Reader’s Choice Awards for the past 6 years and counting! Media hype or meaty delight? Continue reading this Donegal’s Surrey review to get our take on it…
Donegal’s Sports Bar’s signage is front and center of the small commercial space they share just on the Surrey side of Scott Road along 96th, but enter along the right side and follow the little maze until you spot this door that has surely seen its share of drunken debauchery.
Once inside wait for one of the waitresses to come check your vaccination status and ID. Donegal’s is doing its part to keep things Covid-safe despite gradually losing some of their regular clientele as restrictions have tightened. The spacious interior allows for plenty of distancing between tables and you must wear your mask when moving around the place to use the washrooms, go for a smoke, etc.
Rest assured that despite the enhanced protocols Donegal’s still has a friendly vibe, and our server that evening was perhaps the most pleasant I’ve interacted with since the start of the pandemic. While mixing with other patrons is ix-nayed due to the ovid-cay, we still caught the odd bit of banter as masked patrons sauntered by our table en route to the washroom. We all got the feeling that this was a second home for some of these lads and lassies, and that in better times this would be an ideal spot for meeting new mates over a few pints.
Before Donegal’s busted out the burgers we had to try a pound of their Wings ($13.56). They use locally sourced chickens and a wide variety of sauces and rubs—18 to be precise! If that’s STILL not enough selection and you want to be a picky princess you can even have them combine the sauces to create hybrids just for you. We were about to push them to the limits with our burger requests so we went for a simple half and half: honey garlic and suicide.
Honey garlic was about the same as you’d get anywhere else, probably just your typical store-shelf sauce, but the suicides were a standout. Basically a buffalo base but with added peppers and kick. Don’t let the name fool you, they’re spicy but nothing compared to, say, Wings’ Bobby Wings. However, we did find the spice level to vary between bites so do keep a glass of milk at the ready just in case!
Deep Fried Pickles ($11.32) were just that. Pickle spears, deep fried. Come between three and six o’clock and you can get your greasy mitts on them for $5. A much better deal if you ask me.
So any restaurant that can beat out local institution Texx Big Burger in a Surrey burger battle has my curiousity piqued. To truly test their mettle a simple, no-frills hamburger was in order. The Basic Burger ($12.74) was on special for Tuesday at $8 thanks to their daily special menu, but more about this extra-special special later.
Their fries are hand-cut daily from locally farmed Kennebec potatoes and fried up skin-on to a golden brown then lightly salted and served up piping hot. I find it rare that I’ll be craving more fries after a burger meal and am not the type to go for seconds when they’re bottomless, but these were an exception. Can’t think of a single fault here.
The burger itself was about a half-inch of AAA Canadian beef, handmade with a tasty blend of herbs in the mix as well as some minced onion and garlic methinks. As juicy as you would expect from an award-winner and the simple toppings of lettuce/tomato with mayo on one side and Thousand Island on the other let Donegal’s scratch-made patty shine through. If you’re a burger connoisseur give Donegal’s Basic Burger a try and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Craig’s choice was the Mopsy Burger ($19.36, or $13.25 on Burger Tuesdays), a hidden beast of a burger described as “Sumo sized” on the menu. It may not look like much here but bust it wide open and…
BAM! That lovely signature patty topped with a nearly equal amount of pulled pork, a grilled pineapple ring, onion/lettuce/tomato, plus the usual mayo and a zesty mango glaze that combo’d up nicely with the smokey flavour of the pork. I only tried a bite but this would be a must-order for me on any return visits. Craig was replete and satisfied.
Donegal’s Build Your Own Burger Tuesdays
Think the Mopsy looks like a good time? You ain’t seen nothing yet. For some reason I had a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of Donegal’s Burger Tuesdays (AKA Build Your Own Burger Tuesdays). When I asked my waitress what the deal was she just told me I could add anything I wanted to a burger. I pressed her for a list of toppings, which they didn’t have. Surely the restaurant was being negligent? I understand that they cater to mainly fiercely loyal regulars since they’ve been open since 1978, but surely they were all noobs at some point? How am I to know what toppings they have available??
Somehow our kindly waitress remained patient with me until it clicked and I was able to wrap my head around the enormity of what Donegal’s has on offer: you can add ANYTHING from the menu. ANYTHING. Fancy those nachos? Make a Mexican burger with jalapenos, salsa, and sour cream! Skipped breakfast and now you’re craving it? It’s not too late, throw some bacon and eggs on your breakfast burger! Hell, put peanut butter on one side and jam on the other while you’re at it. Everything is permitted.
So 8 bucks gets you your Basic Burger (includes lettuce tomato onions etc should you want them), and you can add your extra toppings from there. These go for price points of $1-2, a bit more if you’re adding extra meat, although bacon is still just a buck. And as an added bonus, if you order any of the usual burgers from the menu they break the price down per topping as well, hence Craig’s deep discount on the Mopsy menu item.
I had planned for something disgusting complete with deep fried pickles and peanut butter just to test the limits of good taste and the patience of the kitchen, but when our waitress sashayed by with a plate of turkey poutine, the scent wafted over and something clicked. It was the day after Thanksgiving after all, and what’s better than holiday leftovers?
So my BYOB came with turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, orange cheddar, sauteed onions (waitress suggestion which actually went swimmingly), mayo, and a pickle spear on the side. To my surprise and delight, it was incredibly delicious and I’m legitimately craving one as I type this! After sampling no less than four burgers this was still my hands-down fave.
There’s no accounting for taste, and that expression may as well have been written with Kreezus in mind, a woman who’s go-to midnight snack consists of unripe mango dipped in fermented fish paste. Her creation included the standard lettuce and tomato but she swapped the Basic mayo for Donegal’s chipotle variety. She pilfered the aged white cheddar off their California burger and added some savour and spice with onion bacon jam, 3rd degree hotsauce from the wings, then topped it with a mound of sauteed mushrooms and onions that were caramelized to a dark, rich hue. We had planned to swap halves but after trying a bite of each others’ we ended up just coveting our own creations.
When compared with the aforementioned Texx I would definitely say Texx has the quantity but Donegal’s has the edge on quality. And Donegal’s also has White Rock fave Uli’s burger price beat BY HALF! And by even MORE on Tuesday’s!! With that in their favour and the creative flair of additions like BYO Burger night, I predict Donegal’s will keep on win win winning no matter what.