By Brittany Tiplady
“We love making people happy through food,” says Uli’s Restaurant owner Tyson Blume. “So any way that we can do that, we certainly try to and that’s what our burger program is all about.”
If you’ve had the privilege of biting into one of Uli’s famous burgers, there’s a high possibility that you’re now an Uli’s burger fanatic. At least I know I am.
I waltzed into the Uli’s stunning patio overlooking the White Rock strip and ordered the 4.0 burger off of their secret-not-so-secret menu (we’ll get into that later). Spicy BBQ sauce, goat cheese, pickled jalapenos, crispy shallots, garlic aioli, arugula, ordered medium rare, with a necessary addition of thick bacon, perched on top of the most perfect, pillowy bun. I pride myself in being a burger connoisseur, so trust that when I say that burger was one of the best I’ve had in all my 28 years, I am not embellishing.
Uli’s Restaurant has been around long before their burger program began. Uli’s, pronounced “oo-lees” has been a staple on the White Rock strip for over 30 years, founded and operated by Ulrich Blume, and now his son Tyson Blume.
“Back in the 80s my father started the restaurant, and he’s a German-trained chef, so that’s kind of the origins of the menu. He came over here in the 70s and he worked in different spots throughout British Columbia and ended up in White Rock and started a European-focused restaurant and did things that nobody had ever seen at that time in Lower Mainland BC,” explains Blume.
“He ran it for the better part of 17 years and then he sold it, and there was a period of time whether he nor I owned it and then about 11 years ago, my dad bought it back..and I ended up purchasing it from him and I’ve been running it for the past ten years.”
Uli’s burger program was born during Blume’s efforts to restore the restaurant’s original standards of service and quality.
“The burgers started at a time when it wasn’t very busy, but people would come in wanting a burger. But you can’t just make a burger on the fly unless you have ground beef so that’s when we decided to make burgers, but if we were going to add it to the menu, we were going to make the best one that we could. So that’s how the history of the burger came to be.”
Uli’s has taken home many an accolade over the years, most recently the Metro Vancouver’s Best Burger title from the Vancouver Sun. “Uli’s beside the beach in White Rock that was the runaway winner. By a long shot,” wrote Sun reporter Aleesha Harris.
So what makes Uli’s burgers stand out amongst the fray?
“We use fresh ground chuck and it’s ground daily, so that allows us to cook to doneness. Not a lot of places are able to do that, but because we have such a good relationship with a couple of local butchers and a farm where we purchase our beef… It’s the best beef I’ve personally ever tasted. It’s very high quality and grass finished,” explains Blume.
“The bulk of our beef comes from Donia Farms in Surrey, and we use the chuck for our burger program. And when we don’t have that, we subsidize with a very high-quality ground beef that we purchase from Ocean Park Meats. And of course, everything that goes into the burger, is all made in house. Everything we do at Uli’s is made in house with the exception of the fries and bread.”
The “secret” menu came about when Uli’s burger outgrew their classic menu.
“Originally, we had the Uli’s Burger and then we had the 2.0 and the 3.0, so that we had something different every time we entered the local [Surrey Now] burger competition. Now, we are up to 8.0 on our burger list.”
“We don’t have a enough room on our full menu for every burger addition, so that’s where our secret menu came in.”
With eight unique burgers on a list, not including Uli’s other beautiful non-burger items, making a decision is tough. The 4.0 however, seems to be a crowd favourite.
“Picking a favourite is tough, but it’s definitely between the 4.0 with bacon and the Original. The bacon we get from Beast & Brine which is a local butchery that does all of our cured items.”
If you’re looking for more upscale fare, Uli’s has a lot to offer: the oysters Rockefeller, the famous Uli’s paella, and the bison carpaccio are some of the stars on the menu.
To cap off our interview I ask Blume: “In all your expertise, what makes a great burger?”
“Quality and ingredients, always. I wouldn’t feed my guests anything that I wouldn’t feed my family. I have young children, and of course you spoil your children,” he says.
“I’ve worked in this industry for 25 years now, and I have a pretty good grasp on food as whole and where we get it and how it’s grown and who grows it. We don’t believe in taking short cuts when it comes to quality that’s for sure.”