Burger 320
By Bob Keelaghan

A Return to Burger Roots

Restaurant and food truck impresario chef Mario Spina is legendary in Calgary’s food scene. His most recent venture sees him going back to his roots in more ways than one. The two Burger 320 locations serve gourmet burgers, fried chicken and waffles as well as gelato, and all made from scratch with locally farmed ingredients.

After his previous business venture, a Bridgeland pizzeria and food truck, closed shop, Mario took time to contemplate his next move. Inspiration soon began to sizzle. “Go back to what you know,” says the ebullient Italian-Canadian who also founded  Burger Inn in the 1980s. “Go back to burgers, and set the bar as high as you can.”

In 2014, Mario’s phoenix rose. In his former pizzeria location, he launched Burger 320, so named for its diminutive 320-square feet of floor space. He has since expanded, opening to a second location in Kensington. To boot, he now operates two food trucks, one of which is named for the restaurant and serves burgers. The other, Rule the Roost, serves chicken and waffles.

That’s the makings of the perfect burger: a little but of spice, the best meat you can get and a freshly baked bun. - Mario Spina, owner
Burger 320 serves burgers, waffles and gelato.
Chef Mario proudly serves a Cayley Burger with mushrooms and cheese curds to hungry customer.

Family-Inspired Brisket Burgers

At the Kensington location, the diner decor is fitting of a gourmet burger joint. Mario presents a customer with the Gladys Ridge burger, a delectable creation featuring a thick and juicy beef patty topped with sauteed mushrooms and cheese curds. Mario and his staff smile widely as the customer compliments them on the burger's deliciousness after a couple of bites.

“That’s the makings of the perfect burger: a little but of spice, the best meat you can get and a freshly baked bun,” Mario says. For the meat, Burger 320 exclusively uses carefully trimmed local brisket. It is all ground and mixed at the Kensington location where its buns are also baked (and branded with the number "320") daily. As far as the spices go, Mario jokes, “Of course, my spices come from Italy. What are they? I can’t tell you that. If you knew, you’d own Burger 320.”

The use of local suppliers for the ingredients, the branding of the buns and the names of the burgers are all an ode to Mario’s farming heritage. He spent his boyhood in Alberta, but his ancestors came here from Italy. The names of the Gladys Ridge burger along with the Wickens (bacon, cheese and rhubarb chutney) and Cayley (fried chicken) burgers are all homages to his life partner/business partner’s family and their ranching heritage. Needless to say, the two of them know good meat and produce.

Burger 320 buns are branded with its signature number.
Branded with the restaurant's signature number, its buns are freshly baked daily at the Kensington location.

Chicken, Waffles, Gelato and Perspective

Given that Mario also operates Rule the Roost food truck, chicken and waffles are featured on the Burger 320 menu, as are Philly cheesesteak waffles, sausage-eggs-and-bacon waffles and a selection of dessert waffles. Any waffle-phile can easily get their fix.

Rounding out the menu is house-made gelato. “We’re Italian,” Mario says with trademark gusto. “Gelato milkshakes go hand in hand with burgers.” After a slot competing at the 2016 Gelato World Tour in Chicago, Mario’s gelato reputation is no longer a Calgary secret.

Mario sums up Burger 320 as embodying a philosophical return to his roots. “It’s a combination of the things you learn in life, the people you meet, your family and your homestead. When you look back, cooking should be simple. The simpler the cooking, the more flavour and the more authentic the food.”

Burger 320 features two locations, including one in Kensington.
Burger 320 has two locations including one on 10th Street in Kensington (pictured here) and the original in Bridgeland. Also look for the Burger 320 food truck.
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