/Kate’s Burger Counter awaits hot, hot, hot weather
Kate’s Burger Counter is open all throughout the winter. Currently, the hours are Friday thru Monday, 1 p.m. – 6:30p.m. /THOMAS SMITH Staff

Kate’s Burger Counter awaits hot, hot, hot weather

by Thomas Smith

Kate’s Burger Counter first began in July of 2020. Tanya Smith and partner Jon Tulk began their business to keep Jon busy after working as a teacher for 10+ years in Toronto. Smith worked as a horticulturist for 20+ years.

Unlike many restaurants and fast food counters in Haliburton County, Kate’s Burger Counter remains open the entire winter.

“People don’t realise that we’re open for the winter. Or don’t even realise that we’re here,” says Smith with a laugh.

Kate’s Burger Counter was named in honour of Tulk’s late sister.

“All we did was run the ice cream hut at first to kind of just get used to everything and then playing around in the kitchen on days that we were closed,” says Tanya Smith, owner of Kate’s Burger Counter.

“Then we finally had the restaurant open on the Labour Day weekend of 2020. This will be our fourth year, third year running fully both the ice cream hut and restaurant at the same time,” says Smith with a smile.

“We’re big foodies,” assures Smith.

Smith and Tulk say that there were little to no issues opening their business during the pandemic and thank the local health department for being such a pleasure to work with.

“In a time when Ford said don’t go to your cottage, people came up to their cottage,” says Tulk with a laugh.

This winter, Smith and Tulk decided to advertise Kate’s Burger Counter in the snowmobiling guide.

“It was just marginally quieter but I would say it is a little bit the same,”explains Smith.  “People are still getting to know us even though we’ve been open for our fourth winter. We didn’t see as many cottagers. A lot more locals coming in and still a lot of new locals finding us out.”

“We’ve had a lot of great community support, which we are always grateful for,” says Smith. “We’re always excited for when new locals or new cottagers find us, or even old cottagers that are just discovering us. We didn’t see as many cottagers up due to the uncooperative weather.”

Smith says that the decision to change their operating hours to 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday to Monday has been quite beneficial.

“We found that a lot of things aren’t opened up around here on a Monday,” explains Smith. “We decided to stay open on the Monday. So that kinda helps out, especially on the long weekends.”

The Monday of March Break saw a large increase in business.

“We’re a little taken aback. We did our Monday special and I did double the amount last time that I did that special. We sold out of burgers, out of fries,” says Smith.

“It was a great day. If only every day could be like that,” says Smith with a smile.

Tulk takes great pride in making the burgers for the restaurant by hand and as fresh as possible.

“I’ll make hamburgers 3, sometimes 4 times a day because I don’t want them to sit overnight,” explains Tulk.” “Even our buttermilk chicken sandwich is made fresh everyday. Really, everything is day-of.”

“That is why we sometimes run out of food because I only want to buy just enough.”

“No binder, no fillers. Our burgers are actually gluten friendly,” says Tulk

“Not the bun,” says Smith with a laugh. Lettuce wraps and gluten free buns are offered during the summer.

Kate’s Burger Counter’s hamburger recipe was made entirely

“Our burgers are old school. They’re just really good, backyard burgers,” explains Tulk.

“He always says it like it’s always so simple but no, it’s more like eating a steak. Like a ground steak, pressed onto a patty,” explains Smith.

“The cuts of beef that we use are such high quality cuts. Most people in their backyard wouldn’t make burgers like this.”

“In the tubes of ground beef, you’d be shocked how many cows are ground that go in there,” says Tulk.

“We try to be as environmentally friendly as possible,” says Tusk. “Although we are definitely contributing to cow farts.”

All of the utensils, boxes, and drinks are served in reusable containers. Their straws are made out of pressed sugar cane, rather than paper that was met with negative feedback.

“With the biodegradable plastic straws, they were not wide enough to suck up our milkshake. We tried paper straws the following year, but I found I had to hand out two straws. For the amount of money to hand out two straws it is the same cost as one single sugarcane straw. You can throw it in your compost,” says Smith.

Tulk and his sister had a cottage on Haliburton Lake and grew up in the area during the summers.

Smith and Tulk fell in love with their view of Kashagawigamog Lake and the living space above their business.

During the summer of 2023, Kate’s Burger Counter experienced some fire damage that temporarily halted their business. Hot oil, melted from a bucket, got into the drain pipe which started a smouldering fire beneath the floor.

“Everybody was so supportive. We had customers that never got ice cream, actually come for a serving of ice cream for us just to chat.”

After the fire, Smith took out their frustrations through painting the walls of the restaurant. Recently, they have also replaced their old lighting fixtures and used modern LED bulbs.

“We don’t ever have to change a lightbulb again,” says Smith.

July and Augustare their busiest months.

“Because we have docks, it’s a whole lot easier for grandparents to load up the pontoon and come here. We have 16 flavours of ice cream. We always have at least one kid’s favourite.”

“We’ll try to have a new flavour at least once. We have our eight core flavours, but everything else gets rotated.” says Smith.

Tulk is always trying to combine flavours, such as orange and death by chocolate, which Tulk says tastes exactly like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

“We’re looking forward to a very good and very strong spring and summer season this year,” says Smith. “Apparently it’s supposed to be hot, hot, hot.”

“We love talking to people and making them happy with our food,” says Smith.

When time permits, Smith and Tulk enjoy checking up on their customers and ensure that they are satisfied with their meal and correct anything that needs to be corrected.

Smith and Tulk have quickly become pillars of the local communities. From organising the rescue of stray dogs, to Smith’s involvement with Minden Horticultural Society and Lake Kashagawigamog Organization, Kate’s Burger Counters offers more to the county than delicious burgers, milkshakes, and ice cream.

What is their favourite part of running Kate’s Burger Counter?

“The excitement of the little kids,” says Tulk with a wide grin.

“Eating their first ice cream of the season,” says Smith with a laugh.