Given that the burger at the County General has received pretty much nothing but praise (including nabbing the number nine spot on Toronto Life’s list of the best burgers in the city), I’m a little bit surprised that it’s taken me this long to check it out. But given my blistering biweekly update schedule, it can sometimes take me a while to get to a place I want to try.
The County General actually just opened a second location on the other side of Queen, so they’re obviously doing okay. I tend to gravitate towards the west end of the city, so I visited the original.
The place was pretty much packed when my dining companion and I arrived on a Saturday afternoon, though we were able to grab a couple of seats at the bar. We both ordered the 6oz. County Burger, which is described as follows on the menu: “Cumbraes Aged Beef, Mustard, Mayo, Pickle.”
They asked how each of us wanted it cooked, which is always a delightful question since the default in this city seems to be well done, and I prefer medium rare.
The grilled patty came out a perfect medium rare, and was absolutely outstanding. Coarsely ground and juicy, it had an amazing texture and a really pronounced beefy flavour. There is, however, a but. A big but.
BUT… the patty’s amazing flavour was largely diminished by an insanely overpowering horseradish mustard. And I mean insane. This was like horseradish mustard on steroids. If this mustard were a person, it would be on a Hulk-esque rampage, flipping over cars and leveling buildings with one monstrous blow.
It was strong, is what I’m saying.
I typically like my condiments on the subtler side — to extend my “if it were a person” analogy, I like my condiments to be less Incredible Hulk, and more Lionel Richie. But even my dining companion, who is typically unperturbed by such things, found the mustard to be overbearing. He actually suggested that they should rename the hamburger to a horseradish sandwich with meat; sadly, this wasn’t even much of an exaggeration.
It’s a real shame, because that patty was pretty damn close to perfection. It’s seriously good. It was hard to tell, but in the few bites I got where there wasn’t as much of the mustard, it was very obvious that the burger was made with top-shelf meat. Not to mention that it was cooked perfectly, and featured a really fresh bun that complimented it perfectly. Without that mustard it is easily a top ten contender. Probably even top five. But the mustard kind of kills it, as much as it pains me to say so.
As for the fries, they too were well above average: crispy, perfectly cooked french fry goodness.
Seriously though, as much as I hated that mustard, don’t let it dissuade you from ordering this hamburger, which is otherwise one of the best in the city. Just ask for the mustard on the side. Or even better, not at all. A burger this good has so much beefy flavour that any kind of mustard, even a non-radioactive-monster mustard, only serves to distract from what makes the burger so great in the first place.