The County General

8 Apr

: 936 Queen Street West, Toronto

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.

The County General - the restaurant The County General - the bar The County General - the burger and fries The County General - the burger
The County General on Urbanspoon

Wally’s Restaurant

23 Mar

3480 Hurontario Street, Mississauga

I recently found myself looking for a burger near my work, and again, I decided to refer to Urbanspoon’s list of the best burgers in Mississauga.  This has worked out both well and not-so-well in the past, so I figured I’d give it another shot.

Wally’s is yet another old school diner in the GTA that looks pretty much exactly like every other old school diner in the GTA (I know I’ve mentioned this before, but what’s the deal? Was there just one guy designing every diner in the ’70s and ’80s?).

They’ve got two main burger choices on the menu: the hamburger and the “home made hamburger.”  I asked what the difference was and was urged to order the homemade, which seems like the natural choice either way.  I’m assuming the regular burger is a standard frozen patty; there’s only a sixty cent difference, so I’m honestly not sure why it’s even a choice.  This is completely unfathomable to me, but I guess there must be people out there who prefer frozen?  I would love to sit down with these people and tell them why they are completely insane, but I digress.

The combo, with fries and a drink, is less than eight bucks.  Expensive it is not.  But is it good?


I don’t know.  It’s not bad.  I have a couple of issues with the grilled, well done patty.  There’s definitely stuff mixed into the burger, but whatever it is, it’s fairly subtle.  Honestly, aside from the smokiness and the mild bitterness imparted from the grill, there’s not much flavour to the burger at all.  Pretty much zero beefy flavour; it could have been made out of ground pork for all the flavour of beef that it had.  Who knows — maybe it was.

It also had a soft, vaguely sausagey texture that was a bit off, though nothing I’d get too worked up over.

It’s not terrible.  It’s quite juicy, at least, and there’s nothing terribly offensive about it.  If you put another one in front of me, I’d probably eat it.  But there’s nothing particularly good about it either.  The flavour is nonexistent, the texture is slightly off, and the toppings don’t do much to redeem it — the tomatoes were okay, the pickles were fine (but they were wadded in the centre so I got a couple of pickley bites and then nothing for the remainder), and the mayo was actually Miracle Whip.  The plain, fresh sesame seed bun was unspectacular and fit right in with the patty.

As for the fries, they were fine, but they tasted like the most generic frozen fries that you’ve ever had.

Wally's Restaurant - the menu Wally's Restaurant - the restaurant Wally's Restaurant - the burger and fries Wally's Restaurant - the burger Wally's Restaurant - the burger
Wally's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Jackson’s Burger

9 Mar

374 Yonge Street, Toronto

After a few mediocre (or worse) burgers in a row, it’s nice to be reminded that good things do exist in the world.  Jackson’s Burger is definitely a good thing.

It’s a small place on Yonge right near Gerrard; it’s easy to miss, and even easier to overlook since it is surrounded by other quick, casual eateries (not to mention a Five Guys just a couple of blocks over).  But you’d definitely be remiss to skip this one; it’s a gem.

There’s only a handful of tables in the small restaurant, so if it gets popular you may have a hard time getting a seat.  This, sadly, doesn’t seem to be an issue at the moment, but with burgers this good, the word will hopefully be getting out soon (though I said the same thing about White Squirrel, and that didn’t exactly pan out, so… who knows).

Like most of the burger joints that have been popping up in the last couple of years, they serve diner-style griddled burgers.  On top of beef, they also serve chicken, lamb, vegetable, and fish burgers.  I’m of the opinion that a “hamburger” made of anything other than beef is a sandwich on a bun masquerading as a burger, so I obviously stuck with beef.

The burger comes with your choice of cheddar or mozzarella; I went with cheddar.  I had it topped with tomato, pickle, and Jackson’s Sauce — a house-made garlic mayo.


I unwrapped the paper and immediately noticed the rich, dark brown crust on the patty — a good sign that the person behind the griddle knows what he’s doing.  I suspected that I was in good hands, and taking a bite confirmed it; it’s a very good hamburger.

That great crust adds a ton of texture and flavour.  It’s also obvious that the place is using above-average beef, because the burger has a really nice beefy flavour.  It’s not the beefiest hamburger I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely above average.

The well done patty could stand to be a bit juicier, but that’s a fairly small complaint as it certainly isn’t dry (the beef is also a little tightly packed, but again, that’s a small complaint).  I also wish that the patty were a bit bigger, because even on my sparsely-topped burger I felt like it wasn’t quite as prominent as it should have been; I wanted more.  A double burger is probably a better bet, though that’s technically not on the menu, so you can request it but they may or may not do it (though I don’t see why not).

The pickle and tomatoes were both good, though I’d strongly advise against the Jackson’s Sauce.  Cloyingly sweet and aggressively garlicky, it was completely overwhelming, and was trying very hard to overwhelm the taste of the patty.  If they weren’t using such good quality beef this wouldn’t be as big of an issue, but when the burger is this good I want to taste it.

The soft, fresh bun was a great compliment to the patty.

As for the fries, they were absolutely outstanding.  They were perfectly cooked and amazingly flavourful; it’s been a while since I’ve had fries that tasted so good.  My only complaint is the ridiculously large portion they give you.  I know that’s an odd thing to complain about, but it’s an insane amount of fries for one person and they’re just so damn good.  When you first get them you think to yourself “oh, well I’ll eat about half of these and leave it at that” but then you start eating them and that immediately goes out the window.  They’re impossible to stop eating.

Jackson's Burger - the restaurant Jackson's Burger - the restaurant Jackson's Burger - the menu Jackson's Burger - the burger Jackson's Burger - the burger Jackson's Burger - the fries
Jackson's Burger on Urbanspoon

The Rude Boy

23 Feb

397 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto

I’ve actually been wanting to check out The Rude Boy for a while.  I tried to go there one afternoon when they first opened, but at that point they weren’t serving lunch, so I went home sad and burgerless.  I tried again a couple of weeks later, this time in the evening, and they were all out of hamburgers.  Again, I went home sad and burgerless.  Striking out twice dampened my enthusiasm somewhat; it was dampened even further when I tried a sampling of their cookery at last year’s Burger Day and found it dry and mediocre.  But I still knew that I needed to check it out at some point, so here we are.

It’s a sit-down restaurant, and though it’s fairly small, they’ve managed to cram a fair amount of tables in there.  It’s a little cozy (if you’re tall, you’ll probably be bumping knees with the person you’re sitting with), but it’s fine.

They have the requisite assortment of creatively-topped burgers on the menu; I normally like to get a restaurant’s namesake burger, but in this case the Rude Boy was topped with peameal bacon, regular bacon, and a fried egg, among other toppings.   I like to be able to judge the burger itself, so I went with the much more simply topped The Natural: “lettuce, onion, pickle, tomato, ballpark mustard, smoked jalapeno ketchup.”  My burger also came with cheddar, though I think that was a mistake since it isn’t mentioned on the menu.


I had hoped that the dry burger I was served at Burger Day was merely the result of them being overwhelmed from having to cook so many burgers at once; sadly, this isn’t the case.  The Rude Boy is yet another Toronto burger joint that serves a lamentably dry burger.  Honestly, this used to get me worked up to no end, but I think I’m starting to become numb to it.  Another dry burger?  Of course!  Of course it’s dry.  Why should a burger be juicy?  Who wants that, right??

Okay, maybe I’m not as numb to it as I’d like to be.  It still bothers me.  It makes no sense.  It’s not that difficult to make a juicy hamburger.  Just put more than two seconds of thought into the cuts of beef you use to make your hamburger.  That’s it.  You can’t just grind up any random cut of beef and call it a burger.  Well, you can, but if you have any kind of desire to make a burger worth eating, a little bit more than that is required.  If the beef you’re using is too lean, you’re going to end up with a dry hamburger.

I really wish I didn’t have to mention this in every other review that I write.

Aside from the dryness, it’s not bad.  The well done patty was griddle-cooked and had a satisfying crust.  The salt-and-peppering of the patty was a bit overly aggressive, but other than that it had a decent flavour.  Nothing particularly beefy, but fairly tasty regardless.

The condiments all complimented the burger pretty well.  I was worried that the ketchup and the mustard would overwhelm the patty, but they were applied sparingly enough that they weren’t particularly noticeable.  As for the bonus cheese, it was fully melted and suited the burger well.

The bun was a highlight.  Super fresh, with a perfect balance between heft and tenderness, it was one of the better buns I’ve had in a while.  The patty, however, was a bit undersized for the bun.

The burger comes only with a small handful of chips on the side, so I ordered the Parm Fries as well.  I think the “Parm” in the name might be a bit of an overstatement — the fries are topped with a sprinkling of shredded Parmesan that’s so half-hearted it may as well not even be there.  Still, they were decent fries.  A big soggy, but otherwise above average.

The Rude Boy - the restaurant The Rude Boy - the restaurant The Rude Boy - the menu The Rude Boy - the Parm Fries The Rude Boy - the burger The Rude Boy - the burger
The Rude Boy on Urbanspoon

Tilted Kilt

9 Feb

157 York Blvd, Richmond Hill

The Tilted Kilt is basically a Hooters knockoff — it’s got lots of TVs playing whatever sporting event happens to be on at the moment, and of course, lots of busty, very cleavage-y waitresses for the clientele to gawk at.

I don’t know if it’s even fair for me to shine too bright of a light on the food, because let’s face it — food isn’t high on the list of reasons that people come here.  And while the discussion of whether a place like this is completely misogynistic or just harmless fun is certainly a conversation worth having, this is a burger blog, so… let’s forget about that and talk about the burger.

They have a handful of hamburgers on the menu, but the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger is the only one labeled as a signature item, so that’s what I got.  It’s topped with “Applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, crispy shoestring onions and Guinness BBQ sauce.”

The patty is promisingly described on the menu as being made from their “choice butcher’s blend” and “always fresh,” so I had hopes that it would perhaps be a bit better than your standard chain fare.  These hopes were quickly dashed, but it was a nice thought.

The burger was grilled (though perhaps incinerated is a better word) and was cooked about as far past well done as a burger can get and still be served in good conscience.


It didn’t have that telltale rubbery texture that you tend to get from frozen patties, but it certainly tasted prefabricated.

And  it was dry.  Oh dear lord was it ever dry.  It may have been the driest burger I’ve ever had; if not, it was certainly a strong contender.  It was very tightly packed and super dense, which certainly didn’t help matters.

It had surprisingly little taste.  There was a slight off beef flavour, and some acrid bitterness from the charred exterior, but mostly it just tasted like a big unpleasant hunk of tough, chewy nothing.  Towards the end I was actually dreading each mouth-drying bite, but I soldiered on and I finished it.  Partially because I was reviewing it, but mostly because I’m a glutton who will eat pretty much anything you put on a plate in front of me.

The burger also — oddly enough — had a funky, vaguely fishy aroma that made it all the more off-putting.  That was a first.

This was labeled as a BBQ burger, and while I typically find BBQ sauce to be a little bit too overwhelming as a topping on a burger, they either applied it so sparingly that I couldn’t taste it, or they forgot it altogether.

There were also supposed to be crispy shoestring onions on there, but like the BBQ sauce they seemed to be missing in action.  Normally I appreciate a sparsely-topped hamburger, but in this case the patty was so dry and horrible that these condiments were sorely missed.

The bacon and cheddar were both definitely present, and they were both fine, though they couldn’t do much to make this hamburger even remotely worth eating.

The bun was the sole bright point.  Buttery, slightly sweet, and just dense enough to hold up to the burger without ever becoming overwhelming, it absolutely deserved to be a part of a better hamburger.

As for the fries, they were about on par with the burger — they were bland, cardboardy, and required gobs of ketchup to be even remotely edible.

The Tilted Kilt - the outside The Tilted Kilt - the restaurant The Tilted Kilt - the menu The Tilted Kilt - the burger The Tilted Kilt - the burger The Tilted Kilt - the burger
Tilted Kilt on Urbanspoon


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