Dangerous Dan’s Diner

18 Jan

dans
Location
: 714 Queen Street East, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.dangerousdansdiner.com/

Dangerous Dan’s is pretty much a Toronto burger institution, predating Toronto’s recent burger trend by well over a decade (it opened in 1999). You know that old hipster argument? “Oh, I was into them before they were cool?” Well, Dangerous Dan’s was into hamburgers way before they were cool.

So why has it taken me over 100 reviews to check the place out? I’m going to be honest: I wasn’t super keen on trying it. Why? I mean, take your pick: they’re on the east end and a bit out of the way for me; they serve meatloaf burgers, which certainly aren’t my favourite; it’s an old school burger joint, which doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of older burger joints are mediocre at best. Don’t ask me why.

Anyway, better late than never.

Dangerous Dan’s is fairly well known for some of their more extravagantly-topped burgers, like the Coronary, which features a pound of beef, bacon, cheese, and a fried egg. I went much more bare-bones, with the Plain, which is an eight ounce burger topped to request.  I got mine with tomato, pickles, and mayo.

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First and foremost, it is absolutely, positively a meatloaf burger. You can see the burger being made on this episode of You Gotta Eat Here, and they mix in the works. Garlic, spices, breadcrumbs, eggs — they go full meatloaf, no doubt about it.

If you’ve read much of this blog, you know that me and meatloaf burgers generally aren’t the best of friends.  I was pretty much ready to hate it — and maybe the lowered expectations helped, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The patty is super meatloafy, but it tastes good, at least. Unlike last week’s burger at BriSkit, which had a muddled, neither-here-nor-there flavour, it at least knows what it is and goes for it. It’s not a classic burger by any stretch of the imagination, and the flavour of the beef is mostly wiped out, but it tastes good for what it is.

The grilled burger is cooked to well done, but actually remains quite juicy, which is always nice.  Though the patty was slightly over-charred from the grill, the grilling mostly added a nice smoky flavour and a satisfyingly crispy crust.

Meatloaf burgers can sometimes have an unpleasantly sausagey texture; this thankfully wasn’t the case here.  Texturally, the patty was pretty much exactly where it needed to be — it had a good grind, it obviously hadn’t been overhandled, and it was nice and tender.

The lightly toasted bun was slightly cold and a little too dense, but it mostly suited the burger pretty well.

As for the fries, they were very thickly cut, which isn’t my favourite — but for this style of fry, they were quite good (much better than you’d think seems to be a theme here).  It’s very easy to end up with an unpleasantly dense interior with fries like this, but these were lightly crispy on the outside and really fluffy on the inside.

3 out of 4

Dangerous Dan's - The restaurant Dangerous Dan's - The restaurant Dangerous Dan's - The burger Dangerous Dan's - The burger
Dangerous Dan's Diner on Urbanspoon

BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches

11 Jan

briskit
Location
: 160 Wilkinson Road, Unit 40
Websitehttp://www.thebriskit.com/

Most of the time, when I check out a non-burger-joint for this blog, I do so because I’ve heard something about the burger being worth eating. Every now and then, though, I visit a restaurant blind, hoping for a pleasant surprise.

What I’d really like to do is blow the lid off of some place — to find a random restaurant you’d never suspect has an amazing burger and announce their greatness to the world, at which point the burger-eating public would rally around me and we’d all dance and sing and high-five.

In this case, I had been to BriSkit a few months ago and tried one of their brisket sandwiches, which was pretty tasty. I made a mental note to come back later and check out their burger.

There are a few burgers on the menu; I went with the no-frills Classic, which comes topped as you like it. I got my usual pickles, tomato, and mayo.

Trust me, this pains me as much as it does you, but there is no lid to blow off here. There will be no dancing, no singing, and no high-fiving (yet — one day, though.  One day).

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It’s not awful, at least, though there are a handful of fairly serious problems.

It’s definitely not an all-out meatloaf burger, but there’s some kind of seasoning in the patty that I can’t quite put my finger on, and that really did nothing but get in the way. It’s not particularly strong, but it’s hard to ignore.  It hollers at you in the background: “Hey! You like this? You like how this tastes??”

No, random unwelcome flavour. No, I don’t like how this tastes.

The flavour of the patty is otherwise muddled and unmemorable; there’s no real beefy flavour to speak of, but no off flavours either. The word “meh” was almost invented for this very purpose.

The texture’s not great either. The grind of the beef is too fine, it’s too tightly packed, and the well done patty leans pretty far in the direction of dry.

Another problem? The bun. Though it works quite well on their sloppier sandwiches, it’s way too big and substantial for a hamburger. It throws the bun-to-patty ratio way off.

Oh well. Though the burger isn’t particularly worth eating, I wouldn’t write off BriSkit altogether. The aforementioned brisket sandwich is certainly quite good.

The fries were good too. Actually, they were better than good — they were superlative. A perfect combination of crispy exterior and fluffy interior, they were some of the better fries I’ve had in a while.

2 out of 4

BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches - the restaurant BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches - the restaurant BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches - the burger and fries BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches - the burger
BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

The Burger Cellar

4 Jan

cellar
Location
: 3391 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://theburgercellar.com/

The Burger Cellar serves a pretty good burger.  The end.

What, I can’t just leave it at that?  I mean, it is my blog.  I’m pretty sure I can do whatever I want.

Fine, I’ll write a few more words.  This is probably going to be a quick one, though; there are only so many reviews of good-but-not-great burgers I can write before they all start to blend into an interchangeable jumble of phrases like “beefy flavour” and “tightly packed.”

The Burger Cellar bills itself as a “burger grill + wine bar,” so yeah, it’s a bit classier than your average burger joint.  It’s also a bit pricier than your average burger joint, but I guess you should probably expect that from a place with wine pairings on the menu.

Every burger on the menu comes with two beef choices: AAA Black Angus Natural, or Prime, which costs an extra four bucks.  I asked the waitress what the difference was, and she told me the cuts of beef that each choice was made from.  I immediately thought to myself “what a helpful tidbit for my review!” and then promptly forgot everything she said.

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I think — and please don’t quote me on this — the Black Angus is made from chuck, and the Prime is made from brisket, but I might be way off on that one.  I think I might have the worst memory on the planet.  You laugh now, but when it turns out I have ultra early onset Alzheimer’s, it won’t be so hilarious.

I asked the waitress which of the two she recommended, and of course she went with the more expensive choice.  So I ordered that, and went with the Original Classic Burger, which comes topped with “lettuce, vine-ripened tomato, red onion and a kosher dill pickle.”

As I mentioned before, it’s nothing special, but it’s pretty good.  The medium well patty had a mild-but-there beefy flavour, a little bit of juiciness, and an okay texture.  It’s a bit too finely ground and densely packed, and thus a bit on the tough side, but I’ve certainly had worse.

I wasn’t crazy about the sesame seed bun, which was a bit too substantial for the task at hand, and which tasted slightly stale.

Along with the aforementioned toppings (which were fine), ketchup, mustard, relish, and mayo were all provided on the side.    The mayo was actually quite tasty — definitely a cut above the standard Hellmann’s.

The burger doesn’t come with any sides, so I ordered fries.  They were top-notch.

3 out of 4

The Burger Cellar - the outside The Burger Cellar - the restaurant The Burger Cellar - the burger The Burger Cellar - the burger The Burger Cellar - the burger
The Burger Cellar on Urbanspoon

The White Brick Kitchen

28 Dec

white
Location
: 641 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://thewhitebrickkitchen.com/

I’ve gotta say, it was a bit of a struggle to order the burger at this place.  Having just watched this restaurant’s episode of You Gotta Eat Here, I was seriously tempted to order one of the dishes featured on that show; they looked so damn good.  But at this point, checking off more restaurants to add to this blog has become a borderline obsession.

Must… review… every… burger…

Impossible, I know.  Still, it’s a nagging enough compulsion that I was able to resist the siren song of some of the best looking fried chicken I’ve seen in my life.  My dining companion was getting the Joe Fries and said I could try some, which did help strengthen my resolve.

The White Brick Kitchen has two burgers on the menu — the revolving Featured Burger, and the 6oz Brisket Burger.  I went with the latter, which is described as coming with “house dill pickles, fry sauce.”

After last week’s Senator fiasco, I was very relieved to see a patty with some crust and colour.  The Senator’s deathly gray, colourless patty will be haunting my dreams for weeks to come, I’m sure.

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And after the grim mediocrity served at that diner, this was just what the doctor ordered.  Though the well done patty was a bit too tightly packed and slightly on the dry side, it was still fairly juicy and otherwise well above average.  First and foremost, the quality of the beef is obviously pretty high, giving the burger exactly the sort of rich, beefy flavour that you hope for.  Really good.

The aforementioned crust could have been more pronounced, but still adds a good amount of taste and texture to the hamburger.  The toppings were pretty good, too, with the pickles adding some nice vinegary crunchiness for contrast without ever overwhelming the beef.  The fry sauce did a great job of adding some flavour, but letting the beef shine through.

Though the bottom got a bit soggy, the bun otherwise complimented the burger perfectly.  The griddled, buttery crunch on the inside of the bread was a nice touch.

I ordered the cider slaw in lieu of the fries since I knew I’d get to sample the Joe Fries.  It tasted more like a less-fermented sauerkraut than like coleslaw, but it was pretty good for what it was.  As for the Joe Fries, they were just as amazing as I had hoped.  I think I’m going to have to come back just to get those.

Oh, and the fried chicken.  And the shepherd’s pie.

I think I might have to come back a couple of times.

3.5 out of 4

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The White Brick Kitchen on Urbanspoon

The Senator

21 Dec

senator
Location
: 249 Victoria Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://thesenator.com/

I was actually pretty excited to check out the Senator — any restaurant that’s been around since the ’30s has gotta be doing something right, and the place is absolutely lousy with old-school diner charm.

I’d also heard some pretty good things about their burger, which is reportedly made with beef from Cumbrae’s — one of Toronto’s more well-known butchers of note — and which is refreshingly cheap at $9.95 (including fries).

You know that part in Goodfellas where a character thinks he’s becoming a made man, only to be led into an empty basement where he has a brief moment of horror before a bullet goes into the back of his head?  I think that was pretty much my reaction when I was served this burger.  Excitement to horror in about 0.5 seconds.

Is boiling burgers a thing?  Is that something that they do?  I didn’t think so, but I really don’t know how else to account for the lifelessly pallid, colourless patty they put in front of me.

I’m going to assume that the patty was griddled, but I honestly don’t know how you cook a burger like that without getting even a hint of browning on the patty.  If this weren’t so clearly undesirable, I’d think it was deliberate.  Because seriously, how do you accomplish that?  How do you cook a piece of meat on a hot surface without browning it?  But it can’t possibly be on purpose.  Can it?

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This wasn’t a one-off mistake, either, because my dining companion had the burger as well and his looked identically sad.

Of course, if this were just a matter of appearances, then who cares?  But a burger gets a lot of its flavour and texture from the griddle or the grill, so in a case like this, it’s losing out on quite a bit.  You can tell from the first bite that something very essential is missing.

It was also a meatloaf burger, and had enough stuff mixed into the patty that its Cumbrae’s pedigree was completely wasted.  No beefy flavour here; just onions and spices and other stuff that you don’t need.  It’s meatloaf — but then again at least meatloaf has a glaze and a nice brown crust from the oven.  I can’t repeat this enough: this tasted boiled.

If it even matters, the texture of the patty was otherwise okay.  I think it was a bit too finely ground with a slightly mealy texture, and the well done patty was drier than I’d like, but I’ve certainly had worse.

The burger comes with lettuce, tomato, and caramelized onions off to the side.  The tomato was sliced a bit thick, but the toppings were otherwise fine.  However, between the sweetness of the onions and the slightly sweet (and ever-so-slightly dry) bun, it was kind of sweet overload.  I wound up putting mustard on the burger to try to combat this, which I almost never do (I typically find it to be a bit over-assertive on a hamburger).   It helped, but there wasn’t much to be done here; it was a lost cause.

The fries weren’t much better.  They were completely soggy and practically dripping with grease, with the overwhelming flavour of oil that’s been reused one (or two, or three) times too many.

They even, somehow, managed to mess up lemonade.  This is a drink that consists of three ingredients: lemon juice, water, and sugar.  How do you get that wrong?  Missing one of those three essential ingredients would do it.  The drink was astringently sour, without even a hint of sweetness.  If it’s not sweet at all, is it still even lemonade?  Or is it just watered down lemon juice?  More importantly, if everything else is this bad, does it matter?

1.5 out of 4

The Senator - the outside The Senator - the counter The Senator - the burger and fries The Senator - the burger
Senator Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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