Chef Burger

22 Feb

chef
Location
: 8910 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://www.chefburgers.ca/

Burger?  Check.  Cheeseburger?  Check.  Fries?  Check.  Onion rings?  Check.  Tongue sandwiches?  Check.  Wait, what?

You don’t often find a burger joint with multiple tongue sandwiches on the menu (both calf and lamb), but Chef Burger’s Middle Eastern owners obviously have a bit more on their mind than just burgers and fries.

I was actually kind of tempted to get one of those tongue sandwiches, but then how would I satisfy my insatiable need to review more and more burger joints for this blog?  I ordered the namesake Chef Burger, and had it topped with their special sauce, along with pickles and tomato.

The grilled, well done burger is somewhat juicy, but it’s too finely ground, giving it a vaguely mealy texture.  I’ve certainly had worse in this regard, but I do wish that the grind was a little bit more coarse.

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It’s also a meatloaf burger — but as far as these types of burgers go, the flavouring is pretty subtle.  I definitely noticed onions in there, but it otherwise wasn’t very aggressively spiced.  You’d think this would allow the burger’s beefy flavour to shine through, but not really.  It’s surprisingly bland.  It doesn’t taste bad, but it’s very neutral-tasting beef.

Any issue with the flavour of the burger itself, however, is almost entirely moot if you get your burger topped with their special sauce — a garlicky, tzatziki-esque concoction that, while tasty, completely overwhelms any other flavour that the burger might have.  It’s good, but man, it is seriously in your face.

The other toppings are pretty good, and the bun is surprisingly good.  It looks like it should be too big, but it’s fresh, light, and fluffy, and suits the burger perfectly.  It also has a very lightly crispy exterior, which is always delightful.

The fries, however, aren’t great.  They’re not terrible; they’re just run-of-the-mill frozen fries.  They suit their purpose, but don’t do much more than that.  My dining companion got the onion rings, which are pretty much the same deal: frozen, mediocre, okay.

2.5 out of 4

Chef Burger - the outside Chef Burger - the restaurant Chef Burger - the fries and onion rings Chef Burger - the burger Chef Burger - the burger

The Burger Shack

15 Feb

shack
Location: 233 Eglinton Avenue West, Toronto
Website: None

I mentioned recently, in my review of Dangerous Dan’s, that most old-school burger joints in Toronto are kind of lousy.  They all pretty much look the same, and they all serve similarly mediocre meatloaf burgers (or even worse, a frozen burger).  They’re a nice reminder of how good we have it now, and how difficult it used to be to find a decent hamburger in this city, but that’s about it.

That’s The Burger Shack, in a nutshell.  It’s not much better or much worse than any other old-school burger joint in the GTA.  It is what it is.

Like a lot of restaurants of its ilk, it has two different burgers on the menu: a really cheap one, usually frozen, and a slightly less cheap one that they make in-house.  I went with the latter, and had it topped with tomato, pickles, and mayo.

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This being an old school burger joint, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the burgers here are grilled.  Grilling can add an appealing smokiness to a burger; it can also, if overdone, add a bitter, burnt flavour.  Sadly, that was the case here.  And though the well done patty was a little bit juicy, it was also ridiculously tightly-packed and tough.

It was also, of course, a meatloaf burger; it was seriously meatloafy, with almost zero beefy flavour and a vaguely sausage-like consistency.

The bun was fine, and the toppings were mostly fine, though like with a lot of old school burger joints, the “mayo” was actually Miracle Whip (or some cheap, Miracle-Whip-like substitute).  I don’t know why so many of these places think it’s okay to substitute Miracle Whip for mayo without telling their customers.  Sure, they look the same, but they taste completely different.

So the burger was mediocre (at best), but I’ll end this review on a positive note.  The fries, though unsalted (salt was provided on the tables), were otherwise amazing.  Like, seriously, addictively amazing.  Strong contender for the best fries I’ve ever had amazing.  AMAZING.  They had a great potatoey flavour, and were the perfect combo of crispiness and creaminess.  Seriously: I want to come back here and just eat a large order of those fries.  So good.

2 out of 4

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Burger Shack on Urbanspoon

O&B Canteen

1 Feb

canteen
Location
330 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://oliverbonacini.com/Canteen.aspx

I’m at the Lightbox to watch movies semi-regularly, so I’m actually kind of surprised it took me this long to check the Canteen out.  I used to enjoy getting pastries from here when I was on my way to a movie, but a couple of TIFFs ago I got a croissant that totally put me off the place.  It looked like a croissant but tasted like Wonder Bread.  It was shockingly bad.

The O&B Canteen has an all-over-the-place menu that ranges from jerk chicken and prawn curry to pulled pork and pizza.  And of course, a burger.  It’s a mish-mash of dishes that might lead you to believe that the restaurant is a Jack of all trades, master of none, and… well, you’d be correct (at least if the burger is anything to go by).

The Canteen Burger comes topped with “bacon, aged cheddar, pickled jalapeño, herb mayo, hot house tomato,” and also includes a side order of fries.

It’s fine, I guess.  The well done patty generally has a decent texture, though it’s dryer than I’d like.  The taste is a bit more questionable.  The beef is pretty tasteless, and has a vague gamy flavour that was kind of unpleasant.  However, this is less of an issue than you’d think; it’s nearly impossible to taste the beef with all the stuff they’ve got piled on top of it.

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The toppings are pretty tasty, at least, which is good because that’s where about 95 percent of this burger’s flavour comes from.  Though the cheddar was almost completely unmelted, it tasted good. The sharp cheese and creamy mayo contrasted nicely with the vinegary bite of the abundant pickled jalapeños, and though the tomatoes kind of got lost in the mix, it was overall a pretty good combo.  It doesn’t quite make you forget how mediocre the burger itself is, but it helps.

The bun was amazing.  Super fresh, with a very delicately crackly exterior and a fluffy interior that still had enough substance to hold up to the many toppings, it was pretty close to bun perfection (I guess I should give their pastries another chance).

The fries were also above average, and came with a delicious curry-tinged ketchup for dipping.  So basically, everything was actually pretty good — except for the burger patty itself.  Which is kind of an important element in a hamburger.  You know, just a little bit.

Since I mentioned prices in my last review, it’s only fair for me to point out that for 17 bucks for the burger and fries, it’s a bit expensive.  This wouldn’t be a problem if the burger was great.  The burger was not great.

2.5 out of 4

O&B Canteen - the restaurant O&B Canteen - the restaurant O&B Canteen - the burger and fries O&B Canteen - the burger

Bareburger

25 Jan

bare
Location
: 111 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://111-dundas-st-w-toronto.bareburger.com/

It makes me really happy when I think about how good it’s gotten for burger-lovers in Toronto over the last several years.  A few years ago, with the dearth of great burger choices in the city, Bareburger would have been a breath of fresh air.  But now?  Not so much.

And Bareburger is a fairly popular chain in the States, with most of its locations around New York City.  I’ve been under the impression that New York had us handily beat in the burger department, but if this place is good enough to thrive there, it might not be so clear-cut.

It’s not even that Bareburger is bad, per se.  It’s fine.  There’s just nothing particularly noteworthy about it.

It’s a nicely designed restaurant, with lots of light coming in from the windows.  Unlike a lot of burger joints in the city, it’s waiter service, with more than just burgers on the menu (and more choices than just beef for the burgers).

You can either pick one of their handful of pre-topped burgers, or you can customize your own.  I went with the Standard: “beef, colby, stout onions, dill pickles, special sauce, brioche bun.”

Like I said, it’s fine.  The griddled burger comes cooked to well done (they say medium well on the menu, but this sucker was gray throughout), and while it was vaguely juicy, it was dryer than I’d like.  It was also a little bit too dense, and somewhat tough.

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The patty has a very mildly beefy flavour, which was entirely wiped out by the burger’s toppings.  In particular, the zesty special sauce completely knocked out any flavour from the beef itself.  It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong — it was just a bit overwhelming.

The other toppings were pretty good as well.  The fully melted colby cheese was mild and creamy, and the caramelized stout onions were dark brown, with a sweet, rich flavour.

I wasn’t as keen on the brioche bun. It was okay, but it was way too dense and substantial for the task at hand.  It was also a good thirty percent wider than the patty itself, leaving me with a ridiculous amount of bun on my plate after the patty was long gone.  Come on, guys.  Seriously.  This is burger making 101.

I feel like I’m piling on more criticism than this place deserves (again, it’s not bad), but I have to mention that it’s alarmingly expensive.  The burgers are all in the 12 to 15 dollar price range, and that doesn’t include a side.  Fries will run you another three bucks.  Factor a drink and a tip on top of that, and you’re looking at spending well north of twenty bucks.  I don’t always pay a ton of attention to this in my reviews, because it’s the quality of the burger that really concerns me, but these prices are a little bit intense, especially considering the only-average quality of the food.

The fries, too, were good but not great.  But hey, let me close things out with a couple of things I really liked.  They have a handful of interesting sodas on the menu — I have a hard time saying no to a unique soda, so obviously I got one.  I went with blueberry, and it was surprisingly good.  The blueberry flavour was really outstanding; it almost tasted like a blueberry pie in soda form.  It was one of the best sodas I’ve had in quite a while.

For dessert, my dining companion ordered the Snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich; I wound up splitting it with him, and oh man was it good.  I think it might even have Bang Bang beat for the title of best ice cream sandwich in the city.  The cookie was cinnamony and chewy, with the absolute perfect ice cream sandwich consistency — dense, but not too dense, with just the right amount of chew.  And the super creamy ice cream had a satisfyingly intense roasted marshmallow flavour — I think it was either from Greg’s, or very similar to what they serve there.  It was the absolute perfect match for that cookie.  I’m not even kidding: you need to go there just for that sandwich.  It was outstanding.

2.5 out of 4

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Bareburger on Urbanspoon

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

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