El Furniture Warehouse

19 Oct

warehouse
Location
: 410 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/ElFurnitureTO

In case you’re not familiar with the place, El Furniture Warehouse’s whole shtick is that every item on the menu costs five bucks (or more accurately, $4.95).  Yes, all the appetizers, mains, and desserts are five bucks.

As you can imagine, it’s a popular place — I went on a Saturday afternoon, and it was pretty much packed.  The vibe seemed a little bit forced, like they were trying really, really hard to be hip, including a purposely unfinished design with a hodgepodge of ephemera on the walls, servers with piercings and tattoos aplenty, and the requisite uncomfortably loud music (how much of a curmudgeon do I sound like right now?).

As for the food?  Surprisingly enough, it’s not horrible.

It’s not particularly good, mind you — but considering what they charge, it could have been a whole lot worse (it certainly doesn’t seem to be any worse than a place like Kelsey’s or Boston Pizza, where the prices are double if not triple what they’re charging here).

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I’m not sure the quality of the food even matters at these prices, but I’ll note that the burger is frozen and industrially produced.  The patties are a bit higher quality than usual (similar to what they serve at Zet’s), so that’s good at least.  It’s not quite as hot-doggy as some, and actually does have some vague beef flavour.  Still, no one will be confusing it for anything but what it is: a cheapo burger that can claim to be edible, but not much more.

There are three burgers on the menu, but the waitress helpfully pointed me in the direction of The Works, their signature hamburger: “maple bacon, cheddar, crispy onion strings, macho sauce, shredded lettuce and tomato on a toasted Brioche bun.”

The toppings were all actually pretty decent — the macho sauce was some kind of garlic mayo, and everything else was pretty good, including the fresh, slightly sweet brioche bun.  With a better patty it could have actually been not bad, but that patty does bring the whole thing down several pegs.

Still, for five bucks including fries (i.e. cheaper than fast food), it might be worth a vague recommendation, provided you know what you’re getting into.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, however, to hear that the fries also aren’t that great; like the burger, they obviously originated in a factory many, many miles away, followed by a long stay in a freezer.  They’re pretty bland, but again, I’ve had worse.

2 out of 4

El Furniture Warehouse - the outside El Furniture Warehouse - the inside El Furniture Warehouse - the burger and fries El Furniture Warehouse - the burger
El Furniture Warehouse on Urbanspoon

Stoney’s Bread Company

13 Oct

stoneys
Location
http://www.stoneysbreadcompany.com/
Website1045 The Queensway, Etobicoke

After a few years of success in their original Oakville location (including being featured on the Canadian photocopy of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, You Gotta Eat Here), Stoney’s Bread Company is expanding.  I’ve been to the original location a few times and quite enjoyed it, so I was obviously pretty happy to hear they were coming a bit closer to home.

I didn’t even realize they had a burger.  I went because I wanted to check out the new location, but then I saw the hamburger on the menu and it was game over.  Do I want a burger?  Yes.  The answer to that question is always yes.

The burger is not-so-descriptively described on the menu as a “house made 6 oz. premium beef burger.”  I guess the toppings aren’t set in stone.

The version I got, at least, is definitely a kitchen sink burger.   Between the generous pile of sweet caramelized onions, the salty bacon, the sharp cheddar cheese, and all the other toppings (lettuce, pickles, and some kind of mayo I think), there’s a lot going on here.  It’s a bit of a mess.  A tasty mess, but a mess regardless.

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Sadly, it’s not the beefiest tasting burger ever.  In fact, I’d say there’s pretty much zero beefy flavour here, though this is the type of burger that’s so voluminously topped that the patty itself is almost just a vehicle for the toppings.  It’s also a meatloaf burger, with stuff mixed into the patty — but again, the hamburger is so topping-heavy that it barely makes a difference either way.

But yes, it is tasty.  I’ve had kitchen sink burgers where the toppings seem willy-nilly and the flavours never really cohere in any meaningful way, but here it all works: the saltiness of the cheddar and bacon is offset by the sweetness of the onions, and the richness of it all is cut by vinegary bite of the pickles.

The patty is almost an afterthought in this medley of flavours, but it’s substantial enough that it isn’t entirely drowned out.  it is, however, a bit on the mushy side (a frequent issue with meatloaf burgers), but thankfully this isn’t nearly as egregious as it can sometimes be.  It’s also a bit too finely ground, but the texture of the patty is otherwise mostly where it should be, with a decent amount of juiciness despite being cooked to well done.

The bun was okay; it was substantial enough to (mostly) hold up to the extremely messy burger, but it was untoasted and cold.  Not room temperature; cold, like it had been kept in the fridge.  That was a bit unpleasant, but the rest of the burger quickly warmed it up.

I will say that unless you’re seriously in the mood for a burger, it’s not what I’d order here.  I’ve also had a couple of the sandwiches and the pizzas, and though I liked the burger, it was the weakest thing I’ve tried.  The slow-roasted lamb sandwich in particular was quite delicious.

The burger comes with a side of baked potato wedges, and some kind of spicy mayo to dip them in.  They were fine: well cooked, but nothing to write home about.

2.5 out of 4

Stoney's Bread Company - the outside Stoney's Bread Company - the restaurant Stoney's Bread Company - the burger Stoney's Bread Company - the burger
Stoney's Bread Company on Urbanspoon

Big Jack’s Burger Shop

5 Oct

big
Location
: 8384 Woodbine Avenue, Markham
Websitehttp://www.bigjacks.ca/

Every burger joint I visit, I go in hoping I’m going to love it.  I know I can occasionally come off as nitpicky, but I eat every hamburger looking for things to love, not things to criticize.  Nothing would please me more than to spend the rest of my days writing nothing but glowing reviews.

That being said… some burgers just aren’t very good.  Sometimes I’ve gotta pick nits.

Big Jack’s is actually in the same location as Prime Burger, one of those really old school burger joints that was probably older than many of its customers.  I had meant to check it out for ages, but alas, I never got around to it.  Such is life.

It’s a fairly small place, but there are a decent amount of tables inside.  They have a handful of signature burgers on the menu, but the topping selections — including one with pulled pork, and one with grilled cheese sandwiches instead of a bun — were a little bit too busy for my liking, so I went with the plain burger.  I got it topped with my usual tomato, pickles, and mayo; with a drink and a generous portion of fries, it came up to about eleven bucks.

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I wish it were better than it was, but sadly it just wasn’t very good.  For one thing it’s a meatloaf burger, and an especially strong one at that, with the spices and who-knows-what mixed into the patty effectively steamrolling whatever beefy flavour it might have had.  It didn’t taste bad per se, but the spicing just seemed to be there to be there; it had no real purpose.  It didn’t enhance the taste of the beef, it only obscured it.

The griddled patty was cooked all the way to well done, and featured the unholy trinity of dry hamburger cookery: beef that is overly lean, too finely ground, and too tightly packed.  This results in a burger that’s dry, dense, and tough.  When a burger practically requires as much chewing power as a thick steak, you’ve got problems.

The toppings were fine, however, and the fresh sesame seed bun suited the burger perfectly.

As for the fries, they were the clear highlight.  Thinly cut and perfectly fried, they were delicious.  If this blog were called Tasty Fries, I’d be giving this place a pretty high rating, but it’s not so I won’t.

1.5 out of 4

Big Jack's Burger Shop - the restaurant Big Jack's Burger Shop - the restaurant Big Jack's Burger Shop - the burger and fries Big Jack's Burger Shop - the burger
Big Jack’S Burger Shops on Urbanspoon

Food Cabbie

28 Sep

cabbie
Location
: It’s a truck, so check Twitter to see where they’re parked
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Food-Cabbie/137387466356927

Food Cabbie is one of those places I’ve been meaning to check out almost since I started this blog.  As one of the earlier food trucks in Toronto’s recent food truck boom, they obviously have staying power, which you’d think would indicate they’re serving up some pretty good food.

You’d think.

They have a few burgers on the menu: quarter pound, half pound, and a chili burger dubbed the L.A. Tommy Burger.

If it weren’t for this review, I wouldn’t have ordered anything.  I would have gotten the hell out of there posthaste.  My dining companion ordered first; he got the L.A. Tommy, and since we could see the man doing the cooking, we could clearly see him pull out the saddest looking pre-cooked burger I’ve ever seen and slap it on the griddle.

I suddenly got PTSD-esque flashbacks to BBQ Express, an experience I was doing my best to completely erase from my memory.  Like with that burger, every bone in my body was telling me to high-tail it out of there and never look back, but you know what?  My self-imposed burger blogging duties mean I have to take the bad with the good.  I’m here to eat this garbage so you don’t have to.  I’m here to jump on that grenade for you.  

I steeled myself and ordered the quarter pound burger.

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It comes topped with mayo and tomato, with further condiments available on a picnic table just next to the truck.  I figured I’d keep it simple and eat the burger as it comes.

I just… I don’t…  What.

I think it might have been a frozen patty, but I honestly couldn’t tell because it wasn’t quite like any other pre-fab burger that I’ve had; it was worse.  It certainly looked like a frozen burger, but… Everything about it was wrong.

I’m not sure if it was the reheating or what, but it was just awful on every level.  I don’t even know what to make of the texture, which had that chewy, hot-doggy texture typical of frozen burgers, but which was also horrifically mushy.  Like, I’m not even sure how to describe that texture, other than to say it was horrible, and — I’m pretty sure — mere steps away from triggering my gag reflex.

The taste wasn’t much better.  Acrid and burnt around the edges, it had a gamy, downright nasty flavour that, at the very least, was somewhat disguised by how incredibly salty it was.  I’ve obviously never eaten cat food, but this is what I’d imagine it would taste like if you mashed some Fancy Feast into a patty and griddled it.

It’s one of the worst hamburgers I’ve ever had.  It’s certainly right down there with Hero Certified Burgers, which I didn’t even think was possible.  Like with that burger, I couldn’t finish it (an exceedingly rare occurrence for me).  I got a bit more than half-way through and I just couldn’t stomach another bite.

I actually feel kind of bad.  I felt no remorse whatsoever ripping into Hero Burger, a soulless corporation whose modus operandi is to fleece Canadians by using slick marketing and sheer omnipresence to trick them into buying a shoddy (at best) product.  I only gave them what they had coming.

Food Cabbie, on the other hand, seems to be a mom and pop operation.  No one opens a food truck to get rich; these are people who, presumably, wanted to share their food with the city, and thought they could make a living doing so.  That’s what makes the complete lack of care in the food they’re serving so baffling.  I’m honestly quite confused by it, but I can only comment on the food I was served that day, which was atrocious.

And the sad fact of the matter is, this burger was so thoroughly horrible on every level that it’s very difficult to speculate that they were just having a bad day.  It was bad food, period.

They must have been serving something worth eating at some point, otherwise I don’t see how they could possibly survive in the GTA’s ever-expanding food truck scene, but those days are clearly long gone.

As for the fries, they were almost as bad as the burger. Pale, with a soggy, grease-soaked exterior and a chalky, undercooked interior, they joined what was left of the burger in the garbage.

Yikes.

0 out of 4

Food Cabbie - the truck Food Cabbie - the truck Food Cabbie - the fries Food Cabbie - the burger Food Cabbie - the burger
Food Cabbie Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Daisho

21 Sep

momo
Location
: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://momofuku.com/toronto/daisho/

When I heard that Daisho was going to start serving the Momofuku collaboration with Shake Shack that reportedly caused the longest line-up in Shake Shack history, I was pretty excited. And by “pretty excited”, I mean crazy excited.

Alas, it turns out that this burger is only served at lunch, and Daisho only serves lunch during the week. Seeing that I work in Mississauga, trying this burger suddenly seemed like an impossible dream (see here for an approximation of my reaction to this fact).

But then I remembered that I was taking a week off for TIFF, and all was right with the world again. I made sure to leave a gap in my schedule, and I was off to the races.

The Momofuku Shrimp Stack is described on the menu like this: “beef, hozon mayo, kohlrabi slaw” (very descriptive, I know — because everyone loves menus that just list a few ingredients and tell you nothing about what the dishes are actually like.  I’m sorry, did I say loves?  Because I meant hates).

Not that you’d know this from the super vague menu description, but the thing that makes the Shrimp Stack a shrimp stack is the thin shrimp patty resting atop the burger’s more traditional toppings (cheese, pickles, etc.).

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The best thing about this burger? The beef patty. It’s ridiculously juicy. It is amazingly, awe-inspiringly juicy. It also had a good amount of crust from the griddle, a great texture, and a decent (if not particularly overwhelming) beefy flavour.

It’s pretty great. Also great? The soft, pliant, incredibly fresh bun that held up to the rest of the burger amazingly well. It added just the right amount of breadiness without ever over-asserting itself or getting in the way. It was perfect.

I wasn’t quite as crazy as the burger’s eponymous shrimp patty, however. While it was tasty enough, it was deeply shrimpy and was easily the burger’s strongest flavour. Of course, the burger is called Shrimp Stack, so perhaps criticizing it for being too shrimpy is ridiculous. But this is a burger blog, so obviously that’s where my head’s at.

My other main objection is that the burger’s flavour is overwhelmingly rich. Between the melty American cheese, the juicy beef patty, and the concentrated shrimpiness of that patty, the flavour is a bit one-note. You’d think the pickles (traditional pickles and pickled onions) would cut the richness, but you can honestly barely even tell they’re there.

Still, though the whole thing wasn’t quite as earth-shakingly delicious as I had hoped, it was still pretty damn tasty, flaws and all.

The onion rings, with their delicately crispy batter and perfectly cooked onions, were outstanding. I’m normally not a dipping-my-onion-rings guy, but it came with a curry-tinged ketchup that was too good to resist. The kohlrabi slaw was also well above average.

Momofuku Toronto - the outside Momofuku Shoto - the restaurant Momofuku Shoto - pickles Momofuku Shoto - the Shrimp Stack Momofuku Shoto - the Shrimp Stack
Momofuku Daishō on Urbanspoon

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