Bymark

14 Dec

bymark
Location
: 66 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://bymark.mcewangroup.ca/

This being my 100th burger review for this blog (yeah, I can’t believe I made it this far either), I figured something special was probably in order.  And what’s more special than one of the city’s most highly-regarded burgers, and at a whopping 35 bucks, probably its most expensive?

So it was that I found myself at Bymark, a restaurant several orders of magnitude classier than where I typically go for this blog.  It’s the type of place where you look around and you think, everyone in this room probably makes more in a couple of months than I make in year.  But do they have a blog where they get to be snarky about hamburgers?  No?  Well then.

The 8 Ounce P.E.I Grass Fed Burger comes with “brie de meaux, porcini mushrooms, & crisp onion rings or frites.”  I figured the onion rings might be more interesting than fries, so I went with those.  I was also asked how I wanted the burger cooked, and requested medium rare.

I’m not going to lie: I was pretty skeptical that this meal could possibly justify the extra-large price tag.  With that price, it’s about double the cost of even the most expensive burgers I’ve reviewed for the blog thus far.  I was ready to dislike it just on principle.  Where do you get off charging that much for a burger??

Well… It’s a pretty amazing hamburger.  It’s grilled and came cooked to a perfect medium rare — and when I say perfect, I mean perfect.  Normally when you get a burger cooked medium rare, it comes out that way in the centre, with a fairly significant ring around the edges of well done beef.  That phenomenon is minimized to a ridiculously impressive degree here, with amazingly consistent medium rare beef practically the whole way through.  I have no idea how they managed to cook it this evenly from edge to edge (sous vide, perhaps?), but however it’s done, it is glorious.

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The patty was coarsely ground and a bit densely packed — but oddly enough, not in a bad way.  Though a loosely packed burger is normally what you’re looking for, this patty had a rich, almost steak-like consistency, without ever losing its hamburgery goodness.  It was actually quite unlike any burger I’ve ever had, but in an amazing way.

It’s also one of the tastier burgers I’ve had in a while, with a nicely beefy flavour that’s fairly pronounced, even if it could be stronger (Allen’s definitely has it beat in this regard).

Oh, and it was super juicy, too; it made me want to parade it around to most of Toronto’s burger joints and say “See?  See how juicy this is?  This is how juicy a burger is supposed to be.   Stop being an idiot.”

Are you getting the sense that I liked this burger?  Because yeah, I kinda liked it.

The toppings were pretty great as well.  The brie was super creamy, with a distinctively nutty but not overly sharp flavour that complimented the beef perfectly.  The mushrooms were garlicky and intensely flavourful; they were crazy delicious, though I do think they were a little bit overwhelming — one of the burger’s few weak points.

I quite liked the bun, too.  Though it was more substantial than I typically want, with a burger this big, rich, and juicy, you need that kind of substance or it’ll fall apart.

I will say that I wasn’t crazy about the onion rings.  They were fine, but there wasn’t anything all that special about them.  And though the smaller ones at the top of the pile were crispy and perfectly cooked, the larger ones at the bottom were doughy and underdone.  That didn’t stop me from eating all of them, of course, but after that superb burger they couldn’t help but feel like a pretty big let-down.

I honestly didn’t think that this review was going to go this way, but you know what?  This burger was absolutely worth the 35 bucks.  It’s not something you’re going to get all the time, but as a special treat?  Hell yeah.  It’s amazingly rich and flavourful, with a heady decadence and an overall level of quality that really is in a league of its own.

I kind of wish that I hadn’t eaten it, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to be craving it all the time now.  It’s a very strong contender for the best burger in the city.

4 out of 4

Bymark - the outside Bymark - the menu Bymark - the restaurant Bymark - the burger Bymark - the burger Bymark - the burger

Stein Burger and Koop

7 Dec

stein
Location
: 1285 Elgin Mills Road East, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://www.steinburgerandkoop.com/

This was actually my second time going to Stein Burger and Koop.  It wasn’t my second time eating there, but it was my second time at the restaurant.  A couple of friends and I visited a few months ago; we were seated and handed menus, and then promptly ignored for the next half hour.  None of us were in a particularly confrontational mood, so we eventually just left, sad and burgerless.  The amazingly bad service (or non-existent, more accurately) would have been impressive if it weren’t so frustrating.

I guess everyone deserves a second chance, so I recently found myself back at the restaurant; the service was much better this time (well, there was service, which by default means it was better).

Stein Burger and Koop is essentially a sports bar, with mostly burgers and wings on the menu, and the usual generic selection of sandwiches and wraps to round things out.  I went with the Steinburger, which is no-frills with just lettuce, tomato, onion, and their “signature sauce.”

It’s a smashed and griddled burger, because apparently that’s the law.  Didn’t you hear?  They passed that law.  All burgers have to be smashed now.

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It’s fine.  There’s not much crust from the griddle, and the well-done burger was quite dry, but it was okay.  Nothing about it offended me.  There wasn’t much beefy flavour (or any flavour at all, really), but again, it was perfectly edible.

The toppings, too, were fine.  The onions were too strong for my taste (but then I find most raw onions too strong, so that’s on me) and the “signature sauce” basically tasted like plain mayo, but it all got the job done.

The soft, fresh bun was mostly okay, though it wasn’t quite up to the task at hand; even with the fairly dry patty, the bottom bun sogged up and was close to falling apart in the last few bites.

But whatever.  There are certainly worse burgers in the GTA.  You can eat here, I guess.  When you do, you’ll think to yourself “Yes, that was a burger I just ate.”  Then you’ll stand up, walk out the door, and never think about it again.  It will be consigned to the trash-dump of your memory, where all the hundreds of anonymous, unmemorable meals that you’ll eat throughout your lifetime will go to be forgotten about forever.

Maybe a few months later someone will ask you about it.  “You ate there, right?” they’ll ask, looking to you for some form of guidance.  “How was it?” You’ll rack your brain, straining to remember if you’ve ever even been there, let alone how the burger was.  This will be for naught.  It’s gone.  Nothing about that visit has remained.

On your deathbed, in that brief moment after your heart stops beating and your brain shuts down, a synapse — unused for decades — will suddenly fire.  You will remember that meal, that mediocre burger.  “Oh yeah, I guess I did eat there” you’ll think, and then darkness.

2.5 out of 4

Stein Burger and Koop - the restaurant Stein Burger and Koop - the inside Stein Burger and Koop - the burger and fries Stein Burger and Koop - the burger
Stein Burger & Koop on Urbanspoon

Stupidburger

30 Nov

stupid
Location
9750 Weston Road, Unit #2, Vaughan
Websitehttp://www.stupidburger.ca/

Stupid burgers need the most attention.

Sorry for the random paraphrased Simpsons quote, but I literally cannot hear the name of this place without thinking of that particular line.

It’s certainly an odd name for a restaurant, but if an unusual name is what it takes for a burger joint to be noticed these days, so be it.

I’ll admit it though, my expectations weren’t super high. The only thing I had heard about this place was this lukewarm review from a fellow Toronto burger blogger. Between that and the name, I dialed my expectations way down.

If nothing else, the place is delightfully affordable. Though they have a really extensive menu with all kinds of pre-topped burgers and various patty choices, I went simple with just the regular 6 oz burger. As a combo with fries and a drink, it came up to less than nine bucks with tax.

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Given the prices I’ve gotten used to paying at Toronto burger joints, it’s almost suspiciously cheap.

I’m just going to say it then: it’s a really good burger.  Though nothing about it blew me away, it gets pretty much everything right and very little wrong.  It’s griddled, with a decent amount of crust.  It’s nice and juicy despite being cooked to well done.  It’s coarsely ground and not too tightly packed, giving it a really satisfying texture.  It has a mild but very pleasant beefy flavour.  And the fresh, lightly toasted bun suits the patty perfectly.

I really enjoyed it. It’s nothing I’m going to lose my mind over or urge you to go way out of your way to try; it’s just a perfectly executed fast-food-style burger that’s really tasty and satisfying.  Considering the price, you can’t ask for much more than that.

As for the fries, they were seriously tasty, and right on par with the hamburger.

Stupidburger… more like… notstupidburger, right guys?

I’ll show myself out.

3.5 out of 4

Stupidburger - the outside Stupidburger - the restaurant Stupidburger - the fries Stupidburger - the burger Stupidburger - the burger
Stupid Burger on Urbanspoon

Wahlburgers

23 Nov

wahl
Location
: 46 Blue Jays Way, Toronto
Websitehttp://wahlburgers.ca/

Kudos to whichever Wahlberg brother realized that their name made them ideally suited to open a burger joint, and double-kudos to whichever one decided that they should actually make good on what I can only assume started as a silly joke. As a fan of cheesy puns and general wordplay, I approve.

And if you want to eat a hamburger while basking in the reflected glory of a famous movie star and a semi-famous TV star (and a third guy you probably don’t care about), then Wahlburgers will fit the bill.

Of course, there’s a good chance that you don’t care about such things, and are just looking for a tasty burger. Thankfully, Wahlburgers is more than just a Planet Hollywood-esque shrine to celebrity-adjacent dining; it’s certainly nothing anyone is going to go too crazy over, but they serve a pretty good burger.

It’s a fairly large, full-service restaurant with long list of pre-topped burgers to be had. Each Wahlberg has his favourite burger labelled on the menu: Donnie’s got a BBQ bacon burger, Mark has a turkey burger, and Paul (i.e. the Wahlberg you haven’t heard of –- and the chef) has a simple cheeseburger. I went with Paul’s choice, dubbed Our Burger: “Paul’s signature Wahl sauce, dill pickles, government cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion.”

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The griddled burger was cooked all the way to well done (despite the claim that they cook to medium on the menu), but was somewhat juicy regardless. It was definitely a bit more dry than I’d like, particularly around the edges, but I’ve certainly had worse. It was also too tightly packed and a little bit dense, making it a bit more tough than it needed to be.

Still, it’s a pretty good cheeseburger outside of those two beefs (no pun intended… oh, who am I kidding? Pun absolutely intended). The meat has a decent –- if somewhat mild –- beefy flavour, and the American cheese on top is nicely gooey. Though the bun looks a little bit big, it’s not overwhelming at all and actually suits the burger perfectly.

The other toppings were all solid — particularly the onions, oddly enough. I normally find raw onions to be a bit too overwhelming for my tastes, but these were very thinly sliced and nice and mild. They added some crunch and oniony character without over-asserting themselves, as onions tend to do.

The burgers don’t come with any sides, so I got an order of tater tots.  I could have gotten fries as per usual, but who can say no to tater tots?  Nobody, that’s who.  They pretty much tasted like run-of-the-mill cafeteria tots.  This isn’t a bad thing.  I also tried the onion rings, which are more like onion strings than what you’d expect.  They were pretty good as well.

3 out of 4

Wahlburgers Toronto - the outside Wahlburgers Toronto - the restaurant Wahlburgers Toronto - onion rings and tater tots Wahlburgers Toronto - Our Burger Wahlburgers Toronto - Our Burger
Wahlburgers on Urbanspoon

The Tavern by Trevor

16 Nov

tavern
Location
: 147 Spadina Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.tavernbytrevor.com/

Though The Tavern by Trevor isn’t technically on Toronto Life’s list of the twenty best burgers in the city, it’s a spin-off of a restaurant that is (Trevor Kitchen and Bar), so I sort of figured I was in good hands.

The burger they serve is labelled as a Kobe burger. Excuse me for going on a brief rant, but this is misguided on several levels, not the least of which being that anything called Kobe beef in Canada is almost certainly not actually Kobe beef. Kobe beef refers to a specific breed of cattle raised in a specific part of Japan (Kobe), and is pretty much never exported to Canada — not legally, at least. It’s far more likely that what’s being served here is Wagyu beef, which is similar enough to Kobe that many restaurants feel okay labeling it as such, even if it’s not really true.

That’s not to mention that the biggest appeal of Kobe (or Wagyu) beef is its prodigious marbling, which is rendered entirely moot when you grind it up for a hamburger.

So basically, labeling something as a Kobe burger is completely meaningless. It is a marketing ploy at best, and an excuse to overcharge at worst. Fortunately the latter isn’t the case here; at ten bucks (plus an additional five for fries), the price is about on par with what you’d expect at a restaurant like this.

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The 6 oz Kobe Burger is described as coming with “horseradish mayo, smoked cheddar & caramelized onion.”

The grilled burger came cooked to medium rare and was reasonably juicy. I think, however, that the heat was too high, as the exterior of the burger was thoroughly charred, with an unpleasantly acrid, bitter flavour.

The patty was also too tightly packed and, I think, a bit too finely ground. It was fine in the medium rare centre, but the well done edges were dry, dense, and unpleasant.

Still, the bulk of the patty (i.e. everything but the edges) is fairly tasty with a good texture, though the pervasive bitterness is unfortunate.

The smoked cheddar is creamy, nicely melted and not too sharp, allowing the beef to be the star of the show. The horseradish mayo also suits the burger pretty well.

Sadly, the bun was awful. Dry, unpleasantly dense, and — I think — more than a little bit stale, it’s a complete fiasco. It’s definitely one of the shoddiest buns I’ve had in quite a long time.

Basically, it’s a good burger with a few pretty major flaws.  With a fresh bun and without being way over-charred it actually could have been really good, but sadly they served what they served.

As for the fries, they were outstanding.  Really tasty and addictively crispy without ever becoming too crunchy, they were pretty great.

3 out of 4

Tavern by Trevor - the restaurant Tavern by Trevor - the menu Tavern by Trevor - the burger and fries Tavern by Trevor - the burger
The Tavern by Trevor on Urbanspoon

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