Sliders

24 Aug

sliders
Location
: 704 The Queensway, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://twitter.com/_SLIDERS

Sliders is on a shrinking list of places I’ve been meaning to review since I started this blog. I went there once a few years ago (pre-Tasty Burgers) and found it to be passable but fairly mediocre — the kind of unremarkable place that almost immediately recedes from your memory.

Time after time I’d think “Maybe I’ll finally review Sliders this week!” only to find an excuse to go somewhere else instead. I’m not going to lie: I didn’t particularly want to go back.

Long story short: I went back and it was pretty much exactly as I remembered. It was fine — I would theoretically eat there again, but with a Burger’s Priest location less than five minutes away, it’s not going to happen.

True to their name, they serve sliders — though what they serve are just mini hamburgers, not actually sliders by the true meaning of the term (to my knowledge, no one in Toronto serves that style of hamburger). That being the case, I went with a normal-sized burger instead. I got the Double Stacker with Cheese and had it topped with Slider sauce, pickles, and tomato.

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The griddled patties were cooked to well done were a tad on the dry side, though they did actually have some juiciness to them. There was also a little bit of crust from the griddle, but not nearly as much as there should have been.

Though I wouldn’t exactly call this a meatloaf burger, there was definitely something other than salt and pepper mixed into the patty. It’s subtle, but it’s definitely there. Still, some beefy flavour remains, which, however mild, is pleasant.

The cheese was American, perfect for a classic cheeseburger like this. The slider sauce was a spicy mayo that actually did have a small kick to it; the other toppings were fine. The bun was fresh and suited the burger well.

Again, it’s not a bad burger — but with Burger’s Priest nearby serving a burger done in a similar style that’s so, so much better, Sliders feels redundant.

The fries, however, were really excellent. It’s close, but they probably have Burger’s Priest beat in that department.

Sliders - the outside Sliders - the restaurant Sliders - the burger and fries Sliders - the burger
Sliders on Urbanspoon

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

10 Aug

mildred
Location
: 85 Hanna Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.templekitchen.com/

It’s been a while since I’ve visited a place from Toronto Life’s list of the best burgers in Toronto, and though my last experience wasn’t particularly great, I figured it was about time to check another one off the list.  This week: number 17, Mildred Temple Kitchen.

I actually tried to go here a couple of weeks ago for brunch, but the restaurant was packed, with a 40 minute wait for a table.  It’s a popular place.

My second attempt was more successful.  I scanned the menu and quickly found the MTK Burger: “topped with tomato relish & crispy tobacco onions, served on a pain au lait bun.”

I’ll get the bad out of the way first: It’s a meatloaf burger, and not a subtle one at that, with all kinds of spices and other stuff mixed in (I definitely saw onions, and there may or may not have been garlic as well).

I’ve laid out my problems with meatloaf burgers a few times before, but my main objection is this: a beef patty on its own (seasoned with salt and maybe pepper) and a beef patty with spices and onions and who-knows-what mixed in are two very, very different things.  They look similar, but they taste so radically different that I don’t know how, in good conscience, you can call them both the same thing.  On a very fundamental level, one is a hamburger, and one is an imitation of a hamburger.  I’ve made this analogy before, but It’s like comparing authentic Chinese food to chop suey; you can call both Chinese food if you want, but no one’s buying it.

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The patty at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen is tasty enough, but all the other stuff mixed in with the beef completely annihilates its flavour — the burger could have been made from ground pork or lamb and it would have made zero difference.  There’s no flavour whatsoever from the beef.  None.

I will say, however, that the burger is otherwise superlative; super juicy and cooked to a perfect medium rare, it has a really satisfying texture with none of the sausage-like consistency that you get from a lot of meatloaf burgers.  There’s also an addictively crispy crust from the grill.  The meatloafy taste of the patty is a bit on the salty side, but otherwise pretty good.

The condiments are quite good as well — the menu doesn’t mention the garlicky aioli, which is quite tasty, if a bit strong.  The abundant crispy onion strings add some texture and compliment the burger quite well.  As for the tomato relish, the burger’s other flavours are so assertive that I honestly couldn’t even taste it.

The pain au lait bun is a bit on the dense side, though with a burger this juicy and this messy, a more substantial bun is definitely needed, so it works quite well.

Seriously, I can’t say enough about how juicy this burger is; in a city filled with overly-lean, dried-out burgers, that alone is a huge plus in its favour.

Pretty much everything about this burger is above average; it’s just a real shame that the beef’s flavour (i.e. the star of the show in a hamburger) has been completely wiped out. Still, for what it is, it tastes pretty good.  It might just be the best meatloaf burger I’ve ever had.

As for the fries, they too were above average, particularly when dipped in the aforementioned garlicky aioli.

Mildred's Temple Kitchen - the patio Mildred's Temple Kitchen - the restaurant Mildred's Temple Kitchen - the burger Mildred's Temple Kitchen - the the burger
Mildred's Temple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sonny’s Drive-In

2 Aug

sonny
Location
: 21 Kennedy Road North, Brampton
Websitehttp://www.sonnysdrivein1964.com/

Sonny’s Drive-In — a small, rickety old take-out joint — is absolutely dripping with old-school charm. It is lousy with it. Though in other cities that might fill you with a warm fuzzy feeling, visiting an old-school burger joint in the GTA is pretty much a guarantee of two things:

1) The burgers will be grilled. I have no idea why, but prior to the rise of places like Burger’s Priest and Holy Chuck a few years ago, griddled burgers were exceptionally difficult to find in the GTA (aside from fast food chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s). Everyone grilled their burgers.

2) This is the thing that always makes me hesistant to check out old-school burger joints: the burgers being served will almost certainly be of the frozen, industrially-produced variety. Or if you’re lucky and the burger is freshly made, it’ll inevitably be a meatloaf burger.

Number two is what makes it impossible for me to feel anything but trepidation when I visit an old-school burger joint, and makes me seriously confused as to how these places stay in business. I think it’s safe to say that nostalgia plays a very strong role.

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Before I bury the lede much further: yes, Sonny’s serves a frozen burger. No, it is not good.

It’s a tiny little place that does mostly take-out business — there are four picnic tables outside, but aside from that seating is non-existent. The burgers can either be had plain, with cheese, or with bacon and cheese. I went plain and had mine topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.

Accuse me of snobbery all you want, but cheap frozen burgers like the ones they serve here (and these are seriously bottom of the barrel) barely even taste like a hamburger to me. I’ve mentioned this before, but with their rubbery texture and generically salty flavour, they taste more like a flattened hot dog than like a hamburger. They’re bad.

The toppings were fine, though the mayo was actually Miracle Whip or something similar. The bun was pretty good, though when it’s part of such a shoddy hamburger, who cares?

As for the fries, they were much better than the burger, though that’s not saying much. They were soggy and a bit undercooked, but otherwise pretty good. They were also completely unsalted, which is a bit of a bummer coming from a take-out place.

Sonny's Charcoal Broiled Foods - the restaurant Sonny's Charcoal Broiled Foods - the inside Sonny's Charcoal Broiled Foods - the fries Sonny's Charcoal Broiled Foods - the burger Sonny's Charcoal Broiled Foods - the burger
Sonny's Drive In on Urbanspoon

Tallboys Craft Beer House

27 Jul

tallboys
Location: 838 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Website: http://tallboyscraft.com/

I’ll admit that Tallboys was barely even on my radar before a few days ago.  I had vaguely heard of it, but with their seemingly single-minded focus on curating an impressive selection of beers, I had sort of figured that food would be an afterthought.  It didn’t even occur to me that they might have a hamburger worth eating.

But then, while browsing Instagram while watching a particularly boring episode of True Blood (seriously, how did that show get so terrible??  Did they replace their writing staff with a bunch of particularly dim-witted chimps?) I stumbled onto a picture of the burger at Tallboys.  It certainly grabbed my attention more than the shoddy episode I was watching.  It actually looked good.  Not perfunctory at all.

It didn’t take much more than that for me to find myself at Tallboys a few days later, scanning the menu (they have five burger choices, all double burgers with two four ounce patties) and quickly settling on the Classic: “lettuce, tomato, pickle & scallion mayo.”

Since I was driving I didn’t partake in their impressive beer selection; needless to say, if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s reason enough to visit.

tallboysA

The main thing that caught my eye while browsing through Instagram was the awe-inducing crust on the patties.  When you cook a patty on a sufficiently hot griddle, you wind up with a dark crust that adds a ton of flavour and texture.   This seems like a no-brainer, but there are plenty of Toronto burger joints that griddle-cook their burger and still get this completely wrong.

The chef at Tallboys has clearly mastered this particular technique; the crust on their burgers is abundant and it is glorious.  Based on the pictures I saw on Instagram and the burgers both I and my dining companion were served, this is something the kitchen pulls off every time.  Good stuff.

The patties also had a really great, deeply satisfying beefy flavour that made this one of the tastier burgers I’ve had in quite a while.  It’s kind of amazing how big of a difference using good quality beef makes, but you can tell instantly that they’re using top-shelf stuff.

I do, unfortunately, have a couple of issues.  The texture is off; I think the beef has been a bit overhandled, making it denser than I’d like.  It’s also, like so many other burgers in the GTA, dryer than it should be.  It probably doesn’t help that it’s been cooked all the way to the end of well done, but even still it does retain a bit of juiciness.

Still, those are relatively minor complaints.  Though they do hold the burger back from greatness, it’s still pretty damn good.

The condiments are above average as well — the scallion mayo in particular adds a nice kick of flavour without ever overpowering the beef.

The bun deserves special mention.  Though it’s a bit too wide for the patties, it’s soft enough to not get in the way, and substantial enough to hold up very well to the patties and the condiments.  It also has this lightly crispy, subtly crackly exterior that’s pretty much irresistible.

As for the fries, aside from being ever-so-slightly undercooked, they were quite tasty.

Tallboys Craft Beer House - the outside Tallboys Craft Beer House - the menu Tallboys Craft Beer House - the restaurant Tallboys Craft Beer House - the burger and fries Tallboys Craft Beer House - the burger
Tallboys - Craft Beer House on Urbanspoon

Manhattan’s Hand-made Burgers

20 Jul

man
Location
: 333 Bay Street, Toronto (inside the Bay Adelaide Centre)
Websitehttp://www.manhattansburger.com/

Odds are pretty good that you haven’t heard of Manhattan’s Hand-made Burgers, an under-the-radar spot that’s nestled away in an underground food court downtown. There’s not a whole lot of chatter about it online, and if you don’t already know about it, you’re probably not going to run into it (and even if you do know about it, you might struggle to find it, as I did).

There didn’t seem to be a signature burger among their handful of pre-topped specialty burgers, so I went simple with the Yankee Burger, their no-frills choice. It came up to about ten bucks for the combo, so it’s not a bad value at least.

I was given the choice of bun, and went for white. I could have picked whole wheat, but since “whole wheat” and “hamburger” should never be in the same sentence together, that obviously wasn’t going to happen. I asked for the burger topped with my usual pickles, tomato, and mayo, and watched the man behind the griddle do his thing.

On their website, Manhattan’s proudly proclaims that they “strictly use Lean Ground beef with half the fat content of the regular grind.” Obviously, the alarm bells were going off in my head. I’m a broken record about this, but the reason so many GTA burger joints serve dry burgers is this weird compulsion to make burgers healthier by using leaner beef. This is the equivalent of trying to make a cookie healthier by cutting out most of the sugar. It might end up being much healthier, but if it’s not sweet, what’s the point?? Same goes for a burger: juiciness comes from fat. Cut out the fat, and you end up with a dry burger. No ifs, ands, or buts.

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Still, that doesn’t mean that my mind was entirely closed. If your preparation is otherwise solid (ie. a good grind, good quality beef, no extraneous seasonings, etc.) you can still serve a burger worth eating. Case in point: Fresh Burger. They come right out and admit that they use sirloin (a super lean cut of beef) but because they use good quality beef and the burger is well prepared, it’s still pretty darn good.

Sadly, the burger at Manhattan’s Hand-made Burgers is not pretty darn good.

For one thing, despite cooking the patties on a griddle there’s very little browning. Though the patty has the vaguest inklings of a crust, it’s clear that the griddle wasn’t nearly hot enough, which means that the burger misses out on a lot of potential flavour.

And of course, it’s dry. The burger was cooked to well done but not overcooked, and though it did have some juiciness (not much, but some), it was clearly dryer than it should have been.

The biggest issue, however, is the way that they’ve ground the beef. It’s way too fine, giving the beef an oddly mealy, somewhat unappealing texture. I’ve certainly had worse, but the texture holds the burger back from being anything particularly worth eating.

The flavour isn’t much better. Again, I’ve had worse, but the patty definitely had that very distinctively muddled flavour that you get from middling quality beef. I also don’t think it was seasoned at all, which didn’t help (as much as I hate overly-spiced meatloaf burgers, a little salt and maybe some pepper is fairly essential to bring out the flavour of the beef).

The sesame seed bun was fresh and suited the burger quite well, at least, and the toppings were fine.

The fries were the highlight — they were excellent. Crispy, perfectly cooked, amazing. I seem to be going to a lot of places recently that have great fries and mediocre burgers. I wish it were the other way around, but at least something is good I guess?

Manhattan's Hand-made Burgers - the restaurant Manhattan's Hand-made Burgers - the food court Manhattan's Hand-made Burgers - the fries Manhattan's Hand-made Burgers - the burger Manhattan's Hand-made Burgers - the burger
Manhattan's Hand-Made Burgers on Urbanspoon

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