Belfast Love Public House

9 Oct

: 548 King Street West, Toronto

Despite an ostensive Irish theme, Belfast Love’s menu is pretty much all generic upscale pub — thin crust pizzas, fancy salads, the obligatory chicken and waffles (at what point did chicken and waffles graduate from an occasional novelty to something that’s 100% obligatory for every restaurant with an unfocused menu like this one?).  And there’s a burger on the menu.  Because of course there is.

Well, a cheeseburger, to be specific.  “House ground chuck, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, mustard mayo.”

It looked good, I’ll give it that.  And I liked the toppings — the melty American cheese, the fresh tomato, the crunchy iceberg lettuce, and the mayo/mustard combo all worked quite well.  The patty itself, on the other hand…

I’m always afraid that, the longer that I do this, and the more and more that I obsess over the minutia of what makes a burger great (and vice-versa), I’m becoming increasingly out of touch with how normal people (i.e. people who don’t think about things like grind coarseness and beef-to-bun ratios on the regular) experience a hamburger.


So it was nice when my dining companion echoed my sentiments on this burger exactly, confirming that I’m not being an overly picky weirdo (at least not in this particular case).

Because no, this was not a good hamburger.  The texture of patty was downright weird — dense, with an oddly chewy, vaguely sausagey texture.  I suspect they’re mixing salt in with the ground beef, which tends to make the texture of a hamburger sausage-like.

It probably didn’t help that the griddled patty was cooked to well done and then some, but I suspect that even perfectly cooked, this would have been a funky patty.

The taste wasn’t much better.  Whatever flavour the beef might have had was completely annihilated by the downright insane amount of pepper.  It was so peppery; it was nuts.  Literally the most peppery-tasting hamburger that I’ve ever had. I don’t know if the pepper was mixed in with the beef along with being used as seasoning on the patty, but the flavour was everywhere. It permeated every bite; there was nothing else.

The bun was fine, though it was slightly too dense, and cold throughout despite being toasted.

As for the fries, they were great.  Easily the highlight of the meal.  Not too thick, not to thin, perfectly cooked, just the right amount of salt…  good stuff.

1.5 out of 4

Belfast Love - the outside Belfast Love - the restaurant Belfast Love - the burger and fries Belfast Love - the burger

Hidden Burger

25 Sep

: 22 Front Street West, Toronto

If nothing else, Hidden Burger certainly lives up to its name.  Tucked away in the Bottom Line, a sports bar near Union Station, there’s absolutely no signage for the place outside, and even when you get into the bar, it’s not immediately apparent that you’re in the right place.  It’s only when you walk through the place and go around a corner that you finally see it.

It strikes me as a thoroughly odd strategy to literally hide your restaurant and make random walk-ins completely impossible, but then what do I know about such things?  It’s either a genius marketing move or completely insane.

It’s mostly a take-out place, with only a few stools to sit across from the register.  They’ve got an admirably simple menu, with a cheeseburger (single or double), a veggie burger, and a weekly special, along with the requisite French fries.  I went with the cheeseburger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and red onion.


It’s a griddled burger, which ideally gets you a tasty, dark brown crust on the patty.  Often, the griddle isn’t quite hot enough and the crust isn’t particularly there.  But I actually had the opposite problem here, which I can’t say I’ve ever encountered in a burger cooked in this style.  The crust was coal black; it was burnt and it tasted burnt, with an acridly bitter flavour pervading every bite.  That griddle must have been insanely hot.

The patty was, not surprisingly, quite overdone, with a completely gray interior that was cooked all the way to the peak of well done.  It was actually still vaguely juicy, which was nice, but suffice it to say, it needed way less time on the griddle (and it was black on both sides, which makes me think it may have been intentional, as baffling as that seems).

The patty was also a bit too tightly packed and dense, but aside from that the texture was okay.

The flavour was decent enough (aside from the bitterness, of course). There was some mild beefiness, which is always nice.

As for the toppings, they suited the burger well, though the slice of American cheese wasn’t all the way melted, which is kind of crazy given how hot the cooking surface must have been.  And the soft, squishy bun suited the burger perfectly.

The fries were the resounding highlight. They were great — super crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  They were particularly good with the optional jalapeno aioli, which costs 50 cents and is worth every penny.

2.5 out of 4

Hidden Burger - the hallway Hidden Burger - the restaurant Hidden Burger - the burger and fries Hidden Burger - the burger

Rick’s Good Eats

11 Sep

: 6660 Kennedy Road, Mississauga

Remember that Food Network reality show where people competed to have their recipes featured in grocery stores? One of the best things to come out of that show was a butter chicken lasagna (trust me, it’s a lot better than it sounds), and the guy who made that has apparently used some of his winnings to open his own restaurant in Mississauga.   Not surprisingly, the menu features Indian-fusion dishes like butter chicken mac and cheese, cinnamon toast matri, and of course, a hamburger.

So, it’s near my work, looks interesting, and has a burger on the menu? Yeah, I’m all over that.

Their burger is dubbed the Punjabi Cheeseburger, and comes topped with “melted cheddar, fresh tomato, sautéed onion & Achari mayo.”


Given the Indian-fusion label, I sort of figured this was going to be a meatloaf burger, with spices and other stuff mixed into the patty. And yeah, it’s probably the meatloafiest meatloaf burger I’ve had in a while.

I’m certainly on the record as not being a big fan of this style of hamburger, but you know what? If you’re going to make a meatloaf burger, this is the way to do it. Yes, the aggressive spicing completely wipes out all of the beef’s natural flavours, but the patty is otherwise right where it should be — it’s got a nice texture (which can be especially problematic with this style of burger), a good amount of crust from the grill (at least I think it was grilled — it was tough to tell with all the stuff going on), and was actually pretty juicy.

And even the taste, which is about as far from classic hamburger as you can get, was quite good for what it was. It’s not subtle at all — it’s pretty much a face-punch of Indian flavours — but it’s really satisfying.

The toppings — including melty, mild cheddar and the tasty Achari mayo — all suited the burger quite well, as did the soft, fresh, and lightly toasted sesame seed bun.

As for the fries, they were of the battered variety — also not my favourite, but also done quite well.  They’ve got that crispy/creamy combo in spades, and were dusted with a tasty (and not overwhelming) spice mixture.

3 out of 4

Rick's Good Eats - the outside Rick's Good Eats - the restaurant Rick's Good Eats - the burger and fries Rick's Good Eats - the burger Rick's Good Eats - the burger

McCoy Burger Company

29 Aug

: 3334 Yonge Street, Toronto

It’s a bold move opening a burger joint on this particular stretch of Yonge Street, mere steps away from both the Burger’s Priest and the Burger Cellar, and just a few blocks north of Stack.  That area is pretty well covered in terms of burger availability.  You’ve gotta have confidence in what you’re selling to wade into that scrum.

So with cojones like that, I wanted to like McCoy Burger Company.  I really did.  And I didn’t dislike it; it was just aggressively average.

They’ve got a few pre-topped burgers on the menu, and a few different meat choices aside from beef (chicken, lamb, turkey). I did my usual thing and went with the simplest choice: the plain McCoy Burger, which I had topped with mayo, pickles, and tomato.


The patty has a little bit of crust from the griddle, though it’s not really enough to add a whole lot of texture or flavour. The menu, confusingly, refers to the patty as being “grilled to perfection,” even though it has obviously been griddled (I think they just don’t realize that there are different words for grilling or griddling a hamburger).

The texture is actually pretty good — the loosely-packed patty had a nice, coarse grind, and though it was cooked all the way to well done, it was still a little bit juicy.

It’s the flavour that really sinks the burger.  They season the patty with some kind of spice blend; that’s generally not my favourite, but it wasn’t too overwhelming.  The biggest problem is the flavour of the beef itself; it’s just kind of tasteless, with a slightly off flavour that you typically only get from middling quality beef.

It’s a shame; with better tasting beef and with a bit more crust from the griddle (which they obviously know how to do — the video on their website shows a burger with an impressive amount of crust, so your mileage may vary), the burger could have been well above average, but instead it’s just a resounding shrug.

The fries, on the other hand, were great — featuring an addictively crispy exterior and a fluffy interior, they were really hard to stop eating.

2.5 out of 4

McCoy Burger - the outside McCoy Burger - the restaurant McCoy Burger - the fries McCoy Burger - the burger McCoy Burger - the burger

Indie Alehouse

14 Aug

: 2876 Dundas Street West, Toronto

Indie Alehouse is the type of place that could probably skate by with mediocre food and still do okay.  I mean, it’s right there in the name; their specialty is clearly their selection of interesting house-made beers.

But, if the burger is any indication at least, they’re clearly putting a bit more effort into their food than you might think.  That’s always nice.

(An aside: I don’t know what the hell is going on with their name.  They can’t seem to decide if alehouse is one or two words. On their sign, it’s “Indie Ale House;” on their menu, it’s “Indie Alehouse;” and on their website they alternate between both, though the one-word version seems to be a bit more frequent.  “Alehouse” is also slightly more common around the internet, so that’s what I’m going with.  Setting aside the confusion online, the fact that they themselves can’t seem to decide is just flat-out bizarre.)


Of the handful of burgers on the menu, I went with the Indie Burger: “2 fresh ground ‘Indie blend’ patties, bacon, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, toasted bun.”

It’s a solid burger.  I don’t think it’s anything that you’re going to lose your mind over, but it’s good.  I don’t have any major complaints.

The two well done patties are a bit on the dry side, but they’ve got a generous amount of crust from the griddle and a good texture overall.  They’re not the beefiest-tasting patties I’ve ever had, but they certainly don’t taste bad.

The toppings, too, are all quite good.  Let’s face it, it’s hard to go wrong with bacon and melty cheese.  Plus, the zesty sauce and the pickles add some zip, and the tomato and lettuce add freshness.  It’s a good balance.

But while the sweet, fresh bun is mostly pretty good, it’s way too big for the patties.  The beef-to-bun ratio is slightly off, but more pressingly, the bun is way too wide for the beef.  We’re talking serious bun overhang.  It’s a bad scene.  Prepare to either leave a bunch of bread on your plate, or have several meat-free mouthfuls.

As for the fries, they’re about on the same level as the burger: quite good, but nothing too mind-blowing.

3 out of 4

Indie Alehouse - the outside Indie Alehouse - the restaurant Indie Alehouse - the menu Indie Alehouse - the burger Indie Alehouse - the burger