Rudy

15 Jan

rudy
Location
: 619 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.rudyresto.com/

The burgers from Rudy look amazing in pictures. I mean, look at it. Look at that crust. If you’re getting a burger cooked in that style (i.e. smashed on a griddle), then what Rudy is serving up is pretty much the Platonic ideal of what you want it to look like. That combination of melty, bright orange American cheese and the mahogany-brown crust from a perfectly hot griddle is a thing of beauty. You could look at it forever.

But could it actually taste as good as it looks?

Yes. The answer is an emphatic yes.

I ordered the Rudy, which is a single-patty cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, and Rudy sauce.

Oh man, it was so good.

Foremost was that crust: the beautiful brown crust amps up the burger’s beefy flavour and provides a perfect crispy contrast to the tender beef.

rudya

I got a little bit concerned when I cut into the burger and saw well done, uniformly gray beef.  At least a little bit of pink would have been nice, but it’s hard to complain too much when the patty remains so admirably juicy.  Add in the fact that the beef was loosely-packed and coarsely-ground, and you’ve got a patty with a texture that’s exactly where it should be.

The flavour was pretty great too; perfectly seasoned with just salt and pepper and with a nice beefy kick, it’s pretty much exactly what you’re looking for in the taste department.

The toppings, too, check all the right boxes.  Gooey American cheese?  Check.  Big-Mac-esque sauce?  Check.  Fresh lettuce and tomato?  Check.  Oh, and that bun?  Pillowy, sweet, and perfect.

Yes, in case you can’t tell, I loved this hamburger.  One of the best in the city for sure.

It’s a bummer to end on a sour note, but the fries weren’t the best.  Some of them were slightly underdone, and others were potato-chip-crispy.  Also, I think they might have been seasoned with vinegar instead of salt?  A few had a mildly vinegary flavour; the rest tasted completely unseasoned.  Still, considering how good the burger was, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume something was just off with this batch.  Either way, the burger was so damn good that it really doesn’t matter.

4 out of 4

Rudy - the restaurant Rudy - the restaurant Rudy - the burger Rudy - the fries Rudy - the burger

Smashburger

2 Jan

smash
Location
: 6301 Silver Dart Drive, Mississauga (Toronto Pearson International Airport)
Websitehttp://smashburger.com/

Though I’m assuming they’re going to expand a bit more at some point, right now if you’re in Ontario and you want to try Smashburger, you’re going to have to fly internationally out of Pearson.  I actually was flying internationally recently, so I was pretty excited to try this (supposedly) higher end American fast food chain.

They’ve got the standard selection of hamburgers, chicken burgers, and salads that you’ll find at any of the big chains.  I got the Classic Smash, which is a single-patty cheeseburger that comes with American cheese, Smash Sauce, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion.

It’s… fine, I guess?  I was expecting something more along the lines of places like Five Guys or In-N-Out, but this definitely isn’t that.  It’s closer in quality to Wendy’s or A&W.  Not bad in a pinch, but definitely not something I’d get excited about or go out of my way for.

smasha

The patty — with its dry, pebbly texture and lack of anything you’d recognize as a beefy flavour — is fast food through and through.  As per the name of the joint, it’s smashed, with a bit of colour and texture from the griddle.  This seems more cosmetic than anything else, as it doesn’t particularly add anything in the flavour department.

The slightly sweet bun is fine, as are the toppings (including the Smash Sauce, which is the typical tangy mayo that you’d expect).  The whole thing is fine — it’s a bit of a shrug, but I certainly didn’t dislike eating it.

As for the fries, I tried the Smash Fries, which are tossed with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary.  They were thinly-cut and tasty, but man were they oily.  They were doused in olive oil; they were dripping with the stuff.  I poured them out next to my burger, and they left a huge pool of oil in their wake.  It was pretty ridiculous.

2.5 out of 4

Smashburger - the restaurant Smashburger - the menu Smashburger - the burger and fries Smashburger - the burger

Bar Reyna

18 Dec

reyna
Location
: 158 Cumberland Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.barreyna.com/

If you’re charging over twenty bucks for a hamburger, that burger had better be damn good. It had better be foolproof.

The burger at Bar Reyna is 21 dollars. It is not foolproof.

Their burger is labelled Big A’s burger and fries (is that a play on “big ass”?  An actual guy named Big A?  What, no one cares?). I’ll let the menu describe it: “brisket + ribeye / sweet potato bun / muenster / caramelized onions / lettuce / tomato / chipotle aioli.”

There isn’t a single element here that particularly works.

They actually asked me how I wanted the burger cooked, which is always a delightful question. I asked for medium rare, and I know I wasn’t misheard, because the waitress proudly proclaimed “medium rare hamburger” as she set my plate down. It was closer to well done.

reynaa

It was still actually fairly juicy, which was nice, but the texture was off; it was way too finely ground, and a bit mealy. It also had pretty much zero beefy flavour — considering the hefty price tag, it’s not unreasonable to expect that they’ll be using top-shelf beef. If they were, it certainly didn’t taste that way.

Then there were the toppings, which were mostly okay, though between the very sweet caramelized onions and the equally sweet “chipotle aioli” (which tasted exactly like thousand island dressing), it was sweet overload. I will say, however, that the muenster cheese was pretty much perfect — it had a subtle cheesy flavour and a perfect amount of gooey meltiness. I’m really not sure why you don’t find it on cheeseburgers more often.

But I’m not even going to sugar-coat it: the bun was the absolute worst. The texture was closer to a stale biscuit than a traditional hamburger bun. It was incredibly dense and so thoroughly inappropriate for a burger that I’m legitimately curious if the restaurant just made some kind of mistake and used the wrong bun. It had zero give — normally, when you pick up a hamburger, the bun absorbs most of the pressure from your fingers and leaves the insides of the burger undisturbed.  But here?  The bun was a solid, unyielding mass.  As soon as I picked it up, the patty and all the toppings started squishing out of the sides. It was game over once I took a bite.  I had to eat the majority of the burger with a fork and knife. Like a monster.

The shoestring fries, on the other hand, were really good.  They were cut super thin, which can sometimes result in fries that are too crunchy, but the fries here still managed to retain a decent balance of crunchiness and creaminess.  They were seasoned with smoked paprika as well as salt, which gave them a unique flavour and a bit of a kick.

1.5 out of 4

Bar Reyna - the outside Bar Reyna - the restaurant Bar Reyna - the burger Bar Reyna - the burger

Baldwin Street Burger

4 Dec

baldwin
Location
: 53 Baldwin Street North, Whitby
Websitehttp://baldwinstreetburger.com/

You know what the best thing about having this blog is?  When I’m with people who want to have a meal and I strongly suggest a burger joint so I can review it, and it turns out to be lousy, and everyone gives me the “thanks for making us eat that garbage, chump” evil eyes.

Sorry, did I say the best thing?  I meant the worst thing.

Though that’s probably harsh in this case.  Baldwin Street Burger certainly wasn’t garbage — but it wasn’t particularly good, either.

The menu features the usual assortment of pre-topped burgers.  I went with the Classic, which comes with ketchup, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, and hot peppers (I opted to forego the ketchup, mustard, and onion).

baldwina

I really only had one problem with the burger, though it’s a fairly substantial one.  There was something very off about the texture of the beef — it had a tough, steaky chew, and was downright unpleasant to eat.  I’m honestly not sure what the issue was.  The grind seemed okay, and it wasn’t too tightly packed, but it was tough and vaguely rubbery.  One of my dining companions had the same issue, so it wasn’t just me.

The grilled patty was otherwise decent enough.  It was cooked to well done but still fairly juicy, it had a mild beefy flavour, and a nice smoky tang from the grill.  It’s hard to overlook that weird texture, though.

The mayo was a bit over-applied, but the toppings were otherwise fine, and the fresh, lightly toasted bun suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they were amazing.  You’d think that good fries would be tougher to make than a good burger, but given how many burger joints I’ve visited with a middling hamburger and delicious fries, that is clearly not the case.

2.5 out of 4

Baldwin Street Burger - the outside Baldwin Street Burger - the restaurant Baldwin Street Burger - the burger Baldwin Street Burger - the fries Baldwin Street Burger - the burger

Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill

20 Nov

oliver
Location
: 33 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.oliverbonacini.com/Yonge-Front.aspx

The last burger I tried from an O&B joint was thoroughly forgettable, but when I found myself at Café Grill, I figured, sure, why not?  I’m here, the burger is here, let’s do this.

(And I did debate whether I should even be reviewing more than one O&B restaurant, or if all their locations count as one big chain.  But since each menu seems to be completely different, I think they’re all fair game.)

Though I approach each burger I eat hoping for the best, I sort of figured the burger here would be much like the one I had from O&B Canteen — passable, but mediocre.

As it turns out, I was longing for the comparative delights of “passable, but mediocre.”

olivera

The Café Grill calls their hamburger the Smashed Ground Chuck Burger, and it comes topped with “housemade BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar, iceberg lettuce, special sauce.”

I rant about overly dry patties all the time on this blog, and I really don’t feel like doing it again right now.  I’ll just say this: the griddled patty was punishingly gray throughout and was devoid of anything even resembling moisture.  It was also really substantial, making each mouthful a bit of an ordeal.

It actually tasted pretty okay, but since it had the approximate texture of a bunch of mashed-up saltines held together with glue, does it matter?

And though the bun was a bit over-toasted and more dense than it needed to be, the toppings were all tasty enough.  But again: dry saltines.  Glue.  Agony.

Oh, and it also cost 19 bucks, putting it on the more expensive end of burgers in the GTA.

As for the thickly-cut fries, they were quite good.  Nothing too special, but they were solid French fries.

1.5 out of 4

Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the restaurant Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the restaurant Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the burger and fries Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the burger