Indie Alehouse

14 Aug

indie
Location
: 2876 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.indiealehouse.com/

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.)

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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

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Jamie’s Italian

1 Aug

jamie
Location
: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (Square One)
Website: https://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/canada/

I know, a place with “Italian” right in the name probably isn’t the most obvious place to order a hamburger.  And I just got burned by an Italian place with a hamburger inexplicably on the menu.  So you’d think I’d learn.

But you know what?  Maybe I’ll never learn, because the burger at Jamie’s Italian is actually pretty darn good.

And it had better be — it’s not cheap.  It’s sixteen bucks on its own; twenty if you want fries.  That’s not exactly unreasonable by the standards of a nicer restaurant, but it’s still a decent chunk of change.  You’re throwing down the gauntlet if you’re charging that much for a hamburger.  You’re asking for extra scrutiny.

The Jamie’s Italian Burger is described as follows: “Juicy Prince Edward Island beef, balsamic onions, aged Cheddar, tomato & homade mostarda mayo.”

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Yeah, it’s good.  My biggest complaint is that the texture of grilled patty — which is cooked all the way to well done — is a bit off.  The grind is slightly too fine, and it’s a bit dry.  Still, it does have some juiciness to it, and as far as the texture goes, I’ve certainly had worse.

The patty is otherwise really tasty — it’s got a nice smoky flavour from the grill, but nothing too overbearing (as some grilled burgers tend to be).  It’s also got a mild but satisfying beefy flavour.

The toppings are pretty good too.  Aged cheddar’s stronger flavour can sometimes be a bit much on a burger, but here it worked pretty well.  And of course, caramelized onions are pretty much a hamburger’s best friend, so yeah, they worked pretty well too.

The bun looks way too big for the patty, but it’s light enough and fluffy enough that it never feels overwhelming.

As for the fries, the waitress suggested the polenta chips over the traditional fries, and I figured yeah, why not?  They were a touch on the bland side (they either needed more of the rosemary and shredded parmesan that they were topped with, or some kind of dipping sauce), but otherwise were crispy, creamy, and really tasty.

3.5 out of 4

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Museum Tavern

17 Jul

museum
Location
: 208 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.museumtavern.ca/

This blog hit its 5th anniversary a couple of months ago — I’ve reviewed almost 150 burgers in that time.  And though my love of hamburgers is as strong today as it was five years ago, doubt does sometimes creep into my mind.  Do I still want to be doing this?  Does the world really need me describing a burger’s beefy flavour for the hundredth time, or complaining about yet another dry patty?

It can get wearying.  Especially when I visit a place that I know is going to have a lousy hamburger, and then it is lousy, and I realize that I only have a finite amount of meals to eat in my lifetime and I just wasted one so I can be snarky about it online.  And there’s that voice: you don’t have to do this.

But then I eat a burger like the one they’re serving at Museum Tavern, and it’s like a choir from above.  Oh right, that voice says. This is why you do this.

Which is all a very roundabout way of saying that the burger at Museum Tavern is absolutely outstanding.  Like, top five in the city outstanding.  How can I stop this blog when there are still burgers this good for me to eat and write about?  I can’t.

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Museum Tavern serves a double cheeseburger, topped with the classics (lettuce, pickles, onion, and a Big Mac-esque sauce), and with the choice between American and aged cheddar.  I went with American; I’ve said it before, but American’s creamy consistency when melted, and its mild — and more importantly, not overwhelming — flavour makes it the perfect cheese for this type of burger (yes, some cheaper varieties of American cheese can be plasticky and horrible, but that’s definitely not what they’re using here).

The patties are griddled, with an awe-inspiring amount of crust that’s more than just a pretty face — it adds a nice amount of texture that contrasts really well with the tender beef.

I got a bit concerned when I cut the burger in half, as the patties were cooked to well done and grey throughout, which isn’t my favourite.  But everything about this burger is so great that it really doesn’t matter.  The texture of the beef is perfect — coarsely ground, not overhandled, with a consistency that perfectly straddles the line between tenderness and substance.

It’s also impressively juicy, especially for a burger that’s been cooked all the way to well done.  And the flavour is great, with a satisfying beefiness that mingles perfectly with the other flavours and always remains the star of the show.

So that’s the taste/texture/juiciness trifecta — the hamburger bullseye.

The bun and toppings were great too, which means there’s nothing to get in the way of this burger’s status as one of the best in the city.  Because yeah, I honestly don’t have a single complaint about this hamburger — it’s amazing from head to toe.  I’m a bit late to the party (the Museum Tavern has been open since 2012), so it’s quite possible that you’re way ahead of me on this one.  But on the off chance that you haven’t tried it yet?  Do it.  Now.

Oh, and the shoestring fries were great too.  Seriously though, why are you still reading this when you could be eating that magnificent hamburger?

4 out of 4

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Super Burger

3 Jul

super
Location
: 3327 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Etobicoke
Website: None

Super Burger pretty much follows the old school burger joint playbook to a T. Grilled burgers? Check. Run-down decor? Check. Both frozen and homemade burgers on the menu? Check. A choice of toppings from behind glass? Check. Meatloaf burger? Ch… wait, what? They don’t serve a meatloaf burger?

Huh.

The lack of meatloafyness makes Super Burger a bit of an oddity among older burger joints, but I’m certainly not complaining. Read this blog for a while and it’ll become pretty clear that I think the seasoning should go outside of a burger. And of course, the aforementioned seasoning should be salt and maybe pepper and that’s it.

No, I’m not going to get into yet another rant about the perils of meatloafery in the burger world, especially since this place doesn’t even commit that particular food crime.

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But yes, they do have the choice between frozen and homemade, and yes, of course I went with homemade. I ordered the five ounce, and got it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.

Alas, despite the fact that it was fresh and un-meatloafified, it just wasn’t particularly good. The middling quality beef had almost zero flavour, with almost all of the taste coming from the vaguely bitter smokiness that you get from a patty that’s been on the grill for a really long time.

The texture, too, wasn’t great; the patty had an overly fine grind and an almost complete lack of juiciness, which resulted in a bit of a mealy chew.

The lightly toasted bun was mostly okay, but probably about a day past its shelf life, and the toppings were fine (the mayo was actually mayo and not Miracle Whip — another oddity for an old school burger joint).

As for the fries, they were of the battered frozen variety. Forgettable, but with enough of a crispy/creamy contrast to be quite edible.

2 out of 4

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Provo FoodBar

19 Jun

provo
Location
: 308 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://provofb.com/

There’s nothing sadder than when a burger comes ridiculously close to greatness — so close that it can almost touch it — but something holds it back; the elements are pretty much all there, but there’s one stupid little thing that ruins it.  I’m thinking, for example, of the burgers at the County General (felled by overly strong mustard) or Broncos (bun overload).

The burger at Provo FoodBar might just be the most blatant example of this phenomenon.

The menu describes the burger as coming with “tomato jam + aged cheddar + pain au lait bun.”

There’s some other stuff that the menu doesn’t mention (arugula, crispy onion strings), but let’s talk about that tomato jam, a.k.a. the ruiner of hamburgers, a.k.a. the worst thing that’s ever been put between two buns.

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad — it’s actually kinda tasty on its own.  But it’s so wrong for this burger that it’s almost absurd.  It’s overwhelmingly, disastrously sweet.  It’s dessert sweet.  Like, you could put it on ice cream and it wouldn’t be out of place.  At all.  And they slather it on both the top and the bottom half of the bun, so it’s everywhere.  I attempted to remove it in the second half of my burger, but it was so thoroughly suffused into the bun and the other condiments that getting rid of it was completely impossible.

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I guess it’s supposed to be like a playfully gourmet take on ketchup, but even ketchup (which is far from my favourite burger topping) has a vinegary kick to balance out the sweetness.  No such balance here; just cloying aggression.  This is a tomato jam sandwich that happens to have a hamburger patty in it.  The jam is clearly the dominant flavour.

It makes me incredibly sad, because the patty is good.  Really good.  It’s all there: it’s cooked perfectly to medium (and I mean perfectly, edge-to-edge) with a good amount of crust, it’s got a great texture with a nice coarse grind that hasn’t been over-handled or too tightly packed, it’s nice and juicy, and though it’s difficult to tell thanks to that stupid jam, it has a decent amount of beefy flavour.

It’s a great patty that really, really deserves to be part of a better hamburger.

As for the other toppings, they may as well have not even be there, because this is the tomato jam show through and through.

The bun was mostly okay, though it was a bit too big for the patty.  It was also somewhat ruined by the bizarre way it was toasted — it tasted like they put it in the oven at a really low temperature for a really long time until it formed a hardened, crouton-like shell.  It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it was unfortunate.

That patty, though.  It was so good.

I came at brunch, so the burger came with home fries instead of the traditional French fries.  They were fine, though they were a little bland, and served at a temperature somewhere between lukewarm and cold.

3 out of 4

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