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).

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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.”

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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

The Federal

6 Nov

federal
Location
: 1438 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: http://thefed.ca/

This was actually my second attempt to try the burger at the Federal — the first time, it was so busy that I wound up at Royale’s Luncheonette instead (which turned out to be a pretty pleasant surprise).

It was actually really busy again, so I think it’s safe to say that you have to be prepared to wait if you want to try this place.  But you know that expression about the wisdom of the crowd?  Yeah, that definitely applies here.  Turns out there’s a reason the Federal is so busy.

Their burger is dubbed the Four Guys burger, and is described as “griddle-smashed beef, bacon, pickles, american cheese, caramelized onion, lettuce, mustard, special sauce.”

With a really good burger, all it takes is one bite to know that you’re dealing with something special, and that was clearly the case here.  One bite, and yeah, there was that really distinctive flavour you only get from really good quality beef.  That’s a flavour that’s way harder to come by in Toronto than you’d think.  It’s a face-punch of beefiness that immediately tells you that you’re in good hands.

federala

The texture of the beef was pretty great, too — though it could have used a bit more crust from the griddle, the medium well patty was otherwise stellar.  It was coarsely ground, loosely packed, and was nice and tender without ever tipping the scales into soft or mushy territory.  It was great.

But it’s actually really impressive that the burger’s beefy flavour managed to be as prominent as it was, because there was so much going on here. Between the sweet caramelized onions, the salty bacon and cheese, the vinegary pickles and mustard, and the tangy special sauce, the burger was kind of a mess.  A tasty mess, don’t get me wrong, but there’s definitely more going on here than I typically prefer.

It’s hard to fault the burger too much, though; my problem with a heavily-topped burger is usually that the flavour of the beef has been overwhelmed.  But here, that great beefy flavour is front and centre, minimizing that issue to an impressive degree.

The soft, toasted bun had enough substance to hold up to all those toppings, but was light enough to stay in the background, which is exactly where it should be.  So yeah, all around a pretty impressive burger.

I came at brunch, and instead of fries the burger came with a side of potato rosti and a really simple salad.  The rosti had a great layer of crispy goodness on the outside and was nice and creamy within; however, I don’t think it was seasoned at all.  It was pretty bland.

3.5 out of 4

The Federal - the sign The Federal - the menu The Federal - the restaurant The Federal - the burger The Federal - the burger

Milestones

23 Oct

milestones
Location: 169 Enterprise Boulevard, Markham
Website: http://milestonesrestaurants.com/

When you go to a chain restaurant like Milestones, you pretty much expect the burger to be lousy, and HEY GUESS WHAT HERE’S MILESTONES TO GIVE YOU EXACTLY WHAT YOU’D EXPECT.  Here’s Milestones to serve you garbage because yeah, you’ll eat that garbage, so why bother?

I’m not even talking about just hamburgers right now, but can someone please explain to me why pretty much every single casual chain restaurant in Ontario is the absolute worst?  Stuff like Boston Pizza, Montana’s, Kelsey’s, Shoeless Joe’s, St. Louis Bar and Grill, Moxie’s, and of course this stupid place are everywhere in the suburbs and they’re all just horrible.  Why?

Actually, don’t answer that — I know why.  Because they all do very well, so why change what works?  I have to assume that at some point they realized that we’ll all happily eat garbage, so seriously, why bother?  If they can serve grim, bottom-of-the-barrel prison food without it affecting their bottom line, why change?

milestonesa

This is all is my grumpy, roundabout way of saying that no, the hamburger at Milestones is not very good.

They have a few on the menu — I went with the Naked Burger, which is described as a “fresh, ground chuck burger seasoned to perfection, topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and our signature house-made burger sauce on a toasted egg bun.”

It was so dry.  I don’t know if the beef was too lean or it was just catastrophically overcooked (I suspect a little from column A, a little from column B) but hot damn was it dry.  It was the type of patty where it’s so dry that it just crumbles into chewy little meat-pellets as you eat it.  It’s the type of patty where you have to reach for your drink every couple of bites because it’s so thoroughly sucking all of the moisture out of your mouth.

The flavour was fine — not particularly beefy, but not bad either.  A little over-peppered, but okay otherwise.

The condiments were all as you’d expect, and the burger sauce (basically a garlicky mayo) did its best to add moisture to a moisture-free zone.  The bun was soft and fresh and would have actually been pretty okay on a better burger.

As for the fries, they were completely soggy, because again: why should they bother?

1.5 out of 4

Milestones - the outside Milestones - the restaurant Milestones - the burger and fries Milestones - the burger

Belfast Love Public House

9 Oct

belfast
Location
: 548 King Street West, Toronto
Website: http://donnellygroup.ca/belfast-love/

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.

belfasta

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