The Wilcox Gastropub

The Wilcox GastropubLocation: 30 Eglinton Avenue West, Mississauga
Website: https://www.thewilcox.ca/

I’ve certainly had worse burgers than the one they serve at The Wilcox, but it’s rare that I eat one that feels so thoroughly misguided on every level.

The Wilcox Burger: “wilcox chuck, brioche, goat cheese, roast red pepper, crispy onions, tomato, arugula.”

The Wilcox Gastropub

I should start with the patty itself, which has been griddled all the way to well done and then some.  It has a nice crust on its exterior, but the meat is gray and dry and punishing.  It’s the type of burger where you have to be careful not to take big bites, because it’s like trying to eat a pile of saltines — your mouth just can’t produce enough moisture to deal with it.

The Wilcox Gastropub

The flavour is an upgrade over the texture, but it’s not great.  This is a kitchen sink burger where the taste of the beef is basically moot, but in the few bites I got of the patty alone, it wasn’t much to write home about.  The beef is bland but inoffensive.

The Wilcox Gastropub

Then there’s the goat cheese.  I mentioned this in my review of the burger at The Daughter, but you almost never see goat cheese on a cheeseburger, and there’s a reason why.  The intense salty flavour and crumbly texture completely overpower the beef.

All of the other toppings are fine, in theory, but the configuration in which they’re applied here just doesn’t work.  The mix of flavours is discordant and vaguely unpleasant.  They clash.  The whole thing feels wrong in a way that’s hard to put your finger on.  It’s off.

The Wilcox Gastropub

I came at brunch, so instead of fries, the burger comes with potato hash.  The cubes are deep fried, so they basically taste like crispy fries in a slightly different shape.  They’re quite tasty.

1.5 out of 4

The Commoner

The CommonerLocation: 2067 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.thecommonerrestaurant.ca/

Here’s a classic good news / bad news type of situation.  The good news: The Commoner seems like it’s a quality restaurant.  It’s quite popular, and most of the food they served when I visited was very good.

The bad news: the hamburger.  It’s not great.

The Commoner

The Commoner cheeseburger, as per the menu: “Brioche. Lettuce. Tomato. Pickles. Onion. Provolone. Dijon Mayo.”

Nothing about the burger is awful, but nothing is particularly good, either.

The patty is grilled (I think? It’s got that char flavour that you typically only get from the grill, but it’s possible that it was just enthusiastically griddled), and while it’s cooked all the way to well done, it’s fairly juicy.  But the texture is off — I think the grind is too fine — and it’s a little bit tough.

The Commoner

The flavour of the beef is another issue.  It’s generally inoffensive, but it also has a mild gaminess.  It’s not in your face, but it’s there, and it’s unpleasant.

I can maybe forgive the shoddy flavour of the meat; it’s possible that they got an iffy batch from an otherwise quality supplier.  What I can’t forgive, however?  The cardinal sin of  cheeseburger cookery: the cheese isn’t fully melted.  In my world, that would be a crime punishable by serious jail time.  Get out of here with that.

The Commoner

Then there’s the brioche bun.  I knew it was trouble as soon as I cut into it; it’s dry and dense.  Again, I’ve certainly had worse, but it’s not great.

Everything else was fine, though the Dijon mayo was somewhat overpowering.

The Commoner

It’s not a great burger, sadly.  On the other hand: my dining companion had the huevos rancheros and said it was the best he’s ever had, and the fries that came with the burger were spectacularly delicious.  French fry perfection.  So there’s that, at least.

2 out of 4

Maison Selby

Maison SelbyLocation: 592 Sherbourne Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.maisonselby.com/

As far as I’m concerned, a great burger doesn’t need much when it comes to toppings.  Is the the patty made from good quality beef?  Is it juicy?  If the answer to both of those questions is yes (and the answer to both of those questions should always be yes), then please just step out of the way and let the burger do its thing.

Sure, throw a couple of toppings on there that enhance or compliment the beef — but that’s it.  A lot of chefs tend to overthink it or want to put their own stamp on a tried-and-true dish.  Don’t do that.  The beef is the star.  It’s been the star for over a hundred years.  You’re not better than that kind of history.  If the toppings are getting in the way of what makes a burger great, you’re doing it wrong.

Maison Selby

Of course, I probably should have known that something called a “French Onion Beef Chuck Burger” would be over-condimented.   But how could I resist?  French onion soup is delicious.  Hamburgers are delicious.  Surely combining the two should be delicious?

And yeah, it kinda is.  That’s the thing.  This was a Tasty Burger.  But it was all about the toppings.

Maison Selby

In my defense, caramelized onions and gooey cheese are both a hamburger’s best friend, so I had high hopes for this.  But the sharp Gruyère was way too assertive, as was the voluminous pile of rich, flavourful onions (not to mention the dijonnaise, which adds another strong flavour into the mix).

It’s too bad, because the patty was decent.  The waiter asked if medium was okay, but it actually came out closer to medium rare — a delightful surprise.  And it was quite juicy.  But even aside from the fact that it was way over-condimented, the quality of the beef itself was only so-so.

Maison Selby

That’s pretty much moot, however — the only way I was able to tell what the patty tasted like was by specifically pulling out a piece so I could try it on its own.  Underneath all of those assertive toppings, the patty is more about its texture than anything else.  And the texture is great.

I don’t know.  I’m probably just being a curmudgeon and/or a burger snob.  I enjoyed eating the burger at Maison Selby.  It tastes good.  But for all the creativity on display, is it better than a plain burger that’s well prepared and made with great quality beef?  No.  No it is not.

As for the fries, they could have been fresher, but were otherwise quite tasty.  In particular, the herby aioli that comes on the side is fantastic.

3 out of 4

Avenue Open Kitchen

Avenue Open KitchenLocation: 7 Camden Street, Toronto
Website: https://aveopenkitchen.ca/

I probably shouldn’t like the burger at Avenue Open Kitchen quite as much as I did — mostly because it’s a meatloaf burger, which isn’t my favourite style of hamburger, putting it mildly.

Actually, no, that description doesn’t quite cut it; it’s not just a meatloaf burger.  It is the meatloafiest of meatloaf burgers.  The patty absolutely slaps you in the face with its oddly sweet, heavily-seasoned flavour.  The taste of the beef?  Completely gone.

So, I hated it, right?  Well, about that…

Avenue Open Kitchen

It’s otherwise so well prepared, I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

I had heard that that the banquet burger is the thing to order here, so that’s what I got.  And yeah, that’s what you should be getting; the bacon is nice and crispy and the gooey American cheese is perfectly melted.  Bonus: their saltiness helps to balance the sweetness of the patty.

Avenue Open Kitchen

That patty is quite sweet, though.  It’s so weird.  I’m guessing they’ve mixed in some kind of sweet sauce into the beef?  It’s not bad, per se, but it’s strange.

Avenue Open Kitchen

Still, everything else about the patty is so right that it almost makes up for the wrongness of the flavour — its got a great crispy crust from the griddle, it’s very juicy, and the texture is on point (it’s slightly too soft, but that’s par for the course for a meatloaf burger).

The toppings are the usual suspects, and the soft, fluffy bun suits the burger perfectly.

Avenue Open Kitchen

As for the fries, they’re nothing to write home about, but they’re solid.

3 out of 4

Turtle Jack’s

Turtle Jack'sLocation: 108 Courtneypark Drive East, Toronto
Website: https://turtlejacks.com/

Nope.

Seriously: no.  I’m so sick of the no-effort pucks of despair that they serve at basically every Canadian chain restaurant like Turtle Jack’s.

Turtle Jack's

How?  How does this happen?  How can a restaurant serve a hamburger that’s so unambiguously bad that anyone with a mouth and functional tastebuds will immediately identify it as the off-putting garbage that it is?

That’s a legitimate question and I’d like someone at Turtle Jack’s to answer it.  Also, Turtle Jack’s?  While you’re here?  Get out of here with that horrific slop.  Get all the way out and never come back.

Turtle Jack's

The burger at Turtle Jack’s is incredibly dry and dense, and it’s an absolute bummer to eat.  It made me sadder and sadder with each mouthful.  The beefy flavour was almost nonexistent, with a vaguely leftovery funk that makes me think they might be precooking the patties and reheating them to order.  It’s bad.  Bad bad bad bad bad.

I feel no need to discuss it further, because it’s a piece of garbage that’s clearly made by people with the cynical belief that they can serve whatever the hell garbage they want and people will eat it.  If you order it, you’re proving them right.  Please don’t do that.  I ate it so you don’t have to.

Turtle Jack's

The fries were slightly better (because there’s really nowhere to go but up from that burger), but they were the boringest of boring frozen fries.

1 out of 4

Burger Maker

Burger MakerLocation: 4870 Tomken Road, Mississauga
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Burger-Maker-108408953847438/

Burger Maker is a bit of an odd concept.  Apparently it started out as a place called Sweets House that specialized in kunafe, a very tasty Middle Eastern dessert.

It’s a burger joint now, though the kunafe remains on the menu, and the Sweets House signage can still be seen in the restaurant.

I think it’s safe to say that there aren’t many restaurants in the world that specialize in hamburgers and kunafe, so that’s interesting.  Alas, I didn’t try the kunafe — they only sell it in big, shareable trays that they make to order.

Burger Maker

I did, of course, try a hamburger.

I got the BM Burger (should someone tell them that BM has… other meanings?), which comes topped with pickles, tomato, onion, lettuce, and BM sauce (seriously, someone should say something).

The patty is grilled, which is a nice change of pace, with a decent amount of flavour and texture from the grill.  Its flavour is a bit odd, however — I wouldn’t call it a full-blown meatloaf burger, but it’s definitely spiced with something beyond salt and pepper, and the spicing is mixed right into the meat, giving it a slightly sausage-like texture.

Burger Maker

Thankfully, the spicing isn’t too assertive, but it’s enough to cover up whatever mild beefy flavour that the patty might have had.  It’s not unpleasant to eat, but it tastes muddled — it’s not particularly meatloafy, and it’s not particularly burgery.

The well done patty was also a bit on the dry side, with a texture that’s slightly too finely ground, but it’s basically okay.

Burger Maker

The BM sauce was quite tasty, however, which is good because there was a lot of it.  It’s zingy and a little bit sweet, with a nice roasted garlic flavour.

The bun was slightly oversized for the patty, but it was soft and fresh enough that it was barely an issue.

As for the fries, they weren’t great.  They were overly crispy on the outside and slightly undercooked on the inside.

2.5 out of 4

Top Gun Burgers

Top Gun BurgersLocation: 5955 Latimer Drive, Mississauga
Website: http://www.topgunburgerto.com/

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to check out Top Gun Burgers.  I guess their original Kensington Market location opened shortly after The Burgernator, a nearby burger joint I didn’t care for, and it looked similar enough that I was never particularly motivated to try it.

In the meantime, however, Top Gun Burgers have done well enough to expand to eight locations throughout the GTA, so this review was long overdue.

Top Gun Burgers

Their fighter-plane-inspired menu has over a dozen choices, but I went simple with the Bobcat: “beef patty, fresh onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles and top gun aioli.”

It’s not the best, though it certainly looks impressive.  The smashed and griddled patty (of course it’s smashed and griddled, what else would it be??  There’s no other way to cook a burger, right???) looks great, with a picture-perfect amount of crust from the hot griddle.

Top Gun Burgers

Alas, though it’s certainly not bad, it doesn’t taste quite as good as it looks.

The patty is the biggest issue.  It’s been cooked to well done and beyond, not to mention the fact that it’s a bit too tightly packed.  It’s vaguely juicy, but still dryer than it should be. It all adds up to a patty that’s a bit of a tough chew.

Top Gun Burgers

The burger has a very mild beefy flavour; it’s nice, but not nearly as beefy as you’d like it to be.

The toppings are what you’d expect, other than the Top Gun aioli, which is zippier than the standard burger sauce, with a slightly smoky flavour.

The bun is mostly okay, though it’s a bit too dense.

Top Gun Burgers

As for the fries, they’re absolutely phenomenal.  They’re some of the best fries I’ve had in ages; they’re perfectly crispy and creamy, and the flavour is outstanding.  It’s worth coming here just for them.  Seriously, seriously good.

2.5 out of 4