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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Doomie’s

5 Jun

doomies
Location
: 1263 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://doomiestoronto.com/

I honestly never thought that I’d be reviewing a veggie burger for this blog.  I mean, I try my best to avoid reviewing hamburgers made with any meat other than beef, so a veggie burger seemed completely out of the question.

Then I saw some pictures of the Big Mac clone at Doomie’s.  I kind of had to try it.

For the unaware, Doomie’s is an L.A. export whose M.O. is serving vegan versions of over-the-top junk food like chili cheese fries, chimichangas,  and of course, hamburgers.  “Vegan” and “health food” tend to go hand in hand, but I’m sure even vegans want to eat deep-fried junk every now and then.

I feel like I need to preface this review by saying that I went into Doomie’s with a completely open mind.  I realize that I’m a bit of a burger snob, but good food is good food.  If the veggie burger here were delicious, I’d be more than happy to sing its praises.

That being said?  This might be one of the worst hamburgers that I’ve had in my entire life.

I ordered the Big Mac clone, which isn’t technically on the menu.  The waitress jokingly pointed out that any resemblance to that particular burger is purely coincidental (since no one wants to incur the wrath of ol’ Ronald’s lawyers).  But it’s available if you ask for it.

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It looks impressive, I’ll give it that. Aside from the fact that the watery sauce was leaking from the burger like blood from a gut-shot corpse, it looked impressively like the real deal.

Eating it was a challenge.  I’m not sure why the sauce was so thin, but it completely soaked through the bun and made the burger impossible to eat without a handful of napkins.  And the parts of the bun that weren’t soaked through with sauce?  They were either suffused with grease, or sogged up by mushy cheese (yes, mushy cheese — more on that in a bit).

Of course, eating this burger was also a challenge because of how gross it was.  I mean, let’s not beat around the bush.

Those veggie patties are going to haunt my dreams.  I just don’t think that food science is able to accurately replicate the taste and texture of beef.  If you’re going to serve a veggie burger, your best bet is to not even try, and just serve something in a patty shape that tastes good.

Doomie’s, sadly, tries to replicate beef.  The results are flat-out horrifying.

The veggie patties here have somehow managed to take everything I hate about frozen burgers, and magnified it tenfold.  That rubbery, vaguely hot-dog-like texture you get from really cheap frozen patties is here in spades, but where this patty goes horribly wrong is the flavour.  It just tastes off to a degree that’s downright surprising.  I don’t even know if I can describe that flavour, other than to say that it tastes like you left a frozen patty out in the sun until it turned suitably rancid.  It was flat-out disgusting.

Then there’s the cheese, which — though it actually tastes close enough to the type of processed cheese you’d find on a Big Mac — has that aforementioned mushy texture.  Imagine taking shredded up tissues and soaking them with cheese-flavoured water, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The other toppings were all fine, aside from the watery sauce (which, to be fair, tasted pretty close to the real thing).  But when your burger features two patties as foul as these on unpleasantly sodden bread, the toppings are completely irrelevant.

As for the fries, they were battered — not my favourite — but for that style of fry, they were pretty good.

0.5 out of 4

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Royale’s Luncheonette

22 May

royales
Location
: 1418 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.royalesluncheonette.com/

I like surprises.  Actually no; scratch that.  I like pleasant surprises.

This was supposed to be a review of the burger at The Federal, but they were absolutely slammed, with a half hour wait.  So we walked a few shops over and found ourselves at Royale’s Luncheonette, with absolutely no idea what to expect.  I’m definitely looking forward to checking out the burger at the Federal, but man am I glad they were so busy on this particular day.  Because spoiler alert: Royale’s was a very pleasant surprise.

It’s a tiny little place with just a couple of tables. The menu is posted on the wall, and you order at the counter.  The burger is dubbed the Royale with Cheese.  Given the name and rating system on this blog, I think you can guess that I approve of the reference.

It’s a fast-food-style burger done right: griddled patty, melty American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickle and tomato.  It’s topped with a sauce that, if you’ve ever had a Big Mac, is going to taste very familiar.

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I honestly wasn’t expecting all that much from this place, but I was surprised by how good it was.  The patty had a good amount of crust from the griddle, and when cooked to a pleasing medium, retained an impressive amount of juiciness.  It also had a nice, beefy flavour that easily cut through the zesty sauce.  Beefy flavour?  Juicy patty?  Not overcooked?  Why, I believe it’s time to do the dance of joy!

It wasn’t completely perfect, however.  It was way too small for the bun — the circumference of the patty was probably about two thirds of the circumference of the bread, leaving you with a lot of bun overhang.  That was a shame, as was the grind of the beef, which was ever-so-slightly too fine.  But those are minor complaints for what is otherwise a superb burger.

The lightly toasted Wonderbread bun (I could see the bag in the tiny open kitchen) suited the very unpretentious burger quite well, as did the classic burger toppings — though I wish there had been slightly less of the Big Mac-esque sauce.

No fries on the menu, sadly (I doubt that the ridiculously tiny kitchen could even accommodate a fryer), but when the burger is this good, it speaks for itself.

3.5 out of 4

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