Gold Standard

10 Jun

Gold Standard
Location
: 385 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://thefed.ca/goldstandard/

Though the term “slider” has come to mean any little sandwich on a bun, it used to refer to a very specific type of hamburger where onions, beef, and bun all mingle together in a way that can be downright magical.  I’ve decried the absence of this style of burger in the GTA a few times over the years; most recently, in my review for Broncos Slider Bar, I predicted that we’d never get a true slider joint in the city.

Well, I’m happy to say that I was wrong.  Gold Standard, a tiny little take-out window just off of Roncesvalles, serves a Telway-style burger — a variation on a slider that originated in Detroit.

And while it’s not quite as delicious as I might have hoped, I’m very, very glad that it exists.

The burgers here feature a diminutive patty that’s been cooked with a generous amount of thinly shaved onions, which allows the beef and the onions to cook together, and for the flavours to mingle (they remain completely distinct from one another, however — this is a far cry from a meatloaf burger).  They also put a pre-cooking application of mustard directly on the patty and/or griddle to amp up the flavour.  It’s served with gooey american cheese and pickles, and comes tightly wrapped in foil so that the bun absorbs some of the flavour from the beef and the onions.

It’s a very respectable slider, but alas, nothing about it got my heart rate up.  The best part is the interplay between the beef and the griddled onions; that is a boffo flavour combination, and Gold Standard executes it perfectly.  The gooey melted cheese was also quite good, if a bit too salty.

The patty was solid — it had a good texture and it wasn’t too tightly packed — but it could have been beefier and juicier.  It wasn’t exactly dry, but it wasn’t particularly juicy, either, and the beefy flavour was more muted than I’d like.  It doesn’t help that the mustard was surprisingly intense, and dominated all of the other flavours in the hamburger.

The bun was probably the weakest part.  That’s a shame, because the soft beef-and-onion infused bun is a big part of the appeal of this style of hamburger.  I’m pretty sure that it started out as a good-quality bun, but it had been so thoroughly mashed down and squashed into oblivion that all of the fluffiness had been compressed right out of it.  It had the approximate texture of a really dense marshmallow.  It wasn’t completely unappealing, but it was firm and chewy in a way that was odd and off-putting.

This would normally be the part of the review where I talk about the fries.  There aren’t any. There are only three things on the menu at Gold Standard: the burger, a breakfast sandwich, and a vegetarian sandwich (or vegan?  I honestly didn’t even read that portion of the menu).

3 out of 4

Gold Standard - the outside Gold Standard - the outside Gold Standard - the burger Gold Standard - the burger

Joey

27 May

Joey Sherway
Location
: 25 The West Mall, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://www.joeyrestaurants.com/

Are the days of seriously mediocre and/or terrible casual chain restaurants behind us?  Up until recently, the burger at a place like this was pretty much guaranteed to either be dry and unpleasant, or rubbery and industrially-produced.

But the burger I had at State & Main a couple of months ago was surprisingly okay, and so was the one I just ate at Joey.  Things are clearly looking up.

The burger here isn’t anything to get too excited about — nothing about it stands out, but it’s a solid, inoffensive hamburger.

It’s simple enough — it’s a single patty affair with lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion, and some kind of zesty mayo-based sauce.

I was quite enjoying the first few bites — the medium-well middle is juicy and satisfying.  But the meat is too tightly packed, and as you get closer to the well done edges of the patty, it gets dry and tough.

Still, it’s not bad.  The griddled patty has a good amount of crust on its exterior, and while it doesn’t taste particularly beefy, the flavour isn’t unpleasant.

The toppings are all fresh and tasty, and the zesty mayo adds some zip without overwhelming the beef.

The bun’s not great, however.  It’s overly dense and dry, and it’s slightly too wide for the patty.  The beef-to-bun ratio is off.

As for the fries, they tasted like a slightly inferior version of what they serve at McDonald’s.

2.5 out of 4

Joey - the restaurant Joey - the restaurant Joey - the burger and fries Joey - the burger

Zeal Burgers

13 May


Location
1926 Weston Road, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/zealburgers/

Wow. That’s really all I can say about what they’re serving at Zeal Burgers. Wow.

Okay, I can (and will) say a lot more about it than that, but “wow” seems like the most pertinent, because wow. I can’t remember the last time I was so blown away by a hamburger.

I feel like if this place weren’t so far out of the way, and if it weren’t in such a sketchy area, everybody would be talking about it. It’s a damn shame I didn’t eat this burger a few weeks ago, because I just posted my list of the top ten hamburgers in the city, and this clearly should have been on there. Based on my one visit, it’s a top ten contender for sure. Maybe even top five.

The burgers come either pre-topped or customizable, with an impressive list of cheeses and condiments to choose from. I went with the Z Burger, which is a double cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion strings, and Z Sauce.

The patties were absolutely glorious. They were smashed and griddled, because of course they were. I’m pretty sure every burger joint that’s opened in the last five years or so cooks burgers in this style. I could complain, but when a burger is this good, it feels like it would be absurd to do so.

I mean, how can I complain about this style of cookery when it produces a deep brown crust like this? Look at it:

That’s a thing of beauty. That takes my breath away.

And the flavour was amazing. It was an absolute explosion of satisfyingly beefy flavour, and it was seasoned with just the right amount of salt. It was perfect. It was cooked all the way to well done, which is unfortunate, and yet it was still abundantly juicy. The texture was great, too, with a nice course grind that obviously hasn’t been overhandled.

The cheese was gooey melted American, as it should be. Sometimes two slices of American in a double cheeseburger can be a bit overwhelming, but it was just right here. I think the slices might have been slightly thinner than the norm, and the patties were slightly thicker. Whatever it was, it was perfect.

The other toppings were great, too. The Z Sauce was the usual tangy mayo, and the lettuce, tomato, and pickles were all fresh and tasty. The crispy onion strings didn’t really add all that much, but they didn’t detract, either.

The standard-issue sesame seed bun was nothing special (and it was ever-so-slightly too wide for the patties), but it was fresh and lightly toasted, and suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they were outstanding. Are you surprised? Anyone who can make a burger that’s this good clearly knows what they’re doing. They’re not going to mess up the fries.

4 out of 4

Zeal Burgers - the restaurant Zeal Burgers - the restaurant Zeal Burgers - the burger Zeal Burgers - the burger Zeal Burgers - the burger

Northern Maverick Brewing Co.

29 Apr


Location
: 115 Bathurst Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://northernmaverick.ca/

I told myself I wasn’t going to trust Toronto Life again after the great frozen burger fiasco of 2015 (a quick recap: they included a frozen, industrially-produced burger in their list of the 25 best burgers in the city back in 2015 and made smoke come out of my ears like a cartoon character).

But when they specifically mentioned the greatness of the burger at Northern Maverick Brewing Co. in their recent list of the best new restaurants in the city, I couldn’t ignore it.  That’s like catnip for me.  I can’t resist.  I’m physically incapable.

(They also recently published my list of the ten best burgers in the city, so I guess they’re not all bad.)

I like Toronto Life, but they should clearly stop trying to recommend burgers, because they are terrible at it.

The burger here was an absolute disaster.  The menu certainly makes it sound good: “dry-aged house ground chuck, housemade bacon, house smoked cheese, house pickle” (they sure like the word “house,” don’t they?).

I’m going to start with the bun, because holy crap that bun was so profoundly awful that I’m having a hard time believing that it even happened.  Like, did I really eat that?  Or was it some kind of bizarre nightmare?

I knew I was in trouble immediately, because I almost couldn’t even cut through it with the knife they provided.  It was dense and impenetrable and horrible.

It made it really difficult to actually eat the hamburger — it was so dense and unyielding that it had zero give.  You couldn’t compress it down even a little bit, and it’s big, so I had to open my jaw as wide as it would go, and it was barely enough.

The flavour was fine — it was slightly too sweet, but otherwise okay — but the texture was a complete disaster.  It was closer to stale pound cake than to a traditional bun.  It overwhelmed everything.  It was the worst.

The patty, sadly, wasn’t much better.  It had a decent beefy flavour and a nice amount of crust from the griddle, but it was immediately apparent that the beef they were using was way too lean, because the well-done patty was dry AF.  I can’t remember the last time I had a burger that dry. Between that and the stupid bun, it required so much chewing.

The toppings were fine, at least. I was a bit worried that the smoked cheese would be overwhelming, but it was pleasantly mild and melty.

But it’s irrelevant. That bun. That patty. The horror.

Oh, and the fries were of the ultra-generic frozen variety, so how this place wound up on a major magazine’s list of the best restaurants of the year is truly baffling.

1.5 out of 4

Northern Maverick Brewing Co. - the outside Northern Maverick Brewing Co. - the restaurant Northern Maverick Brewing Co. - the burger Northern Maverick Brewing Co. - the burger Northern Maverick Brewing Co. - the burger

RH Courtyard Cafe

15 Apr


Location
: 3401 Dufferin Street, North York (inside Yorkdale)
Website: None

That was a pleasant surprise.  I wasn’t even planning on eating here — we were supposed to go to the Cheesecake Factory, but the wait was well over an hour despite the fact that it was before noon on a random weekday afternoon.  I figured those types of crowds would have died down by now, but apparently people love the Cheesecake Factory far more than I anticipated.

I had a vague recollection of seeing a photo of the burger at Restoration Hardware (which is also in Yorkdale) and thinking it looked pretty good, so I figured, sure — I’m here, I want a burger, why not?

Yes, Restoration Hardware — the furniture store — has a restaurant, and they serve a burger.  I suppose odder things have happened.

Odder things, such as the burger at a furniture store’s restaurant actually being pretty good.

The RH Burger, per the menu: “sharp American, pickles, onion, dijonnaise, lettuce, tomato.”

I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it.  That’s not to say it was great, but it had a basically decent texture, it was juicy, the flavour was okay, and all of the toppings were solid.  The cheese was nice and gooey and the onions were finely diced and not overwhelming.  The tomato and lettuce were on the side, which is where they remained — they were completely unnecessary.

It was far from perfect, of course — there was almost no crust from the griddle, the well-done beef was too dense with a slightly chewy texture, and they seasoned it with way too much pepper.  But again, it’s a restaurant in a furniture store.  It very easily could have been dry and tasteless and horrible, but I actually quite enjoyed eating it.

As for the fries, they were even better than the hamburger — particularly when dipped in the intensely garlicky mayo that comes on the side.  That stuff was potent.  It actually reminded quite a bit of the garlic sauce that you sometimes get with shawarma.  It bordered on being too strong, but it never went there.  It was irresistible.

3 out of 4

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