First off, I must apologize for the shoddy quality of the pictures. This was an impromptu trip to Earl’s, and the only camera I had on hand was the one in my cell phone. Crappy cell phone camera + dark restaurant = the worst pictures ever. I debated whether I should even use them at all, but what — am I going to do a blog post with just words? What am I, a caveman?
Earl’s is a slightly more upscale than normal chain restaurant, akin to a place like Moxie’s (which, FYI, has a terrible burger) or Milestones.
I wasn’t even going to order the burger. Without my camera, I didn’t feel like I could do a proper review. I figured I’d just return at some point and order the burger then. I had even ordered something else, but shortly after my waitress left, I spotted someone else receiving the burger. One look at it and I knew that I needed to have it immediately.
The Bronx burger is a towering behemoth of a hamburger. It is described thusly: “half pound Certified Angus Beef patty, beer battered onion rings, roasted garlic aioli, red pepper relish, aged white cheddar and rocket greens, toasted sesame seed burger bun made from scratch every day.” And indeed, with the large onion rings piled on there (among other toppings), this is not a burger for the weak-hearted. Piled high, it’s one of those burgers where you really have to open wide to take a bite.
Now, I think it’s fairly clear at this point that my general preference is a more sparsely-topped burger. I find that too many toppings can obfuscate what makes a burger so great in the first place: the beef. But every now and then, I have no problem eating a kitchen sink burger, with everything the chef can think of thrown on there.
However, while all the individual toppings on this burger were actually of a fairly high quality, in this case, the whole is actually less than the sum of its parts.
The main problem with this burger is that all the tastes are working against each other. Pretty much every single topping on it has a very strong, very distinctive flavour, and none of the tastes compliment each other particularly well. It’s like a symphony where everyone is playing in a different key; even if everyone is playing beautifully, it’s still going to sound like a mess.
There’s the very strong garlicky aoili, the roasted red peppers, the rocket (which basically tastes like arugula, another strong flavour), the thickly battered onion rings (which feature a much more strongly-spiced batter than traditional onion rings), and of course, the beefy patty (which fights valiantly for attention among the many assertive flavours). There’s also the cheese, but it’s completely lost among the other flavours and textures, and may as well not be there at all. There’s a lot going on in this burger, and while I did basically enjoy it, the lack of harmony among the ingredients made for a sub-par experience.
You want another iffy metaphor to describe this burger? No? Well, you’re getting one: you know that expression “there’s a party in my mouth”? Well this burger is like there’s a fight in your mouth, and all the ingredients are battling it out for your attention.
As for the beef itself? It tasted pretty good, actually. Cooked to well done (I’ve long since resigned myself to the fact that you’re almost never going to get a burger in Toronto cooked much less than medium well, if you’re lucky), the patty has a fairly pronounced crust, with a decently beefy taste and a fair amount of juiciness. This is, of course, based on the few bites I got on the outside of the burger, without the many toppings to get in the way. But even in the middle, when the taste of the beef itself had no chance among the other ingredients, I still appreciated the presence of an above average patty on a textural level. You can pile as many toppings as you want on a frozen burger; you’re never going to mask that off-putting chewiness.
The big, bready bun would probably be too substantial for a more traditional hamburger. It worked pretty well here, though, since this is a burger that requires a bun with a bit more heft to hold it all together.
The burger was accompanied by a generous helping of fries, which were thinly cut and very reminiscent of the ones served at McDonald’s. There was, however, something a bit off about them that I can’t quite put my finger on; they tasted vaguely processed. I’d be very surprised if it turned out they were freshly cut in-house. Regardless, they were pretty good.
I’d definitely like to return to Earl’s at some point; the hamburger had a lot of promise. I just wouldn’t order the Bronx burger next time.