I think there’s one thing I have to get out of the way before I talk about the burgers at Holy Chuck. Whoever owns the place obviously likes The Burger’s Priest. A lot. Both places have similar menus (right down to the presence of a cheese-stuffed, deep fried mushroom), serve a similar style of hamburger, and have similarly religious-themed names.
I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with this. Though The Burger’s Priest was a bit of an oddity for Toronto, all they’re doing is serving the type of burger that’s been ubiquitous in the States for many, many years. Specifically, much inspiration was taken from In-N-Out, a well known burger chain in the southwestern United States. If we start seeing even more places that serve burgers in this style (and do it well) in Toronto, that would make me a very happy man. Perhaps if enough of these places open up and people realize how burgers are actually supposed to taste, we’ll start seeing the decline of frozen patty purveyors like Johnny’s, and meatloaf sandwiches masquerading as burgers like Lick’s. I can dream, can’t I?
Anyway, Holy Chuck.
I actually went at lunch, without a particularly huge appetite, and planned on getting something reasonably small — probably single patty. But my general policy is to order any burger off the menu that shares a name with the restaurant, and in this case the eponymous burger consisted of two patties, two slices of cheese, sauteed onions, and bacon. So much for small. I also opted to upgrade to the combo, because, well, go big or go home, right?
After a five minute or so wait, I got my burger, as is. It didn’t strike me that this burger needed any further condiments, though even if it had, I would have been out of luck — for this particular burger, the menu very emphatically states “NO TOPPINGS ALLOWED!“
My first impression was that the cheese appeared to be unmelted, though cutting into the burger it was clear that this was thankfully not the case.
Look at that burger. Seriously. Behold. Yes, it’s as good as it looks. Beefy, juicy, greasy, with a perfectly brown crust from the hot griddle, this is close to burger perfection. The flavour isn’t quite as richly beefy as at The Burger’s Priest, but it’s close. The soft sauteed onions compliment the burger perfectly, as does the thickly cut bacon. The cheese is American, de rigueur for a burger such as this; so too is the supple, soft bun.
Actually, let me talk about the cheese for a bit. Two slices is the standard for a double cheeseburger (it’s what they serve at the Priest, and pretty much everywhere else a double cheeseburger is found). However, I’m starting to think that two slices is just too much, and that one slice is more appropriate. One slice gives the burger a welcome creaminess and a nice cheesy tang; two slices threatens to compete with the beef in the flavour department. This is fine if the beef is iffy, but if I’m eating somewhere like Holy Chuck where the beef is above average, I want the toppings to compliment the burger, not compete for dominance.
And yes, the beef is definitely above average here. Cooked medium well with a blush of pink, the beef is packed with flavour and is fantastically juicy. I overheard a fellow customer ask if the burgers could be cooked to order, and the man behind the counter responded that yes, they can do anything from rare to well done. I had already ordered my burger when this nugget of info was revealed; however, though my preference is generally medium rare, this burger was so perfect at medium well that I might just leave well enough alone and continue ordering it without any alterations when I return.
I’ve heard the complaint leveraged that the Holy Chuck burger is too greasy. This is nonsense. If someone tries to tell you that they think the burger is too greasy, smile, nod, and immediately discount anything that this person has to say on the topic of hamburgers; it’s sad to say it, but they are lost to the horrors of Toronto’s mediocre burger scene. We’re so used to too-lean, overcooked and completely dried out burgers that the burgers like the ones served at Holy Chuck stand out as odd. But this is how a burger is supposed to taste. A burger that is edible without the assistance of at least a couple of napkins is, to put it bluntly, not worth eating.
I mentioned before that I had a smallish appetite and was considering not getting the combo, but oh boy, am I glad I did. The fries are perfect: crispy, salty, flavourful, with a fluffy interior and just the right amount of crunch. I’ve eaten a lot of French fries in my life, and these were among the best that I’ve ever had. Suffice it to say, this is one area in which Holy Chuck beats the Burger’s Priest quite handily.
If you’re just skimming this review (it is a little wordy, I’ll admit it), the Reader’s Digest version is this: go to Holy Chuck. Now. Even if it’s not quite as good, it easily rivals The Burger’s Priest for fast food burger dominance in Toronto. Wading through so much burger mediocrity for this blog, it’s easy for forget why I even love burgers so much in the first place. Holy Chuck is just the reminder that I needed. It is a ray of light piercing through the darkness. It’s pretty fantastic.