I have to say, the current abundance of quality burger joints in Toronto really warms my heart. I remember a time, not more than a few years ago, when finding a decent burger in the city was quite a challenge — particularly if you didn’t feel like trekking to a fancier place like Bymark and paying a premium. Johnny’s and Apache frequently topped “best burgers in the city” lists. If you wanted a fast-food-style, griddle cooked burger, your only option was low-quality chain fare like McDonald’s or Wendy’s. All in all, it was a grim time to be a burger fan.
Fast forward to present day. Suddenly, it’s an embarrassment of riches. Good burgers are easy to find. Burger joints seem to be opening on a regular basis, and many of them are quite good. Many people are calling this a fad; I disagree. There’s nothing quite like a good burger, and Torontonians are only just now realizing this. Go to any big city in the States, and you’ll find any number of high quality burger joints flipping burgers and feeding the hungry masses. Toronto used to be a burger dead-zone, and it’s only now catching up to other big cities — and there’s work to be done yet. So no, burgers are not a fad, and they’re not a flash in the pan. It just took us a while to realize their worth.
But I digress, so let me get to the topic at hand: Slab Burgers.
It’s an unassuming location, tucked away in an office building just off of Bay. It’s an oddly designed space, with a couple of tables next to the register, and a wall separating a narrow strip with a few more tables. They’ve also built a barrier, maybe 6 feet tall, around the area where they cook the burgers, blocking the burger cookery from view. It’s an odd choice that made me wonder if they have something to hide.
The menu will look pretty familiar to anyone who’s visited Five Guys — the offerings are pretty much identical, with the addition of a chicken sandwich. I ordered the four ounce burger as a combo with fries and a drink (and like at Five Guys, you order your toppings as you order the burger). It’s a pretty solid deal at $6.99.
I sat down, and within a few minutes my burger arrived, topped with pickles, tomato and mayo. I have to admit that my expectations were not very high — perhaps it was the Five Guys copycat menu, or the odd design of the restaurant, but I wasn’t expecting much. Imagine my surprise, then, as I bit into what turned out to be a damn good burger.
Let me get my one caveat out of the way first: the bun was too big. I suspect that it might have worked better in the double burger, and it wasn’t quite as bad as it looks in the picture (it was very soft and fresh, and aside from its size it was a good bun), but it was definitely too big.
Disproportionate bun aside, this was a winner from top to bottom. The beef was clearly fresh and of an above-average quality, and was therefore quite flavourful. It was juicy, and had a decent amount of crust from the griddle. With the exception of the questionable bun, the whole thing was very Five Guys-esque — but Five Guys at its best, since that place tends to be a little bit spotty. It wasn’t a “OMYGOD you must try this burger IMMEDIATELY” burger, but it was damn solid, and one I’d happily eat again if I found myself in the area.
As for the fries, they were top shelf: perfectly cooked and flavourful, I wasn’t very hungry and planned on only eating a handful, but once I started I could not stop. I cleaned the plate.