:  994 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: None

Frankie’s has apparently been around for 35 years.  I say apparently because I had never heard of it before a few weeks ago, and it certainly appears to be a new restaurant.  However, a review at blogTO (which is, oddly, the only thing that pops up when you Google this joint outside of sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon) claims that it is a years-old neighbourhood standby.  Okay, if you say so, blogTO.  I should really make some calls and do some research, but that sounds like a lot of work.  What do I look like, a journalist?

Anyway, a place this mediocre really isn’t worth that much thought or effort.  The restaurant’s sign hilariously proclaims that these are the “world’s best burgers.”  They’re not even Queen Street’s best burgers.

The menu offers two different types of hamburgers: the Frankie’s Original, which the menu describes as having “100% Canadian beef and Frankie’s secret spices,” and the specialty burgers, advertised as being eight ounce burgers made from “Canadian chuck.”

I found it very odd that they advertised the cut of beef that went into the specialty burgers and not the Frankie’s Original, and I was leaning towards getting a specialty burger over the who-knows-what’s-in-it Frankie’s Original; however, the specialty burgers were all so condiment and topping-heavy that I thought I’d never even be able to taste the beef.  So I went with a Frankie’s Original topped with my usual selections (pickles, tomato, and mayo).

A note about the restaurant itself, which is waitress service, so you’ll be sitting there a while: they have TVs on with the volume up.  This isn’t a problem.  They also have a working jukebox.  This is a problem.  I have no problem with a jukebox in theory, but when you’ve got the music coming from the jukebox on one side, and the noise coming from the TV on the other, it can get a bit cacophonous.  A note to the owners of Frankie’s: please pick one or the other.

The service was relatively fast, at least.  The hamburger is, as advertised, a meatloaf burger — though it is thankfully not too strongly seasoned.  This allowed the flavour of the beef itself to come through, which, in this case, wasn’t necessarily a good thing.  The beef had a fairly typical low-quality beef flavour: vaguely funky, and somewhat unpleasant.  Though I’ve had worse, it certainly wasn’t anything I’d want to have again.

The patty also had an oddly mushy texture despite being cooked to well done; I’m thinking that the meat had been too finely ground, and perhaps even had a filler of some sort.

As for the toppings, the pickles were fine, but the tomatoes were mealy enough to warrant removal from my hamburger, and the mayo was not mayo.   It was either Miracle Whip or some house-made concoction; it was cloyingly sweet and completely overwhelming.  I scraped off as much as I could from the bun and the patty.

The fries were okay, but they were a little bit soggy and very greasy, with a stale oil flavour.  It’s likely that they’re using oil that is not quite hot enough, and that needs to be changed.

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Frankie's Bar & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Burger Brats

Location254 Adelaide Street West

Burger Brats opened about a year ago and was almost immediately forgotten about.  In a city where almost every new restaurant that opens downtown gets a ton of buzz, this concerned me a bit.  Still, I’ve been anxious to try the place, and I recently got my chance.

I came here on a Sunday for lunch just after the place opened, and it was completely deserted and remained so until I left.  I won’t hold this against it; Sunday afternoon is obviously not exactly a restaurant’s prime time, particularly here in the entertainment district where the bulk of the business probably comes from late-night drunken revelers.

I glanced at the menu posted on the wall, and quickly settled on the Burger Brats Classic, which is advertised as coming with “fresh lettuce, ripe tomato, red onion, pickles, mustard, and mayo.”  I opted to go onion-free, but otherwise ordered the burger as-is.

I ordered the burger as a combo with fries and a soda, and it came up to just under ten bucks, so it’s not a bad deal.

After a few minutes, my burger was ready; I took a seat and dug in.

The first thing I noticed is how dry the burger was; impossibly dry.  It’s the kind of burger that sucks all the moisture out of your mouth.  It’s quite a jaw workout, that’s for sure.

It was cooked past well done, which is a bit puzzling given the fact that I was the only customer in the joint, and thus had the cook’s full attention.  If a place is busy, you can kind of justify an overcooked burger from an overloaded, overworked kitchen.  It’s still an unforgivable offense, but you can kind of justify it.

Here I clearly had the cook’s undivided attention, so there is no explanation for the overcooked burger other than that they wanted it that way.  Puzzling.

The beef had a fairly neutral, not altogether unpleasant flavour, and a bit of smokiness from the grill.  And though I feared that it might be a meatloaf style burger, this was thankfully not the case.

But man, it was so dry, and impossibly dense — it was way too tightly packed, which means that the patty has been over-handled, and is  yet another sign that the person in charge of the burger cookery doesn’t really know what they’re doing.

Another disconcerting element about this burger: the horrifying abundance of crunchy, gristly bits of cartilage and who-knows-what-else.  Not just one or two; they were interspersed throughout the entire burger.  Again, something is going seriously wrong in the burger preparation department.

The toppings were fine, though it was a bit over-condimented (what, condimented is a word, isn’t it?  Well it is now).  I think in the future I’ll stick to my tried and true combo of tomato, pickles, and mayo when I order a plain burger.

As tends to be the case at mediocre burger joints, the burger was too small for the bun.  A hamburger patty shrinks when cooking, and any restaurant that puts more than two seconds of thought into their hamburger will realize this and account for it when they’re shaping the patties.  Yet again, there is a clear lack of care in the burger cookery at Burger Brats.

Seriously: this place baffles me.  How do you bungle the burger so badly at a burger joint?  This isn’t some random neighbourhood restaurant with a half-assed burger buried deep in the menu for variety’s sake.  This is a place whose sole purpose is to sell burgers.  That’s it.  That’s what they do.  And they serve this?  Inexcusable.

Even a place that serves frozen burgers I can kind of understand.  I don’t like them, but I can understand why a place might want to sell them: they’re very cheap, and they’re very easy.  But Burger Brats is obviously going to the trouble and expense of making their own hamburger patties.  So why not put in a little bit of extra effort to get it right, and a little bit extra expense to actually get above-average quality meat?  Why not do a little bit of research on what blend of cuts makes the tastiest hamburger patty, and what percentage of fat will yield the juiciest burger?  Because I guarantee that the folks at Burger Brats have not done this.

I sound upset.  I am.  It’s so easy; with just a little bit more work, Burger Brats could be serving something worth eating.  Something good.  Maybe even something better than good.  But they’re not.  They’re serving an inferior product and there’s absolutely no reason they need to be doing so other than laziness and ignorance.  It upsets me.  I’m sick of eating sub-standard burgers when making a good burger is so damn easy.

Deep breaths, Michael. Deep breaths.

Let me talk about something good about this place.  The fries were delicious.  Crispy on the outside and gloriously fluffy on the inside, they were pretty damn tasty.  They were also sparingly seasoned with some kind of flavoured salt that complimented them quite well.  If I were ever forced to come back here, I’d just get a large order of fries and forego the burger altogether.

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Burger Brats on Urbanspoon