Location: 1020 Islington Avenue, Etobicoke
South St. Burger Co. is a fast casual burger chain (“fast casual” denoting a fast food restaurant with — supposedly — better food than a place like McDonald’s or Burger King, and prices to match). I want to like South St. — I really do. I can appreciate that they’re a chain with loftier goals than, say, Hero Certified Burgers, who use the absolute cheapest, most odious frozen patties they can find.
South St. proudly proclaim that they use only fresh beef, and kudos to them for that. Sadly, although this is a step in the right direction, there is more to making a good burger than simply using fresh beef.
The restaurant has a pretty standard set up — you order your burger, wait for it to be ready, then pick from the toppings behind the glass.
Actually, those toppings warrant mention: though I went simple with just mayo, tomato, and pickles, they have a fairly impressive selection, including different types of mayo (garlic, wasabi, or curry), relishes, and chutney.
I actually remember liking this place a lot more when it first opened — I think the quality used to be higher. On top of this, South St. came to Toronto slightly before the burger trend hit this city hard, when a place serving fresh, non-frozen, non-meatloaf burgers was much more of a novelty.
The grilled, well done burger is very, very dry. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll note that they’re clearly using beef that is way too lean. The patty is very tightly packed and very dense, making the whole thing a bit of a jaw workout.
It’s also clear that the beef just isn’t that great, as it has that vaguely unpleasant taste that you associate with lower quality beef.
The bun was nothing too special, but it was fine, and the pickles, tomato, and mayo were pretty standard. I suspect to make a South St. burger worth eating, you need to be really aggressive with their more unique condiments. My dining companion got a variety of toppings on his burger, and he enjoyed it.
As for the fries, they’re made by New York Fries, and are expectedly good. I asked for the curry mayo and the garlic mayo on the side for dipping, which I would strongly recommend. The curry mayo in particular was quite delicious, and really kicked up the already tasty fries.