Archive | March, 2013

The Samuel J. Moore

24 Mar

sam
Location
1087 Queen Street West, Toronto
UPDATE: The restaurant is closed, apparently.  Can’t say I’m too surprised.
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/TheSamuelJMoore

The Samuel J. Moore just opened a few weeks ago, and the early word is that they’ve got a burger worth eating. Obviously, I had to give it a shot.

I came at around noon on a Saturday during brunch service.  I was hoping to get the regular hamburger off the dinner menu, but sadly, only the Brunch Burger was available.

Before I get into the less-than-great things about the place, I will say that the design of the restaurant is quite nice.  Spacious, with a classy old-school diner aesthetic and lots of sunlight streaming in from the windows, it’s certainly a pleasant enough place to have a relaxing meal.

And when the burger came, it looked pretty darn good.  This is a place that seemed to have it all figured out — or so I thought, until I actually took a bite.

The Brunch Burger comes topped with a fried egg, peameal bacon, smoked cheddar, and coleslaw.  There are a lot of flavours here, and sadly, they never coalesce into anything particularly satisfying.

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It looks good, though, doesn’t it?

But let me talk about the patty, because that’s really where this burger takes a wrong turn and never comes back.  Finely ground,densely packed, overly lean, and cooked all the way to the tippy-top of well done, it’s a perfect storm of density and dryness.

The patty also has a distinct lack of beefiness that was so pronounced I felt compelled to ask my server if it was all beef, or some kind of beef/pork blend.  It’s all beef, apparently, so I’m not sure how to account for its almost complete lack of beefy flavour.  It didn’t taste bad, at least.  It just tasted like nothing.  Chewy, tough nothing.

Of course, I was only able to discern this in the bites I took of the patty alone, because this is a hamburger with a lot going on.  The dominant flavour is the peppery, tangy coleslaw, which is surprisingly spicy and completely inappropriate as a topping for a hamburger.  It might have been okay on its own, but as a condiment it is ridiculously overpowering and tragically misguided.

The somewhat dry, tough peameal bacon also didn’t do the burger any favours.

The fried egg, however, was perfectly cooked with a satisfyingly runny yolk.  It couldn’t do much to save the burger, but it was nice.  The fresh, toasted brioche bun was also pretty great, and definitely deserved to be part of a better burger.

And I guess there was cheddar in there, too, but with all the other stuff going on I honestly couldn’t even taste it.

The burger also came with a side of perfunctory hash browns and bland house-made ketchup.  They were on par with the burger, which is to say not good.

The Samuel J. Moore - the outside The Samuel J. Moore - the restaurant The Samuel J. Moore - the Brunch Burger The Samuel J. Moore - the Brunch Burger
Samuel J Moore on Urbanspoon

Zet’s Restaurant

10 Mar

zets
Location
: 6445 Airport Road, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.zets.ca/

Zet’s is in a bit of an odd location (it’s close enough to Pearson to see the planes take off), but having heard a few good things about their burger, I knew that at some point I’d have to check it off the list.

It’s an endearingly run-down Greek diner that serves stuff like soulvaki and gyro, along with burgers and other diner stand-bys.

I walked in at around one on a Saturday afternoon and was happy to note that the place was absolutely packed, with a line going all the way back to the door; crowds this deep are generally a harbinger of good things to come.  Generally.

The menu is on the wall above the grill.  Noting an eponymous burger on the menu, I ordered that, along with a side of fries.  A few minutes later I was asked what I wanted from the toppings behind the glass (I went with tomatoes, pickle, and mayo) and I was ready to go.

The Zet burger is a double with cheese and bacon, and with two fairly large patties, it’s not kidding around.  Clearly, it is not for the weak of appetite.

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The patties are frozen and industrially produced. If you are seeking a hamburger worth going out of your way for, turn back now.  These are not the droids you’re looking for.

It is, however, a better-than-average frozen burger.  It wasn’t nearly as rubbery and hot dog-esque as some frozen burgers tend to be, nor was it as funky and off-tasting as some others.  Basically, it was pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to freezer-born burgers — but that is a very low water-mark indeed.

It still, of course, had that generically salty “this is meat?” flavour and hot doggy texture, but to a lesser degree than pretty much any other frozen burger that I’ve had.  It was also nicely grilled, with the gooey mild cheddar and thickly-cut, smoky bacon doing their best to hide the patty’s deficiencies.  It was probably the most I’ve enjoyed a frozen burger in quite a while, so props must go to Zet’s for successfully putting lipstick on a pig.

The other toppings were fine, as was the soft, fresh bun.  It’s actually pretty sad that Zet’s isn’t working with better patties; their technique is obviously pretty great, so if they were starting with better quality meat, they could be serving something special.  Oh well.

The fries, too, made me want to give Zet’s a pass.  Crispy on the outside and pleasingly creamy on the inside, they were absolutely outstanding.  Again, you can’t make fries this good unless you really know what you’re doing, so what’s the deal with the frozen burgers, Zet’s?  What’s the deal?

Zet's Restaurant - the restaurant Zet's Restaurant - the propeller sign Zet's Restaurant - the line-up Zet's Restaurant - the burger Zet's Restaurant - the burger
Zet's Drive-Inn Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Burgernator

3 Mar

burgernator
Location269 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://theburgernator.com/

Whatever else you can say about The Burgernator, whoever is in charge of their marketing/branding/design has done a top-notch job.  A great amount of care has obviously gone into the look and general theme of the place, including a well thought out web and social media presence.  The restaurant is slickly designed, with their manifesto proudly displayed on the wall.  Said manifesto promises that their never-frozen patties contain “a custom blend of freshly ground chuck,” and that they want to “rid the city of half-hearted and overcooked burgers.”

The burgers are smashed and griddle-cooked, in the style of Burger’s Priest and Holy Chuck, two of my favourite burger joints in the city.  Suffice it to say, by the time I had ordered and sat down to await my hamburger, I was excited.  Another great, griddle-cooked burger in Toronto?  Yes please.

I ordered the Lieutenant Burger, which comes with two four ounce patties, cheddar cheese, Burgernator sauce, lettuce, tomato, and pickles.  The restaurant is set up so that you order at the register, sit, then wait for them to bring you your food.

The burger arrived glistening and full of promise.  It didn’t appear to have much crust, a hallmark of a really good smashed burger, but I was still ready for greatness.  I cut the burger in half for the requisite photo and peeked inside. My heart immediately sank.  One look at the gray, textureless slab that was the burger’s cross-section, and I knew the truth.  The odds of this being a great hamburger suddenly seemed distressingly low.

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You don’t have to be a burger expert to know that something is amiss here; this is not how a burger is supposed to look.

Alas, this is also not how a burger is supposed to taste.  As you can tell just by looking at it, the beef is way, way, way too finely ground and tightly packed, resulting in a dense, unpleasantly chewy burger.  The sad part is that it’s actually fairly juicy, but it’s negated by how insanely dense it is.

A good burger should feature beef that is coarsely ground, loosely packed, and has a certain amount of texture to it.  This was just a solid, unforgiving mass of mediocre meat.

And yes, the beef is kind of mediocre.  While it certainly didn’t taste bad, it had a vaguely off-putting flavour that I found somewhat unpleasant.  Some nice crust from the griddle might have helped, but as mentioned earlier, there wasn’t much in that department.  It was perfectly edible, but when the nicest thing you can say about a hamburger is “I was able to eat it without questioning my will to live,” then you know you’ve got problems.

The cheddar suited the burger just fine, though there is a reason why American cheese is the standard for a fast food-style burger like this — it adds a mild tang and a welcome creaminess without overwhelming the meat.  But that’s a matter of preference, and while I certainly prefer American for a cheeseburger, the cheddar here was fully melted and perfectly okay.

The Burgernator sauce, on the other hand, was cloyingly sweet and really did not do the hamburger any favours.  The rest of the toppings were standard stuff, save for the pickles which were weirdly tasteless.

The bun was a little too dense and bready.  Which is weird, because despite its density it did a fairly disastrous job of holding up to the burger.  I was able to eat my hamburger with just a little bit of maneuvering towards the end; my dining companion, who ordered one of the more substantial burgers on the menu, wasn’t so lucky.  His bottom bun almost immediately disintegrated, forcing him to eat the majority of his burger with a fork and knife.  Like an animal.

The fries, too, were disappointing.  They were pale and undercooked; limp and unappealingly chalky.  They did, however, come with a rosemary mayo dipping sauce which was surprisingly tasty.

As I left, I noticed the following inscription by the door:

burgernatorB

Incorrect.

The Burgernator - the outside The Burgernator - the menu The Burgernator - the restaurant The Burgernator - the manifesto The Burgernator - the burger and fries The Burgernator - the burger The Burgernator - the burger The Burgernator - you'll be back
The Burgernator on Urbanspoon