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.
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: