507 Queen Street West, TorontoUPDATE: Tragically, this place is no more. It has been replaced by another burger joint, P&L Burger.
To say that the hamburger at White Squirrel Snack Shop was a pleasant surprise would be a pretty huge understatement. The place just opened a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve already been hearing some good things about the burger — but I still wasn’t expecting anything particularly great.
White Squirrel is an offshoot of a coffee shop, which doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence for their burger, but oh my god. Oh my god, that burger. Oh my god.
The restaurant is weirdly narrow, with a few seats along the wall and a couple of tables at the end. It was pretty empty when I went, but if the place gets popular (and I expect it will with a burger this good) it might be tricky to get a seat.
The grungy, minimalist industrial decor doesn’t do the place any favours, but this is really a pop in, pop out restaurant rather than a place you’ll linger, so it’s not a big deal. And seriously, if you’re going to serve a burger this good, you could serve it to me in a gas station bathroom and I’d eat it with a big smile on my face. So who cares what the place looks like.
The restaurant is laid out so that you order from the man behind the bar, pay, then when your food is ready someone in the kitchen yells out your name and you pick it up.
Here’s what the menu says about the Snack Shop Burger: “1/2 lb. house-ground chuck, caramelized onion, pickles, Dijon, steamed egg bun.”
The amazing patty is grilled to perfection, with a good amount of satisfyingly crispy char from the grill, but not so much that it overwhelms the burger. It’s cooked to a perfect medium, with a pleasingly pink interior.
The chuck is coarsely ground and loosely packed, and unlike so many burgers in the city, it is fantastically juicy. Seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper to let the beefy flavour shine through, it’s pretty outstanding.
The soft, rich caramelized onions compliment the burger perfectly, as do the pickles.
The Dijon mustard, on the other hand, is superfluous. It basically works with the burger, but its flavour is a little bit too assertive. The pickles do a perfectly fine job of cutting the richness of the juicy patty and the onions; mustard only serves to detract from the gloriousness of this hamburger. It is a small detraction, but a detraction nonetheless.
I have some minor quibbles with the bun as well. Slightly sweet, soft, and fresh, it is a great bun for the most part. However, it is slightly too chewy and substantial, which, like the mustard, detracts slightly from the gloriousness of the hamburger. Again, it is not a large issue, but when you serve a burger this magnificent, even the smallest of imperfections will be magnified.
I also got a small order of fries, which were fine, if nothing too memorable. They actually seemed like they had the potential to be above average, but they were slightly undercooked and a bit soggy.
But that burger… that burger. It was so good. I honestly think it’s one of the best burgers I’ve had in the city. Rich, beefy, juicy, and just amazingly tasty, it’s the kind of burger that dreams are made of. It lingered in my mind for the rest of the afternoon. It lodged itself in my brain and refused to let go. I need another.
Interestingly, White Squirrel Snack Shop is maybe a two minute walk from the soon-to-open third location of The Burger’s Priest. Which means that this small stretch of Queen has become a burger lover’s paradise: a perfect griddled burger and a perfect grilled burger within mere steps of each other. Who could ask for anything more?
One thought on “White Squirrel Snack Shop”
If you like a burger done to your taste, medium rare, juicy etc, excellent fries,you have to try County General on Queen West.