It’s always unfortunate when a restaurant flirts with greatness — comes so very close — but just can’t quite get there. Fresh Burger is, sadly, such a place. And they’re close; they really are. But they bungle one key element. Alas, greatness is just out of their grasp.
Fresh Burger sells classic American-style hamburgers a la Burger’s Priest, Holy Chuck, or Five Guys, which involves placing ball of fresh ground beef on a hot griddle and smashing it into a patty. It’s a style of burger cookery that was almost impossible to find anywhere in the GTA even a few years ago, and which has now become increasingly abundant. This, as I’ve mentioned before, warms my heart.
(A note about the picture — they provided plastic forks but not knives. I probably should have just asked them to cut the burger in half for me, but instead I attempted to cut my burger in half by turning my fork upside down and using the stem. As you can tell from the mangled remains, this was not my best idea ever.)
I’m just going to get the bad news out of the way first, because this is a restaurant that otherwise has so much going for it. The beef they use is too lean. If you’ve read many of the other reviews on this blog (or if you eat a lot of burgers in the GTA), you’ll know that this is a distressingly common issue in the city.
In this case, the problem is advertised right on their menu: they use ground sirloin to make their burgers, which is an exceptionally lean cut of beef, and which is pretty much the last thing you want to be making a hamburger out of.
A note to all burger joint owners: Lean burgers = dry burgers. A good hamburger needs at least 20% fat content, if not a little bit more. Hamburgers are not, and never will be, health food. Fat is your friend.
The hamburger was cooked all the way to well done, par for the course at GTA burger joints. If you’re going to salvage a lean burger, you really shouldn’t cook it too far past medium. A well done burger made with lean ground beef is one hundred percent guaranteed to be dry. That is not my opinion; that is fact.
This is all a roundabout way of saying that the hamburger at Fresh Burger was quite dry. Happily, this is the only misstep for an otherwise above average burger.
Most notably, even if the meat is too lean (and it is), it’s definitely above average in quality, with a rich beefy flavour. The coarsely ground, loosely packed beef has a really great texture which actually helps mitigate the dryness quite a bit — it’s dry, but thanks to the the satisfying texture, it doesn’t feel nearly as dry as many other offenders in this category.
Another plus: the patties have that great, dark brown crust that you can only get by cooking a burger on a really hot flat-top griddle.
The menu is fairly bare-bones, with either a cheeseburger or a double cheeseburger to choose from. I went with the double, but the single is probably the better choice with a burger as lean as this.
The burgers come topped with pickles, onion, tomato, lettuce, secret sauce (a mayo-based Mac-sauce-esque concoction), and nicely melted American cheese. Classic toppings for a classic, fast-food-style burger.
The fresh, squishy bun has just enough heft to hold up to the patties and condiments; like the toppings, this is a perfect fit for a classic burger such as this.
As for the fries, they weren’t anything I’d get too excited over, but they were above average and quite tasty.
Fresh Burger is frustrating. One small change could instantly transform it from a very good burger into a great one, and place it on a shortlist of the GTA’s best burgers. But it is what it is, and despite my one fairly substantial reservation, it’s still quite tasty and certainly worth eating.