Archive | January, 2015

Bareburger

25 Jan

bare
Location
: 111 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://111-dundas-st-w-toronto.bareburger.com/

It makes me really happy when I think about how good it’s gotten for burger-lovers in Toronto over the last several years.  A few years ago, with the dearth of great burger choices in the city, Bareburger would have been a breath of fresh air.  But now?  Not so much.

And Bareburger is a fairly popular chain in the States, with most of its locations around New York City.  I’ve been under the impression that New York had us handily beat in the burger department, but if this place is good enough to thrive there, it might not be so clear-cut.

It’s not even that Bareburger is bad, per se.  It’s fine.  There’s just nothing particularly noteworthy about it.

It’s a nicely designed restaurant, with lots of light coming in from the windows.  Unlike a lot of burger joints in the city, it’s waiter service, with more than just burgers on the menu (and more choices than just beef for the burgers).

You can either pick one of their handful of pre-topped burgers, or you can customize your own.  I went with the Standard: “beef, colby, stout onions, dill pickles, special sauce, brioche bun.”

Like I said, it’s fine.  The griddled burger comes cooked to well done (they say medium well on the menu, but this sucker was gray throughout), and while it was vaguely juicy, it was dryer than I’d like.  It was also a little bit too dense, and somewhat tough.

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The patty has a very mildly beefy flavour, which was entirely wiped out by the burger’s toppings.  In particular, the zesty special sauce completely knocked out any flavour from the beef itself.  It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong — it was just a bit overwhelming.

The other toppings were pretty good as well.  The fully melted colby cheese was mild and creamy, and the caramelized stout onions were dark brown, with a sweet, rich flavour.

I wasn’t as keen on the brioche bun. It was okay, but it was way too dense and substantial for the task at hand.  It was also a good thirty percent wider than the patty itself, leaving me with a ridiculous amount of bun on my plate after the patty was long gone.  Come on, guys.  Seriously.  This is burger making 101.

I feel like I’m piling on more criticism than this place deserves (again, it’s not bad), but I have to mention that it’s alarmingly expensive.  The burgers are all in the 12 to 15 dollar price range, and that doesn’t include a side.  Fries will run you another three bucks.  Factor a drink and a tip on top of that, and you’re looking at spending well north of twenty bucks.  I don’t always pay a ton of attention to this in my reviews, because it’s the quality of the burger that really concerns me, but these prices are a little bit intense, especially considering the only-average quality of the food.

The fries, too, were good but not great.  But hey, let me close things out with a couple of things I really liked.  They have a handful of interesting sodas on the menu — I have a hard time saying no to a unique soda, so obviously I got one.  I went with blueberry, and it was surprisingly good.  The blueberry flavour was really outstanding; it almost tasted like a blueberry pie in soda form.  It was one of the best sodas I’ve had in quite a while.

For dessert, my dining companion ordered the Snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich; I wound up splitting it with him, and oh man was it good.  I think it might even have Bang Bang beat for the title of best ice cream sandwich in the city.  The cookie was cinnamony and chewy, with the absolute perfect ice cream sandwich consistency — dense, but not too dense, with just the right amount of chew.  And the super creamy ice cream had a satisfyingly intense roasted marshmallow flavour — I think it was either from Greg’s, or very similar to what they serve there.  It was the absolute perfect match for that cookie.  I’m not even kidding: you need to go there just for that sandwich.  It was outstanding.

2.5 out of 4

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Dangerous Dan’s Diner

18 Jan

dans
Location
: 714 Queen Street East, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.dangerousdansdiner.com/

Dangerous Dan’s is pretty much a Toronto burger institution, predating Toronto’s recent burger trend by well over a decade (it opened in 1999). You know that old hipster argument? “Oh, I was into them before they were cool?” Well, Dangerous Dan’s was into hamburgers way before they were cool.

So why has it taken me over 100 reviews to check the place out? I’m going to be honest: I wasn’t super keen on trying it. Why? I mean, take your pick: they’re on the east end and a bit out of the way for me; they serve meatloaf burgers, which certainly aren’t my favourite; it’s an old school burger joint, which doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of older burger joints are mediocre at best. Don’t ask me why.

Anyway, better late than never.

Dangerous Dan’s is fairly well known for some of their more extravagantly-topped burgers, like the Coronary, which features a pound of beef, bacon, cheese, and a fried egg. I went much more bare-bones, with the Plain, which is an eight ounce burger topped to request.  I got mine with tomato, pickles, and mayo.

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First and foremost, it is absolutely, positively a meatloaf burger. You can see the burger being made on this episode of You Gotta Eat Here, and they mix in the works. Garlic, spices, breadcrumbs, eggs — they go full meatloaf, no doubt about it.

If you’ve read much of this blog, you know that me and meatloaf burgers generally aren’t the best of friends.  I was pretty much ready to hate it — and maybe the lowered expectations helped, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The patty is super meatloafy, but it tastes good, at least. Unlike last week’s burger at BriSkit, which had a muddled, neither-here-nor-there flavour, it at least knows what it is and goes for it. It’s not a classic burger by any stretch of the imagination, and the flavour of the beef is mostly wiped out, but it tastes good for what it is.

The grilled burger is cooked to well done, but actually remains quite juicy, which is always nice.  Though the patty was slightly over-charred from the grill, the grilling mostly added a nice smoky flavour and a satisfyingly crispy crust.

Meatloaf burgers can sometimes have an unpleasantly sausagey texture; this thankfully wasn’t the case here.  Texturally, the patty was pretty much exactly where it needed to be — it had a good grind, it obviously hadn’t been overhandled, and it was nice and tender.

The lightly toasted bun was slightly cold and a little too dense, but it mostly suited the burger pretty well.

As for the fries, they were very thickly cut, which isn’t my favourite — but for this style of fry, they were quite good (much better than you’d think seems to be a theme here).  It’s very easy to end up with an unpleasantly dense interior with fries like this, but these were lightly crispy on the outside and really fluffy on the inside.

3 out of 4

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BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches

11 Jan

briskit
Location
: 160 Wilkinson Road, Unit 40, Brampton
Websitehttp://www.thebriskit.com/

Most of the time, when I check out a non-burger-joint for this blog, I do so because I’ve heard something about the burger being worth eating. Every now and then, though, I visit a restaurant blind, hoping for a pleasant surprise.

What I’d really like to do is blow the lid off of some place — to find a random restaurant you’d never suspect has an amazing burger and announce their greatness to the world, at which point the burger-eating public would rally around me and we’d all dance and sing and high-five.

In this case, I had been to BriSkit a few months ago and tried one of their brisket sandwiches, which was pretty tasty. I made a mental note to come back later and check out their burger.

There are a few burgers on the menu; I went with the no-frills Classic, which comes topped as you like it. I got my usual pickles, tomato, and mayo.

Trust me, this pains me as much as it does you, but there is no lid to blow off here. There will be no dancing, no singing, and no high-fiving (yet — one day, though.  One day).

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It’s not awful, at least, though there are a handful of fairly serious problems.

It’s definitely not an all-out meatloaf burger, but there’s some kind of seasoning in the patty that I can’t quite put my finger on, and that really did nothing but get in the way. It’s not particularly strong, but it’s hard to ignore.  It hollers at you in the background: “Hey! You like this? You like how this tastes??”

No, random unwelcome flavour. No, I don’t like how this tastes.

The flavour of the patty is otherwise muddled and unmemorable; there’s no real beefy flavour to speak of, but no off flavours either. The word “meh” was almost invented for this very purpose.

The texture’s not great either. The grind of the beef is too fine, it’s too tightly packed, and the well done patty leans pretty far in the direction of dry.

Another problem? The bun. Though it works quite well on their sloppier sandwiches, it’s way too big and substantial for a hamburger. It throws the bun-to-patty ratio way off.

Oh well. Though the burger isn’t particularly worth eating, I wouldn’t write off BriSkit altogether. The aforementioned brisket sandwich is certainly quite good.

The fries were good too. Actually, they were better than good — they were superlative. A perfect combination of crispy exterior and fluffy interior, they were some of the better fries I’ve had in a while.

2 out of 4

BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches - the restaurant BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches - the restaurant BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches - the burger and fries BriSkit Gourmet Slow Cooked Sandwiches - the burger
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The Burger Cellar

4 Jan

cellar
Location
: 3391 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://theburgercellar.com/

The Burger Cellar serves a pretty good burger.  The end.

What, I can’t just leave it at that?  I mean, it is my blog.  I’m pretty sure I can do whatever I want.

Fine, I’ll write a few more words.  This is probably going to be a quick one, though; there are only so many reviews of good-but-not-great burgers I can write before they all start to blend into an interchangeable jumble of phrases like “beefy flavour” and “tightly packed.”

The Burger Cellar bills itself as a “burger grill + wine bar,” so yeah, it’s a bit classier than your average burger joint.  It’s also a bit pricier than your average burger joint, but I guess you should probably expect that from a place with wine pairings on the menu.

Every burger on the menu comes with two beef choices: AAA Black Angus Natural, or Prime, which costs an extra four bucks.  I asked the waitress what the difference was, and she told me the cuts of beef that each choice was made from.  I immediately thought to myself “what a helpful tidbit for my review!” and then promptly forgot everything she said.

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I think — and please don’t quote me on this — the Black Angus is made from chuck, and the Prime is made from brisket, but I might be way off on that one.  I think I might have the worst memory on the planet.  You laugh now, but when it turns out I have ultra early onset Alzheimer’s, it won’t be so hilarious.

I asked the waitress which of the two she recommended, and of course she went with the more expensive choice.  So I ordered that, and went with the Original Classic Burger, which comes topped with “lettuce, vine-ripened tomato, red onion and a kosher dill pickle.”

As I mentioned before, it’s nothing special, but it’s pretty good.  The medium well patty had a mild-but-there beefy flavour, a little bit of juiciness, and an okay texture.  It’s a bit too finely ground and densely packed, and thus a bit on the tough side, but I’ve certainly had worse.

I wasn’t crazy about the sesame seed bun, which was a bit too substantial for the task at hand, and which tasted slightly stale.

Along with the aforementioned toppings (which were fine), ketchup, mustard, relish, and mayo were all provided on the side.    The mayo was actually quite tasty — definitely a cut above the standard Hellmann’s.

The burger doesn’t come with any sides, so I ordered fries.  They were top-notch.

3 out of 4

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