Archive | May, 2015

Fran’s Restaurant

24 May

frans
Location: 20 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.fransrestaurant.com/

I was perusing the menu at Fran’s with no particular desire to order the burger — but then something caught my eye.  On the menu, they claim to have invented the banquet burger.  A banquet burger, for the unaware, is another name for a bacon cheeseburger.

I’m a little bit skeptical that the bacon cheeseburger was created at a diner in Toronto; I’d say it’s more likely that they invented the term banquet burger, but hey, who knows?

Either way, they’ve clearly been serving it for a long, long time (they’ve been around since the ’40s), so I figured I’d be remiss in my burger blogging duties if I didn’t give it a try.

fransA

The menu also states that they make their burger patties with a “special blend of spices and seasoning.”  I’m generally not a fan of burgers with stuff mixed into the patties, so I’m not going to lie: I was skeptical. But you know what? Sometimes places like this can surprise you.

This was not one of those times.

It’s so meatloafy.  Like, crazy meatloafy.  I could talk about how strongly spiced it is, how the flavour of the beef is completely gone. I could talk about how it’s ground way too finely, and has a texture that’s closer to sausage than to hamburger.  I could talk about how a burger like this completely misses the point of what makes a burger so great in the first place.  I could talk about all that, but instead:

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The banquet part of this burger is actually the highlight; the creamy mild cheddar is nicely melty and gooey, and the thick-cut bacon was way above average.  Too bad they’re both resting atop a mediocre patty.

The fries are even worse. At least they put some effort into the burger, even if that effort is ill advised. The fries are just bottom-of-the-barrel frozen fries.  I am continually baffled by how terrible frozen fries like this continue to be served at restaurants.  They taste so lousy, and really, is it that hard to cut a potato into strips?  Get out of here.

1.5 out of 4

Fran's Restaurant - the outside Fran's Restaurant - the restaurant Fran's Restaurant - the burger and fries Fran's Restaurant - the burger

Smash Kitchen and Bar

10 May

smash
Location
: 4261 Highway 7, Unionville
Websitehttp://www.smashkitchen.com/

The problem with the abundant, booming popularity of hamburgers in this city is that for most restaurants, having a burger on the menu is more of an obligation than an option.  Unless a restaurant is dedicated to a very specific type of cuisine, there’s gonna be a hamburger on the menu.

Remember that scene in Chef where Dustin Hoffman crushes Jon Favreau’s dreams of cooking a personal menu, telling him that he’ll continue to cook what he’s become famous for, and he’ll like it?

I imagine that some variation on that scene plays out every time a chef in a restaurant like Smash Kitchen and Bar decides he has no interest in making a hamburger.

Oh, you don’t want to serve a burger?  Do you still want to be employed tomorrow?

This is all a fairly roundabout way of saying that the burger at Smash feels perfunctory. It feels joyless. It’s not bad; it’s alright.  But it’s clearly made by someone who doesn’t quite understand what makes a good hamburger so special.  By someone who doesn’t really care.

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I ordered the Smash Burger, which is described as being topped with “Cheddar cheese, onion rings, Smash sauce.”

I normally like to mention whether a burger has been griddled or grilled, but honestly, the burger was so middle-of-the-road that  I don’t remember.  Nothing about this hamburger is particularly memorable, other than its in-your-face mediocrity.

It wasn’t horrible, but the patty is vaguely meatloafy and oddly sweet, with a middling, barely-there beefy flavour and a slightly mealy texture.

The condiments were fine and the bun was fine.  The whole thing was fine. It’s certainly not great, but it tastes okay and it basically gets the job done.

It’s clear that the kitchen at this restaurant can put out food that’s better than okay, because the fries were quite good, as were the appetizer and dessert that I tried.  But it’s also clear that they serve a burger not because they want to, but because they have to.

Basically: it’s obligatory.  And it tastes obligatory.

2 out of 4

Smash Kitchen and Bar - the outside Smash Kitchen and Bar - the restaurant Smash Kitchen and Bar - the burger and fries Smash Kitchen and Bar - the burger