This was actually my second attempt to try the burger at the Federal — the first time, it was so busy that I wound up at Royale’s Luncheonette instead (which turned out to be a pretty pleasant surprise).
It was actually really busy again, so I think it’s safe to say that you have to be prepared to wait if you want to try this place. But you know that expression about the wisdom of the crowd? Yeah, that definitely applies here. Turns out there’s a reason the Federal is so busy.
Their burger is dubbed the Four Guys burger, and is described as “griddle-smashed beef, bacon, pickles, american cheese, caramelized onion, lettuce, mustard, special sauce.”
With a really good burger, all it takes is one bite to know that you’re dealing with something special, and that was clearly the case here. One bite, and yeah, there was that really distinctive flavour you only get from really good quality beef. That’s a flavour that’s way harder to come by in Toronto than you’d think. It’s a face-punch of beefiness that immediately tells you that you’re in good hands.
The texture of the beef was pretty great, too — though it could have used a bit more crust from the griddle, the medium well patty was otherwise stellar. It was coarsely ground, loosely packed, and was nice and tender without ever tipping the scales into soft or mushy territory. It was great.
But it’s actually really impressive that the burger’s beefy flavour managed to be as prominent as it was, because there was so much going on here. Between the sweet caramelized onions, the salty bacon and cheese, the vinegary pickles and mustard, and the tangy special sauce, the burger was kind of a mess. A tasty mess, don’t get me wrong, but there’s definitely more going on here than I typically prefer.
It’s hard to fault the burger too much, though; my problem with a heavily-topped burger is usually that the flavour of the beef has been overwhelmed. But here, that great beefy flavour is front and centre, minimizing that issue to an impressive degree.
The soft, toasted bun had enough substance to hold up to all those toppings, but was light enough to stay in the background, which is exactly where it should be. So yeah, all around a pretty impressive burger.
I came at brunch, and instead of fries the burger came with a side of potato rosti and a really simple salad. The rosti had a great layer of crispy goodness on the outside and was nice and creamy within; however, I don’t think it was seasoned at all. It was pretty bland.