Bar Reyna

: 158 Cumberland Street, Toronto

If you’re charging over twenty bucks for a hamburger, that burger had better be damn good. It had better be foolproof.

The burger at Bar Reyna is 21 dollars. It is not foolproof.

Their burger is labelled Big A’s burger and fries (is that a play on “big ass”?  An actual guy named Big A?  What, no one cares?). I’ll let the menu describe it: “brisket + ribeye / sweet potato bun / muenster / caramelized onions / lettuce / tomato / chipotle aioli.”

There isn’t a single element here that particularly works.

They actually asked me how I wanted the burger cooked, which is always a delightful question. I asked for medium rare, and I know I wasn’t misheard, because the waitress proudly proclaimed “medium rare hamburger” as she set my plate down. It was closer to well done.


It was still actually fairly juicy, which was nice, but the texture was off; it was way too finely ground, and a bit mealy. It also had pretty much zero beefy flavour — considering the hefty price tag, it’s not unreasonable to expect that they’ll be using top-shelf beef. If they were, it certainly didn’t taste that way.

Then there were the toppings, which were mostly okay, though between the very sweet caramelized onions and the equally sweet “chipotle aioli” (which tasted exactly like thousand island dressing), it was sweet overload. I will say, however, that the muenster cheese was pretty much perfect — it had a subtle cheesy flavour and a perfect amount of gooey meltiness. I’m really not sure why you don’t find it on cheeseburgers more often.

But I’m not even going to sugar-coat it: the bun was the absolute worst. The texture was closer to a stale biscuit than a traditional hamburger bun. It was incredibly dense and so thoroughly inappropriate for a burger that I’m legitimately curious if the restaurant just made some kind of mistake and used the wrong bun. It had zero give — normally, when you pick up a hamburger, the bun absorbs most of the pressure from your fingers and leaves the insides of the burger undisturbed.  But here?  The bun was a solid, unyielding mass.  As soon as I picked it up, the patty and all the toppings started squishing out of the sides. It was game over once I took a bite.  I had to eat the majority of the burger with a fork and knife. Like a monster.

The shoestring fries, on the other hand, were really good.  They were cut super thin, which can sometimes result in fries that are too crunchy, but the fries here still managed to retain a decent balance of crunchiness and creaminess.  They were seasoned with smoked paprika as well as salt, which gave them a unique flavour and a bit of a kick.

1.5 out of 4

Bar Reyna - the outside Bar Reyna - the restaurant Bar Reyna - the burger Bar Reyna - the burger

Baldwin Street Burger

: 53 Baldwin Street North, Whitby

You know what the best thing about having this blog is?  When I’m with people who want to have a meal and I strongly suggest a burger joint so I can review it, and it turns out to be lousy, and everyone gives me the “thanks for making us eat that garbage, chump” evil eyes.

Sorry, did I say the best thing?  I meant the worst thing.

Though that’s probably harsh in this case.  Baldwin Street Burger certainly wasn’t garbage — but it wasn’t particularly good, either.

The menu features the usual assortment of pre-topped burgers.  I went with the Classic, which comes with ketchup, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, and hot peppers (I opted to forego the ketchup, mustard, and onion).


I really only had one problem with the burger, though it’s a fairly substantial one.  There was something very off about the texture of the beef — it had a tough, steaky chew, and was downright unpleasant to eat.  I’m honestly not sure what the issue was.  The grind seemed okay, and it wasn’t too tightly packed, but it was tough and vaguely rubbery.  One of my dining companions had the same issue, so it wasn’t just me.

The grilled patty was otherwise decent enough.  It was cooked to well done but still fairly juicy, it had a mild beefy flavour, and a nice smoky tang from the grill.  It’s hard to overlook that weird texture, though.

The mayo was a bit over-applied, but the toppings were otherwise fine, and the fresh, lightly toasted bun suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they were amazing.  You’d think that good fries would be tougher to make than a good burger, but given how many burger joints I’ve visited with a middling hamburger and delicious fries, that is clearly not the case.

2.5 out of 4

Baldwin Street Burger - the outside Baldwin Street Burger - the restaurant Baldwin Street Burger - the burger Baldwin Street Burger - the fries Baldwin Street Burger - the burger