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3 Brewers

16 Apr


Location
: 275 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://les3brasseurs.ca/locations/3-brewers-yonge

3 Brewers is a Canadian casual chain restaurant, which means by law, it has to serve mediocre food.

Oh, did you not hear about that law?  Yeah, parliament recently passed a law saying that every Canadian chain restaurant has to serve food that is “mediocre at best, with drab, uninspired cuisine that instills a profound sadness into its customers” (that’s a direct quote from the legislation).

So of course, the burger at 3 Brewers — I got the 3 Brasseurs burger, which comes topped with maple Amber beer sauce, smoked Gouda, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion — is mediocre.  I mean, they wouldn’t want to break the law, would they?  The burger here stayed very firmly within the bounds of the legislation; it made me sad, just like it was supposed to.

It wasn’t the worst thing ever, I’ll give it that.  It was griddled and pleasantly crusty, and all the toppings were pretty good.  The smoked Gouda was nice and melty (if a bit too strong) — but then who cares when the burger itself is so poor?  The maple amber beer sauce must have just been globbed into one spot in the middle of the burger, because I got a couple of very sweet bites, and the rest of the burger was sauce-free.  The bun, aside from having an exterior that’s a bit too crunchy, was also pretty good.

It’s the patty that really made me sad.  It tasted like the patty from pretty much every other chain like this — it was well done, dry, and completely lacking in flavour.  The beef is lousy, but not too lousy — it’s the cheapest thing they can get away with without it being too flagrant (it’s not a frozen patty, at least).  It tastes like nothing, but it doesn’t offend.

As for the fries, they were fine.  A little bit better than the burger, but again, not good enough that they’re going to risk getting shut down.  Because of the law, of course.

2 out of 4

3 Brewers - the outside 3 Brewers - the restaurant 3 Brewers - the burger 3 Brewers - the burger

Harry’s Charcoal Broil

2 Apr


Location
: 160 Springhurst Avenue, Toronto
Website: None

So I’ve actually been having a pretty amazing run of excellent hamburgers — five out of the last six burgers I’ve eaten for this blog have been seriously delicious, with one contender for the best burger in the city.  And when I picked Harry’s for my next review, I felt extremely confident that the streak would continue.

Harry’s is an old school diner that was recently taken over by Grant van Gameren, one of the best chefs in the city whose resume includes places like the Black Hoof and Bar Isabel.  To say that I was excited to try the man’s take on the classic cheeseburger would be quite the understatement.

I haven’t been this disappointed by a hamburger since the great Piano Piano debacle of ’16.  How do Toronto’s best chefs keep on messing up hamburgers so badly??

Harry’s has a few burgers on the menu; I ordered the Plain Jane, a no frills cheeseburger topped with pickles, onions, and ketchup.

You can’t really tell from the shoddy pictures (it was kinda dark in there), but it looked good, at least.  Despite the restaurant’s name, it’s a smashed-and-griddled burger (because of course it is), and it had exactly the type of dark brown crust you want to see.

The patty is off, though.  The taste and the texture are both just… wrong.  It had a chewy, sausagey texture that makes it immediately apparent that something is amiss in the kitchen.  I don’t think they mixed any spices into the beef, however, I’m pretty positive that they mixed salt right in with the ground beef — a pretty flagrant burger no-no that results in a burger whose texture is closer to a sausage than a traditional hamburger.

The taste, also, was off.  I’ve had worse, but instead of the satisfying beefy flavour you expect from decent quality meat, the taste was just muddled.  It was neither here nor there; a whole lot of nothing.  It wasn’t altogether unpleasant to eat, but it was one of those burgers that had me furrowing my brow with every bite.  “Why does it taste like this?  What is this flavour?  Where’s the beef?”

(Yes, this burger had me quoting a 30 year old advertising slogan.  Though technically the beef was there, but where was the flavour?)

It was topped with a very McDonald’s-esque combination of ketchup, melty American cheese, tiny little onion bits, and pickles.  I’m normally not a big fan of ketchup on a burger, but they didn’t overdo it here; combined with the other toppings, it worked.

The bun was a pretty classic soft-and-squishy fast food style bun; it was mostly pretty great, but it was a bit too big for the very diminutive patty.  The beef-to-bun ratio was off.

As for the fries, I kinda thought they’d be lousy when I first saw them; they’re the thick-and-chunky style that I’m not a big fan of.  But they were perfectly cooked, with a crisp exterior and a tender interior.  They were great.

One more thing: when I was looking up Grant van Gameren for this review, I found this 2014 interview with the man from BlogTO.  They asked him for one food trend that needs to end, and he gave a very simple one-word answer: burgers.  And suddenly it all seemed so clear.  This hamburger tastes like a burger made by a guy who would give that answer.  Someone who doesn’t quite get what makes a great hamburger so special.

You know that old saying about how when you cook with love, it shows?  Well it’s also pretty apparent when the opposite is true.

2 out of 4

Harry's Charcoal Broil - the outside Harry's Charcoal Broil - the restaurant Harry's Charcoal Broil - the burger and fries Harry's Charcoal Broil - the burger

Skyline Restaurant

19 Mar


Location
: 1426 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.theskylinetoronto.com/

I wasn’t crazy about the Skyline Restaurant on my first visit, but that was before the recent change in ownership; I figured another try was probably in order.

My first impression was how delightfully cheap the burger is; for twelve bucks with a hefty side of fries, it’s very much on the low end of what you’d expect to pay from a restaurant like this in Toronto.

It’s a no-frills hamburger, topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, and mayo.  The waitress asked if medium was okay; it was.  And the grilled patty was indeed cooked to a perfect medium, with a rosy pink interior.

Griddled burgers are so ubiquitous in this city that a grilled burger is almost a novelty these days.  I like a griddled burger as much as the next guy, but cooking a hamburger patty on a grill gives it a bit of a smoky flavour and a unique character, so it’s always nice to have that option.

It’s especially nice when the burger is as good as it is here; with its satisfying punch of beefy flavour, it’s very obvious that they’re using above-average beef.  It’s not the juiciest burger that I’ve ever had, but it’s very far from dry, and the texture was about 95% where it should be (it was just a bit too finely ground, making it ever-so-slightly tougher than it needed to be, but that’s a very minor complaint).

The toppings were mostly quite good, though the very thickly-sliced tomato was a bit mealy.  And the soft, fresh bun — lightly toasted — suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they were amazing.  Perfectly crisp and perfectly tender, with just the right amount of salt — very close to fry perfection.

3.5 out of 4

Skyline Diner - the sign Skyline Diner - the restaurant Skyline Diner - the burger and fries Skyline Diner - the burger and fries Skyline Diner - the burger

Weslodge

5 Mar

wes
Location
: 480 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://weslodge.com/

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I’m constantly complaining about overly-dry burgers.  Constantly.  Aside from mixing superfluous gunk into the patty, I think it’s the thing that Toronto restaurants and burger joints get wrong the most.

So I really need to applaud Weslodge’s burger (“Braised beef cheek, branston pickle, English cheddar”) for the exact opposite: it was gloriously, intensely juicy. You could tell just by looking at the glistening patty; once I cut it in half, the juices came rushing out in a veritable torrent. As I ate it, they dripped readily from the patty, soaking into the bun and pooling on the plate.

It was amazing.

I should note that it wasn’t too juicy, in case it sounds that way. The patty itself wasn’t mushy or wet at all; the texture was just right. I requested medium rare and they hit it perfectly. It also had a nice coarse grind and expertly straddled the line between tenderness and substance.

In case it wasn’t already obvious that the chef here knows his way around a burger, the griddled patty had exactly the dark brown crispy exterior that you’re looking for. Suffice it to say, texturally it was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long, long time.

wesa

The flavour was quite good as well, with a really satisfying beefy, buttery flavour. This was complimented quite well by the condiments, particularly the Branston pickle (essentially a medley of cubed pickled vegetables) which performed the same function as the typical pickle, but which tasted a bit more interesting.

The bun, though a bit on the dense side, actually suited the substantial, very juicy patty quite well — a softer bun almost surely would have crumbled to bits.

My only real problem with this burger — though it’s kind of a big one — is the cheese.  The patty is topped with a big, honkin’ slice of very sharp cheddar.  Aside from the fact that it was doing its best to overwhelm the flavour of the amazing patty, it was completely unmelted.  If you’re serving a cheeseburger with cold, unmelted cheese, I’m pretty sure you should have to go on TV to apologize to the nation.  You have committed a crime against food.  You are, I’m sorry to say, a monster.

I’ve mentioned this before, but a burger with unmelted cheese isn’t a cheeseburger — it’s a hamburger with a piece of cheese on top.  The cheese needs to melt and become gooey and mingle with the patty to earn that distinction.  Melted cheese on a hamburger patty is one of the greatest things ever; cold, unmelted cheese is an abomination.

It’s funny how thoroughly a few moments of heat can transform an ingredient, but there you go.

As for the fries, sadly they were the polar opposite of the hamburger.  They were terrible. They’re insanely thick.  You really have to be careful when you’re cooking fries at this thickness, because they can easily wind up undercooked, with a chalky, dense middle.  That’s exactly what happened here.  Thick-cut fries aren’t my favourite to start with, but undercooked thick-cut fries?  They are the french fry equivalent of a cheeseburger with unmelted cheese.  They are an affront to humanity.

But since I’d like to end this review on a positive note, I’ll reiterate that — unmelted, too-strong cheese notwithstanding — Weslodge serves a fantastic hamburger.  If not for the cheese issue, I’d probably rank it among the best in the city.  It’s that good.

3.5 out of 4

Weslodge - the outside Weslodge - the restaurant Weslodge - the burger Weslodge - the burger

Planta

19 Feb

planta
Location
: 1221 Bay Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.plantatoronto.com/

When I wrote my negative review of Doomie’s a few months ago, my fear was that people would just assume that I’m being a snob and dismiss it outright — that if it’s a veggie burger, I’m going to give it a lousy review on principle. I was really hoping, walking into Planta — an entirely “plant-based” restaurant by David Lee, the acclaimed chef behind Nota Bene — that the burger would be tasty and that I could put that suspicion to bed.

Yeah, about that.

Planta’s burger is billed as coming topped with “queso, mushroom bacon, pickles, tomatillo mayo”. And it looks impressive, that’s for sure — the pictures of it in reviews like this one are what compelled me to come check it out.

Beef or no beef (and obviously I’d prefer beef) the patty itself just wasn’t particularly good. It’s mostly beans, and though it has a nice crispy exterior (I’m assuming it’s deep fried) the inside is pretty much bean mush. I’m sure there’s other stuff in there, but it basically tastes like they mashed up some beans, added a few spices, then formed that into a patty. The texture isn’t much better; it’s way too mushy, though if you ever wondered if some magical confluence would occur if you crossed baby food and a hamburger, now you have your answer.

plantaa

To the hamburger’s credit, it’s not even trying to emulate beef, which was one of my main issues with Doomie’s, so there’s that at least.

It’s topped with a vegan version of queso, which was bland but inoffensive. It’s also topped with what they’re calling mushroom bacon. This tasted absolutely nothing like bacon — it tasted like smoky mushrooms. That’s not a bad thing — they were a fine burger topping.  But using the word “bacon” anywhere in their proximity is a bit disingenuous.

There’s also a fairly generous amount of some kind of pico de gallo, which isn’t mentioned on the menu, but which is where a lot of the burger’s flavour comes from. It was actually pretty tasty, if entirely lacking in spice.

The bun was pretty bad, though — it was mercilessly dense.  This would have been an issue even in a regular hamburger, but here it was disastrous. The soft patty completely smushed out of the sides of the bun after just a couple of bites, rendering the burger completely impossible to eat with anything but a fork and knife.

I will say, however, that the burger (when served on their brunch menu, at least) comes with a side of home fries that are absolutely delicious. They were perfectly fried, with an impressively crispy/crunchy exterior and a really creamy interior. If I ever find myself back at Planta, I’ll just order a big plate of those.

2 out of 4

Planta - the outside Planta - the menu Planta - the restaurant Planta - the "burger" Planta - the "burger"