St. James’s Gate

St. James's GateLocation: 5140 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke
Website: https://sjgtoronto.ca/

I’ve been at this for almost a decade now, so for the most part, these reviews basically write themselves (what’s that?  The reviews all feel like I’m writing them on autopilot? Yeah, that’s fair).  But burgers like the one they serve at St. James’s Gate — good, but not noteworthy in any way — are probably the toughest to review.

It’s a solid burger.  It exists.  There’s nothing majorly wrong with it.  I don’t know.

St. James's Gate

The Royale with Cheese, according to the menu: “Twin four ounce brisket burgers stacked with melted American cheese, Havarti, secret sauce and bread and butter pickles.”

Is it the best burger I’ve ever had?  No, absolutely not.  Did it offend me in any way?  Also no.  It’s good.

St. James's Gate

I will say that the two types of cheese are a nice touch; I’ve never seen the Havarti/American combo on a cheeseburger, and I was skeptical.  I thought it might be too much.  But they’re both nice and gooey without being overly assertive.  It works.

Another bonus: I’m pretty sure that the patties were grilled, which is a nice change of pace from the griddle-smashed patties that you’d expect to find in a burger like this.

St. James's Gate

Otherwise, the patties are fine.  They’re slightly too dense and tough, but they’re nice and juicy, which helps to balance things out.  And while there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the flavour of the beef, it’s fine.  It’s inoffensive, and there’s so much other stuff going on here that it doesn’t really stand out as a huge issue.

The other toppings, including the tangy secret sauce, are all about what you’d expect, and the bun — though slightly too toasty and crispy — suits the burger well.

St. James's Gate

As for the fries, they’re quite good.  Unlike the burger, they’re actually quite a bit better than okay.

3 out of 4

Ronto’s Burger

Ronto's BurgerLocation: 772 College Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.rontos.ca/

Generally speaking, if a burger joint exists in the GTA, I want to review it.  It makes no difference to me whether I’ve heard good things / bad things / nothing about it.  My impossible goal is to review every burger place in Toronto, though obviously that’s an epic task that I’ll never complete.

So the fact that I hadn’t heard a single thing about Ronto’s Burger certainly didn’t deter me from checking it out, though it did make me skeptical that it was going to be particularly great.

Ronto's Burger

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have been skeptical; Ronto’s Burger is surprisingly fantastic.

I ordered the namesake Ronto’s Burger: “One beef patty, Ronto’s sauce, lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomato, onions.”

It’s a griddled six ounce patty; it’s slightly more substantial than the typical smashed burger that’s so common in the city, and the added substance is quite nice.

Ronto's Burger

The patty is really good; it’s got a pronounced crust from the griddle and it’s abundantly juicy despite being cooked to well done.  The texture is right where it should be, with coarsely ground beef that hasn’t been overhandled.  It’s great.

It’s not the beefiest tasting patty I’ve ever had, but the beefy flavour is definitely there, and it’s quite satisfying.  I wish it hadn’t been cooked all the way to well done — it’s ever-so-slightly tough — but considering how good it is otherwise, that’s a minor complaint.

Ronto's Burger

Though the menu calls the cheese cheddar, it’s clearly American, which definitely isn’t a bad thing.  It’s gooey, salty, and perfect for this type of burger.

The Ronto’s sauce wasn’t my favourite, however.  It’s fine — it’s actually quite tasty.  It’s the usual zesty, Mac-Sauce-esque concoction, but it’s a bit too zesty for its own good.  It overpowers the beef, which is a shame when the patty is this delicious.

Ronto's Burger

The nicely toasted, soft and fluffy bun is mostly perfect, aside from being slightly too wide for the patty.

As for the fries, they’re generic battered, frozen fries, but they’re well prepared and tasty enough for what they are.  They come with a little container of Ronto’s sauce for dipping; that stuff works much, much better with fries than on the burger.

3.5 out of 4

Cabano’s Comfort Food

Cabano's Comfort FoodLocation: 75 St. Nicholas Street, Toronto
Website: http://cabanos.ca/

I just counted, and my list of hamburgers to try for this blog currently sits at 154.  Suffice it to say, it’ll be a while before I get to all of them.  If you’ve left a comment or sent me an email suggesting a burger I should try and I haven’t gotten there yet, that’s why.

I’ve been hearing good things about the burger at Cabano’s since they were located in Vaughan.  I’ve been meaning to check the place out for years.

Cabano's Comfort Food

Well, I finally got there, and yeah — it was worth the wait.  The burger didn’t rock my world, but it’s very, very good.

You can either get the no-frills cheeseburger, or the Cabano burger, which is a double cheeseburger that comes topped with Cabano sauce, lettuce, onions, and fried pickled jalapenos.

I got the Cabano, and it’s a quality burger; it does pretty much everything right, and very little wrong.

The patties are smashed and griddled, because of course they are.  This is Toronto.  If you attempt to cook a burger in any other style and serve it in a restaurant, the police are going to show up at your house, roll you up in a carpet and throw you into a river.

Cabano's Comfort Food

They’re cooked all the way to well done, which can sometimes be an issue, but absolutely isn’t here — they’re basically perfect.  They have a nice crust from the griddle (though only on one side), and the texture is absolutely outstanding.  They’re tender and abundantly juicy.  Perfect.

They have a pleasant but mild beefy flavour; that’s the one area where the burger is lacking.  Because the patties were otherwise so superlative, I was looking for that nice strong beefy hit that you get from truly top-shelf hamburgers, and it wasn’t quite there.

It didn’t help that the patties were overwhelmed by the gooey American cheese.  I’m not sure how many slices they used — Two?  Three? — but it was too much.  The cheese was clearly the dominant flavour.  It easily overpowers the mild beef.

Cabano's Comfort Food

Otherwise, the toppings were great.  The Cabano sauce was the typical tangy mayo you’ll find in so many burgers, and the chopped onions and lettuce work quite nicely (I’m normally not a fan of raw onion, but these were mild enough to not offend).

The fried jalapenos, however, are the highlight.   They’re crispy and a little bit spicy, with a nice vinegary bite that helps cut through the burger’s richness.

The bun — a Martin’s Potato Roll, I think, which are becoming delightfully common in the GTA — was quite good as well.

Cabano's Comfort Food

As for the fries, they weren’t great.  They tasted lightly battered, which I’m not crazy about.  They were also undercooked.  Considering how good the burger was, they were shockingly shoddy.

3.5 out of 4

Grill Gate

Grill GateLocation: 832 Sheppard Avenue West, North York
Website: https://grillgate.ca/

Grill Gate serves the type of burger I should love.  If nothing else, it’s actually different than the smashed-and-griddled cheeseburgers that have become the city’s de facto burger style over the last decade or so.  That alone is kind of delightful.

And for the most part, what they’re serving here is tasty.  I ordered the simplest option, the Gourmet Cheezeburger, which comes with a mix of American cheese and mozzarella, special sauce, and onion chips.

Grill Gate

As you’d guess from the name of the restaurant, it’s grilled rather than griddled, which is a refreshing change of pace from pretty much every other burger in the city.  The eight ounce patty has a nice heft to it, and holds up to the grilling quite nicely — there’s a good amount of char and a pleasant smoky flavour from the grill, which is quite enjoyable.  The patty is cooked all they way to well done, but still reasonably juicy.

So what’s the problem?  It’s a meatloaf burger, and a very meatloafy one at that.  The spicing here is front and centre.  It doesn’t taste like a hamburger to me; not even a little bit.

Grill Gate

Actually, in this case, I shouldn’t call it a meatloaf burger; the way it’s spiced, it would be more apt to call it a kofta burger.  It tastes a lot like a kofta kebab.  Which isn’t the worst thing in the world — I quite like kofta kebabs!  But you can’t put one on a bun and call it a hamburger.  It’s tasty in a completely different way.

Other than that, it’s decent enough for what it is.  It could be juicier, and the meat is a bit too tightly packed and tough, but it’s not bad.  There is, of course, zero beefy flavour — the spices are absolutely the star of the show.

Grill Gate

The cheese isn’t bad.  A mixture of American and mozzarella is a bit odd, but mostly, it works.  It’s a bit plasticky, even by the standards of American, but it’s also gooey and satisfying.

Then there’s the special sauce and the onion chips, and to be completely honest, I have no idea what they tasted like.  I forgot to take note of them (this is my first burger review in several months, so I guess I’m a bit rusty), and neither stood out to me at all.  It’s possible they weren’t there.  It’s also possible they were overwhelmed by the very assertively spiced patty.  I’m not sure.

I liked the bun.  It was weirdly crispy on the bottom, but other than that it was nice and fluffy.  It looks a bit big, but the bun-to-patty ratio was perfect.

Grill Gate

As for the fries, they’re great.  They’re battered fries, which I’m normally not crazy about, but these are surprisingly tasty.  They were perfectly fried — they might have been the crispiest fries I’ve ever had, but they never tipped the scales and became overly crunchy.  They’re also topped with a zippy, parsley-infused sauce that compliments them perfectly.  They were easily the highlight of the meal.

2.5 out of 4

Extra Burger

Extra BurgerLocation: 1357 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.extraburger.ca/

Another day, another smashed-and-griddled burger in Toronto.  At some point, this city’s obsession with the thin, griddled patty (to the exclusion of every other type of burger) will cool down.

We’re not there yet.

Not that I’m complaining — well, not entirely, at least.  Though a little more variety would be nice, there’s a reason this style of patty is so popular.  It’s damn good.

Extra Burger

But there’s something to be said for the satisfying meatiness of a thicker patty, and for the smokiness that you get from the grill.  I love chocolate cake, but other flavours of cake are good too, you know?

But I digress.  Extra burger is an especially bare-bones burger joint; the menu consists entirely of a cheeseburger, a double cheeseburger, and fries.  They have a few stools where you can sit, but mostly, it’s take-out only.

I ordered the double, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, special sauce (well, they call it special sauce, but it looked and tasted like plain mayo to me), and two slices of American cheese.

Extra Burger

The burger certainly looks impressive; their griddling technique is exactly as it should be, with an impressive amount of dark brown crust on the exterior of each patty.  And the burger is well proportioned and photogenic.

Alas, though it’s a solid burger, it’s not quite as good as it looks.  The well done patties are nicely juicy, but the beef is finely ground and overhandled, resulting in a burger that isn’t nearly as tender as it should be.

It’s also bland; the meat has a very neutral flavour that, while certainly not unpleasant, lacks the beefy punch that you’re looking for in a top shelf hamburger.

Extra Burger

It’s otherwise very good — the gooey American cheese is perfect, the bun is soft and fresh, and the toppings are all on point (particularly the zippy, thickly cut pickle slices that I’m assuming they make in-house).

As for the fries, they’re okay.  They’re crinkle-cut, and they’re seasoned with a spice blend that brings them a nice flavour without overwhelming.  But they were slightly underdone, with an unpleasantly chalky interior.

3 out of 4