Tag Archives: American cheese

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

Rudy

15 Jan

rudy
Location
: 619 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.rudyresto.com/

The burgers from Rudy look amazing in pictures. I mean, look at it. Look at that crust. If you’re getting a burger cooked in that style (i.e. smashed on a griddle), then what Rudy is serving up is pretty much the Platonic ideal of what you want it to look like. That combination of melty, bright orange American cheese and the mahogany-brown crust from a perfectly hot griddle is a thing of beauty. You could look at it forever.

But could it actually taste as good as it looks?

Yes. The answer is an emphatic yes.

I ordered the Rudy, which is a single-patty cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, and Rudy sauce.

Oh man, it was so good.

Foremost was that crust: the beautiful brown crust amps up the burger’s beefy flavour and provides a perfect crispy contrast to the tender beef.

rudya

I got a little bit concerned when I cut into the burger and saw well done, uniformly gray beef.  At least a little bit of pink would have been nice, but it’s hard to complain too much when the patty remains so admirably juicy.  Add in the fact that the beef was loosely-packed and coarsely-ground, and you’ve got a patty with a texture that’s exactly where it should be.

The flavour was pretty great too; perfectly seasoned with just salt and pepper and with a nice beefy kick, it’s pretty much exactly what you’re looking for in the taste department.

The toppings, too, check all the right boxes.  Gooey American cheese?  Check.  Big-Mac-esque sauce?  Check.  Fresh lettuce and tomato?  Check.  Oh, and that bun?  Pillowy, sweet, and perfect.

Yes, in case you can’t tell, I loved this hamburger.  One of the best in the city for sure.

It’s a bummer to end on a sour note, but the fries weren’t the best.  Some of them were slightly underdone, and others were potato-chip-crispy.  Also, I think they might have been seasoned with vinegar instead of salt?  A few had a mildly vinegary flavour; the rest tasted completely unseasoned.  Still, considering how good the burger was, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume something was just off with this batch.  Either way, the burger was so damn good that it really doesn’t matter.

4 out of 4

Rudy - the restaurant Rudy - the restaurant Rudy - the burger Rudy - the fries Rudy - the burger

Smashburger

2 Jan

smash
Location
: 6301 Silver Dart Drive, Mississauga (Toronto Pearson International Airport)
Websitehttp://smashburger.com/

Though I’m assuming they’re going to expand a bit more at some point, right now if you’re in Ontario and you want to try Smashburger, you’re going to have to fly internationally out of Pearson.  I actually was flying internationally recently, so I was pretty excited to try this (supposedly) higher end American fast food chain.

They’ve got the standard selection of hamburgers, chicken burgers, and salads that you’ll find at any of the big chains.  I got the Classic Smash, which is a single-patty cheeseburger that comes with American cheese, Smash Sauce, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion.

It’s… fine, I guess?  I was expecting something more along the lines of places like Five Guys or In-N-Out, but this definitely isn’t that.  It’s closer in quality to Wendy’s or A&W.  Not bad in a pinch, but definitely not something I’d get excited about or go out of my way for.

smasha

The patty — with its dry, pebbly texture and lack of anything you’d recognize as a beefy flavour — is fast food through and through.  As per the name of the joint, it’s smashed, with a bit of colour and texture from the griddle.  This seems more cosmetic than anything else, as it doesn’t particularly add anything in the flavour department.

The slightly sweet bun is fine, as are the toppings (including the Smash Sauce, which is the typical tangy mayo that you’d expect).  The whole thing is fine — it’s a bit of a shrug, but I certainly didn’t dislike eating it.

As for the fries, I tried the Smash Fries, which are tossed with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary.  They were thinly-cut and tasty, but man were they oily.  They were doused in olive oil; they were dripping with the stuff.  I poured them out next to my burger, and they left a huge pool of oil in their wake.  It was pretty ridiculous.

2.5 out of 4

Smashburger - the restaurant Smashburger - the menu Smashburger - the burger and fries Smashburger - the burger

The Federal

6 Nov

federal
Location
: 1438 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: http://thefed.ca/

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.

federala

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.

3.5 out of 4

The Federal - the sign The Federal - the menu The Federal - the restaurant The Federal - the burger The Federal - the burger

Belfast Love Public House

9 Oct

belfast
Location
: 548 King Street West, Toronto
Website: http://donnellygroup.ca/belfast-love/

Despite an ostensive Irish theme, Belfast Love’s menu is pretty much all generic upscale pub — thin crust pizzas, fancy salads, the obligatory chicken and waffles (at what point did chicken and waffles graduate from an occasional novelty to something that’s 100% obligatory for every restaurant with an unfocused menu like this one?).  And there’s a burger on the menu.  Because of course there is.

Well, a cheeseburger, to be specific.  “House ground chuck, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, mustard mayo.”

It looked good, I’ll give it that.  And I liked the toppings — the melty American cheese, the fresh tomato, the crunchy iceberg lettuce, and the mayo/mustard combo all worked quite well.  The patty itself, on the other hand…

I’m always afraid that, the longer that I do this, and the more and more that I obsess over the minutia of what makes a burger great (and vice-versa), I’m becoming increasingly out of touch with how normal people (i.e. people who don’t think about things like grind coarseness and beef-to-bun ratios on the regular) experience a hamburger.

belfasta

So it was nice when my dining companion echoed my sentiments on this burger exactly, confirming that I’m not being an overly picky weirdo (at least not in this particular case).

Because no, this was not a good hamburger.  The texture of patty was downright weird — dense, with an oddly chewy, vaguely sausagey texture.  I suspect they’re mixing salt in with the ground beef, which tends to make the texture of a hamburger sausage-like.

It probably didn’t help that the griddled patty was cooked to well done and then some, but I suspect that even perfectly cooked, this would have been a funky patty.

The taste wasn’t much better.  Whatever flavour the beef might have had was completely annihilated by the downright insane amount of pepper.  It was so peppery; it was nuts.  Literally the most peppery-tasting hamburger that I’ve ever had. I don’t know if the pepper was mixed in with the beef along with being used as seasoning on the patty, but the flavour was everywhere. It permeated every bite; there was nothing else.

The bun was fine, though it was slightly too dense, and cold throughout despite being toasted.

As for the fries, they were great.  Easily the highlight of the meal.  Not too thick, not to thin, perfectly cooked, just the right amount of salt…  good stuff.

1.5 out of 4

Belfast Love - the outside Belfast Love - the restaurant Belfast Love - the burger and fries Belfast Love - the burger