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

Fancy Franks


Location: 326 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://fancyfranks.com/

Though the hot dogs are clearly the thing to order here (they are fancy, after all), there is a burger on the menu at Fancy Franks.

You can get a single cheeseburger, a double cheeseburger, a bacon cheeseburger, or a Fancy Patty, which comes with lettuce, chicken bacon, and Fancy sauce.  I went simple with the single cheeseburger, and had it topped with tomato, pickles, and mayo.

There’s nothing that particularly stands out about it, but it’s a solid burger.  I have very few complaints.

As you’d expect, it’s a smashed and griddled burger, and it’s nicely prepared.  There’s an impressive amount of crust from the griddle (maybe even a little too much?  It’s slightly crunchier than you’d like), and the American cheese is satisfyingly gooey.  And while the flavour of the patty isn’t particularly beefy, it’s not unpleasant.

It’s cooked to well done and then some, however; while I wouldn’t call it dry, it’s not particularly juicy, either.  The grind is also slightly too fine, but otherwise everything is pretty much where it should be.  It’s a tasty burger.

The condiments were standard issue (though the mayo was globbed on a little bit too enthusiastically), and the soft, lightly toasted sesame seed bun was supermarket fare — but it works.

As for the fries, they were a little bit oily and weren’t quite as crispy as they should have been, but they were still tasty enough.

3 out of 4

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Burgers Park


Location: 10 William Sylvester Drive, North York
Websitehttp://burgerspark.ca/

Are you familiar with Shake Shack, the very popular chain of New York-based burger joints?  Someone at Burgers Park sure is — the style of burger, the paper wrapper it comes in, the crinkle-cut fries, the hot dogs, the milkshakes, the logo, and even the faux-park setting (the original Shake Shack is in Madison Square Park in New York) are all Shake Shack through and through.

BlogTO’s profile of the place states that the owners claim that the similarities to Shake Shake are coincidental.  Anything is possible, I suppose, but if that’s a coincidence it’s like the winning the lottery of coincidences.  Feels like a long-shot.

But don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying this is a bad thing.  Shake Shack is beloved.  If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.  We’re never going to get a Shake Shack location in Toronto, so we may as well get a homage.

And it’s really good!  If it hadn’t been great then the whole thing might have felt sad, but clearly, Burgers Park is ready to roll with the big boys.

I ordered the Park Burger, which is a classic griddled cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, sauteed onions, and dijonnaise.

The patty is great.  Like the one at Gold Standard, it’s cooked with mustard on the griddle, but unlike that one, the mustard flavour isn’t overbearing.  There’s just enough of it to compliment — but not overwhelm — the beef.

I wish the flavour were a bit beefier, but it’s otherwise pretty much perfect.  The crust is dark and impressive, the grind and the texture are exactly where they should be, and it’s prodigiously juicy despite being cooked all the way to well done.

Obligatory beautiful crust close-up:

The toppings are all great, too, particularly the gooey American cheese and the griddled onions.  The onions probably either needed to be cooked a bit longer or sliced a bit thinner, but they were still quite tasty.  I think griddled onions might be the perfect burger topping.  There’s just something about their flavour that compliments a good burger patty so perfectly.

The soft, fresh, toasted bun was also quite good, holding up to the juicy patty and the toppings without adding too much heft.

As for the crinkle-cut fries, something about their flavour was ever-so-slightly off, but they were otherwise nice and crispy on the outside, with a pleasantly creamy interior.

3.5 out of 4

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Zeal Burgers


Location
1926 Weston Road, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/zealburgers/

Wow. That’s really all I can say about what they’re serving at Zeal Burgers. Wow.

Okay, I can (and will) say a lot more about it than that, but “wow” seems like the most pertinent, because wow. I can’t remember the last time I was so blown away by a hamburger.

I feel like if this place weren’t so far out of the way, and if it weren’t in such a sketchy area, everybody would be talking about it. It’s a damn shame I didn’t eat this burger a few weeks ago, because I just posted my list of the top ten hamburgers in the city, and this clearly should have been on there. Based on my one visit, it’s a top ten contender for sure. Maybe even top five.

The burgers come either pre-topped or customizable, with an impressive list of cheeses and condiments to choose from. I went with the Z Burger, which is a double cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion strings, and Z Sauce.

The patties were absolutely glorious. They were smashed and griddled, because of course they were. I’m pretty sure every burger joint that’s opened in the last five years or so cooks burgers in this style. I could complain, but when a burger is this good, it feels like it would be absurd to do so.

I mean, how can I complain about this style of cookery when it produces a deep brown crust like this? Look at it:

That’s a thing of beauty. That takes my breath away.

And the flavour was amazing. It was an absolute explosion of satisfyingly beefy flavour, and it was seasoned with just the right amount of salt. It was perfect. It was cooked all the way to well done, which is unfortunate, and yet it was still abundantly juicy. The texture was great, too, with a nice course grind that obviously hasn’t been overhandled.

The cheese was gooey melted American, as it should be. Sometimes two slices of American in a double cheeseburger can be a bit overwhelming, but it was just right here. I think the slices might have been slightly thinner than the norm, and the patties were slightly thicker. Whatever it was, it was perfect.

The other toppings were great, too. The Z Sauce was the usual tangy mayo, and the lettuce, tomato, and pickles were all fresh and tasty. The crispy onion strings didn’t really add all that much, but they didn’t detract, either.

The standard-issue sesame seed bun was nothing special (and it was ever-so-slightly too wide for the patties), but it was fresh and lightly toasted, and suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they were outstanding. Are you surprised? Anyone who can make a burger that’s this good clearly knows what they’re doing. They’re not going to mess up the fries.

4 out of 4

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State & Main Kitchen & Bar


Location
: 396 The East Mall, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://www.stateandmain.ca/

I’m not gonna lie: my expectations for the burger at State & Main were quite low.  Is there something lower than low?  Like, in the basement?  My expectations were way down in the basement.

I mean, why wouldn’t they be?  Casual chain restaurants like this one typically serve a burger that’s uninspired, to put it kindly, and I really didn’t have any reason to think that State & Main would be any different.

I’m happy to say that I was dead wrong.  Not that the burger here was anything to get too excited about, but it was actually pretty good.

I ordered the Main, which is a double cheeseburger made with American cheese, and topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, and State sauce.

The patties weren’t bad at all, though I’m honestly not sure if they were griddled or grilled.  It was odd; they looked griddled, but tasted grilled, with that slightly smoky, charred flavour that you typically only get from the grill.  So…  I don’t know (I’ve eaten something like three hamburgers in the last six months, so I guess my burger sense is a bit rusty).

They were solid patties: they had a nice crust from the griddle and/or grill (??), they were slightly juicy, and they had a pleasant flavour.  Yes, they were a little densely packed, they could have been beefier and juicier, and it would have been nice if they weren’t so uniformly gray throughout — but they could have been much, much worse.

The toppings were quite good too, particularly the gooey, melty American cheese. 

I’d tell you about the State sauce, but I honestly don’t remember what it tasted like (did I mention that I’m a bit rusty at this burger reviewing thing?  Because clearly I am).  I feel like it’s safe to assume it was just the typical Big Mac-esque sauce that you usually find on burgers like this.

The bun was slightly too dense, but since this was a more substantial hamburger, it worked.

As for the fries, they were perfectly crispy/creamy.  You had the choice between gravy or dill sauce for dipping; I went with the dill, which was addictively garlicky.  It was pretty great.

3 out of 4

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Kitson and Co.


Location
: 1205 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.kitsonandco.com/

Sometimes, you just wanna stop eating your burger, slap your hand on the table, walk back into the kitchen and shake everybody’s hand.  Sometimes a burger is so delightfully great that it just makes you want to do something.  Especially when you’re in a place that doesn’t even specialize in hamburgers, and the burger’s greatness is all the more improbable.  A great burger from a random sandwich shop?  That just makes my day.

It’s a pretty simple cheeseburger: “Classic Double Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onions and Kitson & Co. secret sauce”

It’s an amazing example of a classic, no-frills fast-food-style burger executed perfectly.  You’ve got the gooey American cheese, the crusty griddled patties, the Big-Mac-esque secret sauce, the sesame seed bun, and the classic veggies.  It’s all there.

Those patties are top notch; the flavour could have been a bit beefier, but it’s hard to complain too much when all of the other elements are right where they should be.  They were also ever-so-slightly too densely packed, but again, it’s hard to complain too much when the overall package is so damn satisfying.  The patties are cooked to a perfect medium rare with a nice layer of dark brown crust on the exterior.  They’re also super juicy; that alone is reason enough to celebrate.

The melty American cheese adds creaminess and a nice salty tang; I kinda wish that there was only one slice instead of two, as I feel like two slices of cheese on a double cheeseburger starts to overwhelm the meat, but that’s more of a personal preference than anything else.  Two slices is the standard, so it’s hard to fault them for that.

The tangy secret sauce is pretty much exactly what you think it’s going to be — it works great with the cheeseburger and, more importantly, it doesn’t get in the way.

Even the bun was surprisingly great: soft, fresh, and perfectly toasted, it somehow manages to stand up to that very juicy, messy burger without ever feeling overly substantial.  The beef to bun ratio?  On point.

As for the fries, they were crispy, creamy, and flavourful; as great as the burger was, the fries might have been even better.

3.5 out of 4

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