Tag Archives: bacon

Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill

20 Nov

oliver
Location
: 33 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.oliverbonacini.com/Yonge-Front.aspx

The last burger I tried from an O&B joint was thoroughly forgettable, but when I found myself at Café Grill, I figured, sure, why not?  I’m here, the burger is here, let’s do this.

(And I did debate whether I should even be reviewing more than one O&B restaurant, or if all their locations count as one big chain.  But since each menu seems to be completely different, I think they’re all fair game.)

Though I approach each burger I eat hoping for the best, I sort of figured the burger here would be much like the one I had from O&B Canteen — passable, but mediocre.

As it turns out, I was longing for the comparative delights of “passable, but mediocre.”

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The Café Grill calls their hamburger the Smashed Ground Chuck Burger, and it comes topped with “housemade BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar, iceberg lettuce, special sauce.”

I rant about overly dry patties all the time on this blog, and I really don’t feel like doing it again right now.  I’ll just say this: the griddled patty was punishingly gray throughout and was devoid of anything even resembling moisture.  It was also really substantial, making each mouthful a bit of an ordeal.

It actually tasted pretty okay, but since it had the approximate texture of a bunch of mashed-up saltines held together with glue, does it matter?

And though the bun was a bit over-toasted and more dense than it needed to be, the toppings were all tasty enough.  But again: dry saltines.  Glue.  Agony.

Oh, and it also cost 19 bucks, putting it on the more expensive end of burgers in the GTA.

As for the thickly-cut fries, they were quite good.  Nothing too special, but they were solid French fries.

1.5 out of 4

Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the restaurant Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the restaurant Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the burger and fries Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - 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.

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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

Cactus Club Cafe

10 Apr

cactus
Location
: 77 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.cactusclubcafe.com/location/first-canadian-place/

Cactus Club Cafe, like Earl’s and Joey before it, is the latest Western Canadian upscale casual chain to make its way to Toronto.  A great burger from a chain like this is kind of like Bigfoot — some people claim it exists, but I haven’t seen any compelling evidence myself.  But in his (mostly unfavourable) review of this place in the Globe and Mail, Chris Nuttall-Smith singled out the burger as “a wide, deliciously sloppy mess.”  Okay.  Sold.

There are actually two burgers on the menu — the Feenie Burger, and the Cheddar Bacon burger.  As far as I can tell the two burgers are identical, save for the presence of mushrooms on the Feenie.  But that burger (created by celebrity chef Rob Feenie) is the one referenced in Nuttall-Smith’s review, so that’s what I ordered.

There’s a ridiculous amount of stuff on the burger.  Aside from the aforementioned mushrooms, it’s topped with aged cheddar, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, red relish, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.  I’m actually kind of surprised that Feenie wanted to put his name on this burger, because it’s essentially like going to Harvey’s and asking for everything.  It might be tasty, but it’s more like a random hodge-podge of stuff than a chef-crafted creation.  In particular, the vinegary-sweet combination of the abundant ketchup and mustard are easily the dominant flavours here.

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As for the mushrooms that apparently warrant Rob Feenie slapping his name on the burger?  There’s so much else going on that I literally couldn’t even tell they were there.

Still, it’s a pretty good hamburger.  The patty has a bit of crust from the griddle, and in the rare bites where you get a taste of the beef without too much else getting in the way, it has a pretty decent flavour.  It’s also fairly juicy, with a nice coarse grind that hasn’t been overhandled.  It makes me a bit sad that it’s completely overwhelmed by the voluminous toppings (Nuttall-Smith called the patty “somewhat irrelevant” in his review, which is apt), but tasty is tasty.  Sometimes it’s best not to overthink it.

As for the fries, they were lightly battered, cardboardy, and personality-free.  They couldn’t have been more obviously from a bag if they came with a big lighted sign that said “FROM THE FREEZER.”

3 out of 4

Cactus Club Cafe - the outside Cactus Club Cafe - restaurant Cactus Club Cafe - the burger Cactus Club Cafe - the burger

Food Dudes

14 Feb

dudes
Location
: It’s a truck, so check Twitter to see where they’re parked
Websitehttp://www.thefooddudes.com/

Food trucks have really livened up events like the Canadian International Auto Show, which is currently going on at the Convention Centre.  Suddenly, the food options are a bit more interesting than a warmed over slice of pizza or a sad hot dog.

There are a couple of trucks at the show this year, both with a burger on the menu (the other one is Hank Daddy’s Barbecue).  I went with Food Dudes, which was probably a mistake.

The Truck Burger sounds appealing enough; their menu describes it as “chopped steak, aged cheddar, chili pickled onions, arugula, bacon mayo, pomme frites, brioche.”

It might have been a pretty good burger, if it weren’t for whatever the hell is going on with the patty, which has an odd, downright alien texture.  It was chewy, dense, and bizarre, like the ground beef had melted and congealed, trying its best to reassemble itself back into one solid mass.  Maybe I’m overly picky (okay, definitely), but in this case I have photographic proof.  I mean, look at the picture of this burger’s cross-section.  I’ve seen the insides of many, many hamburgers over the last few years, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

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I’d say the burger is meatloafy (there’s definitely all kinds of flavouring mixed in), but I’ve never had meatloaf with this texture; it was somewhere between a sausage and Spam.  It was kind of insane how weird it was.

The menu calls the patty “chopped steak,” and maybe this is the culprit?  Chopping rather than grinding beef is ostensibly meant to give the burger a more coarse, steaky texture — but they seem to achieved the absolute opposite effect here.  Maybe instead of putting the beef through a grinder, they instead threw it into a food processor and ran it until the meat became a fine paste?  Or they chopped it by hand, and chopped it and chopped it and chopped it, until they wound up with the aforementioned paste?  I really don’t know how else to account for that texture.

It actually tasted okay, though between the assertive bacon mayo, the sharp cheddar, all the spices mixed into the beef, and the insane texture, I honestly don’t think I would have guessed this was a hamburger if I had eaten it blindfolded.  I don’t even know if I would have pegged the meat as beef, given how thoroughly disguised it was by the other flavours and that oddball spongy/chewy/gummy texture.

The patty was otherwise kinda juicy and not overcooked, so it’s a real shame that they did whatever it is that they did to it.  The toppings were pretty good too, if a bit overwhelming; I particularly liked the crispy potato strings, which added a nice crunch without being too assertive.  I also quite liked the fresh brioche bun.

But that patty.  That patty…

2 out of 4

Food Dudes - the truck Food Dudes - the truck Food Dudes - the burger Food Dudes - the burger Food Dudes - the burger

Montecito

31 Jan

montecito
Location
: 299 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.montecitorestaurant.ca/

Montecito is the brainchild of Canadian-born director Ivan Reitman (who also had a strong hand in the TIFF Lightbox around the corner).  That said, the question is whether it’s more Ghostbusters, or My Super-Ex Girlfriend.  Twins, or Six Days Seven Nights?

I’d heard good things about the burger (which is described simply on the menu as “milk bun, bacon, fontina”), so I had high hopes.

I won’t lie — I got pretty excited when the hamburger showed up. It was picture perfect: glistening patty, toppings just so, and a perfectly proportionate bun (with the sesame seeds so evenly spaced it looked like they were placed individually).  It’s easily one of the most immaculate looking burgers I’ve been served recently. It was photoshoot-ready.

I got a little bit less impressed when I cut into the burger, revealing a well done patty that was fully gray from edge to edge.

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I got even less impressed when I took a bite.  Certainly, it’s not a bad hamburger, but it’s sort of like meeting someone who’s supermodel-attractive, only for them to turn out to be a hardcore Trump supporter.  You might be able to make it work for a while, but there’s no future there and you know it.

I will say that the patty, despite how well done it was (and it was cooked right to the very edge of well done) remained somewhat juicy; they must have actually started with beef with an appropriate fat ratio, which is always delightful.  But the patty was very tightly packed, so it was a little bit too tough, despite its juiciness.

It also didn’t have much of a beefy flavour, though in that regard the very salty toppings were a pretty serious impediment.  Between the salty cheese, the salty bacon, the mayo, and the seasoning on the patty itself, it’s salt overload.  It makes it nearly impossible to taste the beef, which doesn’t exactly have an assertive flavour to start with.

The buttery toasted bun was mostly pretty great, though I think it was toasted for a few seconds too long, giving the surface a bit more of an in-your-face crunch than you want on a hamburger.

It’s too bad, because seriously, look at that thing.  That looks like it should be the best burger ever, but a few serious hiccups hold it back from being anything much better than good.

It comes with a side of salad and a small bowl of house-made chips, both of which were quite tasty.

3 out of 4

Montecito - the outside Montecito - the restaurant Montecito - the burger Montecito - the burger, chips, and salad Montecito - the burger