Location: 892 Queen Street West, Toronto
Magnificent. That’s really the only word I can think of to describe the awe-inspiringly delicious burger they serve at the Swan. I wanna be very clear about this right up front, so that if you’re just skimming this review you know what’s what: this is one of the best burgers in the city. You need to try it.
Swan, for the unaware, is a venerable diner that went under and was promptly snatched up by Rose and Sons’ Anthony Rose. Though they apparently had some pretty serious kinks to work out in their first couple of months of operation, if this burger is anything to go by, they’ve solved the hell out of whatever problems they had.
When I ordered, the waitress asked if I was okay with medium rare, which to me is right up there with “would you like some free ice cream?” in the pantheon of great questions. Medium rare is the perfect way to cook a burger, so yeah, I’m okay with that.
The menu describes the banquet burger as coming with “house ground chuck, perth pork bacon, Ontario cheddar, brioche bun, lettuce, tomato, onion & pickle,” and oh man. It’s all hits, no misses. Perfection.
I have to start with that patty, which was everything you’d want it to be. Cooked somewhere between medium rare and rare with a nice sheen of crust from the griddle, it had a magnificently beefy flavour and the perfect balance of substance and tenderness. I wanted to bust into the kitchen and shake the chef’s hand; he knows his way around a burger, that’s for sure. I haven’t had one this flavour-packed and richly satisfying since Bymark — all without the extra-large price tag or the uncomfortably stuffy room.
It’s topped with with a generous piece of thickly cut, smoky, and unctuously rich bacon, which kicked up the tastiness without ever getting in the way.
Alarmingly, on first glance the slice of cheddar cheese appeared to be completely unmelted, but on the inside it was gooey enough to satisfy. Some cheddar can be a little bit too sharp for a hamburger, but I think it should be pretty clear by now that this kitchen isn’t going to make a rookie mistake like that; the cheese here was nice and mild, just as it should be.
Also just as it should be? The fresh, lightly toasted and fluffy brioche bun, which gave the burger a perfect beef-to-bun ratio.
There were a handful of condiments on the side; I spread a very moderate amount of the garlicky aioli on the top bun, but everything else is completely unnecessary. The balance of cheese, bacon, and the magnificent patty is already perfect; mess with it at your own peril.
The fries were pretty great too, because of course they were. If you’re making a burger this great, I’m pretty sure you’re not going to mess up the fries.
I’m really excited to go back and try the burger again, because if it’s consistently this good? It’s a very strong contender for the best hamburger in the city. This, as you can imagine, is not a claim that I make lightly.