The Carbon Bar

: 99 Queen Street East, Toronto

I’ve been pretty anxious to check out The Carbon Bar ever since I watched this drool-inducing video; if you can watch that and not want to immediately hop into the nearest car, subway, or bus to get to The Carbon Bar, you’re clearly made of stronger stuff than I am.

The Carbon Bar is primarily a barbecue joint — albeit an upscale one, with prices to match — and has a burger that definitely fits the theme.  Specifically, it’s topped with a fat slice of smoky brisket (along with American cheese, charred and pickled chili peppers, lettuce, pickles, and burnt onion aioli).

It’s really tasty.  The patty has an impressive amount of crust from the griddle and is cooked to a nice pink medium rare — it’s clearly above average.  It had a really good texture, and in the bites I got of the patty alone, a rich, satisfying flavour that you only get from great quality beef.

But there’s a lot going on here.  The patty, as great as it is, feels like a supporting player in its own hamburger.


The generous slice of smoked brisket — probably about the thickness of the patty itself, if not a bit thicker — is the dominant flavour here.  I mean, I’m not really complaining; the brisket was amazingly tender, unctuously fatty, impressively smoky, and had a generous amount of seriously tasty bark.  It was easily the best BBQ brisket I’ve had in Toronto.  But the burger tastes more like a brisket sandwich with a burger patty than a hamburger with brisket.

The cheese, too, was stronger than it needed to be.  The menu calls it American cheese, but it definitely had the taste and texture of regular cheddar (and a fairly sharp one at that).  It was a bit overpowering.

The other toppings were all pretty great, particularly the charred and pickled chili peppers — they do an amazing job of cutting the richness of the patty, the brisket, and the cheese.  The sweet, fresh brioche bun was nearly perfect, though it did lose structural integrity towards the end (I had to eat the last few bites of the burger with a fork and knife).

Still, whatever faults I have as a burger purist — I really wish I could taste the patty a bit better, since it was clearly pretty amazing — there’s no question that what they’re serving here is delicious.

As for the fries, yeah, they’re delicious too.  Perfectly fried, perfectly seasoned, can’t stop eating.

3.5 out of 4

The Carbon Bar - the outside The Carbon Bar - the restaurant The Carbon Bar - the burger and fries The Carbon Bar - the burger


Location3265 Yonge Street, Toronto

Like The Stockyards, Stack is BBQ joint run by people who have clearly put a great deal of care into the burger selection on their menu.  If their website is to be believed, they initially planned on specializing in burgers, but ultimately decided to shift their focus to southern-style BBQ.

It’s clear that they could have made Stack a burger joint and done just fine — these are burgers done (mostly) right.

There are some interesting looking burgers on the menu, but in keeping with my preference when I’m reviewing a place, I kept it simple with the Stack Classic, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion.

I also asked for mayonnaise on the side, which turned out to be a wise move; the creamy, flavourful mayo is infused with roasted garlic and is clearly made in-house — this ain’t no Hellmann’s, that’s for sure.  It was good on the burger, but even better as a dipping sauce for their amazing fries.

Like at The Stockyards, the burger is griddle-cooked and seasoned with little more than salt and pepper (as it should be).  Sadly, like at The Stockyards (and pretty much every other burger joint in Toronto), the beef in the burger is a little bit too lean, resulting in a burger that’s a bit drier than it should be.  Thankfully, there is still some juiciness here, so it’s certainly a minor offender in Toronto’s ongoing quest to completely dry out my mouth with well-done, too-lean patties.

Aside from the dryness issue, this is an outstanding hamburger.  The well-done, loosely packed patty had a good amount of crust from the griddle (though not quite as much as at The Stockyards or Burger’s Priest).

It’s also clear that Stack is using beef that is well above average, as this was one of the most richly beefy burgers I’ve had in quite a while.  Eating it, I had something of a eureka moment: oh right, this is how a burger is supposed to taste.

The fresh sesame seed bun complimented the burger perfectly, as did the toppings (particularly the aforementioned fresh mayonnaise — if you find yourself at Stack, ask for this mayo).

As I mentioned earlier, the fries were crazy delicious.  Perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, with an amazingly robust flavour, they were almost ludicrously good when dipped in that delicious garlicky mayonnaise.

Stack - the outside Stack - the restaurant Stack - the burger and fries Stack - the burger Stack - the burger
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