Cardinal Rule

: 5 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto

Cardinal Rule is a cozy little diner on Roncesvalles that seems to be doing pretty well for themselves; they were featured on You Gotta Eat Here, and when I went at around 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon, they were pretty much packed.

Usually when I review a place I’ll go there with the specific intention of writing a review — in this case, I just happened to find myself there and what’s this?  A burger on the menu?  Well then.

I actually almost didn’t order the burger. It’s one of those brunch burgers with the works piled on top which I normally avoid, but a big kitchen sink burger actually sounded pretty good at that moment, so I went for it.

This particular hamburger — dubbed the Wallop Burger — comes topped with “a potato latke, bacon, cheddar & a sunny fried egg on a ciabatta bun.”  So, basically it’s a complete breakfast crammed onto a burger.


It’s… okay, I guess.  It actually should have been pretty tasty, but the burger itself is iffy.  It’s a meatloaf burger, for one thing.  And oh man, it’s so damn meatloafy.  Seriously: at what point does a burger stop being a burger and become meatloaf?  When onions are added?  Spices?  Breadcrumbs?  Eggs?  Because I’m not sure about the latter two (though I have my suspicions) but there were definitely a crap-ton of onions and spices in this “burger”.

So what makes it a hamburger and not a meatloaf sandwich?  Is it just because the meat has been formed into individual patties and not into a pan?  Is that it?  As long as one of the ingredients is beef and it’s in a patty shape, it’s a hamburger?  I just…  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m being a stick in the mud, but when you take something as simple as a hamburger and start cramming all kinds of other flavours into it, it changes its essential character so thoroughly that it’s no longer the same thing.  It’s a different dish altogether.  It’s a meatloaf sandwich.

Whatever it is, it’s over-spiced, with a face-punch of flavour but zero beefiness remaining.  It’s also quite dry and a bit more dense than it should be.

As for the other stuff, it’s not bad.  The fried egg has a satisfyingly runny yolk, and the cheese is creamy and melted.  The patty packs such a strong salty punch, however, that the bacon is mostly superfluous.  As for the latke, it’s fine, but there’s clearly a reason why you rarely find potatoes on a hamburger (or on sandwiches in general)  — it’s just adding additional starchiness that isn’t really necessary when you’ve already got bread.

The bun is a bit on the crusty side, but since there’s so much stuff piled on here, the more substantial bun is definitely quite welcome.

I don’t wanna pile onto the place, but I should mention that the service was kind of questionable.   It took about half an hour to receive our food, which seems a bit excessive for a casual diner like this.  We also pretty much never saw our waitress aside from our order being taken and the food being delivered; getting the bill was a bit of a challenge (eventually, one of us had to get up to ask for it).

2 out of 4

Cardinal Rule - the outside Cardinal Rule - the restaurant Cardinal Rule - the burger Cardinal Rule - the burger Cardinal Rule - the burger
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The Samuel J. Moore

1087 Queen Street West, Toronto
UPDATE: The restaurant is closed, apparently.  Can’t say I’m too surprised.

The Samuel J. Moore just opened a few weeks ago, and the early word is that they’ve got a burger worth eating. Obviously, I had to give it a shot.

I came at around noon on a Saturday during brunch service.  I was hoping to get the regular hamburger off the dinner menu, but sadly, only the Brunch Burger was available.

Before I get into the less-than-great things about the place, I will say that the design of the restaurant is quite nice.  Spacious, with a classy old-school diner aesthetic and lots of sunlight streaming in from the windows, it’s certainly a pleasant enough place to have a relaxing meal.

And when the burger came, it looked pretty darn good.  This is a place that seemed to have it all figured out — or so I thought, until I actually took a bite.

The Brunch Burger comes topped with a fried egg, peameal bacon, smoked cheddar, and coleslaw.  There are a lot of flavours here, and sadly, they never coalesce into anything particularly satisfying.


It looks good, though, doesn’t it?

But let me talk about the patty, because that’s really where this burger takes a wrong turn and never comes back.  Finely ground,densely packed, overly lean, and cooked all the way to the tippy-top of well done, it’s a perfect storm of density and dryness.

The patty also has a distinct lack of beefiness that was so pronounced I felt compelled to ask my server if it was all beef, or some kind of beef/pork blend.  It’s all beef, apparently, so I’m not sure how to account for its almost complete lack of beefy flavour.  It didn’t taste bad, at least.  It just tasted like nothing.  Chewy, tough nothing.

Of course, I was only able to discern this in the bites I took of the patty alone, because this is a hamburger with a lot going on.  The dominant flavour is the peppery, tangy coleslaw, which is surprisingly spicy and completely inappropriate as a topping for a hamburger.  It might have been okay on its own, but as a condiment it is ridiculously overpowering and tragically misguided.

The somewhat dry, tough peameal bacon also didn’t do the burger any favours.

The fried egg, however, was perfectly cooked with a satisfyingly runny yolk.  It couldn’t do much to save the burger, but it was nice.  The fresh, toasted brioche bun was also pretty great, and definitely deserved to be part of a better burger.

And I guess there was cheddar in there, too, but with all the other stuff going on I honestly couldn’t even taste it.

The burger also came with a side of perfunctory hash browns and bland house-made ketchup.  They were on par with the burger, which is to say not good.

The Samuel J. Moore - the outside The Samuel J. Moore - the restaurant The Samuel J. Moore - the Brunch Burger The Samuel J. Moore - the Brunch Burger
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