The Abbot Pub & Fare

abbot
Location: 3367 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://theabbot.ca/

I’m not gonna lie: though I have a vague recollection of reading something positive about the burger at the Abbot, I decided to review this place almost entirely because of its proximity to the Rolling Pin, a bakery that specializes in elaborately decadent doughnuts. Two birds, one stone, and all that jazz.

(The doughnuts were great, by the way.)

Though I came at lunch and could have ordered the brunch burger, I went with the standard hamburger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion. You can also get optional stuff like cheese or caramelized onions for an extra charge, but I kept it simple.

In the spirit of not beating around the bush, I’ll say that this was not a good hamburger and you should absolutely never order it. But I guess I should elaborate a bit?

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It’s a meatloaf burger, and a particularly strong one at that. This isn’t necessarily the worst thing ever, but oh man it was strong. The odour of garlic and spices hit me almost as soon as the plate was set down in front of me. My dining companion could smell it from across the table, which should tell you something.

This, of course, means that the flavour of the beef itself was completely gone, but if that were the burger’s only problem, it wouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker.

It wasn’t the burger’s only problem.

Worse was the hamburger’s texture, which despite being grilled and cooked to well done, was a particularly off-putting combination of mushy and stringy. I’ve reviewed mushy burgers before, but this was the worst one yet. By far.  It was the stringiness that really got me, with a texture that was soft but refused to get fully chewed, like a trying to eat wet fabric.  It was unpleasant enough that I got a bit more than halfway through and had to throw in the towel.  It’s not that I couldn’t finish it; I’ve had worse.  But I really didn’t want to.

Everything else was fine, though the bottom layer of the bun was weirdly crispy, making the burger harder to eat (and cut in half) than it needed to be.

As for the fries, they were pretty good.  They’re nothing anyone is going to lose their minds over, but they were slightly above average.

1 out of 4

The Abbot Pub and Fare - the outside The Abbot Pub and Fare - the restaurant The Abbot Pub and Fare - the burger and fries The Abbot Pub and Fare - the burger

Dac Biet Burger

biet
Location
: 213 Church Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.dacbietburger.com/

As you can probably guess from the name, Dac Biet Burger isn’t a traditional burger joint — all of their burgers feature Asian-inspired flavours, from Vietnam to Japan to Korea.  And sure, why not?  I think we have enough traditional burger places in the city that a little bit of experimentation is not unwelcome.

Normally I’d order a simpler burger (the classic, in this case — their one non-Asian-themed burger) but hey, when in Rome, right?  So I went with the Banh Mi burger, which the menu describes as coming topped with “lemongrass pork / pickled daikon & carrots / cucumber / cilantro / mayo.”

There’s something strange about this burger: though the menu implies that the pork is a topping, I think maybe this isn’t the case?  I think the patty itself is pork?  I suppose I could have just asked, but what do I look like… Asky McGee?

Even the Toronto media seems a bit confused; Toronto Life says that the Banh Mi burger “tops a beef patty with lemongrass pork,” while Now claims that “the banh mi burger has its own lemongrass-infused pork-belly patty.”  I’m going to guess that Now is correct, since there was no pork atop the patty, and no beefy flavour to be found.

Hey, Dac Biet?  Maybe be a bit more clear with your menu?  When you have a sign on your wall touting the custom blend of beef you use for your burger patties, people are going to assume they’re going to get those burger patties.  Crazy, I know!

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Oddly enough, my dining companion ordered the pho burger — and surely this one is made with beef?? — and experienced the same lack of beefy flavour and oddly sausagey texture, so who knows what the hell is going on here.

Because yeah, the “burger” patty is essentially a sausage that’s been formed into the shape of a hamburger.  The texture is sausage through and through, and the flavour comes entirely from whatever they’ve got mixed in there (lemongrass, I guess).  But even as a sausage it’s not all that great, with a muddled, neither here-nor-there flavour that never particularly pops.

The toppings are pretty much classic banh mi and tasted fine, though the pickle mix was a bit over-applied.

Overall it’s not a terrible sandwich — it’s nothing special, but it doesn’t taste bad, I guess.  But as a so-called hamburger, it’s a complete failure.  I mean, it looks like a burger, I guess — but if it doesn’t have any of the flavours or textures that you associate with a hamburger, and it’s not that great even as its own thing, then what’s the point?

Seriously, that’s not a rhetorical question; what’s the point?  If it’s not as good as an actual banh mi (and way, way more expensive than any number of traditional banh mi shops across the city), and it’s not as good as an actual hamburger, then what’s the point?

It’s the type of fusion cuisine that gives that term a bad name; it’s all style, no substance.  Eating it reveals no discernible reason why these two cuisines needed to be fused.

The fries were good, at least.  They had a bit of an oily flavour and about twice as much salt as they needed, but overall they were still above average.

1.5 out of 4

Dac Biet Burger - the outside Dac Biet Burger - the restaurant Dac Biet Burger - the banh mi burger Dac Biet Burger - the banh mi burger

Outtakes Backstage Bistro

outtakes
Location
: 3555 Highway 7 West, Woodbridge
Websitehttps://www.cineplex.com/Microsite/OutTakes

What do you do if you’re planning on eating a burger before seeing a movie, and the burger joint turns out to be closed? And the backup place, too? If you’re a rational person, you’d say to yourself “Well, I guess I’m not eating a burger today,” and then move on with your life.  If you’re me?  You eat a movie theatre burger.  Because how could that possibly go wrong?

Let’s be honest: I probably shouldn’t be reviewing this.  No one in their right mind would order a hamburger at the movies, and even if they did, they’d do it with the full knowledge that they’re going to get something pretty lousy.  If you order anything other than popcorn, nachos, or candy at the movies, you are fully complicit in the food crimes that follow.

They have a few different burgers on the menu; I went with the simplest one they had, which is a plain cheeseburger topped with ketchup, mayo, mustard, lettuce, and tomato.  That’s a bit heavier on the condiments than I typically like, but in this case I figured the burger would need all the help it could get.

It’s a frozen patty, because of course it’s a frozen patty.  This is one case where I can’t even get mad at a place for taking a taste-compromising shortcut like that.  I mean, is anyone really expecting the pimply-faced teens at the theatre to grind and cook fresh beef?  The fact that they even sell stuff like burgers and chicken sandwiches at a movie theatre is kind of crazy; of course it all comes from a freezer.

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Though I’m pretty sure the burger actually started its life as an above average frozen patty, it was held for who-knows-how-long in one of those stupid warming drawers that have pretty much ruined fast food, and was thus completely devoid of anything even resembling moisture.  It was sucked dry, with a salty, off flavour that didn’t even taste vaguely of beef.

The cheese — which was cold and unmelted — actually tasted like real cheddar, with a surprisingly sharp cheesy flavour that helped distract from the generic frozen patty taste.  The lettuce and tomatoes were fine, and the various condiments tried their best to disguise the burger’s flavour.

The bun was the best element here by far. It was soft and fresh, with a slightly sweet flavour and just enough substance to hold up to the burger nicely.

I’m sorry to break this to you, bun: you did great, but you died in vain.

This would normally be the part of the review where I’d talk about the fries.  I decided to spare myself.  I mean, how much awful food are you expecting me to eat for your amusement?  I think the burger is probably enough.

1 out of 4

Outtakes Backstage Bistro - the restaurant Outtakes Backstage Bistro - the seating area Outtakes Backstage Bistro - the burger Outtakes Backstage Bistro - the burger

John Anderson’s Charcoal Broil Hamburgers

anderson
Location
: 1069 Dundas Street West, Mississauga
Website: None

Mediocre frozen burger, mediocre frozen fries, THE END.

Seriously, I think I’ve written enough of these at this point that I really don’t need to go much further than that.  I could just point you in the direction of any number of reviews I’ve written of places that serve mediocre, industrially-produced frozen burgers just like this one.

I wouldn’t be surprised if all the old-school burger joints serving crappy frozen burgers get them from the same supplier, so can’t I just cut-and-paste the same review every time?  Why should I go to the trouble of writing a review from scratch when they can’t be bothered to make a burger from scratch (which is, I should add, probably the easiest thing you can make, so WTF)?

The sad thing is, I discovered this place through random “best burger in Mississauga” searches; clearly, the burger boom that’s hit Toronto in the last few years has left Mississauga almost entirely untouched.

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John Anderson has a regular burger and a “Big Puck” burger on the menu.  I was told that they’re both exactly the same aside from the size, so I went with the regular, and had it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.

I’m not particularly going to get into it, because why should I, but it was a frozen burger and it tasted like so many other frozen burgers: it had the same overly-processed hot dog texture, and the same disturbing lack of any kind of beefy flavour.

The bun was fine and the toppings were fine — though again, like with so many other old-school burger joints, the mayo is actually Miracle Whip, which I’ve just come to expect at this point.

As for the aforementioned frozen fries, they were well-prepared and slightly better than average, but they were still pretty lifeless compared to the real deal.

1.5 out of 4

John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the outside John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the outside John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the restaurant John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the restaurant John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the burger and fries John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the burger

Thompson Diner

thompson
Location
: 550 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.thompsondiner.com/

Nope.

Seriously, just: no.  I could rant and rave, but I’m not even going to waste my time writing a particularly long review of this hamburger.  The kitchen staff at the Thompson Diner clearly don’t respect their clientele enough to make a burger even remotely worth eating, so why should I respect them enough to put my time and energy into a full review?

The burger at the Thompson Diner is lousy.  Please do not order it.  I’ll quickly explain why, then seriously, I’m out.

It’s dry.  Oppressively, shockingly, inedibly dry.

Was it overcooked?  I mean, it was cooked all the way to well done, but it didn’t seem to be cooked too far past that.  To me, well done is overcooked, so it can be tough to differentiate between the two.  But I’ve certainly had well done burgers that remained juicy.

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Was the beef too lean?  Almost certainly.

I noted in my most recent review, of the burger at b.good, that it was one of the driest burgers that I’ve ever had.  It’s as if the chef at the Thompson Diner took this as a challenge.  “You think that’s dry?  I’ll show you dry.”

Maybe my burger was an aberration.  Maybe they’re not always this bad.  I doubt it, but maybe.  But there’s no excuse for a professional kitchen to put out food this bad ever.  It’s inexcusable.

The taste of the patty wasn’t horrible – it wasn’t particularly beefy, but it tasted okay.  But who cares?  If a burger is this dry, I really don’t care what it tastes like.  It’s worthless.

The bun and toppings were also fine, but again: worthless.

The fries were bad too.  Frozen and mediocre, they’re a waste of your time, though at the very least they’re not a slap in the face like that hamburger.

.5 out of 4

Thompson Diner - the restaurant Thompson Diner - the burger Thompson Diner - the burger
(Image of the front of the restaurant in the header photo taken from Caroline’s Culinary Delights. I guess I was in such a rush to get out of there that I forgot to take the photo on my way out.)

b.good

bgood
Location: 100 Front Street East, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.bgood.ca/

My last review was of a burger joint with two different tongue sandwiches on the menu. Speaking of incongruous pairings, we have b.good, the latest American restaurant chain to head north.  Their theme?  Health food and hamburgers.

I’m going to let that sink in for a second: Health food.  Quinoa.  Kale.  Salads.  And hamburgers.

To me (and to any rational person) the words “health food” and “hamburgers” should never be in the same sentence, other than to say “hamburgers are not health food.”

Needless to say, I was skeptical, but still hopeful; perhaps b.good’s definition of a healthy burger was merely one without any unnecessary chemicals/additives/preservatives.  Maybe you can make a hamburger with high quality beef and call it healthy.  Maybe I wouldn’t have to suffer through a dried-out patty made under the ill-advised notion that any food can be made healthy if you wish hard enough.

Maybe I’ll win the lottery tomorrow.

No, b.good’s burger isn’t healthy in the “we used good quality ingredients” sense of the term.  It’s healthy in the “lean beef” sense of the term.  It’s healthy in the “let’s ruin something good” sense of the term.  It’s healthy in the “what the hell have you done to this hamburger” sense of the term.

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They have six pre-topped burgers on the menu; I went with the simplest choice, the Cousin Oliver.  That one comes with “lettuce, tomato, onions, Chef Tony’s homemade pickles.”  They have beef, chicken, turkey, and veggie patties, as well as white or whole wheat buns.  Do I even need to mention I picked beef with a white bun?  Because of course I picked beef with a white bun.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: it’s dry.  Oh good heavens was it dry.  If you poke around this blog for longer than a few minutes, you’ll probably see me complaining about overly-dry hamburgers, but this one takes the cake.  I’m not a hundred percent sure if it’s the driest burger I’ve had in my life, but it’s a contender.

It’s way too tightly packed, which doesn’t help.  It also doesn’t help that it was cooked all the way to well done, but there were still vague hints of pink in there, so it wasn’t overcooked.  But it’s obvious that they started with ridiculously lean beef, because there wasn’t even a hint of juiciness.  As you chew it, the beef just sort of crumbles into sad little pellets of desiccated meat.  It sucks all the moisture out of your mouth.  It needs it.

It also tastes weird.  It tasted odd enough that I actually looked at the menu to make sure bison wasn’t an option, because it didn’t really taste like beef; it didn’t taste right.  It was gamy and funky and weird.  It was unpleasant.  It tasted like maybe they had cooked it yesterday and reheated it today (that would also account for some of  the absurd dryness), but don’t take my word for that.  That’s a serious accusation and I don’t make it lightly.  I’m just trying to figure out what could possibly make beef taste like that.

My dining companion had the same complaints vis-a-vis taste and texture, so this wasn’t just the case of one burger gone awry.  In fact, he posted a Yelp review, and if you’re noting similarities between the two reviews?  Yeah.  That’s inevitable.  The burgers here are dry, and they taste weird.  It’s hard not to take note of that.

The toppings and the bun were fine, though the bun was too big for the patty, and the burger oddly doesn’t come with any condiments like ketchup or mustard or mayo.  That didn’t help matters, but you could have dunked this patty in a bath consisting of all the condiments in the world, and it still would have been unpalatably dry.

As for the “fries,” they weren’t fries.  B.good proudly proclaims that they’re “oven finished” a.k.a. baked, a.k.a. not fried.  If you don’t fry a fry, is it still a fry?  Do I really need to answer that?  They tasted baked.  They didn’t taste anything like fries, though they basically looked the part.  They weren’t terrible (they were well cooked at least) but they weren’t fries.

1 out of 4

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The Senator

senator
Location
: 249 Victoria Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://thesenator.com/

I was actually pretty excited to check out the Senator — any restaurant that’s been around since the ’30s has gotta be doing something right, and the place is absolutely lousy with old-school diner charm.

I’d also heard some pretty good things about their burger, which is reportedly made with beef from Cumbrae’s — one of Toronto’s more well-known butchers of note — and which is refreshingly cheap at $9.95 (including fries).

You know that part in Goodfellas where a character thinks he’s becoming a made man, only to be led into an empty basement where he has a brief moment of horror before a bullet goes into the back of his head?  That was my reaction when I was served this burger.  Excitement to horror in about 0.5 seconds.

Is boiling burgers a thing?  Is that something that they do?  I didn’t think so, but I really don’t know how else to account for the lifelessly pallid, colourless patty they put in front of me.

I’m going to assume that the patty was griddled, but I honestly don’t know how you cook a burger like that without getting even a hint of browning on the patty.  If this weren’t so clearly undesirable, I’d think it was deliberate.  Because seriously, how do you accomplish that?  How do you cook a piece of meat on a hot surface without browning it?  But it can’t possibly be on purpose.  Can it?

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This wasn’t a one-off mistake, either, because my dining companion had the burger as well and his looked identically sad.

Of course, if this were just a matter of appearances, then who cares?  But a burger gets a lot of its flavour and texture from the griddle or the grill, so in a case like this, it’s losing out on quite a bit.  You can tell from the first bite that something very essential is missing.

It was also a meatloaf burger, and had enough stuff mixed into the patty that its Cumbrae’s pedigree was completely wasted.  No beefy flavour here; just onions and spices and other stuff that you don’t need.  It’s meatloaf — but then again at least meatloaf has a glaze and a nice brown crust from the oven.  I can’t repeat this enough: this tasted boiled.

If it even matters, the texture of the patty was otherwise okay.  I think it was a bit too finely ground with a slightly mealy texture, and the well done patty was drier than I’d like, but I’ve certainly had worse.

The burger comes with lettuce, tomato, and caramelized onions off to the side.  The tomato was sliced a bit thick, but the toppings were otherwise fine.  However, between the sweetness of the onions and the slightly sweet (and ever-so-slightly dry) bun, it was kind of sweet overload.  I wound up putting mustard on the burger to try to combat this, which I almost never do (I typically find it to be a bit over-assertive on a hamburger).   It helped, but there wasn’t much to be done here; it was a lost cause.

The fries weren’t much better.  They were completely soggy and practically dripping with grease, with the overwhelming flavour of oil that’s been reused one (or two, or three) times too many.

They even, somehow, managed to mess up lemonade.  This is a drink that consists of three ingredients: lemon juice, water, and sugar.  How do you get that wrong?  Missing one of those three essential ingredients would do it.  The drink was astringently sour, without even a hint of sweetness.  If it’s not sweet at all, is it still even lemonade?  Or is it just watered down lemon juice?  More importantly, if everything else is this bad, does it matter?

1.5 out of 4

The Senator - the outside The Senator - the counter The Senator - the burger and fries The Senator - the burger
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