Zeal Burgers

1926 Weston Road, Toronto

Wow. That’s really all I can say about what they’re serving at Zeal Burgers. Wow.

Okay, I can (and will) say a lot more about it than that, but “wow” seems like the most pertinent, because wow. I can’t remember the last time I was so blown away by a hamburger.

I feel like if this place weren’t so far out of the way, and if it weren’t in such a sketchy area, everybody would be talking about it. It’s a damn shame I didn’t eat this burger a few weeks ago, because I just posted my list of the top ten hamburgers in the city, and this clearly should have been on there. Based on my one visit, it’s a top ten contender for sure. Maybe even top five.

The burgers come either pre-topped or customizable, with an impressive list of cheeses and condiments to choose from. I went with the Z Burger, which is a double cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion strings, and Z Sauce.

The patties were absolutely glorious. They were smashed and griddled, because of course they were. I’m pretty sure every burger joint that’s opened in the last five years or so cooks burgers in this style. I could complain, but when a burger is this good, it feels like it would be absurd to do so.

I mean, how can I complain about this style of cookery when it produces a deep brown crust like this? Look at it:

That’s a thing of beauty. That takes my breath away.

And the flavour was amazing. It was an absolute explosion of satisfyingly beefy flavour, and it was seasoned with just the right amount of salt. It was perfect. It was cooked all the way to well done, which is unfortunate, and yet it was still abundantly juicy. The texture was great, too, with a nice course grind that obviously hasn’t been overhandled.

The cheese was gooey melted American, as it should be. Sometimes two slices of American in a double cheeseburger can be a bit overwhelming, but it was just right here. I think the slices might have been slightly thinner than the norm, and the patties were slightly thicker. Whatever it was, it was perfect.

The other toppings were great, too. The Z Sauce was the usual tangy mayo, and the lettuce, tomato, and pickles were all fresh and tasty. The crispy onion strings didn’t really add all that much, but they didn’t detract, either.

The standard-issue sesame seed bun was nothing special (and it was ever-so-slightly too wide for the patties), but it was fresh and lightly toasted, and suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they were outstanding. Are you surprised? Anyone who can make a burger that’s this good clearly knows what they’re doing. They’re not going to mess up the fries.

4 out of 4

Zeal Burgers - the restaurant Zeal Burgers - the restaurant Zeal Burgers - the burger Zeal Burgers - the burger Zeal Burgers - the burger


: 619 College Street, Toronto

The burgers from Rudy look amazing in pictures. I mean, look at it. Look at that crust. If you’re getting a burger cooked in that style (i.e. smashed on a griddle), then what Rudy is serving up is pretty much the Platonic ideal of what you want it to look like. That combination of melty, bright orange American cheese and the mahogany-brown crust from a perfectly hot griddle is a thing of beauty. You could look at it forever.

But could it actually taste as good as it looks?

Yes. The answer is an emphatic yes.

I ordered the Rudy, which is a single-patty cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, and Rudy sauce.

Oh man, it was so good.

Foremost was that crust: the beautiful brown crust amps up the burger’s beefy flavour and provides a perfect crispy contrast to the tender beef.


I got a little bit concerned when I cut into the burger and saw well done, uniformly gray beef.  At least a little bit of pink would have been nice, but it’s hard to complain too much when the patty remains so admirably juicy.  Add in the fact that the beef was loosely-packed and coarsely-ground, and you’ve got a patty with a texture that’s exactly where it should be.

The flavour was pretty great too; perfectly seasoned with just salt and pepper and with a nice beefy kick, it’s pretty much exactly what you’re looking for in the taste department.

The toppings, too, check all the right boxes.  Gooey American cheese?  Check.  Big-Mac-esque sauce?  Check.  Fresh lettuce and tomato?  Check.  Oh, and that bun?  Pillowy, sweet, and perfect.

Yes, in case you can’t tell, I loved this hamburger.  One of the best in the city for sure.

It’s a bummer to end on a sour note, but the fries weren’t the best.  Some of them were slightly underdone, and others were potato-chip-crispy.  Also, I think they might have been seasoned with vinegar instead of salt?  A few had a mildly vinegary flavour; the rest tasted completely unseasoned.  Still, considering how good the burger was, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume something was just off with this batch.  Either way, the burger was so damn good that it really doesn’t matter.

4 out of 4

Rudy - the restaurant Rudy - the restaurant Rudy - the burger Rudy - the fries Rudy - the burger

Museum Tavern

: 208 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.museumtavern.ca/

This blog hit its 5th anniversary a couple of months ago — I’ve reviewed almost 150 burgers in that time.  And though my love of hamburgers is as strong today as it was five years ago, doubt does sometimes creep into my mind.  Do I still want to be doing this?  Does the world really need me describing a burger’s beefy flavour for the hundredth time, or complaining about yet another dry patty?

It can get wearying.  Especially when I visit a place that I know is going to have a lousy hamburger, and then it is lousy, and I realize that I only have a finite amount of meals to eat in my lifetime and I just wasted one so I can be snarky about it online.  And there’s that voice: you don’t have to do this.

But then I eat a burger like the one they’re serving at Museum Tavern, and it’s like a choir from above.  Oh right, that voice says. This is why you do this.

Which is all a very roundabout way of saying that the burger at Museum Tavern is absolutely outstanding.  Like, top five in the city outstanding.  How can I stop this blog when there are still burgers this good for me to eat and write about?  I can’t.


Museum Tavern serves a double cheeseburger, topped with the classics (lettuce, pickles, onion, and a Big Mac-esque sauce), and with the choice between American and aged cheddar.  I went with American; I’ve said it before, but American’s creamy consistency when melted, and its mild — and more importantly, not overwhelming — flavour makes it the perfect cheese for this type of burger (yes, some cheaper varieties of American cheese can be plasticky and horrible, but that’s definitely not what they’re using here).

The patties are griddled, with an awe-inspiring amount of crust that’s more than just a pretty face — it adds a nice amount of texture that contrasts really well with the tender beef.

I got a bit concerned when I cut the burger in half, as the patties were cooked to well done and grey throughout, which isn’t my favourite.  But everything about this burger is so great that it really doesn’t matter.  The texture of the beef is perfect — coarsely ground, not overhandled, with a consistency that perfectly straddles the line between tenderness and substance.

It’s also impressively juicy, especially for a burger that’s been cooked all the way to well done.  And the flavour is great, with a satisfying beefiness that mingles perfectly with the other flavours and always remains the star of the show.

So that’s the taste/texture/juiciness trifecta — the hamburger bullseye.

The bun and toppings were great too, which means there’s nothing to get in the way of this burger’s status as one of the best in the city.  Because yeah, I honestly don’t have a single complaint about this hamburger — it’s amazing from head to toe.  I’m a bit late to the party (the Museum Tavern has been open since 2012), so it’s quite possible that you’re way ahead of me on this one.  But on the off chance that you haven’t tried it yet?  Do it.  Now.

Oh, and the shoestring fries were great too.  Seriously though, why are you still reading this when you could be eating that magnificent hamburger?

4 out of 4

Museum Tavern - the outside Museum Tavern - the restaurant Museum Tavern - the menu Museum Tavern - the cheeseburger Museum Tavern - the cheeseburger

Rose and Sons Swan

: 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.

4 out of 4

Rose and Sons Swan - the restaurant Rose and Sons Swan - the restaurant Rose and Sons Swan - the menu Rose and Sons Swan - the burger and fries Rose and Sons Swan - the burger


: 66 Wellington Street West, Toronto

This being my 100th burger review for this blog (yeah, I can’t believe I made it this far either), I figured something special was probably in order.  And what’s more special than one of the city’s most highly-regarded burgers, and at a whopping 35 bucks, probably its most expensive?

So it was that I found myself at Bymark, a restaurant several orders of magnitude classier than where I typically go for this blog.  It’s the type of place where you look around and you think, everyone in this room probably makes more in a couple of months than I make in year.  But do they have a blog where they get to be snarky about hamburgers?  No?  Well then.

The 8 Ounce P.E.I Grass Fed Burger comes with “brie de meaux, porcini mushrooms, & crisp onion rings or frites.”  I figured the onion rings might be more interesting than fries, so I went with those.  I was also asked how I wanted the burger cooked, and requested medium rare.

I’m not going to lie: I was pretty skeptical that this meal could possibly justify the extra-large price tag.  With that price, it’s about double the cost of even the most expensive burgers I’ve reviewed for the blog thus far.  I was ready to dislike it just on principle.  Where do you get off charging that much for a burger??

Well… It’s a pretty amazing hamburger.  It’s grilled and came cooked to a perfect medium rare — and when I say perfect, I mean perfect.  Normally when you get a burger cooked medium rare, it comes out that way in the centre, with a fairly significant ring around the edges of well done beef.  That phenomenon is minimized to a ridiculously impressive degree here, with amazingly consistent medium rare beef practically the whole way through.  I have no idea how they managed to cook it this evenly from edge to edge (sous vide, perhaps?), but however it’s done, it is glorious.


The patty was coarsely ground and a bit densely packed — but oddly enough, not in a bad way.  Though a loosely packed burger is normally what you’re looking for, this patty had a rich, almost steak-like consistency, without ever losing its hamburgery goodness.  It was actually quite unlike any burger I’ve ever had, but in an amazing way.

It’s also one of the tastier burgers I’ve had in a while, with a nicely beefy flavour that’s fairly pronounced, even if it could be stronger (Allen’s definitely has it beat in this regard).

Oh, and it was super juicy, too; it made me want to parade it around to most of Toronto’s burger joints and say “See?  See how juicy this is?  This is how juicy a burger is supposed to be.   Stop being an idiot.”

Are you getting the sense that I liked this burger?  Because yeah, I kinda liked it.

The toppings were pretty great as well.  The brie was super creamy, with a distinctively nutty but not overly sharp flavour that complimented the beef perfectly.  The mushrooms were garlicky and intensely flavourful; they were crazy delicious, though I do think they were a little bit overwhelming — one of the burger’s few weak points.

I quite liked the bun, too.  Though it was more substantial than I typically want, with a burger this big, rich, and juicy, you need that kind of substance or it’ll fall apart.

I will say that I wasn’t crazy about the onion rings.  They were fine, but there wasn’t anything all that special about them.  And though the smaller ones at the top of the pile were crispy and perfectly cooked, the larger ones at the bottom were doughy and underdone.  That didn’t stop me from eating all of them, of course, but after that superb burger they couldn’t help but feel like a pretty big let-down.

I honestly didn’t think that this review was going to go this way, but you know what?  This burger was absolutely worth the 35 bucks.  It’s not something you’re going to get all the time, but as a special treat?  Hell yeah.  It’s amazingly rich and flavourful, with a heady decadence and an overall level of quality that really is in a league of its own.

I kind of wish that I hadn’t eaten it, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to be craving it all the time now.  It’s a very strong contender for the best burger in the city.

4 out of 4

Bymark - the outside Bymark - the menu Bymark - the restaurant Bymark - the burger Bymark - the burger Bymark - the burger
Bymark on Urbanspoon

Blue Goose

235 Queens Quay West, Toronto (Harbourfront)
Website: None, but they do have some info on Twitter

I’ve eaten a lot of burgers over the course of my lifetime.  This is actually the 50th hamburger that I’ve reviewed since starting this blog back in 2011.  I’ve also eaten my share of un-reviewed hamburgers over the last three years, and of course, I was a fairly profligate burger-eater pre-Tasty Burgers.    I’m going to guess that I’ve eaten a thousand hamburgers in my lifetime, and I’m going to say that this is a fairly conservative estimate.

This is all to say that when I make the statement that a particular hamburger is the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten in my entire life, this is not a statement I take lightly.  So please, imagine that I have the gravitas of Morgan Freeman and the seriousness of Edward R. Murrow when I say this:  The burger that I just had at Blue Goose is quite possibly the best hamburger that I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.


Blue Goose was actually started by Blue Goose Pure Foods, a producer of various types of “farm to fork” organic meats.   Knowing that the restaurant was started by a company that takes its meat seriously, I had high hopes.

It’s based out of a shipping container on the Toronto Harbourfront (along with Sully’s Honest Dogs and Lobster Roll), which is odd.  But who knows, maybe shipping containers are the new food truck.  This is actually the second group of shipping container-based eateries to grace our city (the first being the Scadding Court ones near Kensington market — including Wiggle Room, a burger place I’ve been meaning to check out).


For obvious reasons, these ones are only sticking around until the end of the summer, so if you want to check out this burger (and trust me, you want to check out this burger) you’d better not dilly-dally too much.

Though I had high hopes from the get-go, I knew I was probably in for something special when the girl behind the grill began to prepare my hamburger.  She pulled out a glorious ball of pink and white ground beef, and as soon as I saw it my eyes widened with joy.  A Toronto establishment which knows that the words “lean” and “hamburger” should absolutely never be used in conjunction with each other is a rare treasure indeed.

She placed the beef on the sizzling griddle, smashed it down and seasoned it liberally with salt.  No other spices, no onions, no garlic, just great quality meat, salt, and searing heat.  Perfection.

And make no mistake, this is great quality meat.  Amazingly rich and almost obscenely beefy, it’s abundantly clear that Blue Goose is not kidding around when it comes to the quality of their beef.  When I rally against overly-busy meatloaf burgers, this is why.  Because I know that when you start out with really good meat and cook it properly, you can end up with an amazingly complex, incredibly satisfying flavour that you don’t want to mess with.

As for the refreshingly non-lean, fatty beef?  Yes.  It was so rich, so juicy, and so incredibly delectable.  The beef was also — as it should be — coarsely ground and loosely packed, and had such a great texture.  Seriously: perfection.

Look, I know this is all coming off as insanely hyperbolic, but what can I say?  I loved this hamburger.


It has quite a few toppings (cheddar, caramelized onion, pickle, lettuce, and tomato); this would normally perturb me, but here all the ingredients work together such perfect harmony that I wouldn’t change a single thing.   The cheddar comes perfectly melted and adds a creamy tang without ever threatening to overpower the beef.  The richly unctuous caramelized onions compliment the meat quite fantastically.  And the lettuce, tomato, and pickle help to give the burger balance and cut the richness of the onions, cheese, and beef.

The toasted sesame seed bun was fine.  It was probably the only element of this hamburger that wasn’t knock-me-back amazing, but there was certainly nothing wrong with it and it complimented the burger well.

They serve a single burger, and a double.  I started with the single, and it was so damn good that I did something that I’ve never done before: I went right back and ordered another one.  A double this time (well, I split it with my dining companion — I’m not that gluttonous).  These are not wimpy patties, so the double was fairly enormous, but I think I liked it even better.  This one had a higher proportion of beef to the other ingredients, and was thus even more richly beefy.  It was outstanding.

As I think should be pretty clear by now, this hamburger is absolutely essential.  If you’re anywhere near the GTA and you have even a passing interest in burgers, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  I’ve only given out four perfect ratings since starting this blog: Burger’s Priest, Holy Chuck, Allen’s, and White Squirrel Snack Shop.  This one beats them all.

Go eat it.  Now.

Blue Goose - the crate Blue Goose - the crates Blue Goose - the burger Blue Goose - the burger Blue Goose - the burger Blue Goose - the double

White Squirrel Snack Shop

507 Queen Street West, Toronto
UPDATE: Tragically, this place is no more. It has been replaced by another burger joint, P&L Burger.

To say that the hamburger at White Squirrel Snack Shop was a pleasant surprise would be a pretty huge understatement.  The place just opened a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve already been hearing some good things about the burger — but I still wasn’t expecting anything particularly great.

White Squirrel is an offshoot of a coffee shop, which doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence for their burger, but oh my god.  Oh my god, that burger.  Oh my god.

The restaurant is weirdly narrow, with a few seats along the wall and a couple of tables at the end.  It was pretty empty when I went, but if the place gets popular (and I expect it will with a burger this good) it might be tricky to get a seat.

The grungy, minimalist industrial decor doesn’t do the place any favours, but this is really a pop in, pop out restaurant rather than a place you’ll linger, so it’s not a big deal.  And seriously, if you’re going to serve a burger this good, you could serve it to me in a gas station bathroom and I’d eat it with a big smile on my face.  So who cares what the place looks like.

The restaurant is laid out so that you order from the man behind the bar, pay, then when your food is ready someone in the kitchen yells out your name and you pick it up.


Here’s what the menu says about the Snack Shop Burger: “1/2 lb. house-ground chuck, caramelized onion, pickles, Dijon, steamed egg bun.”

The amazing patty is grilled to perfection, with a good amount of satisfyingly crispy char from the grill, but not so much that it overwhelms the burger.  It’s cooked to a perfect medium, with a pleasingly pink interior.

The chuck is coarsely ground and loosely packed, and unlike so many burgers in the city, it is fantastically juicy.  Seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper to let the beefy flavour shine through, it’s pretty outstanding.

The soft, rich caramelized onions compliment the burger perfectly, as do the pickles.

The Dijon mustard, on the other hand, is  superfluous.  It basically works with the burger, but its flavour is a little bit too assertive.  The pickles do a perfectly fine job of cutting the richness of the juicy patty and the onions; mustard only serves to detract from the gloriousness of this hamburger.  It is a small detraction, but a detraction nonetheless.

I have some minor quibbles with the bun as well.  Slightly sweet, soft, and fresh, it is a great bun for the most part.  However, it is slightly too chewy and substantial, which, like the mustard, detracts slightly from the gloriousness of the hamburger.   Again, it is not a large issue, but when you serve a burger this magnificent, even the smallest of imperfections will be magnified.

I also got a small order of fries, which were fine, if nothing too memorable.  They actually seemed like they had the potential to be above average, but they were slightly undercooked and a bit soggy.

But that burger… that burger.  It was so good.  I honestly think it’s one of the best burgers I’ve had in the city.  Rich, beefy, juicy, and just amazingly tasty, it’s the kind of burger that dreams are made of.  It lingered in my mind for the rest of the afternoon.  It lodged itself in my brain and refused to let go.  I need another.

Interestingly, White Squirrel Snack Shop is maybe a two minute walk from the soon-to-open third location of The Burger’s Priest.  Which means that this small stretch of Queen has become a burger lover’s paradise: a perfect griddled burger and a perfect grilled burger within mere steps of each other.  Who could ask for anything more?

White Squirrel Snack Shop - the outside White Squirrel Snack Shop - the restaurant White Squirrel Snack Shop - the restaurant White Squirrel Snack Shop - the fries White Squirrel Snack Shop - the burger White Squirrel Snack Shop - the burger
White Squirrel Snack Shop on Urbanspoon