Cactus Club Cafe, like Earl’s and Joey before it, is the latest Western Canadian upscale casual chain to make its way to Toronto. A great burger from a chain like this is kind of like Bigfoot — some people claim it exists, but I haven’t seen any compelling evidence myself. But in his (mostly unfavourable) review of this place in the Globe and Mail, Chris Nuttall-Smith singled out the burger as “a wide, deliciously sloppy mess.” Okay. Sold.
There are actually two burgers on the menu — the Feenie Burger, and the Cheddar Bacon burger. As far as I can tell the two burgers are identical, save for the presence of mushrooms on the Feenie. But that burger (created by celebrity chef Rob Feenie) is the one referenced in Nuttall-Smith’s review, so that’s what I ordered.
There’s a ridiculous amount of stuff on the burger. Aside from the aforementioned mushrooms, it’s topped with aged cheddar, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, red relish, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard. I’m actually kind of surprised that Feenie wanted to put his name on this burger, because it’s essentially like going to Harvey’s and asking for everything. It might be tasty, but it’s more like a random hodge-podge of stuff than a chef-crafted creation. In particular, the vinegary-sweet combination of the abundant ketchup and mustard are easily the dominant flavours here.
As for the mushrooms that apparently warrant Rob Feenie slapping his name on the burger? There’s so much else going on that I literally couldn’t even tell they were there.
Still, it’s a pretty good hamburger. The patty has a bit of crust from the griddle, and in the rare bites where you get a taste of the beef without too much else getting in the way, it has a pretty decent flavour. It’s also fairly juicy, with a nice coarse grind that hasn’t been overhandled. It makes me a bit sad that it’s completely overwhelmed by the voluminous toppings (Nuttall-Smith called the patty “somewhat irrelevant” in his review, which is apt), but tasty is tasty. Sometimes it’s best not to overthink it.
As for the fries, they were lightly battered, cardboardy, and personality-free. They couldn’t have been more obviously from a bag if they came with a big lighted sign that said “FROM THE FREEZER.”