Tag Archives: chain

Milestones

23 Oct

milestones
Location: 169 Enterprise Boulevard, Markham
Website: http://milestonesrestaurants.com/

When you go to a chain restaurant like Milestones, you pretty much expect the burger to be lousy, and HEY GUESS WHAT HERE’S MILESTONES TO GIVE YOU EXACTLY WHAT YOU’D EXPECT.  Here’s Milestones to serve you garbage because yeah, you’ll eat that garbage, so why bother?

I’m not even talking about just hamburgers right now, but can someone please explain to me why pretty much every single casual chain restaurant in Ontario is the absolute worst?  Stuff like Boston Pizza, Montana’s, Kelsey’s, Shoeless Joe’s, St. Louis Bar and Grill, Moxie’s, and of course this stupid place are everywhere in the suburbs and they’re all just horrible.  Why?

Actually, don’t answer that — I know why.  Because they all do very well, so why change what works?  I have to assume that at some point they realized that we’ll all happily eat garbage, so seriously, why bother?  If they can serve grim, bottom-of-the-barrel prison food without it affecting their bottom line, why change?

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This is all is my grumpy, roundabout way of saying that no, the hamburger at Milestones is not very good.

They have a few on the menu — I went with the Naked Burger, which is described as a “fresh, ground chuck burger seasoned to perfection, topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and our signature house-made burger sauce on a toasted egg bun.”

It was so dry.  I don’t know if the beef was too lean or it was just catastrophically overcooked (I suspect a little from column A, a little from column B) but hot damn was it dry.  It was the type of patty where it’s so dry that it just crumbles into chewy little meat-pellets as you eat it.  It’s the type of patty where you have to reach for your drink every couple of bites because it’s so thoroughly sucking all of the moisture out of your mouth.

The flavour was fine — not particularly beefy, but not bad either.  A little over-peppered, but okay otherwise.

The condiments were all as you’d expect, and the burger sauce (basically a garlicky mayo) did its best to add moisture to a moisture-free zone.  The bun was soft and fresh and would have actually been pretty okay on a better burger.

As for the fries, they were completely soggy, because again: why should they bother?

1.5 out of 4

Milestones - the outside Milestones - the restaurant Milestones - the burger and fries Milestones - the burger

Bareburger

25 Jan

bare
Location
: 111 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://111-dundas-st-w-toronto.bareburger.com/

It makes me really happy when I think about how good it’s gotten for burger-lovers in Toronto over the last several years.  A few years ago, with the dearth of great burger choices in the city, Bareburger would have been a breath of fresh air.  But now?  Not so much.

And Bareburger is a fairly popular chain in the States, with most of its locations around New York City.  I’ve been under the impression that New York had us handily beat in the burger department, but if this place is good enough to thrive there, it might not be so clear-cut.

It’s not even that Bareburger is bad, per se.  It’s fine.  There’s just nothing particularly noteworthy about it.

It’s a nicely designed restaurant, with lots of light coming in from the windows.  Unlike a lot of burger joints in the city, it’s waiter service, with more than just burgers on the menu (and more choices than just beef for the burgers).

You can either pick one of their handful of pre-topped burgers, or you can customize your own.  I went with the Standard: “beef, colby, stout onions, dill pickles, special sauce, brioche bun.”

Like I said, it’s fine.  The griddled burger comes cooked to well done (they say medium well on the menu, but this sucker was gray throughout), and while it was vaguely juicy, it was dryer than I’d like.  It was also a little bit too dense, and somewhat tough.

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The patty has a very mildly beefy flavour, which was entirely wiped out by the burger’s toppings.  In particular, the zesty special sauce completely knocked out any flavour from the beef itself.  It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong — it was just a bit overwhelming.

The other toppings were pretty good as well.  The fully melted colby cheese was mild and creamy, and the caramelized stout onions were dark brown, with a sweet, rich flavour.

I wasn’t as keen on the brioche bun. It was okay, but it was way too dense and substantial for the task at hand.  It was also a good thirty percent wider than the patty itself, leaving me with a ridiculous amount of bun on my plate after the patty was long gone.  Come on, guys.  Seriously.  This is burger making 101.

I feel like I’m piling on more criticism than this place deserves (again, it’s not bad), but I have to mention that it’s alarmingly expensive.  The burgers are all in the 12 to 15 dollar price range, and that doesn’t include a side.  Fries will run you another three bucks.  Factor a drink and a tip on top of that, and you’re looking at spending well north of twenty bucks.  I don’t always pay a ton of attention to this in my reviews, because it’s the quality of the burger that really concerns me, but these prices are a little bit intense, especially considering the only-average quality of the food.

The fries, too, were good but not great.  But hey, let me close things out with a couple of things I really liked.  They have a handful of interesting sodas on the menu — I have a hard time saying no to a unique soda, so obviously I got one.  I went with blueberry, and it was surprisingly good.  The blueberry flavour was really outstanding; it almost tasted like a blueberry pie in soda form.  It was one of the best sodas I’ve had in quite a while.

For dessert, my dining companion ordered the Snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich; I wound up splitting it with him, and oh man was it good.  I think it might even have Bang Bang beat for the title of best ice cream sandwich in the city.  The cookie was cinnamony and chewy, with the absolute perfect ice cream sandwich consistency — dense, but not too dense, with just the right amount of chew.  And the super creamy ice cream had a satisfyingly intense roasted marshmallow flavour — I think it was either from Greg’s, or very similar to what they serve there.  It was the absolute perfect match for that cookie.  I’m not even kidding: you need to go there just for that sandwich.  It was outstanding.

2.5 out of 4

Bareburger - the outside Bareburger - the restaurant Bareburger - the menu Bareburger - the burger and fries Bareburger - the burger Bareburger - the burger
Bareburger on Urbanspoon

Fatburger

8 Jun

fat
Location
10 Disera Drive, Unit 120, Thornhill
Websitehttp://www.fatburgercanada.com/

Fatburger is the latest American burger chain to open their doors in the GTA.    Five Guys is pretty well entrenched at this point, we just got Hwy 55, and Carl’s Jr. is right around the corner.  I’m still waiting for Steak ‘n Shake, Shake Shack, or In-N-Out (fat chance on that one), but we’re doing pretty well as far as fast food burger choices go.

The setup is somewhat similar to Five Guys, but instead of calling out your number when the food is ready, they bring it to your table.

Unlike Five Guys, they have a bunch of elaborately topped burgers on the menu; I went with the Original Fatburger, which comes with lettuce, tomato, mustard, relish, onion (which I skipped, because nuts to onions) and pickles.

Like pretty much every burger joint opening in the GTA these days, the patty is griddle-cooked.  There was some signage on the table proudly proclaiming that they “use the leanest beef around,” which had me concerned that the patty was going to be yet another overly dry burger (just go through the archives if you’d care to read me railing against the tragically common issue of overly lean beef and dried-out burger patties).

Thankfully, the well done burger was actually fairly juicy, so the sign is clearly not particularly accurate — and this is one case where I’m very happy for a restaurant’s claim to be completely untrue.  Lean burgers are nothing to be proud of, or to aim for.

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The patty actually has a pretty great texture; it’s loosely packed, coarsely ground, and fairly juicy.  A more pronounced crust from the griddle would have been nice, but it wasn’t entirely crustless.

My biggest issue is that the flavour of the beef itself was a bit lacking.  It definitely wasn’t bad, but it had that distinctively muddled, not-entirely-appealing flavour that you get from so-so quality beef.  It was fine, but it is a bit of a shame; with slightly tastier beef, this could have been a top-tier hamburger.

The burger was more busily-topped than I normally like, but since the flavour of the beef wasn’t exactly stellar, I was actually pretty happy to have a handful of condiments to smooth things out.  This is not a burger to get plain; in fact if I ever go back I’ll likely opt for cheese as well.

The toppings were all pretty standard, and were fine.  The most noteworthy was the lettuce; it’s a round, whole slice of iceberg that gives the burger a satisfying crunch.  I’ve had lettuce served like this at burger joints in the States, but I don’t think I’ve ever had it in Toronto.  I like it.

The bun was slightly on the dense side, but it was fresh and suited the burger fairly well.

As for the fries, they were pretty bad.  They were McCain (the clearly marked boxes were in full view), and tasted like the blandest, frozeniest frozen fries that I’ve ever had.

Fatburger - the outside Fatburger - the restaurant Fatburger - the burger and fries Fatburger - the burger
Fatburger on Urbanspoon

Chili’s

11 Aug

chilis
Location21 Colossus Drive, Woodbridge
Websitehttp://www.chilis-ontario.com/

I was actually kind of excited when Chili’s opened here back in 2009.  It was a much darker time for a hamburger lover in the GTA; this was pre-Burger’s Priest, Holy Chuck, and the many other burger joints serving quality smashed and griddle-cooked burgers in Toronto.  It was surprisingly difficult to find a decent hamburger cooked in this style.  Almost impossible.  Like I said, it was a dark time.

Chili’s serves through-and-through American food, and of course, this includes a classic diner-style griddled hamburger.  Or at least, it did.  Now?  Not so much.

But when they first opened here, Chili’s served a pretty decent burger.  It wasn’t anything too great, but this being 2009, a griddled burger made with fresh beef and without any onions or spices mixed in was a rare treat.

Fast forward to now.  At some point, the higher-ups at Chili’s must have taken a look at their Canadian competition — dreck like Boston Pizza, Kelsey’s, and Montana’s — and realized that Canadians have very low standards when it comes to casual chain restaurants.  So they switched over from making their burgers fresh to serving prefabricated frozen hamburgers.

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On my most recent visit I ordered the bacon cheeseburger, and it was obvious just looking at it that it was a frozen burger.  It was even more obvious when I tasted it: with its chewy, hot doggy texture and its generically salty, non-beefy flavour, there was absolutely no mistaking it for anything but a frozen patty.  It was pretty bad.

The cheese and bacon were both fine, though they did nothing to disguise the off-putting patty.  The bun, too, was fine (if a bit dense), but again — there is nothing that can disguise that patty.

The burger came with a side of fries that were perfectly okay, but a bit ho-hum.

To me, the unfortunate changeover from fresh to frozen burgers sends a fairly clear message to Canadians.  Chili’s is basically saying “Yeah, we could spend a little bit extra and make our hamburgers with fresh beef, like we used to.  But you people will eat whatever garbage we put in front of you, so why should we?”  And when you look around at the casual chain restaurant landscape, they might just be right.  We will eat whatever garbage they put in front of us; there’s just no other way to explain the baffling success of the execrable Boston Pizza, among others.

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Chili's Grill & Bar (Colossus) on Urbanspoon
(Images of the inside and outside of the restaurant above captured from this video on YouTube. For some reason it completely slipped my mind to take these pictures myself.  Whoops!)

Jack Astor’s

10 Feb

jack
Location1900 The Queensway, Etobicoke
Websitehttp://www.jackastors.com/

This is going to be a short one.  It’s hard to write all that much about a burger that so conclusively straddles that middle ground between good and bad, and that is exactly where this burger falls.  “Meh” is pretty much the perfect word to describe it.

Jack Astor’s is a casual chain restaurant, and as expected from a restaurant such as this, there are burgers on the menu.  I wasn’t expecting much, and I got pretty much exactly what I expected:  a perfectly edible hamburger that is almost instantly forgettable.

I ordered “The Classic,” which is their no-frills burger topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion (which I removed), and mayo.

The burger was fine.  This being a chain place, I had feared that they might serve a frozen burger or a meatloaf burger, but this was thankfully not the case.

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There are a couple of fairly significant issues that keep this burger firmly in the “meh” category.  First, and most predictably, the burger is too dry.  I know I sound like a broken record here; apparently wanting a hamburger to be juicy in Toronto is an unreasonable request, which is actually kind of maddening. But no, I’m not going to get into another rant about overcooking and acceptable fat percentages.  Not for you, Jack Astor’s.  Not for you.

And yes, the burger is overcooked, which just compounds the dryness issue.  The grilled patty is a bit over-charred, resulting in a burger that is a bit too crunchy in spots.  It’s also a little bit too tightly packed and dense, which makes it a tough chew.

The second issue is that it’s a bit bland.  The beef is obviously not the greatest, and while it tastes okay, it doesn’t taste like much.  Add in the fact that if it was seasoned with salt and pepper, I couldn’t taste it, and you’ve got a pretty bland burger.

Otherwise, the toppings were fine, and the fresh brioche bun, though slightly over-toasted, suited the burger well.

All in all, it’s not a bad hamburger — it’s just aggressively unmemorable.

As for the fries, though a tad on the soggy side, they were otherwise quite good.

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Jack Astor's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon