lbs.


Location
: 100 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://lbstoronto.com/

You know when you’re watching a movie, and it kind of sucks, but the lead actor is clearly trying really hard and actually giving a great performance? And it’s a shame, because all of that quality acting is wasted on such a middling film? That’s pretty much how I feel about the burger at lbs.

Not that the burger is even particularly bad; it’s actually fairly good. But it could have very, very easily been great.

The lbs burger, as per the menu: “6oz brisket + aged cheddar + bacon rasher + kozlicks mustard + house pickles + brioche bun.”

If nothing else, the patty is amazing; extending my strained “great actor in a bad movie” metaphor to this hamburger, the patty is the actor. It’s so, so good.

It’s cooked to a nice pink medium with an enviable amount of crust from the griddle. That crust isn’t just for show, either; it adds a great amount of crispiness that contrasts very nicely with the tender beef. And the beef itself is coarsely ground and loosely packed — the texture is perfect.

It’s also super juicy, with a ridiculously satisfying wallop of buttery, beefy flavour.

It’s a great patty, no doubt about it. Everything else, on the other hand…

There’s way, way, way too much going on. Between the very liberally applied strong mustard, the abundant sharp cheddar, the vinegary pickles, and the sweet caramelized onions (which are unmentioned on the menu, but quite abundant), the amazing flavour of the patty is absolutely buried. It’s gone. It never had a chance.

And that cheese. Yikes. There’s so damn much of it, it’s so intensely flavoured, and it’s completely cold and unmelted. It’s just a big old slab of cold, crumbly cheese that absolutely dominates the hamburger’s other flavours.  It drops trou and takes a metaphorical dump all over that magnificent patty. Even if it were melted, it would have been too much and too strong — but unmelted? Unmelted it’s ruinous.

I’ve ranted about cold cheese on a burger a few times before, so I won’t do it again. I’ll just say that clammy, unmelted cheese on a hamburger is horrible, and if you’re serving a burger like this, you should feel horrible. It almost single-handedly ruins this hamburger.

There’s also a thin slice of back bacon, which is fine, but it’s completely overwhelmed by the burger’s stronger flavours.  I could barely even taste it.

Then there’s the bun, which in theory is great — soft, fresh, and slightly sweet. But the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink burger has way too much going on; the soft bun just can’t handle it. By the last few bites, it had almost completely disintegrated into sodden mush.

Still, as much as this burger bums me out, it was good; I enjoyed it.  It’s a bit on the pricey side at 22 bucks, but the quality of the patty was so good that I can still easily recommend it, but with a big, fat asterisk.*

The fries also make this easy to recommend.  They’re crispy, creamy, salty, and perfect.  They’re some of the best fries I’ve had in a while.

*The toppings try their best to ruin it.

3 out of 4

Lbs. - the outside Lbs. - the restaurant Lbs. - the burger Lbs. - the burger

Colette Grand Cafe

colette
Location
: 550 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.colettetoronto.com/

You wouldn’t think Colette Grand Cafe — which is mostly about brunch, and pastries, and classic French food like duck confit and moules frites — would have a great burger.  It must just be there because a burger is obligatory on pretty much every menu, right?

Wrong.

The burger at Colette Grand Cafe (which is kind of insufferably named “L’Hamburger”) is indeed pretty great.  The menu describes it as coming topped with “farmhouse cheddar, pepper bacon, tomato jam, bibb lettuce, dijonnaise.”

It’s always a good sign when they ask you how you want your burger cooked; I went with medium rare, and yep, the burger came cooked medium rare.

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I’ll get the worst out of the way first: normally I’d mention whether the patty was griddled or grilled, but in this case I’m honestly not sure.  There was pretty much zero browning on the surface of the patty, so it’s tough to say.  That’s certainly not a good thing, but the patty was otherwise pretty tasty, with a good texture and a mild beefy flavour.

I also quite liked the melty, mild cheddar cheese — places like this are often inclined to get a bit too fancy for their own good, and wind up with a cheese that overpowers the patty.  That wasn’t the case here.

It’s hard to go wrong with bacon, and the smoky, thickly-sliced version on this burger didn’t disappoint.

The dijonnaise, on the other hand, was a bit overpowering.  Probably a good idea to ask for that on the side.

The other condiments were all solid, including pickled onions, which the menu doesn’t mention (it’s a fairly rich burger, so some form of pickle is certainly welcome to help balance that out).  And the sesame seed bun was slightly sweet, fresh, and held up nicely to the fairly substantial hamburger.

As for the thinly-cut fries, they were a tad soggy, but were otherwise pretty tasty, with a tinge of rosemary and a dipping sauce that was packed with even more rosemary flavour (yeah, they really love rosemary on their fries here, apparently).

3.5 out of 4

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Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill

oliver
Location
: 33 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.oliverbonacini.com/Yonge-Front.aspx

The last burger I tried from an O&B joint was thoroughly forgettable, but when I found myself at Café Grill, I figured, sure, why not?  I’m here, the burger is here, let’s do this.

(And I did debate whether I should even be reviewing more than one O&B restaurant, or if all their locations count as one big chain.  But since each menu seems to be completely different, I think they’re all fair game.)

Though I approach each burger I eat hoping for the best, I sort of figured the burger here would be much like the one I had from O&B Canteen — passable, but mediocre.

As it turns out, I was longing for the comparative delights of “passable, but mediocre.”

olivera

The Café Grill calls their hamburger the Smashed Ground Chuck Burger, and it comes topped with “housemade BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar, iceberg lettuce, special sauce.”

I rant about overly dry patties all the time on this blog, and I really don’t feel like doing it again right now.  I’ll just say this: the griddled patty was punishingly gray throughout and was devoid of anything even resembling moisture.  It was also really substantial, making each mouthful a bit of an ordeal.

It actually tasted pretty okay, but since it had the approximate texture of a bunch of mashed-up saltines held together with glue, does it matter?

And though the bun was a bit over-toasted and more dense than it needed to be, the toppings were all tasty enough.  But again: dry saltines.  Glue.  Agony.

Oh, and it also cost 19 bucks, putting it on the more expensive end of burgers in the GTA.

As for the thickly-cut fries, they were quite good.  Nothing too special, but they were solid French fries.

1.5 out of 4

Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the restaurant Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the restaurant Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the burger and fries Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the burger

Rick’s Good Eats

rick
Location
: 6660 Kennedy Road, Mississauga
Website: https://www.facebook.com/RicksGoodEats/

Remember that Food Network reality show where people competed to have their recipes featured in grocery stores? One of the best things to come out of that show was a butter chicken lasagna (trust me, it’s a lot better than it sounds), and the guy who made that has apparently used some of his winnings to open his own restaurant in Mississauga.   Not surprisingly, the menu features Indian-fusion dishes like butter chicken mac and cheese, cinnamon toast matri, and of course, a hamburger.

So, it’s near my work, looks interesting, and has a burger on the menu? Yeah, I’m all over that.

Their burger is dubbed the Punjabi Cheeseburger, and comes topped with “melted cheddar, fresh tomato, sautéed onion & Achari mayo.”

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Given the Indian-fusion label, I sort of figured this was going to be a meatloaf burger, with spices and other stuff mixed into the patty. And yeah, it’s probably the meatloafiest meatloaf burger I’ve had in a while.

I’m certainly on the record as not being a big fan of this style of hamburger, but you know what? If you’re going to make a meatloaf burger, this is the way to do it. Yes, the aggressive spicing completely wipes out all of the beef’s natural flavours, but the patty is otherwise right where it should be — it’s got a nice texture (which can be especially problematic with this style of burger), a good amount of crust from the grill (at least I think it was grilled — it was tough to tell with all the stuff going on), and was actually pretty juicy.

And even the taste, which is about as far from classic hamburger as you can get, was quite good for what it was. It’s not subtle at all — it’s pretty much a face-punch of Indian flavours — but it’s really satisfying.

The toppings — including melty, mild cheddar and the tasty Achari mayo — all suited the burger quite well, as did the soft, fresh, and lightly toasted sesame seed bun.

As for the fries, they were of the battered variety — also not my favourite, but also done quite well.  They’ve got that crispy/creamy combo in spades, and were dusted with a tasty (and not overwhelming) spice mixture.

3 out of 4

Rick's Good Eats - the outside Rick's Good Eats - the restaurant Rick's Good Eats - the burger and fries Rick's Good Eats - the burger Rick's Good Eats - the burger

Jamie’s Italian

jamie
Location
: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (Square One)
Website: https://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/canada/

I know, a place with “Italian” right in the name probably isn’t the most obvious place to order a hamburger.  And I just got burned by an Italian place with a hamburger inexplicably on the menu.  So you’d think I’d learn.

But you know what?  Maybe I’ll never learn, because the burger at Jamie’s Italian is actually pretty darn good.

And it had better be — it’s not cheap.  It’s sixteen bucks on its own; twenty if you want fries.  That’s not exactly unreasonable by the standards of a nicer restaurant, but it’s still a decent chunk of change.  You’re throwing down the gauntlet if you’re charging that much for a hamburger.  You’re asking for extra scrutiny.

The Jamie’s Italian Burger is described as follows: “Juicy Prince Edward Island beef, balsamic onions, aged Cheddar, tomato & homade mostarda mayo.”

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Yeah, it’s good.  My biggest complaint is that the texture of grilled patty — which is cooked all the way to well done — is a bit off.  The grind is slightly too fine, and it’s a bit dry.  Still, it does have some juiciness to it, and as far as the texture goes, I’ve certainly had worse.

The patty is otherwise really tasty — it’s got a nice smoky flavour from the grill, but nothing too overbearing (as some grilled burgers tend to be).  It’s also got a mild but satisfying beefy flavour.

The toppings are pretty good too.  Aged cheddar’s stronger flavour can sometimes be a bit much on a burger, but here it worked pretty well.  And of course, caramelized onions are pretty much a hamburger’s best friend, so yeah, they worked pretty well too.

The bun looks way too big for the patty, but it’s light enough and fluffy enough that it never feels overwhelming.

As for the fries, the waitress suggested the polenta chips over the traditional fries, and I figured yeah, why not?  They were a touch on the bland side (they either needed more of the rosemary and shredded parmesan that they were topped with, or some kind of dipping sauce), but otherwise were crispy, creamy, and really tasty.

3.5 out of 4

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