The Wilcox Gastropub

The Wilcox GastropubLocation: 30 Eglinton Avenue West, Mississauga
Website: https://www.thewilcox.ca/

I’ve certainly had worse burgers than the one they serve at The Wilcox, but it’s rare that I eat one that feels so thoroughly misguided on every level.

The Wilcox Burger: “wilcox chuck, brioche, goat cheese, roast red pepper, crispy onions, tomato, arugula.”

The Wilcox Gastropub

I should start with the patty itself, which has been griddled all the way to well done and then some.  It has a nice crust on its exterior, but the meat is gray and dry and punishing.  It’s the type of burger where you have to be careful not to take big bites, because it’s like trying to eat a pile of saltines — your mouth just can’t produce enough moisture to deal with it.

The Wilcox Gastropub

The flavour is an upgrade over the texture, but it’s not great.  This is a kitchen sink burger where the taste of the beef is basically moot, but in the few bites I got of the patty alone, it wasn’t much to write home about.  The beef is bland but inoffensive.

The Wilcox Gastropub

Then there’s the goat cheese.  I mentioned this in my review of the burger at The Daughter, but you almost never see goat cheese on a cheeseburger, and there’s a reason why.  The intense salty flavour and crumbly texture completely overpower the beef.

All of the other toppings are fine, in theory, but the configuration in which they’re applied here just doesn’t work.  The mix of flavours is discordant and vaguely unpleasant.  They clash.  The whole thing feels wrong in a way that’s hard to put your finger on.  It’s off.

The Wilcox Gastropub

I came at brunch, so instead of fries, the burger comes with potato hash.  The cubes are deep fried, so they basically taste like crispy fries in a slightly different shape.  They’re quite tasty.

1.5 out of 4

The Commoner

The CommonerLocation: 2067 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.thecommonerrestaurant.ca/

Here’s a classic good news / bad news type of situation.  The good news: The Commoner seems like it’s a quality restaurant.  It’s quite popular, and most of the food they served when I visited was very good.

The bad news: the hamburger.  It’s not great.

The Commoner

The Commoner cheeseburger, as per the menu: “Brioche. Lettuce. Tomato. Pickles. Onion. Provolone. Dijon Mayo.”

Nothing about the burger is awful, but nothing is particularly good, either.

The patty is grilled (I think? It’s got that char flavour that you typically only get from the grill, but it’s possible that it was just enthusiastically griddled), and while it’s cooked all the way to well done, it’s fairly juicy.  But the texture is off — I think the grind is too fine — and it’s a little bit tough.

The Commoner

The flavour of the beef is another issue.  It’s generally inoffensive, but it also has a mild gaminess.  It’s not in your face, but it’s there, and it’s unpleasant.

I can maybe forgive the shoddy flavour of the meat; it’s possible that they got an iffy batch from an otherwise quality supplier.  What I can’t forgive, however?  The cardinal sin of  cheeseburger cookery: the cheese isn’t fully melted.  In my world, that would be a crime punishable by serious jail time.  Get out of here with that.

The Commoner

Then there’s the brioche bun.  I knew it was trouble as soon as I cut into it; it’s dry and dense.  Again, I’ve certainly had worse, but it’s not great.

Everything else was fine, though the Dijon mayo was somewhat overpowering.

The Commoner

It’s not a great burger, sadly.  On the other hand: my dining companion had the huevos rancheros and said it was the best he’s ever had, and the fries that came with the burger were spectacularly delicious.  French fry perfection.  So there’s that, at least.

2 out of 4

Maison Selby

Maison SelbyLocation: 592 Sherbourne Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.maisonselby.com/

As far as I’m concerned, a great burger doesn’t need much when it comes to toppings.  Is the the patty made from good quality beef?  Is it juicy?  If the answer to both of those questions is yes (and the answer to both of those questions should always be yes), then please just step out of the way and let the burger do its thing.

Sure, throw a couple of toppings on there that enhance or compliment the beef — but that’s it.  A lot of chefs tend to overthink it or want to put their own stamp on a tried-and-true dish.  Don’t do that.  The beef is the star.  It’s been the star for over a hundred years.  You’re not better than that kind of history.  If the toppings are getting in the way of what makes a burger great, you’re doing it wrong.

Maison Selby

Of course, I probably should have known that something called a “French Onion Beef Chuck Burger” would be over-condimented.   But how could I resist?  French onion soup is delicious.  Hamburgers are delicious.  Surely combining the two should be delicious?

And yeah, it kinda is.  That’s the thing.  This was a Tasty Burger.  But it was all about the toppings.

Maison Selby

In my defense, caramelized onions and gooey cheese are both a hamburger’s best friend, so I had high hopes for this.  But the sharp Gruyère was way too assertive, as was the voluminous pile of rich, flavourful onions (not to mention the dijonnaise, which adds another strong flavour into the mix).

It’s too bad, because the patty was decent.  The waiter asked if medium was okay, but it actually came out closer to medium rare — a delightful surprise.  And it was quite juicy.  But even aside from the fact that it was way over-condimented, the quality of the beef itself was only so-so.

Maison Selby

That’s pretty much moot, however — the only way I was able to tell what the patty tasted like was by specifically pulling out a piece so I could try it on its own.  Underneath all of those assertive toppings, the patty is more about its texture than anything else.  And the texture is great.

I don’t know.  I’m probably just being a curmudgeon and/or a burger snob.  I enjoyed eating the burger at Maison Selby.  It tastes good.  But for all the creativity on display, is it better than a plain burger that’s well prepared and made with great quality beef?  No.  No it is not.

As for the fries, they could have been fresher, but were otherwise quite tasty.  In particular, the herby aioli that comes on the side is fantastic.

3 out of 4

Avenue Open Kitchen

Avenue Open KitchenLocation: 7 Camden Street, Toronto
Website: https://aveopenkitchen.ca/

I probably shouldn’t like the burger at Avenue Open Kitchen quite as much as I did — mostly because it’s a meatloaf burger, which isn’t my favourite style of hamburger, putting it mildly.

Actually, no, that description doesn’t quite cut it; it’s not just a meatloaf burger.  It is the meatloafiest of meatloaf burgers.  The patty absolutely slaps you in the face with its oddly sweet, heavily-seasoned flavour.  The taste of the beef?  Completely gone.

So, I hated it, right?  Well, about that…

Avenue Open Kitchen

It’s otherwise so well prepared, I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

I had heard that that the banquet burger is the thing to order here, so that’s what I got.  And yeah, that’s what you should be getting; the bacon is nice and crispy and the gooey American cheese is perfectly melted.  Bonus: their saltiness helps to balance the sweetness of the patty.

Avenue Open Kitchen

That patty is quite sweet, though.  It’s so weird.  I’m guessing they’ve mixed in some kind of sweet sauce into the beef?  It’s not bad, per se, but it’s strange.

Avenue Open Kitchen

Still, everything else about the patty is so right that it almost makes up for the wrongness of the flavour — its got a great crispy crust from the griddle, it’s very juicy, and the texture is on point (it’s slightly too soft, but that’s par for the course for a meatloaf burger).

The toppings are the usual suspects, and the soft, fluffy bun suits the burger perfectly.

Avenue Open Kitchen

As for the fries, they’re nothing to write home about, but they’re solid.

3 out of 4

Gourmand’s Burger

Gourmand's Burger (Gourmand 5AD)Location: 3100 Winston Churchill Boulevard, Mississauga
Website: http://www.gourmand5ad.ca/

It’s hard to get too excited about yet another place serving a smashed and griddled fast-food-style hamburger.  Unlike Toronto, however, Mississauga is still quite burger-starved.  There are exceptions, like Gladiator Burger and the now-ubiquitous Burger’s Priest, but great burgers are still something of a rarity in this city.

So fine, another smashed burger?  If it’s in the wilds of Mississauga?  Yeah, bring it on.

Gourmand's Burger (Gourmand 5AD)

(And yes, it’s bizarre that there are two burger joints in Mississauga with an ancient Rome theme, but as far as I can tell, this place and Gladiator Burger have no affiliation.)

Normally I’d order a restaurant’s namesake burger, but in this case the Gourmand is topped with cheese, bacon, fried onions, mushrooms, garlic aioli, and an egg.  It’s a bit much.  So I went with the simple cheeseburger instead.

The pricing is wonky; the plain cheeseburger actually costs less than the plain hamburger, at six bucks versus nine bucks.  I was told that this is because the classic burger comes with condiments (lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles), and the cheeseburger doesn’t.

Gourmand's Burger (Gourmand 5AD)

Which means that they charge for even no-frills toppings like lettuce or tomato, or at least I’m assuming they do; I should have asked, but I was too busy being flabbergasted that a plain burger cost more than a cheeseburger.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever been to a burger joint that charged for basic condiments, but based on what my bill came up to, it seems like that’s the case.

I ordered the cheeseburger and had it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.  Which I had to pay for, I guess??

Gourmand's Burger (Gourmand 5AD)

It’s a solid burger.  The patty has a nice crust from the griddle, it’s juicy, and it’s got a fairly pronounced beefy flavour.  It’s not bad at all.

But the beef is way too finely ground; combined with the fact that they cook it all the way to well done, it gives the patty a slightly mealy texture.

Gourmand's Burger (Gourmand 5AD)

The cheddar-Jack cheese has a nice mild flavour, and would have suited the burger well if it were melted all the way through.  Alas.

The other condiments (which I paid extra for???) were fine, and the bun is what it looks like; it was fresh, lightly toasted, and suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they’re quite good.  They’re nicely cooked, and they have a very pleasant rosemary-tinged flavour.

3 out of 4

Ronto’s Burger

Ronto's BurgerLocation: 772 College Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.rontos.ca/

Generally speaking, if a burger joint exists in the GTA, I want to review it.  It makes no difference to me whether I’ve heard good things / bad things / nothing about it.  My impossible goal is to review every burger place in Toronto, though obviously that’s an epic task that I’ll never complete.

So the fact that I hadn’t heard a single thing about Ronto’s Burger certainly didn’t deter me from checking it out, though it did make me skeptical that it was going to be particularly great.

Ronto's Burger

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have been skeptical; Ronto’s Burger is surprisingly fantastic.

I ordered the namesake Ronto’s Burger: “One beef patty, Ronto’s sauce, lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomato, onions.”

It’s a griddled six ounce patty; it’s slightly more substantial than the typical smashed burger that’s so common in the city, and the added substance is quite nice.

Ronto's Burger

The patty is really good; it’s got a pronounced crust from the griddle and it’s abundantly juicy despite being cooked to well done.  The texture is right where it should be, with coarsely ground beef that hasn’t been overhandled.  It’s great.

It’s not the beefiest tasting patty I’ve ever had, but the beefy flavour is definitely there, and it’s quite satisfying.  I wish it hadn’t been cooked all the way to well done — it’s ever-so-slightly tough — but considering how good it is otherwise, that’s a minor complaint.

Ronto's Burger

Though the menu calls the cheese cheddar, it’s clearly American, which definitely isn’t a bad thing.  It’s gooey, salty, and perfect for this type of burger.

The Ronto’s sauce wasn’t my favourite, however.  It’s fine — it’s actually quite tasty.  It’s the usual zesty, Mac-Sauce-esque concoction, but it’s a bit too zesty for its own good.  It overpowers the beef, which is a shame when the patty is this delicious.

Ronto's Burger

The nicely toasted, soft and fluffy bun is mostly perfect, aside from being slightly too wide for the patty.

As for the fries, they’re generic battered, frozen fries, but they’re well prepared and tasty enough for what they are.  They come with a little container of Ronto’s sauce for dipping; that stuff works much, much better with fries than on the burger.

3.5 out of 4

Station Bar & Kitchen

Station Bar & KitchenLocation: 866 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.stationcafe.ca/

The burger at Station Bar & Kitchen is solid.  I’ve had better and I’ve definitely had worse.  Nothing about it particularly stands out, but if you’re looking for a hamburger, it’s there.  It exists, and it won’t make you sad.

I know that’s faint praise, but what are you going to do?  Not every burger can be a home run.

Station Bar & Kitchen

The “Station Cheese Burger,” per their menu: “7 ounce beef brisket patty ground in-house with our secret spice mix, on a toasted brioche burger bun with house made burger sauce and a slice of melted cheddar.  Topped with lettuce, tomato and onions.”

The reference to a spice mix had me worried; this has been discussed ad nauseam on this blog, but once you mix spices directly into a hamburger patty, it starts losing its essential burgeriness.  It becomes meatloaf.

Station Bar & Kitchen

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here.  Though I think they had mixed spices into the patty, it was done subtly enough that it wasn’t particularly an issue.

The griddled, medium-well patty was pretty decent — most notably, it was juicy, and the texture of the grind was pretty much exactly where it should be.  It also had some crust from the griddle.  It’s a solid patty.

Station Bar & Kitchen

I wish the beef itself had more flavour, however.  The flavour certainly isn’t bad, but there’s such a distinct lack of beefiness that I briefly wondered if pork was involved.

Everything else was pretty good, from the nicely toasted bun to the zesty mayo-based burger sauce and the mild, melty cheddar.

As for the fries, they’re quite tasty, and come with a little container of gravy that makes for a delightful dipping sauce.

3 out of 4