Tag Archives: diner

Harry’s Charcoal Broil

2 Apr


Location
: 160 Springhurst Avenue, Toronto
Website: None

So I’ve actually been having a pretty amazing run of excellent hamburgers — five out of the last six burgers I’ve eaten for this blog have been seriously delicious, with one contender for the best burger in the city.  And when I picked Harry’s for my next review, I felt extremely confident that the streak would continue.

Harry’s is an old school diner that was recently taken over by Grant van Gameren, one of the best chefs in the city whose resume includes places like the Black Hoof and Bar Isabel.  To say that I was excited to try the man’s take on the classic cheeseburger would be quite the understatement.

I haven’t been this disappointed by a hamburger since the great Piano Piano debacle of ’16.  How do Toronto’s best chefs keep on messing up hamburgers so badly??

Harry’s has a few burgers on the menu; I ordered the Plain Jane, a no frills cheeseburger topped with pickles, onions, and ketchup.

You can’t really tell from the shoddy pictures (it was kinda dark in there), but it looked good, at least.  Despite the restaurant’s name, it’s a smashed-and-griddled burger (because of course it is), and it had exactly the type of dark brown crust you want to see.

The patty is off, though.  The taste and the texture are both just… wrong.  It had a chewy, sausagey texture that makes it immediately apparent that something is amiss in the kitchen.  I don’t think they mixed any spices into the beef, however, I’m pretty positive that they mixed salt right in with the ground beef — a pretty flagrant burger no-no that results in a burger whose texture is closer to a sausage than a traditional hamburger.

The taste, also, was off.  I’ve had worse, but instead of the satisfying beefy flavour you expect from decent quality meat, the taste was just muddled.  It was neither here nor there; a whole lot of nothing.  It wasn’t altogether unpleasant to eat, but it was one of those burgers that had me furrowing my brow with every bite.  “Why does it taste like this?  What is this flavour?  Where’s the beef?”

(Yes, this burger had me quoting a 30 year old advertising slogan.  Though technically the beef was there, but where was the flavour?)

It was topped with a very McDonald’s-esque combination of ketchup, melty American cheese, tiny little onion bits, and pickles.  I’m normally not a big fan of ketchup on a burger, but they didn’t overdo it here; combined with the other toppings, it worked.

The bun was a pretty classic soft-and-squishy fast food style bun; it was mostly pretty great, but it was a bit too big for the very diminutive patty.  The beef-to-bun ratio was off.

As for the fries, I kinda thought they’d be lousy when I first saw them; they’re the thick-and-chunky style that I’m not a big fan of.  But they were perfectly cooked, with a crisp exterior and a tender interior.  They were great.

One more thing: when I was looking up Grant van Gameren for this review, I found this 2014 interview with the man from BlogTO.  They asked him for one food trend that needs to end, and he gave a very simple one-word answer: burgers.  And suddenly it all seemed so clear.  This hamburger tastes like a burger made by a guy who would give that answer.  Someone who doesn’t quite get what makes a great hamburger so special.

You know that old saying about how when you cook with love, it shows?  Well it’s also pretty apparent when the opposite is true.

2 out of 4

Harry's Charcoal Broil - the outside Harry's Charcoal Broil - the restaurant Harry's Charcoal Broil - the burger and fries Harry's Charcoal Broil - the burger

Skyline Restaurant

19 Mar


Location
: 1426 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.theskylinetoronto.com/

I wasn’t crazy about the Skyline Restaurant on my first visit, but that was before the recent change in ownership; I figured another try was probably in order.

My first impression was how delightfully cheap the burger is; for twelve bucks with a hefty side of fries, it’s very much on the low end of what you’d expect to pay from a restaurant like this in Toronto.

It’s a no-frills hamburger, topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, and mayo.  The waitress asked if medium was okay; it was.  And the grilled patty was indeed cooked to a perfect medium, with a rosy pink interior.

Griddled burgers are so ubiquitous in this city that a grilled burger is almost a novelty these days.  I like a griddled burger as much as the next guy, but cooking a hamburger patty on a grill gives it a bit of a smoky flavour and a unique character, so it’s always nice to have that option.

It’s especially nice when the burger is as good as it is here; with its satisfying punch of beefy flavour, it’s very obvious that they’re using above-average beef.  It’s not the juiciest burger that I’ve ever had, but it’s very far from dry, and the texture was about 95% where it should be (it was just a bit too finely ground, making it ever-so-slightly tougher than it needed to be, but that’s a very minor complaint).

The toppings were mostly quite good, though the very thickly-sliced tomato was a bit mealy.  And the soft, fresh bun — lightly toasted — suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they were amazing.  Perfectly crisp and perfectly tender, with just the right amount of salt — very close to fry perfection.

3.5 out of 4

Skyline Diner - the sign Skyline Diner - the restaurant Skyline Diner - the burger and fries Skyline Diner - the burger and fries Skyline Diner - the burger

Royale’s Luncheonette

22 May

royales
Location
: 1418 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.royalesluncheonette.com/

I like surprises.  Actually no; scratch that.  I like pleasant surprises.

This was supposed to be a review of the burger at The Federal, but they were absolutely slammed, with a half hour wait.  So we walked a few shops over and found ourselves at Royale’s Luncheonette, with absolutely no idea what to expect.  I’m definitely looking forward to checking out the burger at the Federal, but man am I glad they were so busy on this particular day.  Because spoiler alert: Royale’s was a very pleasant surprise.

It’s a tiny little place with just a couple of tables. The menu is posted on the wall, and you order at the counter.  The burger is dubbed the Royale with Cheese.  Given the name and rating system on this blog, I think you can guess that I approve of the reference.

It’s a fast-food-style burger done right: griddled patty, melty American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickle and tomato.  It’s topped with a sauce that, if you’ve ever had a Big Mac, is going to taste very familiar.

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I honestly wasn’t expecting all that much from this place, but I was surprised by how good it was.  The patty had a good amount of crust from the griddle, and when cooked to a pleasing medium, retained an impressive amount of juiciness.  It also had a nice, beefy flavour that easily cut through the zesty sauce.  Beefy flavour?  Juicy patty?  Not overcooked?  Why, I believe it’s time to do the dance of joy!

It wasn’t completely perfect, however.  It was way too small for the bun — the circumference of the patty was probably about two thirds of the circumference of the bread, leaving you with a lot of bun overhang.  That was a shame, as was the grind of the beef, which was ever-so-slightly too fine.  But those are minor complaints for what is otherwise a superb burger.

The lightly toasted Wonderbread bun (I could see the bag in the tiny open kitchen) suited the very unpretentious burger quite well, as did the classic burger toppings — though I wish there had been slightly less of the Big Mac-esque sauce.

No fries on the menu, sadly (I doubt that the ridiculously tiny kitchen could even accommodate a fryer), but when the burger is this good, it speaks for itself.

3.5 out of 4

royales1 Royale's - the restaurant royales3 Royale's - the burger

Rose and Sons Swan

6 Dec

swan
Location
: 892 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.roseandsonsswan.com/

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.

swanA

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

John Anderson’s Charcoal Broil Hamburgers

21 Jun

anderson
Location
: 1069 Dundas Street West, Mississauga
Website: None

Mediocre frozen burger, mediocre frozen fries, THE END.

Seriously, I think I’ve written enough of these at this point that I really don’t need to go much further than that.  I could just point you in the direction of any number of reviews I’ve written of places that serve mediocre, industrially-produced frozen burgers just like this one.

I wouldn’t be surprised if all the old-school burger joints serving crappy frozen burgers get them from the same supplier, so can’t I just cut-and-paste the same review every time?  Why should I go to the trouble of writing a review from scratch when they can’t be bothered to make a burger from scratch (which is, I should add, probably the easiest thing you can make, so WTF)?

The sad thing is, I discovered this place through random “best burger in Mississauga” searches; clearly, the burger boom that’s hit Toronto in the last few years has left Mississauga almost entirely untouched.

andersonA

John Anderson has a regular burger and a “Big Puck” burger on the menu.  I was told that they’re both exactly the same aside from the size, so I went with the regular, and had it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.

I’m not particularly going to get into it, because why should I, but it was a frozen burger and it tasted like so many other frozen burgers: it had the same overly-processed hot dog texture, and the same disturbing lack of any kind of beefy flavour.

The bun was fine and the toppings were fine — though again, like with so many other old-school burger joints, the mayo is actually Miracle Whip, which I’ve just come to expect at this point.

As for the aforementioned frozen fries, they were well-prepared and slightly better than average, but they were still pretty lifeless compared to the real deal.

1.5 out of 4

John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the outside John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the outside John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the restaurant John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the restaurant John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the burger and fries John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the burger