Rose and Sons Swan

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.

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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

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John Anderson’s Charcoal Broil Hamburgers

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.

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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

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Fran’s Restaurant

frans
Location: 20 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.fransrestaurant.com/

I was perusing the menu at Fran’s with no particular desire to order the burger — but then something caught my eye.  On the menu, they claim to have invented the banquet burger.  A banquet burger, for the unaware, is another name for a bacon cheeseburger.

I’m a little bit skeptical that the bacon cheeseburger was created at a diner in Toronto; I’d say it’s more likely that they invented the term banquet burger, but hey, who knows?

Either way, they’ve clearly been serving it for a long, long time (they’ve been around since the ’40s), so I figured I’d be remiss in my burger blogging duties if I didn’t give it a try.

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The menu also states that they make their burger patties with a “special blend of spices and seasoning.”  I’m generally not a fan of burgers with stuff mixed into the patties, so I’m not going to lie: I was skeptical. But you know what? Sometimes places like this can surprise you.

This was not one of those times.

It’s so meatloafy.  Like, crazy meatloafy.  I could talk about how strongly spiced it is, how the flavour of the beef is completely gone. I could talk about how it’s ground way too finely, and has a texture that’s closer to sausage than to hamburger.  I could talk about how a burger like this completely misses the point of what makes a burger so great in the first place.  I could talk about all that, but instead:

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The banquet part of this burger is actually the highlight; the creamy mild cheddar is nicely melty and gooey, and the thick-cut bacon was way above average.  Too bad they’re both resting atop a mediocre patty.

The fries are even worse. At least they put some effort into the burger, even if that effort is ill advised. The fries are just bottom-of-the-barrel frozen fries.  I am continually baffled by how terrible frozen fries like this continue to be served at restaurants.  They taste so lousy, and really, is it that hard to cut a potato into strips?  Get out of here.

1.5 out of 4

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Chef Burger

chef
Location
: 8910 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://www.chefburgers.ca/

Burger?  Check.  Cheeseburger?  Check.  Fries?  Check.  Onion rings?  Check.  Tongue sandwiches?  Check.  Wait, what?

You don’t often find a burger joint with multiple tongue sandwiches on the menu (both calf and lamb), but Chef Burger’s Middle Eastern owners obviously have a bit more on their mind than just burgers and fries.

I was actually kind of tempted to get one of those tongue sandwiches, but then how would I satisfy my insatiable need to review more and more burger joints for this blog?  I ordered the namesake Chef Burger, and had it topped with their special sauce, along with pickles and tomato.

The grilled, well done burger is somewhat juicy, but it’s too finely ground, giving it a vaguely mealy texture.  I’ve certainly had worse in this regard, but I do wish that the grind was a little bit more coarse.

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It’s also a meatloaf burger — but as far as these types of burgers go, the flavouring is pretty subtle.  I definitely noticed onions in there, but it otherwise wasn’t very aggressively spiced.  You’d think this would allow the burger’s beefy flavour to shine through, but not really.  It’s surprisingly bland.  It doesn’t taste bad, but it’s very neutral-tasting beef.

Any issue with the flavour of the burger itself, however, is almost entirely moot if you get your burger topped with their special sauce — a garlicky, tzatziki-esque concoction that, while tasty, completely overwhelms any other flavour that the burger might have.  It’s good, but man, it is seriously in your face.

The other toppings are pretty good, and the bun is surprisingly good.  It looks like it should be too big, but it’s fresh, light, and fluffy, and suits the burger perfectly.  It also has a very lightly crispy exterior, which is always delightful.

The fries, however, aren’t great.  They’re not terrible; they’re just run-of-the-mill frozen fries.  They suit their purpose, but don’t do much more than that.  My dining companion got the onion rings, which are pretty much the same deal: frozen, mediocre, okay.

2.5 out of 4

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The Burger Shack

shack
Location: 233 Eglinton Avenue West, Toronto
Website: None

I mentioned recently, in my review of Dangerous Dan’s, that most old-school burger joints in Toronto are kind of lousy.  They all pretty much look the same, and they all serve similarly mediocre meatloaf burgers (or even worse, a frozen burger).  They’re a nice reminder of how good we have it now, and how difficult it used to be to find a decent hamburger in this city, but that’s about it.

That’s The Burger Shack, in a nutshell.  It’s not much better or much worse than any other old-school burger joint in the GTA.  It is what it is.

Like a lot of restaurants of its ilk, it has two different burgers on the menu: a really cheap one, usually frozen, and a slightly less cheap one that they make in-house.  I went with the latter, and had it topped with tomato, pickles, and mayo.

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This being an old school burger joint, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the burgers here are grilled.  Grilling can add an appealing smokiness to a burger; it can also, if overdone, add a bitter, burnt flavour.  Sadly, that was the case here.  And though the well done patty was a little bit juicy, it was also ridiculously tightly-packed and tough.

It was also, of course, a meatloaf burger; it was seriously meatloafy, with almost zero beefy flavour and a vaguely sausage-like consistency.

The bun was fine, and the toppings were mostly fine, though like with a lot of old school burger joints, the “mayo” was actually Miracle Whip (or some cheap, Miracle-Whip-like substitute).  I don’t know why so many of these places think it’s okay to substitute Miracle Whip for mayo without telling their customers.  Sure, they look the same, but they taste completely different.

So the burger was mediocre (at best), but I’ll end this review on a positive note.  The fries, though unsalted (salt was provided on the tables), were otherwise amazing.  Like, seriously, addictively amazing.  Strong contender for the best fries I’ve ever had amazing.  AMAZING.  They had a great potatoey flavour, and were the perfect combo of crispiness and creaminess.  Seriously: I want to come back here and just eat a large order of those fries.  So good.

2 out of 4

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