Mama’s Boys Burgers

Mama's Boys BurgersLocation: 480 Danforth Road, Scarborough
Website: None

If nothing else, I have to give kudos to Mama’s Boys Burgers for doing something a bit different.  They serve a grilled burger that, at six ounces, is a bit heftier than the small griddle-smashed patties that are de rigueur in the city.

They also have a small griddle-smashed burger, because this is Toronto, so of course — but the grilled burger is there, and it’s called the Mama, so it’s the specialty.

Mama's Boys Burgers

I ordered the Mama’s Signature, which is a double cheeseburger with bacon and caramelized onions.  You can get it topped with your choice of condiments (I went with Mama sauce, pickles, and tomato).

I need to mention the caramelized onions first, because holy crap, those onions.  They’re so sweet.  It’s overwhelming.  They’re syrupy and cloying and in your face.  I’m pretty sure I have diabetes now.  Is that how diabetes works?  Because if it is, I have it.  Most desserts aren’t that sweet.

Mama's Boys Burgers

It overwhelms everything else to an almost absurd degree.  For the first few bites I assumed they were mixing sugar right into the meat; the sweetness is so pervasive I thought it had to be coming from the patties themselves.  It’s bonkers.

The patties aren’t bad, though I literally had to pull a piece right out of the bun to even tell what they tasted like.  They don’t have much of a beefy flavour, and they’re definitely too finely ground (they’re a bit tough), but they’re fairly juicy and agreeable enough.  They also have a bit of a smoky flavour from the grill, but again, it’s completely wiped out by the sugary onions.

Mama's Boys Burgers

The other issue is the slice of mild Cheddar.  They put it on top of the onions instead of right onto the patty, so it never gets hot enough to fully melt.  I’m sorry, but that means that this isn’t actually a cheeseburger — it’s a hamburger with a slice of cheese on it.  The only way for a hamburger to make the magical transformation into a cheeseburger is for the cheese to melt and mingle with the beef.

The other toppings are fine, though again, they’re lost in the unforgiving deluge of sugar.  I was only able to identify the Mama sauce as garlic mayo by trying it on its own.  Otherwise I just couldn’t tell.  I wish I was exaggerating about how overwhelming the onions were.  It’s madness.

Mama's Boys Burgers

As for the fries, they’re slightly underseasoned, but are otherwise very good.  They’re quite thick, but they’re perfectly crispy and creamy.  They were easily the highlight.

2.5 out of 4

Cabano’s Comfort Food

Cabano's Comfort FoodLocation: 75 St. Nicholas Street, Toronto
Website: http://cabanos.ca/

I just counted, and my list of hamburgers to try for this blog currently sits at 154.  Suffice it to say, it’ll be a while before I get to all of them.  If you’ve left a comment or sent me an email suggesting a burger I should try and I haven’t gotten there yet, that’s why.

I’ve been hearing good things about the burger at Cabano’s since they were located in Vaughan.  I’ve been meaning to check the place out for years.

Cabano's Comfort Food

Well, I finally got there, and yeah — it was worth the wait.  The burger didn’t rock my world, but it’s very, very good.

You can either get the no-frills cheeseburger, or the Cabano burger, which is a double cheeseburger that comes topped with Cabano sauce, lettuce, onions, and fried pickled jalapenos.

I got the Cabano, and it’s a quality burger; it does pretty much everything right, and very little wrong.

The patties are smashed and griddled, because of course they are.  This is Toronto.  If you attempt to cook a burger in any other style and serve it in a restaurant, the police are going to show up at your house, roll you up in a carpet and throw you into a river.

Cabano's Comfort Food

They’re cooked all the way to well done, which can sometimes be an issue, but absolutely isn’t here — they’re basically perfect.  They have a nice crust from the griddle (though only on one side), and the texture is absolutely outstanding.  They’re tender and abundantly juicy.  Perfect.

They have a pleasant but mild beefy flavour; that’s the one area where the burger is lacking.  Because the patties were otherwise so superlative, I was looking for that nice strong beefy hit that you get from truly top-shelf hamburgers, and it wasn’t quite there.

It didn’t help that the patties were overwhelmed by the gooey American cheese.  I’m not sure how many slices they used — Two?  Three? — but it was too much.  The cheese was clearly the dominant flavour.  It easily overpowers the mild beef.

Cabano's Comfort Food

Otherwise, the toppings were great.  The Cabano sauce was the typical tangy mayo you’ll find in so many burgers, and the chopped onions and lettuce work quite nicely (I’m normally not a fan of raw onion, but these were mild enough to not offend).

The fried jalapenos, however, are the highlight.   They’re crispy and a little bit spicy, with a nice vinegary bite that helps cut through the burger’s richness.

The bun — a Martin’s Potato Roll, I think, which are becoming delightfully common in the GTA — was quite good as well.

Cabano's Comfort Food

As for the fries, they weren’t great.  They tasted lightly battered, which I’m not crazy about.  They were also undercooked.  Considering how good the burger was, they were shockingly shoddy.

3.5 out of 4

Hambrgr

HambrgrLocation: 207 Ottawa Street North, Hamilton
Website: https://www.hambrgr.ca/

I don’t want to bury the lede: yes, Hambrgr is in Hamilton.  It’s far.  I’ve never reviewed a hamburger outside of the GTA for this blog, but after seeing Hambrgr on John Catucci’s new Food Network show, Big Food Bucket List, I kinda had to try it.

While I was mulling over whether I wanted to expand this blog’s range into Hamilton, I discovered that something called the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (or GTHA) exists.  I’m not making this up; it has a Wikipedia page.  That was really all the excuse I needed.

And seriously: watch that segment on Big Food Bucket List and tell me you don’t immediately want to check that place out.  I dare you.

Hambrgr

I’m happy to say that it is absolutely, positively worth the drive to Hamilton.  It’s so damn good.

The burger from the show is the #HamOnt: “double 1/4lb patties,  grilled onions, ‘merican cheese, mustard glazed bacon, brgr sauce, iceberg.”

Sadly, my pictures turned out terribly — the lighting in the restaurant is a bit wonky, so in the photos, the griddled patties look like they’ve been completely blackened.  They were not completely blackened.

You’ll just have to take my word for it: they were perfect.  They had an absolutely amazing dark brown crust.

Hambrgr

They also tasted fantastic; they were profoundly juicy despite being cooked to medium well, with a thunderclap of satisfying beefy flavour.  According to the show, they’re made from a blend of chuck, inside round, and navel.  Unlike so many burgers in the GTA, you can tell that a great deal of thought was put into the blend they used.  It’s juicy and flavourful in a way that puts most burger joints to shame.

The patties were maybe a bit too finely ground and tightly packed — they’re ever-so-slightly tougher than they should be, but that’s a very minor complaint.  Considering how superlative they are in every other way, that’s easy to overlook.

Hambrgr

The toppings are just as good.  The gooey American cheese is perfect, griddled onions are always welcome on a burger, and the shredded lettuce adds some nice crunch and freshness.  Then there’s the mustard-glazed bacon, which is honestly kind of ingenious.  The zippy flavour from the mustard enhances the bacon and helps to cut through the burger’s richness, but doesn’t overwhelm the burger the way mustard as a condiment does.

The bun is great, too.  I mean, it’s all great.  If you have a car, it’s totally worth the drive to Hamilton.  And if you don’t…  I dunno, take the bus, I guess?  Just get over there.  It’s worth it.

Hambrgr

As for the fries, I ordered the half & half, which comes with regular and sweet potato fries.  It also comes with two dipping sauces: ketchup and sambal mayo.  The fries are very good, and that sambal mayo makes them even better.  It’s a great dip; it’s spicy, zesty, and addictive.

2.5 out of 4

State & Main Kitchen & Bar


Location
: 396 The East Mall, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://www.stateandmain.ca/

I’m not gonna lie: my expectations for the burger at State & Main were quite low.  Is there something lower than low?  Like, in the basement?  My expectations were way down in the basement.

I mean, why wouldn’t they be?  Casual chain restaurants like this one typically serve a burger that’s uninspired, to put it kindly, and I really didn’t have any reason to think that State & Main would be any different.

I’m happy to say that I was dead wrong.  Not that the burger here was anything to get too excited about, but it was actually pretty good.

I ordered the Main, which is a double cheeseburger made with American cheese, and topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, and State sauce.

The patties weren’t bad at all, though I’m honestly not sure if they were griddled or grilled.  It was odd; they looked griddled, but tasted grilled, with that slightly smoky, charred flavour that you typically only get from the grill.  So…  I don’t know (I’ve eaten something like three hamburgers in the last six months, so I guess my burger sense is a bit rusty).

They were solid patties: they had a nice crust from the griddle and/or grill (??), they were slightly juicy, and they had a pleasant flavour.  Yes, they were a little densely packed, they could have been beefier and juicier, and it would have been nice if they weren’t so uniformly gray throughout — but they could have been much, much worse.

The toppings were quite good too, particularly the gooey, melty American cheese. 

I’d tell you about the State sauce, but I honestly don’t remember what it tasted like (did I mention that I’m a bit rusty at this burger reviewing thing?  Because clearly I am).  I feel like it’s safe to assume it was just the typical Big Mac-esque sauce that you usually find on burgers like this.

The bun was slightly too dense, but since this was a more substantial hamburger, it worked.

As for the fries, they were perfectly crispy/creamy.  You had the choice between gravy or dill sauce for dipping; I went with the dill, which was addictively garlicky.  It was pretty great.

3 out of 4

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Kitson and Co.


Location
: 1205 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.kitsonandco.com/

Sometimes, you just wanna stop eating your burger, slap your hand on the table, walk back into the kitchen and shake everybody’s hand.  Sometimes a burger is so delightfully great that it just makes you want to do something.  Especially when you’re in a place that doesn’t even specialize in hamburgers, and the burger’s greatness is all the more improbable.  A great burger from a random sandwich shop?  That just makes my day.

It’s a pretty simple cheeseburger: “Classic Double Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onions and Kitson & Co. secret sauce”

It’s an amazing example of a classic, no-frills fast-food-style burger executed perfectly.  You’ve got the gooey American cheese, the crusty griddled patties, the Big-Mac-esque secret sauce, the sesame seed bun, and the classic veggies.  It’s all there.

Those patties are top notch; the flavour could have been a bit beefier, but it’s hard to complain too much when all of the other elements are right where they should be.  They were also ever-so-slightly too densely packed, but again, it’s hard to complain too much when the overall package is so damn satisfying.  The patties are cooked to a perfect medium rare with a nice layer of dark brown crust on the exterior.  They’re also super juicy; that alone is reason enough to celebrate.

The melty American cheese adds creaminess and a nice salty tang; I kinda wish that there was only one slice instead of two, as I feel like two slices of cheese on a double cheeseburger starts to overwhelm the meat, but that’s more of a personal preference than anything else.  Two slices is the standard, so it’s hard to fault them for that.

The tangy secret sauce is pretty much exactly what you think it’s going to be — it works great with the cheeseburger and, more importantly, it doesn’t get in the way.

Even the bun was surprisingly great: soft, fresh, and perfectly toasted, it somehow manages to stand up to that very juicy, messy burger without ever feeling overly substantial.  The beef to bun ratio?  On point.

As for the fries, they were crispy, creamy, and flavourful; as great as the burger was, the fries might have been even better.

3.5 out of 4

Kitson and Co. - the outside Kitson and Co. - the restaurant Kitson and Co. - the cheeseburger Kitson and Co. - the cheeseburger

Indie Alehouse

indie
Location
: 2876 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.indiealehouse.com/

Indie Alehouse is the type of place that could probably skate by with mediocre food and still do okay.  I mean, it’s right there in the name; their specialty is clearly their selection of interesting house-made beers.

But, if the burger is any indication at least, they’re clearly putting a bit more effort into their food than you might think.  That’s always nice.

(An aside: I don’t know what the hell is going on with their name.  They can’t seem to decide if alehouse is one or two words. On their sign, it’s “Indie Ale House;” on their menu, it’s “Indie Alehouse;” and on their website they alternate between both, though the one-word version seems to be a bit more frequent.  “Alehouse” is also slightly more common around the internet, so that’s what I’m going with.  Setting aside the confusion online, the fact that they themselves can’t seem to decide is just flat-out bizarre.)

indieA

Of the handful of burgers on the menu, I went with the Indie Burger: “2 fresh ground ‘Indie blend’ patties, bacon, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, toasted bun.”

It’s a solid burger.  I don’t think it’s anything that you’re going to lose your mind over, but it’s good.  I don’t have any major complaints.

The two well done patties are a bit on the dry side, but they’ve got a generous amount of crust from the griddle and a good texture overall.  They’re not the beefiest-tasting patties I’ve ever had, but they certainly don’t taste bad.

The toppings, too, are all quite good.  Let’s face it, it’s hard to go wrong with bacon and melty cheese.  Plus, the zesty sauce and the pickles add some zip, and the tomato and lettuce add freshness.  It’s a good balance.

But while the sweet, fresh bun is mostly pretty good, it’s way too big for the patties.  The beef-to-bun ratio is slightly off, but more pressingly, the bun is way too wide for the beef.  We’re talking serious bun overhang.  It’s a bad scene.  Prepare to either leave a bunch of bread on your plate, or have several meat-free mouthfuls.

As for the fries, they’re about on the same level as the burger: quite good, but nothing too mind-blowing.

3 out of 4

Indie Alehouse - the outside Indie Alehouse - the restaurant Indie Alehouse - the menu Indie Alehouse - the burger Indie Alehouse - the burger

Museum Tavern

museum
Location
: 208 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.museumtavern.ca/

This blog hit its 5th anniversary a couple of months ago — I’ve reviewed almost 150 burgers in that time.  And though my love of hamburgers is as strong today as it was five years ago, doubt does sometimes creep into my mind.  Do I still want to be doing this?  Does the world really need me describing a burger’s beefy flavour for the hundredth time, or complaining about yet another dry patty?

It can get wearying.  Especially when I visit a place that I know is going to have a lousy hamburger, and then it is lousy, and I realize that I only have a finite amount of meals to eat in my lifetime and I just wasted one so I can be snarky about it online.  And there’s that voice: you don’t have to do this.

But then I eat a burger like the one they’re serving at Museum Tavern, and it’s like a choir from above.  Oh right, that voice says. This is why you do this.

Which is all a very roundabout way of saying that the burger at Museum Tavern is absolutely outstanding.  Like, top five in the city outstanding.  How can I stop this blog when there are still burgers this good for me to eat and write about?  I can’t.

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Museum Tavern serves a double cheeseburger, topped with the classics (lettuce, pickles, onion, and a Big Mac-esque sauce), and with the choice between American and aged cheddar.  I went with American; I’ve said it before, but American’s creamy consistency when melted, and its mild — and more importantly, not overwhelming — flavour makes it the perfect cheese for this type of burger (yes, some cheaper varieties of American cheese can be plasticky and horrible, but that’s definitely not what they’re using here).

The patties are griddled, with an awe-inspiring amount of crust that’s more than just a pretty face — it adds a nice amount of texture that contrasts really well with the tender beef.

I got a bit concerned when I cut the burger in half, as the patties were cooked to well done and grey throughout, which isn’t my favourite.  But everything about this burger is so great that it really doesn’t matter.  The texture of the beef is perfect — coarsely ground, not overhandled, with a consistency that perfectly straddles the line between tenderness and substance.

It’s also impressively juicy, especially for a burger that’s been cooked all the way to well done.  And the flavour is great, with a satisfying beefiness that mingles perfectly with the other flavours and always remains the star of the show.

So that’s the taste/texture/juiciness trifecta — the hamburger bullseye.

The bun and toppings were great too, which means there’s nothing to get in the way of this burger’s status as one of the best in the city.  Because yeah, I honestly don’t have a single complaint about this hamburger — it’s amazing from head to toe.  I’m a bit late to the party (the Museum Tavern has been open since 2012), so it’s quite possible that you’re way ahead of me on this one.  But on the off chance that you haven’t tried it yet?  Do it.  Now.

Oh, and the shoestring fries were great too.  Seriously though, why are you still reading this when you could be eating that magnificent hamburger?

4 out of 4

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