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.

colettea

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

Colette Grand Cafe - the outside Colette Grand Cafe - the restaurant Colette Grand Cafe - the burger Colette Grand Cafe - the burger

The Battered Fish

battered
Location: 224 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://thebatteredfish.ca/

Like with my last review, of the burger at Cineplex, this was probably my own fault. I mean, who gets a burger at a fish and chips place? But the signage outside of the restaurant advertises BURGERS in big, bolt font, and a poster on the inside boasts that their “gourmet burgers” are made with brisket, so I figured it was something more than just an afterthought to fill out the menu.

The place is laid out fast food style; the menu’s up on the wall, and you bring the food back to your table on a tray.  I ordered the burger as a combo with fries and a drink, and had it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo (they threw in lettuce, too, for some reason).

It could have been worse, I guess?  All things considered, I guess I should be glad it wasn’t outright terrible.  Again: quite possibly my fault.  Go to a fish and chips joint and order a hamburger, and you’re going to get what you’re going to get.

batteredA

In this case, what I got was a griddled burger with a vague amount of crust from the griddle, but not as much as you’d like.  The main thing is that it was dry.  The patty was finely ground, tightly packed, and cooked all the way to well done (and beyond), with a dense, tough chew, like a well done steak.

But it had none of the flavour of a good steak, of course.  The beef was actually pretty bland.  It didn’t taste off, at least, but then it didn’t taste of much at all — off or otherwise.

The fresh, toasted bun was quite good, and the toppings were mostly fine — though the pickles were actually sugary-sweet cornichons that were way too cloying as a topping on a hamburger.

This being a fish and chips place, I figured that at least the fries would be a highlight.  And they weren’t bad, mostly, but they had an oddly dense, almost chewy texture that I’m really not sure how to account for.  They weren’t undercooked, and I don’t think they were overcooked — at least they didn’t taste like any overcooked fries I’ve had before.  But that oddly gummy texture was a bit of a turn off, even if they otherwise tasted okay.

2 out of 4

The Battered Fish - the restaurant The Battered Fish - the menu The Battered Fish - the restaurant The Battered Fish - the burger and fries The Battered Fish - the burger The Battered Fish - the burger

Thompson Diner

thompson
Location
: 550 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.thompsondiner.com/

Nope.

Seriously, just: no.  I could rant and rave, but I’m not even going to waste my time writing a particularly long review of this hamburger.  The kitchen staff at the Thompson Diner clearly don’t respect their clientele enough to make a burger even remotely worth eating, so why should I respect them enough to put my time and energy into a full review?

The burger at the Thompson Diner is lousy.  Please do not order it.  I’ll quickly explain why, then seriously, I’m out.

It’s dry.  Oppressively, shockingly, inedibly dry.

Was it overcooked?  I mean, it was cooked all the way to well done, but it didn’t seem to be cooked too far past that.  To me, well done is overcooked, so it can be tough to differentiate between the two.  But I’ve certainly had well done burgers that remained juicy.

thompsonA

Was the beef too lean?  Almost certainly.

I noted in my most recent review, of the burger at b.good, that it was one of the driest burgers that I’ve ever had.  It’s as if the chef at the Thompson Diner took this as a challenge.  “You think that’s dry?  I’ll show you dry.”

Maybe my burger was an aberration.  Maybe they’re not always this bad.  I doubt it, but maybe.  But there’s no excuse for a professional kitchen to put out food this bad ever.  It’s inexcusable.

The taste of the patty wasn’t horrible – it wasn’t particularly beefy, but it tasted okay.  But who cares?  If a burger is this dry, I really don’t care what it tastes like.  It’s worthless.

The bun and toppings were also fine, but again: worthless.

The fries were bad too.  Frozen and mediocre, they’re a waste of your time, though at the very least they’re not a slap in the face like that hamburger.

.5 out of 4

Thompson Diner - the restaurant Thompson Diner - the burger Thompson Diner - the burger
(Image of the front of the restaurant in the header photo taken from Caroline’s Culinary Delights. I guess I was in such a rush to get out of there that I forgot to take the photo on my way out.)

The Tavern by Trevor

tavern
Location
: 147 Spadina Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.tavernbytrevor.com/

Though The Tavern by Trevor isn’t technically on Toronto Life’s list of the twenty best burgers in the city, it’s a spin-off of a restaurant that is (Trevor Kitchen and Bar), so I sort of figured I was in good hands.

The burger they serve is labelled as a Kobe burger. Excuse me for going on a brief rant, but this is misguided on several levels, not the least of which being that anything called Kobe beef in Canada is almost certainly not actually Kobe beef. Kobe beef refers to a specific breed of cattle raised in a specific part of Japan (Kobe), and is pretty much never exported to Canada — not legally, at least. It’s far more likely that what’s being served here is Wagyu beef, which is similar enough to Kobe that many restaurants feel okay labeling it as such, even if it’s not really true.

That’s not to mention that the biggest appeal of Kobe (or Wagyu) beef is its prodigious marbling, which is rendered entirely moot when you grind it up for a hamburger.

So basically, labeling something as a Kobe burger is completely meaningless. It is a marketing ploy at best, and an excuse to overcharge at worst. Fortunately the latter isn’t the case here; at ten bucks (plus an additional five for fries), the price is about on par with what you’d expect at a restaurant like this.

tavernA

The 6 oz Kobe Burger is described as coming with “horseradish mayo, smoked cheddar & caramelized onion.”

The grilled burger came cooked to medium rare and was reasonably juicy. I think, however, that the heat was too high, as the exterior of the burger was thoroughly charred, with an unpleasantly acrid, bitter flavour.

The patty was also too tightly packed and, I think, a bit too finely ground. It was fine in the medium rare centre, but the well done edges were dry, dense, and unpleasant.

Still, the bulk of the patty (i.e. everything but the edges) is fairly tasty with a good texture, though the pervasive bitterness is unfortunate.

The smoked cheddar is creamy, nicely melted and not too sharp, allowing the beef to be the star of the show. The horseradish mayo also suits the burger pretty well.

Sadly, the bun was awful. Dry, unpleasantly dense, and — I think — more than a little bit stale, it’s a complete fiasco. It’s definitely one of the shoddiest buns I’ve had in quite a long time.

Basically, it’s a good burger with a few pretty major flaws.  With a fresh bun and without being way over-charred it actually could have been really good, but sadly they served what they served.

As for the fries, they were outstanding.  Really tasty and addictively crispy without ever becoming too crunchy, they were pretty great.

3 out of 4

Tavern by Trevor - the restaurant Tavern by Trevor - the menu Tavern by Trevor - the burger and fries Tavern by Trevor - the burger
The Tavern by Trevor on Urbanspoon

Little Fin

fin
Location
: 4 Temperance Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://littlefin.ca/

Little Fin is, as the name implies, mostly a seafood joint; it probably would have been very low on my list of places to check out for this blog, but then I saw the header photo on Toronto Life’s write-up of the place and that was pretty much that.  A visit was inevitable.

It’s a tiny little place that’s obviously meant to be a take-out joint for local office-dwellers, though they do have a few narrow tables (but no stools, so prepare to eat standing up like a horse).

The menu’s up on the wall, and though it’s mostly an array of fish sandwiches, there is a cheeseburger that can either be had single, or double.  The aforementioned photo made it look a bit small, so I went with the double; bacon jam is optional for an additional $1.25, but I passed on that.

It’s actually not quite as small as it looks.  They don’t say how big the patties are on the menu, but I’m guessing they’re somewhere in the ballpark of five ounces.

It comes topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, cheddar, and a sauce that is unmentioned on the menu, but which Toronto Life calls a “sea-urchin sauce.”

finA

It’s good, though like last week’s review, Cardinal Rule, I’m loathe to even call it a hamburger.  The patty is so thoroughly suffused with onions and spices and who-knows-what-else that the simple beefiness that makes a good hamburger so special has been completely annihilated.  It’s meatloaf.  It certainly looks like a hamburger, but if appearances are all that matters I’m pretty sure I could take brownie batter and make it look like a hamburger, but that doesn’t make it so.  

Put simply, if I wanted meatloaf I’d order meatloaf.

I think I need to calm down.  Especially because, unlike at Cardinal Rule, what they’re serving here is actually not bad.  While I would argue until I’m blue in the face against it being a traditional hamburger, it’s okay for what it is.  It’s a decent meatloaf sandwich.  It’s not a hamburger, but it’s tasty.

It’s fairly well spiced, though it’s strong enough that the beef’s natural flavour has been almost entirely wiped out.  It’s also a bit too finely ground, with a slightly odd, overhandled texture.  It’s fairly juicy, however, which is nice, and which helps to compensate for some of the patty’s textural deficiencies.  The cheddar is also fully melted and nicely gooey.

The condiments are mostly okay, though the tomato was a bit mealy.  The very tangy sea-urchin sauce would easily overwhelm a traditional hamburger, but with a through-and-through meatloaf burger like this, all bets are off.

The bun has been off-puttingly dyed jet-black (because charcoal black is clearly the colour you want your bread to be, right guys?), but aside from its weirdly dark colour, it’s above-average.  It’s fresh, soft, and slightly chewy, and holds up to the burger quite well (though I suspect it might be a bit overwhelming with the single-patty option).

As for the side… there wasn’t one.  I’ll admit that I only gave the menu a cursory glance, but given the fairly steep $14.25 price tag for the double burger, I just assumed that a side of some sort would be included.  Nope.  Suffice it to say, it’s a bit overpriced.

2.5 out of 4

Little Fin - the restaurant Little Fin - the menu Little Fin - the restaurant Little Fin - the burger Little Fin - the burger
Little Fin on Urbanspoon

Capitano Burgers & Gelato

capitano
Location
: 645 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.capitano.ca/

Burgers and gelato don’t sound like the most obvious of bedfellows. Burgers and milkshakes, sure, but gelato? I mean, Gelato Pizza is a thing, but then those are both Italian, so… I’m over-thinking this, aren’t I?

Anyway, I’m not going to lie: my expectations weren’t super high. Aside from the fact that hamburgers and gelato may or may not be an appropriate combination, the place gives off a bit of a dank, sketchy vibe. It doesn’t have the most welcoming ambiance.  I’ll put it this way: If you heard that someone got murdered there, it wouldn’t seem all that far-fetched.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the burger actually turned out to be pretty good.

I ordered the Capilano Burger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and Capitano sauce.

capitanoA

Pretty much everything about the burger is solid. The beef is obviously of a decent quality — it doesn’t hit you in the face with beefy flavour, but it’s good. It’s nicely griddled, with a decent amount of crust from the grill. It’s reasonably juicy despite being cooked to well done. And the texture is great — the grind is nice and coarse, and the patty hasn’t been overhandled.

It was a pleasant surprise, no doubt about it.

The biggest issue? It’s ostensibly a cheeseburger, but the slice of cheddar was obviously added after the patty had been cooked, resulting in a cold, unmelted slice of cheese resting atop the patty. If the cheese is completely unmelted and hasn’t mingled with the beef, is it even a cheeseburger? I submit that it is not. It’s merely a burger with a slice of cheese on top: a small but essential distinction.

The toppings were otherwise pretty good, though the Capilano sauce was a little bit sweet for my taste. The bun was a tad on the dense side, but was fresh and mostly suited the burger quite well.

As for the fries, they were another low point. They looked pretty good, but they were soggy, undercooked, and absolutely suffused with oil.

3 out of 4

Capitano Burgers and Gelato - the restaurant Capitano Burgers and Gelato - the inside Capitano Burgers and Gelato - the burger and fries Capitano Burgers and Gelato - the burger
Capitano Burgers & Gelato on Urbanspoon

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

mildred
Location
: 85 Hanna Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.templekitchen.com/

It’s been a while since I’ve visited a place from Toronto Life’s list of the best burgers in Toronto, and though my last experience wasn’t particularly great, I figured it was about time to check another one off the list.  This week: number 17, Mildred Temple Kitchen.

I actually tried to go here a couple of weeks ago for brunch, but the restaurant was packed, with a 40 minute wait for a table.  It’s a popular place.

My second attempt was more successful.  I scanned the menu and quickly found the MTK Burger: “topped with tomato relish & crispy tobacco onions, served on a pain au lait bun.”

I’ll get the bad out of the way first: It’s a meatloaf burger, and not a subtle one at that, with all kinds of spices and other stuff mixed in (I definitely saw onions, and there may or may not have been garlic as well).

I’ve laid out my problems with meatloaf burgers a few times before, but my main objection is this: a beef patty on its own (seasoned with salt and maybe pepper) and a beef patty with spices and onions and who-knows-what mixed in are two very, very different things.  They look similar, but they taste so radically different that I don’t know how, in good conscience, you can call them both the same thing.  On a very fundamental level, one is a hamburger, and one is an imitation of a hamburger.  I’ve made this analogy before, but It’s like comparing authentic Chinese food to chop suey; you can call both Chinese food if you want, but no one’s buying it.

mildredA

The patty at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen is tasty enough, but all the other stuff mixed in with the beef completely annihilates its flavour — the burger could have been made from ground pork or lamb and it would have made zero difference.  There’s no flavour whatsoever from the beef.  None.

I will say, however, that the burger is otherwise superlative; super juicy and cooked to a perfect medium rare, it has a really satisfying texture with none of the sausage-like consistency that you get from a lot of meatloaf burgers.  There’s also an addictively crispy crust from the grill.  The meatloafy taste of the patty is a bit on the salty side, but otherwise pretty good.

The condiments are quite good as well — the menu doesn’t mention the garlicky aioli, which is quite tasty, if a bit strong.  The abundant crispy onion strings add some texture and compliment the burger quite well.  As for the tomato relish, the burger’s other flavours are so assertive that I honestly couldn’t even taste it.

The pain au lait bun is a bit on the dense side, though with a burger this juicy and this messy, a more substantial bun is definitely needed, so it works quite well.

Seriously, I can’t say enough about how juicy this burger is; in a city filled with overly-lean, dried-out burgers, that alone is a huge plus in its favour.

Pretty much everything about this burger is above average; it’s just a real shame that the beef’s flavour (i.e. the star of the show in a hamburger) has been completely wiped out. Still, for what it is, it tastes pretty good.  It might just be the best meatloaf burger I’ve ever had.

As for the fries, they too were above average, particularly when dipped in the aforementioned garlicky aioli.

Mildred's Temple Kitchen - the patio Mildred's Temple Kitchen - the restaurant Mildred's Temple Kitchen - the burger Mildred's Temple Kitchen - the the burger
Mildred's Temple Kitchen on Urbanspoon