The Rhino

The RhinoLocation: 1249 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.therhino.ca/

My visit to The Rhino was completely unplanned — I was in the area, I wanted to check out a burger, and hey, that place looks like it serves a hamburger.  No recommendations, no research, just a random pop-in.

My dream in situations like this is that the burger will turn out to be amazing, and that I can announce a hidden gem to the world.  I mean, anyone can go and review a place that everyone’s talking about.  Who cares?  Finding a restaurant that people wouldn’t have heard of otherwise — that’s a service to the world.

The Rhino

That absolutely, positively isn’t what happened here, but hey, I can keep dreaming.  One day.

The Rhino burger: “hand-pressed ground beef patty, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, brioche bun. Served with fries or house salad.”

The Rhino

It’s not good.  And it’s not good in such a boring way that I don’t even particularly feel like talking about it.  It’s the usual bad burger trifecta: the beef is too finely ground, it’s packed too tightly, and it’s too lean.  It’s crazy dry.  I normally eat a burger as it comes, but in this case I just couldn’t stomach it.  I had to put on copious amounts of mustard (which I typically find to be way too assertive as a burger topping) just to give it some moisture, and to give the bland, personality-free beef some flavour.

The Rhino

I will say that the medium well patty is perfectly grilled, which gives it a great amount of smoky flavour.  Not enough to save it, of course — but it that element was nice nonetheless.

And the fresh brioche bun was quite good (not that it particularly matters).

The Rhino

As for the fries, they were delicious, with a delicate exterior crispiness and a perfect amount of fluffiness.  They were seasoned with big, flaky grains of salt that added more texture and nice pops of flavour.  They were top notch.

1.5 out of 4

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 Loose Moose


Location: 146 Front Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://theloosemoose.ca/

The Loose Moose isn’t part of a chain (though it is owned by SIR Corp, the restaurant conglomerate behind places like Jack Astor’s, Canyon Creek, and Scaddabush), but it serves a prototypically lousy chain restaurant burger: it’s exceptionally dry, it features personality-free flavourless beef, and it’s just an absolute bummer to eat.

It’s the type of burger that gives burgers a bad name.  I could see someone who doesn’t eat a lot of of them ordering this, eating it, and then thinking “oh, I guess I don’t like hamburgers then?”  Because it’s so far removed from what makes a good burger so great that it’s almost like an entirely different dish.  It’s unpleasant.

I got the Classic Burger, which is completely no-frills, topped only with lettuce, tomato, and pickle.

This is going to be brief, because if they’re not going to put any effort into making it, I shouldn’t have to put any effort into writing about it.

The griddled patty had a decent amount of crust, but it was cooked way past well done, it was too finely ground, and it was just the driest thing in the history of dry.  It was brutal.  The flavour was fine, I guess (it was inoffensive, at least) but it was so incredibly dry that having to actually eat it was such a chore.

The toppings were okay, as was the bun (though it was a bit too dense).  Who cares, though?  That stupid jerk of a patty needs to take a long walk off a short pier.

As for the fries, they were ultra-generic frozen fries.  Because why not, right?  The restaurant’s on a very high-traffic section of Front Street, so I guess it’ll be busy regardless of how the food actually tastes.  So why not serve the most low-effort, cheapest garbage you can find?  People will eat it regardless, apparently!  It’s just good business.  I have a certain amount of grudging respect for that.  I just wish I didn’t have to suffer through eating there myself.

1 out of 4

The Loose Moose - the outside The Loose Moose - the restaurant The Loose Moose - the burger The Loose Moose - the burger

The Belsize Public House

The Belsize Public House
Location
: 535 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto
Websitehttps://thebelsize.pub/

As much as I love the griddle-smashed burgers that are so omnipresent in the GTA, it’s hard to resist a big, fat grilled burger.  But it’s much, much harder to find a really good burger cooked in that style, so when I heard that they serve a tasty one at The Belsize Public House, I was all over it.

They have a couple of burgers on their menu; there’s the Hoser Burger, which features peameal bacon and cheddar, and the no-frills Grilled Burger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion.  As I’m wont to do, I went with the simpler of the two.

I’ve cut through so many burgers over the years that I can pretty much tell instantly if a burger is going to be iffy.  This one was suspiciously difficult to saw in half, and the alarm bells were going off in my head.  They were screaming.

The Belsize Public House

As I feared, it wasn’t very good.  The Belsize makes every mistake you can make to end up with an unsatisfying burger.  Literally every single one: the beef was clearly too lean, the texture of the grind was way too fine, the beef had been overhandled and was too tightly packed, and it was cooked all the way to the tippy tippy top of well done (if not a little bit further).  The meat was so dense.  It was a punishingly tough chew.  There was a vague amount of juiciness there, but not even close to enough to make any kind of impact.

The flavour wasn’t much better; aside from the fact that I’m pretty sure they had mixed salt and pepper right into the patty (it was distractingly peppery), the flavour of the beef was almost non-existent.  And what little flavour there was tasted vaguely off.  It wasn’t good.

The toppings were fine, and the fluffy bun was actually pretty perfect.  That patty, though…

I will say that my dining companion had the jerk pork sandwich and really enjoyed it, and the fries and the coleslaw that came with the burger were both quite tasty.  The fries, in particular, were seriously delicious, with an addictively crispy exterior and perfectly creamy interior.  So it’s possible that everything else coming out of the kitchen is tasty.  But they bungled that burger, and they bungled it hard.

1 out of 4

The Belsize Public House - the restaurant The Belsize Public House - the restaurant The Belsize Public House - the burger and fries The Belsize Public House - the burger

Marben — Round 2

Marben
Location: 488 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.marben.ca/

Yes, I’ve actually reviewed Marben before, back in 2013.  Back then, they stuffed the patty with saucy braised short ribs, a practice that made me call that burger “less hamburger and more upscale sloppy joe.”

Now that they’ve started serving a more traditional burger with a regular un-stuffed beef patty, I figured a re-do was in order.

I was actually pretty excited to try it again.  The burger is quite well regarded, and now that it’s an actual hamburger instead of an odd Frankenstein creation, I figured it would be delicious.  I was all set for burger greatness.

I guess I should have left well enough alone.  As it turns out, the whole stuffing thing was actually hiding the burger’s deficiencies, which are now in plain view.  To paraphrase the late, great Roger Ebert: I hated hated hated hated hated this burger.  It was so bad.

It’s basically the same burger it was before, but with braised brisket on top instead of short rib in the middle.  From the menu: “beef fat brioche, aged cheddar, branston pickle, braised brisket.”

Marben

I’m going to cut right to the chase: the patty itself was horrible.  I’ve had a lot of overly dry burgers since starting this blog, and this might have been the most egregiously, ridiculously, unpleasantly Sahara dry.  I don’t think there was an ounce of moisture in it, despite only being cooked to a nice rosy-pink medium.

I don’t know what cut of beef they’re using in this thing, but it’s obviously all wrong.  It’s one of those burgers that’s so dry, as you’re chewing it you’re wondering, “how am I even going to swallow this??”  The waiter must have refiled my water about five times, because I had to keep drinking and drinking and drinking just to keep my mouth from completely drying out.

The beef was also too finely ground; combined with the dryness, the texture was a complete nightmare.  It made me want to hurl the burger across the restaurant, run out, and then never eat or review a hamburger again.

I was wondering if this was just a one-off issue, but the fact that the burger wasn’t even cooked past medium and was still this insanely dry (not to mention the overly fine grind) makes me think that they’re using beef that’s way, way, way too lean and then preparing it poorly.

The flavour was okay, at least — not particularly beefy, but pleasant enough.  But with that texture, it didn’t matter.

Everything else was fine, I guess.  The brisket was okay, but like the patty, it was dry — there will be absolutely no mistaking this version of the burger for a sloppy joe.  The other toppings were good, though the cheddar was so sparingly applied that if I hadn’t seen it, I would have never known it was there.

The bun was dry too, because why the hell not, right??  I’ve had worse, but I think it might have either been slightly overbaked or a day or two past its prime.

The fries were great, though.  So there’s that at least.

1 out of 4

Marben - the outside Marben - the restaurant Marben - the burger and fries Marben - the burger Marben - the burger

The Wren


Location
: 1382 Danforth Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.thewrendanforth.com/

After seeing pictures of the various burger specials at the Wren roughly a billion times on Instagram over the last few months, my excitement level was pretty much at a fever pitch; it’s not easy to get me to venture too far east in Toronto (I’m lazy, you see), but for an amazing burger?  Yeah, I’ll go out of my way for that.

Alas, this place suffers from a very pronounced case of Sweet Jesus-itus — highly Instagrammable, but otherwise not particularly great.

I ordered the Backyard Burger, which is the most bare-bones burger they serve (they also have a much more Instagram-friendly creation called the Uncle Buck Burger, not to mention the veritable Instagram-catnip that is their rotating special).

The Backyard Burger comes topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard, and mayo.

Sometimes, you can just look at a burger’s cross-section and know you’re in trouble.  If you can tell just by looking at a burger that the grind is too fine and it’s too densely packed, you’re in trouble.

And yeah, of course the grind was too fine and it was too densely packed, because just look at it.  Look at it and weep.

It was also cooked all the way to the wellest of well done, and was almost entirely moisture-free.  It wasn’t the worst patty I’ve ever had, but it was kinda unpleasant to eat.

The taste, while not offensive, was non-existent; there was no particular beefy or meaty flavour.  Aside from the subtle smokiness from the grill, it didn’t taste like anything.

Everything else was fine.  The burger comes topped with ketchup, mustard, and mayo, which is more condiment-heavy than I’d usually like.  Here, however, those condiments are actually fairly essential to provide the burger with some much-needed moisture.  I actually could have used more.

The bun, though a little bit too crackly on its exterior, was mostly quite good.  It held up to the patty and the toppings nicely, and didn’t overwhelm.

The fries were the clear (and only) highlight.  They were perfectly cooked and tossed with a seasoned salt that made them taste pretty great on their own — no dip required.

1.5 out of 4

The Wren - the outside The Wren - the restaurant The Wren - the burger The Wren - the burger The Wren - the burger

3 Brewers


Location
: 275 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://les3brasseurs.ca/locations/3-brewers-yonge

3 Brewers is a Canadian casual chain restaurant, which means by law, it has to serve mediocre food.

Oh, did you not hear about that law?  Yeah, parliament recently passed a law saying that every Canadian chain restaurant has to serve food that is “mediocre at best, with drab, uninspired cuisine that instills a profound sadness into its customers” (that’s a direct quote from the legislation).

So of course, the burger at 3 Brewers — I got the 3 Brasseurs burger, which comes topped with maple Amber beer sauce, smoked Gouda, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion — is mediocre.  I mean, they wouldn’t want to break the law, would they?  The burger here stayed very firmly within the bounds of the legislation; it made me sad, just like it was supposed to.

It wasn’t the worst thing ever, I’ll give it that.  It was griddled and pleasantly crusty, and all the toppings were pretty good.  The smoked Gouda was nice and melty (if a bit too strong) — but then who cares when the burger itself is so poor?  The maple amber beer sauce must have just been globbed into one spot in the middle of the burger, because I got a couple of very sweet bites, and the rest of the burger was sauce-free.  The bun, aside from having an exterior that’s a bit too crunchy, was also pretty good.

It’s the patty that really made me sad.  It tasted like the patty from pretty much every other chain like this — it was well done, dry, and completely lacking in flavour.  The beef is lousy, but not too lousy — it’s the cheapest thing they can get away with without it being too flagrant (it’s not a frozen patty, at least).  It tastes like nothing, but it doesn’t offend.

As for the fries, they were fine.  A little bit better than the burger, but again, not good enough that they’re going to risk getting shut down.  Because of the law, of course.

2 out of 4

3 Brewers - the outside 3 Brewers - the restaurant 3 Brewers - the burger 3 Brewers - the burger