Sliders

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Location
: 704 The Queensway, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://twitter.com/_SLIDERS

Sliders is on a shrinking list of places I’ve been meaning to review since I started this blog. I went there once a few years ago (pre-Tasty Burgers) and found it to be passable but fairly mediocre — the kind of unremarkable place that almost immediately recedes from your memory.

Time after time I’d think “Maybe I’ll finally review Sliders this week!” only to find an excuse to go somewhere else instead. I’m not going to lie: I didn’t particularly want to go back.

Long story short: I went back and it was pretty much exactly as I remembered. It was fine — I would theoretically eat there again, but with a Burger’s Priest location less than five minutes away, it’s not going to happen.

True to their name, they serve sliders — though what they serve are just mini hamburgers, not actually sliders by the true meaning of the term (to my knowledge, no one in Toronto serves that style of hamburger). That being the case, I went with a normal-sized burger instead. I got the Double Stacker with Cheese and had it topped with Slider sauce, pickles, and tomato.

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The griddled patties were cooked to well done and were a tad on the dry side, though they did actually have some juiciness to them. There was also a little bit of crust from the griddle, but not nearly as much as there should have been.

Though I wouldn’t exactly call this a meatloaf burger, there was definitely something other than salt and pepper mixed into the patty. It’s subtle, but it’s definitely there. Still, some beefy flavour remains, which, however mild, is pleasant.

The cheese was American, perfect for a classic cheeseburger like this. The slider sauce was a spicy mayo that actually did have a small kick to it; the other toppings were fine. The bun was fresh and suited the burger well.

Again, it’s not a bad burger — but with Burger’s Priest nearby serving a burger done in a similar style that’s so, so much better, Sliders feels redundant.

The fries, however, were really excellent. It’s close, but they probably have Burger’s Priest beat in that department.

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Big Butcher Barbeque

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Location843 Kipling Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://twitter.com/BigButcherBBQ

I wasn’t even planning on a burger review.  I went to the newly opened Big Butcher Barbeque — knowing nothing about it aside from the name — with visions of pulled pork and brisket dancing in my head.  A name like that screams southern-style BBQ, but nope — the menu reads like an expanded version of Royal Meats around the corner, with eastern European fare like chevaps and plyeska, along with burgers, breakfast, and sandwiches.

Okay fine: plans change, and I’m obviously always down for a burger, so I rolled with the punches.

It’s in a location formerly occupied by a Gourmet Burger Co., and they didn’t change much.  I definitely got some pretty strong deja-vu in there.  Like before, it’s laid out so that you order, sit down, and wait for your food.

The burger is the first item on the menu, and it comes topped only with arugula by default.  You can choose from a list of complimentary and premium toppings (complimentary being the old standbys, and premium being stuff like tzatziki, guacamole, and bacon); I went with tomato, pickles, and mayo (though the pickles were MIA).

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The grilled burger was cooked to well done, though it did retain some juiciness.  I don’t know if “juicy” is the first word I’d use to describe this burger, but neither is “dry,” so there you go.

It definitely has some kind of seasoning mixed into the patty, but it’s nothing too strong; at least some beefy flavour is retained, which is always a good thing.  However, whatever they’ve mixed into the beef has given the patty a distinctly sausagey texture, which is not such a good thing.  

The patty also has some smokiness from the grill, and all in all has a decent, if somewhat muddled flavour.

I do, however, need to mention that about halfway into eating the burger, I crunched down on something rock hard.  Shocked, I spit out the offending bit to discover a bone about the size of a small toothpaste cap.  In all my years of burger eating, this was a first.  Small bits of cartilage and whatnot, sure, but a bone? And one that large?  Yikes.  I’m a little baffled as to how that thing made its way through the meat grinder.  I’m not going to lie: it was a bit horrifying.

The bun wasn’t the best.  They boast that they bake it in-house, and I really think they should probably leave it to the pros.  It was exceptionally crusty and either a bit overbaked, or a bit stale; it was quite dry.  It wasn’t the worst bun that I’ve ever had, but it was definitely misguided.

As for the fries, they were thinly cut and way overcooked.  I think every ounce of moisture had been sucked out.  They were so crunchy that they struck me as some kind of cross between fries and chips. They weren’t horrible, but I’m pretty sure they no longer qualify as fries when they’re that crunchy.

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Canyon Creek

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Location
1900 The Queensway, Toronto
Websitehttp://canyoncreekrestaurant.ca/

Just once, I’d like to go to a casual chain restaurant  and get a burger that’s actually really good.  I mean, that’s not such a tall order, is it?  A good burger isn’t all that difficult to make.  Just start with decent quality beef that’s reasonably fatty, and you’ve won half the battle.  Alas, the burgers at places like this tend to either be just okay, or outright bad.

This being a restaurant that specializes in meat, I thought that perhaps it could be the one to buck the trend.  I ordered the Canyon Burger and hoped for the best.

The menu describes the burger as coming topped with “crisp leaf lettuce, vine ripened tomato, dill pickle, red onion, Canyon aïoli on a fresh sesame bun baked in-house daily.”

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Well, it’s not bad, I’ll give it that.  But sadly, it does not rise above its casual chain restaurant brethren; it’s merely okay.

The biggest issue here is that the grilled, well done patty is — like an absurd amount of Toronto-area burgers before it — made with beef that is too lean.  It’s dry.  I just…  I can’t even muster up the motivation to get particularly worked up about this anymore.  If you live in Toronto and you like burgers, you will be getting your mouth dried out by too-lean hamburgers.  Often.  Sadly, it just comes with the territory.

Aside from that, it’s not bad.  The quality of the beef is obviously pretty decent, as the burger has a decent amount of beefy flavour.

As for the toppings and the fresh-baked bun?  They’re fine.  It’s all pretty ho-hum, though you could certainly do worse.

The lightly battered, shoestring fries were okay.  Battered fries aren’t my favourite, and they were a bit on the crunchy side, but like the burger I have had worse.

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Jack Astor’s

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Location1900 The Queensway, Etobicoke
Websitehttp://www.jackastors.com/

This is going to be a short one.  It’s hard to write all that much about a burger that so conclusively straddles that middle ground between good and bad, and that is exactly where this burger falls.  “Meh” is pretty much the perfect word to describe it.

Jack Astor’s is a casual chain restaurant, and as expected from a restaurant such as this, there are burgers on the menu.  I wasn’t expecting much, and I got pretty much exactly what I expected:  a perfectly edible hamburger that is almost instantly forgettable.

I ordered “The Classic,” which is their no-frills burger topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion (which I removed), and mayo.

The burger was fine.  This being a chain place, I had feared that they might serve a frozen burger or a meatloaf burger, but this was thankfully not the case.

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There are a couple of fairly significant issues that keep this burger firmly in the “meh” category.  First, and most predictably, the burger is too dry.  I know I sound like a broken record here; apparently wanting a hamburger to be juicy in Toronto is an unreasonable request, which is actually kind of maddening. But no, I’m not going to get into another rant about overcooking and acceptable fat percentages.  Not for you, Jack Astor’s.  Not for you.

And yes, the burger is overcooked, which just compounds the dryness issue.  The grilled patty is a bit over-charred, resulting in a burger that is a bit too crunchy in spots.  It’s also a little bit too tightly packed and dense, which makes it a tough chew.

The second issue is that it’s a bit bland.  The beef is obviously not the greatest, and while it tastes okay, it doesn’t taste like much.  Add in the fact that if it was seasoned with salt and pepper, I couldn’t taste it, and you’ve got a pretty bland burger.

Otherwise, the toppings were fine, and the fresh brioche bun, though slightly over-toasted, suited the burger well.

All in all, it’s not a bad hamburger — it’s just aggressively unmemorable.

As for the fries, though a tad on the soggy side, they were otherwise quite good.

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South St. Burger Co.

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Location1020 Islington Avenue, Etobicoke
Websitehttp://www.southstburger.com/

South St. Burger Co. is a fast casual burger chain (“fast casual” denoting a fast food restaurant with — supposedly — better food than a place like McDonald’s or Burger King, and prices to match).  I want to like South St. — I really do.  I can appreciate that they’re a chain with loftier goals than, say, Hero Certified Burgers, who use the absolute cheapest, most odious frozen patties they can find.

South St. proudly proclaim that they use only fresh beef, and kudos to them for that.  Sadly, although this is a step in the right direction, there is more to making a good burger than simply using fresh beef.

The restaurant has a pretty standard set up — you order your burger, wait for it to be ready, then pick from the toppings behind the glass.

Actually, those toppings warrant mention: though I went simple with just mayo, tomato, and pickles, they have a fairly impressive selection, including different types of mayo (garlic, wasabi, or curry), relishes, and chutney.

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I actually remember liking this place a lot more when it first opened — I think the quality used to be higher.  On top of this, South St. came to Toronto slightly before the burger trend hit this city hard, when a place serving fresh, non-frozen, non-meatloaf burgers was much more of a novelty.

The grilled, well done burger is very, very dry.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll note that they’re clearly using beef that is way too lean.  The patty is very tightly packed and very dense, making the whole thing a bit of a jaw workout.

It’s also clear that the beef just isn’t that great, as it has that vaguely unpleasant taste that you associate with lower quality beef.

The bun was nothing too special, but it was fine, and the pickles, tomato, and mayo were pretty standard.  I suspect to make a South St. burger worth eating, you need to be really aggressive with their more unique condiments.  My dining companion got a variety of toppings on his burger, and he enjoyed it.

As for the fries, they’re made by New York Fries, and are expectedly good.   I asked for the curry mayo and the garlic mayo on the side for dipping, which I would strongly recommend. The curry mayo in particular was quite delicious, and really kicked up the already tasty fries.

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