Union Burger

4188 Living Arts Drive, Mississauga

I was driving to the movies the other day (to see Gravity, which is amazing, and which you should see immediately if you haven’t already) and saw the newly-opened Union Burger right nearby.  Intrigued, I pulled up their website on my phone; they’re a chain, apparently, with about a dozen locations.

I hadn’t planned on eating a burger that day, but plans change.

The place is very similar to South St. Burger, right down to the round metallic trays they serve the burgers on.  They have a handful of elaborately topped signature burgers, but I went with the original burger topped with tomato, pickle, and mayo.  I got it as a combo with a drink and fries and it came up to less than eight bucks.


They have a convenient pager system to let you know when your order is ready, so you can sit down and wait for your disc to light up.

The grilled burger is very, very okay.  It is quite possibly the most middle-of-the-road hamburger I’ve reviewed for this blog.  It’s neither particularly good or particularly bad; it’s just there.

The patty doesn’t have much flavour at all, with pretty much all of the taste coming from the grill.  I wouldn’t exactly describe it as juicy, though I wouldn’t call it dry, either.  It tasted fresh, though it also had a very slight amount of the chewiness that you tend to find with frozen, industrially-produced burgers.  I’m not sure what to make of that.

The bun and toppings were fine.  The whole thing was fine.  Very innocuous.  I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to eat at a Union Burger again, but if I found myself there, I wouldn’t object.

As for the fries, they were actually a bit better than average, so I guess they were the highlight.

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South St. Burger Co.

Location1020 Islington Avenue, Etobicoke

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.


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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