Smashburger

smash
Location
: 6301 Silver Dart Drive, Mississauga (Toronto Pearson International Airport)
Websitehttp://smashburger.com/

Though I’m assuming they’re going to expand a bit more at some point, right now if you’re in Ontario and you want to try Smashburger, you’re going to have to fly internationally out of Pearson.  I actually was flying internationally recently, so I was pretty excited to try this (supposedly) higher end American fast food chain.

They’ve got the standard selection of hamburgers, chicken burgers, and salads that you’ll find at any of the big chains.  I got the Classic Smash, which is a single-patty cheeseburger that comes with American cheese, Smash Sauce, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion.

It’s… fine, I guess?  I was expecting something more along the lines of places like Five Guys or In-N-Out, but this definitely isn’t that.  It’s closer in quality to Wendy’s or A&W.  Not bad in a pinch, but definitely not something I’d get excited about or go out of my way for.

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The patty — with its dry, pebbly texture and lack of anything you’d recognize as a beefy flavour — is fast food through and through.  As per the name of the joint, it’s smashed, with a bit of colour and texture from the griddle.  This seems more cosmetic than anything else, as it doesn’t particularly add anything in the flavour department.

The slightly sweet bun is fine, as are the toppings (including the Smash Sauce, which is the typical tangy mayo that you’d expect).  The whole thing is fine — it’s a bit of a shrug, but I certainly didn’t dislike eating it.

As for the fries, I tried the Smash Fries, which are tossed with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary.  They were thinly-cut and tasty, but man were they oily.  They were doused in olive oil; they were dripping with the stuff.  I poured them out next to my burger, and they left a huge pool of oil in their wake.  It was pretty ridiculous.

2.5 out of 4

Smashburger - the restaurant Smashburger - the menu Smashburger - the burger and fries Smashburger - 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.

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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

Outtakes Backstage Bistro

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Location
: 3555 Highway 7 West, Woodbridge
Websitehttps://www.cineplex.com/Microsite/OutTakes

What do you do if you’re planning on eating a burger before seeing a movie, and the burger joint turns out to be closed? And the backup place, too? If you’re a rational person, you’d say to yourself “Well, I guess I’m not eating a burger today,” and then move on with your life.  If you’re me?  You eat a movie theatre burger.  Because how could that possibly go wrong?

Let’s be honest: I probably shouldn’t be reviewing this.  No one in their right mind would order a hamburger at the movies, and even if they did, they’d do it with the full knowledge that they’re going to get something pretty lousy.  If you order anything other than popcorn, nachos, or candy at the movies, you are fully complicit in the food crimes that follow.

They have a few different burgers on the menu; I went with the simplest one they had, which is a plain cheeseburger topped with ketchup, mayo, mustard, lettuce, and tomato.  That’s a bit heavier on the condiments than I typically like, but in this case I figured the burger would need all the help it could get.

It’s a frozen patty, because of course it’s a frozen patty.  This is one case where I can’t even get mad at a place for taking a taste-compromising shortcut like that.  I mean, is anyone really expecting the pimply-faced teens at the theatre to grind and cook fresh beef?  The fact that they even sell stuff like burgers and chicken sandwiches at a movie theatre is kind of crazy; of course it all comes from a freezer.

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Though I’m pretty sure the burger actually started its life as an above average frozen patty, it was held for who-knows-how-long in one of those stupid warming drawers that have pretty much ruined fast food, and was thus completely devoid of anything even resembling moisture.  It was sucked dry, with a salty, off flavour that didn’t even taste vaguely of beef.

The cheese — which was cold and unmelted — actually tasted like real cheddar, with a surprisingly sharp cheesy flavour that helped distract from the generic frozen patty taste.  The lettuce and tomatoes were fine, and the various condiments tried their best to disguise the burger’s flavour.

The bun was the best element here by far. It was soft and fresh, with a slightly sweet flavour and just enough substance to hold up to the burger nicely.

I’m sorry to break this to you, bun: you did great, but you died in vain.

This would normally be the part of the review where I’d talk about the fries.  I decided to spare myself.  I mean, how much awful food are you expecting me to eat for your amusement?  I think the burger is probably enough.

1 out of 4

Outtakes Backstage Bistro - the restaurant Outtakes Backstage Bistro - the seating area Outtakes Backstage Bistro - the burger Outtakes Backstage Bistro - the burger

John Anderson’s Charcoal Broil Hamburgers

anderson
Location
: 1069 Dundas Street West, Mississauga
Website: None

Mediocre frozen burger, mediocre frozen fries, THE END.

Seriously, I think I’ve written enough of these at this point that I really don’t need to go much further than that.  I could just point you in the direction of any number of reviews I’ve written of places that serve mediocre, industrially-produced frozen burgers just like this one.

I wouldn’t be surprised if all the old-school burger joints serving crappy frozen burgers get them from the same supplier, so can’t I just cut-and-paste the same review every time?  Why should I go to the trouble of writing a review from scratch when they can’t be bothered to make a burger from scratch (which is, I should add, probably the easiest thing you can make, so WTF)?

The sad thing is, I discovered this place through random “best burger in Mississauga” searches; clearly, the burger boom that’s hit Toronto in the last few years has left Mississauga almost entirely untouched.

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John Anderson has a regular burger and a “Big Puck” burger on the menu.  I was told that they’re both exactly the same aside from the size, so I went with the regular, and had it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.

I’m not particularly going to get into it, because why should I, but it was a frozen burger and it tasted like so many other frozen burgers: it had the same overly-processed hot dog texture, and the same disturbing lack of any kind of beefy flavour.

The bun was fine and the toppings were fine — though again, like with so many other old-school burger joints, the mayo is actually Miracle Whip, which I’ve just come to expect at this point.

As for the aforementioned frozen fries, they were well-prepared and slightly better than average, but they were still pretty lifeless compared to the real deal.

1.5 out of 4

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The Burger Shack

shack
Location: 233 Eglinton Avenue West, Toronto
Website: None

I mentioned recently, in my review of Dangerous Dan’s, that most old-school burger joints in Toronto are kind of lousy.  They all pretty much look the same, and they all serve similarly mediocre meatloaf burgers (or even worse, a frozen burger).  They’re a nice reminder of how good we have it now, and how difficult it used to be to find a decent hamburger in this city, but that’s about it.

That’s The Burger Shack, in a nutshell.  It’s not much better or much worse than any other old-school burger joint in the GTA.  It is what it is.

Like a lot of restaurants of its ilk, it has two different burgers on the menu: a really cheap one, usually frozen, and a slightly less cheap one that they make in-house.  I went with the latter, and had it topped with tomato, pickles, and mayo.

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This being an old school burger joint, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the burgers here are grilled.  Grilling can add an appealing smokiness to a burger; it can also, if overdone, add a bitter, burnt flavour.  Sadly, that was the case here.  And though the well done patty was a little bit juicy, it was also ridiculously tightly-packed and tough.

It was also, of course, a meatloaf burger; it was seriously meatloafy, with almost zero beefy flavour and a vaguely sausage-like consistency.

The bun was fine, and the toppings were mostly fine, though like with a lot of old school burger joints, the “mayo” was actually Miracle Whip (or some cheap, Miracle-Whip-like substitute).  I don’t know why so many of these places think it’s okay to substitute Miracle Whip for mayo without telling their customers.  Sure, they look the same, but they taste completely different.

So the burger was mediocre (at best), but I’ll end this review on a positive note.  The fries, though unsalted (salt was provided on the tables), were otherwise amazing.  Like, seriously, addictively amazing.  Strong contender for the best fries I’ve ever had amazing.  AMAZING.  They had a great potatoey flavour, and were the perfect combo of crispiness and creaminess.  Seriously: I want to come back here and just eat a large order of those fries.  So good.

2 out of 4

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Burger Shack on Urbanspoon

Stupidburger

stupid
Location
9750 Weston Road, Unit #2, Vaughan
Websitehttp://www.stupidburger.ca/

Stupid burgers need the most attention.

Sorry for the random paraphrased Simpsons quote, but I literally cannot hear the name of this place without thinking of that particular line.

It’s certainly an odd name for a restaurant, but if an unusual name is what it takes for a burger joint to be noticed these days, so be it.

I’ll admit it though, my expectations weren’t super high. The only thing I had heard about this place was this lukewarm review from a fellow Toronto burger blogger. Between that and the name, I dialed my expectations way down.

If nothing else, the place is delightfully affordable. Though they have a really extensive menu with all kinds of pre-topped burgers and various patty choices, I went simple with just the regular 6 oz burger. As a combo with fries and a drink, it came up to less than nine bucks with tax.

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Given the prices I’ve gotten used to paying at Toronto burger joints, it’s almost suspiciously cheap.

I’m just going to say it then: it’s a really good burger.  Though nothing about it blew me away, it gets pretty much everything right and very little wrong.  It’s griddled, with a decent amount of crust.  It’s nice and juicy despite being cooked to well done.  It’s coarsely ground and not too tightly packed, giving it a really satisfying texture.  It has a mild but very pleasant beefy flavour.  And the fresh, lightly toasted bun suits the patty perfectly.

I really enjoyed it. It’s nothing I’m going to lose my mind over or urge you to go way out of your way to try; it’s just a perfectly executed fast-food-style burger that’s really tasty and satisfying.  Considering the price, you can’t ask for much more than that.

As for the fries, they were seriously tasty, and right on par with the hamburger.

Stupidburger… more like… notstupidburger, right guys?

I’ll show myself out.

3.5 out of 4

Stupidburger - the outside Stupidburger - the restaurant Stupidburger - the fries Stupidburger - the burger Stupidburger - the burger
Stupid Burger on Urbanspoon

Big Jack’s Burger Shop

big
Location
: 8384 Woodbine Avenue, Markham
Websitehttp://www.bigjacks.ca/

Every burger joint I visit, I go in hoping I’m going to love it.  I know I can occasionally come off as nitpicky, but I eat every hamburger looking for things to love, not things to criticize.  Nothing would please me more than to spend the rest of my days writing nothing but glowing reviews.

That being said… some burgers just aren’t very good.  Sometimes I’ve gotta pick nits.

Big Jack’s is actually in the same location as Prime Burger, one of those really old school burger joints that was probably older than many of its customers.  I had meant to check it out for ages, but alas, I never got around to it.  Such is life.

It’s a fairly small place, but there are a decent amount of tables inside.  They have a handful of signature burgers on the menu, but the topping selections — including one with pulled pork, and one with grilled cheese sandwiches instead of a bun — were a little bit too busy for my liking, so I went with the plain burger.  I got it topped with my usual tomato, pickles, and mayo; with a drink and a generous portion of fries, it came up to about eleven bucks.

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I wish it were better than it was, but sadly it just wasn’t very good.  For one thing it’s a meatloaf burger, and an especially strong one at that, with the spices and who-knows-what mixed into the patty effectively steamrolling whatever beefy flavour it might have had.  It didn’t taste bad per se, but the spicing just seemed to be there to be there; it had no real purpose.  It didn’t enhance the taste of the beef, it only obscured it.

The griddled patty was cooked all the way to well done, and featured the unholy trinity of dry hamburger cookery: beef that is overly lean, too finely ground, and too tightly packed.  This results in a burger that’s dry, dense, and tough.  When a burger practically requires as much chewing power as a thick steak, you’ve got problems.

The toppings were fine, however, and the fresh sesame seed bun suited the burger perfectly.

As for the fries, they were the clear highlight.  Thinly cut and perfectly fried, they were delicious.  If this blog were called Tasty Fries, I’d be giving this place a pretty high rating, but it’s not so I won’t.

1.5 out of 4

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Big Jack’S Burger Shops on Urbanspoon