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

St. James’s Gate

St. James's GateLocation: 5140 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke
Website: https://sjgtoronto.ca/

I’ve been at this for almost a decade now, so for the most part, these reviews basically write themselves (what’s that?  The reviews all feel like I’m writing them on autopilot? Yeah, that’s fair).  But burgers like the one they serve at St. James’s Gate — good, but not noteworthy in any way — are probably the toughest to review.

It’s a solid burger.  It exists.  There’s nothing majorly wrong with it.  I don’t know.

St. James's Gate

The Royale with Cheese, according to the menu: “Twin four ounce brisket burgers stacked with melted American cheese, Havarti, secret sauce and bread and butter pickles.”

Is it the best burger I’ve ever had?  No, absolutely not.  Did it offend me in any way?  Also no.  It’s good.

St. James's Gate

I will say that the two types of cheese are a nice touch; I’ve never seen the Havarti/American combo on a cheeseburger, and I was skeptical.  I thought it might be too much.  But they’re both nice and gooey without being overly assertive.  It works.

Another bonus: I’m pretty sure that the patties were grilled, which is a nice change of pace from the griddle-smashed patties that you’d expect to find in a burger like this.

St. James's Gate

Otherwise, the patties are fine.  They’re slightly too dense and tough, but they’re nice and juicy, which helps to balance things out.  And while there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the flavour of the beef, it’s fine.  It’s inoffensive, and there’s so much other stuff going on here that it doesn’t really stand out as a huge issue.

The other toppings, including the tangy secret sauce, are all about what you’d expect, and the bun — though slightly too toasty and crispy — suits the burger well.

St. James's Gate

As for the fries, they’re quite good.  Unlike the burger, they’re actually quite a bit better than okay.

3 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

Avenue Open Kitchen

Avenue Open KitchenLocation: 7 Camden Street, Toronto
Website: https://aveopenkitchen.ca/

I probably shouldn’t like the burger at Avenue Open Kitchen quite as much as I did — mostly because it’s a meatloaf burger, which isn’t my favourite style of hamburger, putting it mildly.

Actually, no, that description doesn’t quite cut it; it’s not just a meatloaf burger.  It is the meatloafiest of meatloaf burgers.  The patty absolutely slaps you in the face with its oddly sweet, heavily-seasoned flavour.  The taste of the beef?  Completely gone.

So, I hated it, right?  Well, about that…

Avenue Open Kitchen

It’s otherwise so well prepared, I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

I had heard that that the banquet burger is the thing to order here, so that’s what I got.  And yeah, that’s what you should be getting; the bacon is nice and crispy and the gooey American cheese is perfectly melted.  Bonus: their saltiness helps to balance the sweetness of the patty.

Avenue Open Kitchen

That patty is quite sweet, though.  It’s so weird.  I’m guessing they’ve mixed in some kind of sweet sauce into the beef?  It’s not bad, per se, but it’s strange.

Avenue Open Kitchen

Still, everything else about the patty is so right that it almost makes up for the wrongness of the flavour — its got a great crispy crust from the griddle, it’s very juicy, and the texture is on point (it’s slightly too soft, but that’s par for the course for a meatloaf burger).

The toppings are the usual suspects, and the soft, fluffy bun suits the burger perfectly.

Avenue Open Kitchen

As for the fries, they’re nothing to write home about, but they’re solid.

3 out of 4

Turtle Jack’s

Turtle Jack'sLocation: 108 Courtneypark Drive East, Toronto
Website: https://turtlejacks.com/

Nope.

Seriously: no.  I’m so sick of the no-effort pucks of despair that they serve at basically every Canadian chain restaurant like Turtle Jack’s.

Turtle Jack's

How?  How does this happen?  How can a restaurant serve a hamburger that’s so unambiguously bad that anyone with a mouth and functional tastebuds will immediately identify it as the off-putting garbage that it is?

That’s a legitimate question and I’d like someone at Turtle Jack’s to answer it.  Also, Turtle Jack’s?  While you’re here?  Get out of here with that horrific slop.  Get all the way out and never come back.

Turtle Jack's

The burger at Turtle Jack’s is incredibly dry and dense, and it’s an absolute bummer to eat.  It made me sadder and sadder with each mouthful.  The beefy flavour was almost nonexistent, with a vaguely leftovery funk that makes me think they might be precooking the patties and reheating them to order.  It’s bad.  Bad bad bad bad bad.

I feel no need to discuss it further, because it’s a piece of garbage that’s clearly made by people with the cynical belief that they can serve whatever the hell garbage they want and people will eat it.  If you order it, you’re proving them right.  Please don’t do that.  I ate it so you don’t have to.

Turtle Jack's

The fries were slightly better (because there’s really nowhere to go but up from that burger), but they were the boringest of boring frozen fries.

1 out of 4

Burger Maker

Burger MakerLocation: 4870 Tomken Road, Mississauga
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Burger-Maker-108408953847438/

Burger Maker is a bit of an odd concept.  Apparently it started out as a place called Sweets House that specialized in kunafe, a very tasty Middle Eastern dessert.

It’s a burger joint now, though the kunafe remains on the menu, and the Sweets House signage can still be seen in the restaurant.

I think it’s safe to say that there aren’t many restaurants in the world that specialize in hamburgers and kunafe, so that’s interesting.  Alas, I didn’t try the kunafe — they only sell it in big, shareable trays that they make to order.

Burger Maker

I did, of course, try a hamburger.

I got the BM Burger (should someone tell them that BM has… other meanings?), which comes topped with pickles, tomato, onion, lettuce, and BM sauce (seriously, someone should say something).

The patty is grilled, which is a nice change of pace, with a decent amount of flavour and texture from the grill.  Its flavour is a bit odd, however — I wouldn’t call it a full-blown meatloaf burger, but it’s definitely spiced with something beyond salt and pepper, and the spicing is mixed right into the meat, giving it a slightly sausage-like texture.

Burger Maker

Thankfully, the spicing isn’t too assertive, but it’s enough to cover up whatever mild beefy flavour that the patty might have had.  It’s not unpleasant to eat, but it tastes muddled — it’s not particularly meatloafy, and it’s not particularly burgery.

The well done patty was also a bit on the dry side, with a texture that’s slightly too finely ground, but it’s basically okay.

Burger Maker

The BM sauce was quite tasty, however, which is good because there was a lot of it.  It’s zingy and a little bit sweet, with a nice roasted garlic flavour.

The bun was slightly oversized for the patty, but it was soft and fresh enough that it was barely an issue.

As for the fries, they weren’t great.  They were overly crispy on the outside and slightly undercooked on the inside.

2.5 out of 4

Top Gun Burgers

Top Gun BurgersLocation: 5955 Latimer Drive, Mississauga
Website: http://www.topgunburgerto.com/

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to check out Top Gun Burgers.  I guess their original Kensington Market location opened shortly after The Burgernator, a nearby burger joint I didn’t care for, and it looked similar enough that I was never particularly motivated to try it.

In the meantime, however, Top Gun Burgers have done well enough to expand to eight locations throughout the GTA, so this review was long overdue.

Top Gun Burgers

Their fighter-plane-inspired menu has over a dozen choices, but I went simple with the Bobcat: “beef patty, fresh onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles and top gun aioli.”

It’s not the best, though it certainly looks impressive.  The smashed and griddled patty (of course it’s smashed and griddled, what else would it be??  There’s no other way to cook a burger, right???) looks great, with a picture-perfect amount of crust from the hot griddle.

Top Gun Burgers

Alas, though it’s certainly not bad, it doesn’t taste quite as good as it looks.

The patty is the biggest issue.  It’s been cooked to well done and beyond, not to mention the fact that it’s a bit too tightly packed.  It’s vaguely juicy, but still dryer than it should be. It all adds up to a patty that’s a bit of a tough chew.

Top Gun Burgers

The burger has a very mild beefy flavour; it’s nice, but not nearly as beefy as you’d like it to be.

The toppings are what you’d expect, other than the Top Gun aioli, which is zippier than the standard burger sauce, with a slightly smoky flavour.

The bun is mostly okay, though it’s a bit too dense.

Top Gun Burgers

As for the fries, they’re absolutely phenomenal.  They’re some of the best fries I’ve had in ages; they’re perfectly crispy and creamy, and the flavour is outstanding.  It’s worth coming here just for them.  Seriously, seriously good.

2.5 out of 4