Burger Fighter

Burger Fighter
Location: 1181 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/Burger-Fighter-Hot-Shawarma-187553741995504/

I must have driven by Burger Fighter a few dozen times, but I never gave it a second thought until it was featured on the @zachdoesburgers Instagram account (you should probably be following him, along with @burgerlab_to if you like burgers and you’re on Instagram).

Burger Fighter is an extremely unassuming hamburger/shawarma restaurant, so it’s easy enough to assume the burger is going to be lousy (Nader’s Middle Eastern Grill & Bakery in Mississauga comes to mind).

The burger is not lousy.  It’s actually quite good!  Not only that, it’s ridiculously inexpensive — I ordered the lunch special, which comes with a cheeseburger, a generous amount of fries, and a drink for $7.99.  Even McDonald’s isn’t that cheap.  That’s nuts.

Burger Fighter

And it’s a good quality burger.  It’s certainly not the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had — the flavour could have been a bit beefier, I wish there were more crust from the griddle, and the American cheese wasn’t quite as gooey as it should have been.  But the grind is nice and coarse, it hasn’t been overhandled, and it’s quite juicy despite being cooked all the way to well done.

It has a pleasant (if somewhat mild) beefy flavour that’s sadly obscured by the many toppings (they globbed on an obscene amount of ketchup and mayo, along with the usual lettuce, tomato, and pickles).

The bun, too, could have been better; it was a bit too dense and much too big for the patty, resulting in a bun-to-beef ratio that’s way off.

But for the price, and for how unimpressive the place looks from the outside, it’s a shockingly good burger.  I actually quite enjoyed it, and the fries were downright excellent.

3 out of 4

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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

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Burgers Park


Location: 10 William Sylvester Drive, North York
Websitehttp://burgerspark.ca/

Are you familiar with Shake Shack, the very popular chain of New York-based burger joints?  Someone at Burgers Park sure is — the style of burger, the paper wrapper it comes in, the crinkle-cut fries, the hot dogs, the milkshakes, the logo, and even the faux-park setting (the original Shake Shack is in Madison Square Park in New York) are all Shake Shack through and through.

BlogTO’s profile of the place states that the owners claim that the similarities to Shake Shake are coincidental.  Anything is possible, I suppose, but if that’s a coincidence it’s like the winning the lottery of coincidences.  Feels like a long-shot.

But don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying this is a bad thing.  Shake Shack is beloved.  If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.  We’re never going to get a Shake Shack location in Toronto, so we may as well get a homage.

And it’s really good!  If it hadn’t been great then the whole thing might have felt sad, but clearly, Burgers Park is ready to roll with the big boys.

I ordered the Park Burger, which is a classic griddled cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, sauteed onions, and dijonnaise.

The patty is great.  Like the one at Gold Standard, it’s cooked with mustard on the griddle, but unlike that one, the mustard flavour isn’t overbearing.  There’s just enough of it to compliment — but not overwhelm — the beef.

I wish the flavour were a bit beefier, but it’s otherwise pretty much perfect.  The crust is dark and impressive, the grind and the texture are exactly where they should be, and it’s prodigiously juicy despite being cooked all the way to well done.

Obligatory beautiful crust close-up:

The toppings are all great, too, particularly the gooey American cheese and the griddled onions.  The onions probably either needed to be cooked a bit longer or sliced a bit thinner, but they were still quite tasty.  I think griddled onions might be the perfect burger topping.  There’s just something about their flavour that compliments a good burger patty so perfectly.

The soft, fresh, toasted bun was also quite good, holding up to the juicy patty and the toppings without adding too much heft.

As for the crinkle-cut fries, something about their flavour was ever-so-slightly off, but they were otherwise nice and crispy on the outside, with a pleasantly creamy interior.

3.5 out of 4

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Bytes Burgers ‘n’ Fries


Location
: 10066 Bayview Avenue, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://www.bytesburgers.com/

I got a little bit concerned when the guy behind the counter at Bytes Burgers pulled out the grayest, saddest looking uncooked beef patty I’ve ever seen and slapped it on the grill.  Certainly, it did not bode well for the freshness (or lack thereof) of the burger.  But hey, at least it helped me to lower my expectations.

The burger here completely flummoxed me.  I don’t know what to make of it.

They have a quarter pound and a third pound burger; I went with the third pound option (the eponymous Byte burger), and had it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.

It’s… strange.  I think the patty might have been frozen and industrially-produced, but the texture was so wonky and so thoroughly unlike any burger that I’ve ever had that I had a hard time nailing it down.

It was soft and mushy and weird; I have no idea what was going on there, but it wasn’t right.  If it was made with fresh beef, then it was clearly way, way too finely ground, though that alone couldn’t begin to account for the oddball texture.  And even if it was frozen, that still wouldn’t explain the mushiness.

I don’t know.  Like I said, I’m flummoxed.

The flavour (not to mention the wan, gray colour of the uncooked patty) is what makes me think this might have been a frozen burger.  It has that neither-here-nor-there saltiness and generic meatiness of a frozen patty.

The toppings were all fine, at least, and the fresh bun suited the patty well.

I’ll admit that I didn’t entirely hate eating this burger — the flavour, while not particularly good, was inoffensive, and the squishy texture was wrong, but not completely repulsive.  But “it wasn’t gross” isn’t exactly high praise, and the wonky texture makes this hard to recommend to anybody.

As for the fries, they were fine — but they were heavily battered, and that’s never going to be my favourite style of fry.

1.5 out of 4

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Joey

Joey Sherway
Location
: 25 The West Mall, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://www.joeyrestaurants.com/

Are the days of seriously mediocre and/or terrible casual chain restaurants behind us?  Up until recently, the burger at a place like this was pretty much guaranteed to either be dry and unpleasant, or rubbery and industrially-produced.

But the burger I had at State & Main a couple of months ago was surprisingly okay, and so was the one I just ate at Joey.  Things are clearly looking up.

The burger here isn’t anything to get too excited about — nothing about it stands out, but it’s a solid, inoffensive hamburger.

It’s simple enough — it’s a single patty affair with lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion, and some kind of zesty mayo-based sauce.

I was quite enjoying the first few bites — the medium-well middle is juicy and satisfying.  But the meat is too tightly packed, and as you get closer to the well done edges of the patty, it gets dry and tough.

Still, it’s not bad.  The griddled patty has a good amount of crust on its exterior, and while it doesn’t taste particularly beefy, the flavour isn’t unpleasant.

The toppings are all fresh and tasty, and the zesty mayo adds some zip without overwhelming the beef.

The bun’s not great, however.  It’s overly dense and dry, and it’s slightly too wide for the patty.  The beef-to-bun ratio is off.

As for the fries, they tasted like a slightly inferior version of what they serve at McDonald’s.

2.5 out of 4

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Greenwood Smokehouse


Location
: 673 Danforth Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://greenwoodsmokehouse.com/

I like having a burger blog, but sometimes it’s a bummer.  Greenwood Smokehouse is, as the name implies, a barbecue joint.  And when I went there the other day, it smelled appropriately smoky, and I thought: I could go for some barbecue.  But I hate to pass up a chance to review a burger, so yeah.  I ordered the burger.

And it wasn’t great!  Which just made me sad about the potential barbecue deliciousness I was missing out on, but then my dining companion had the brisket sandwich and wasn’t impressed, so there you go.  Sometimes you’re not going to win no matter what you do.

Greenwood Smokehouse’s Black Angus burger is really simply topped, with just lettuce, tomato, pickles, and nothing else.  You have to admire a place that’s so confident in their hamburger that they don’t even want condiments to get in the way.

And the large patty certainly looks impressive, with a decent amount of crust from the griddle.

But the texture’s a bit off.  It was dense and chewy, and the well done patty was pretty dry.  It’s certainly not the worst thing ever, but it’s not ideal.

The flavour, too, was off.  It had a vague beefy flavour, but also a mild gaminess that I found unpleasant.  Again, it’s not the worst that I’ve had, but… it’s not great.

Everything else was pretty good.  The toppings were solid, and the bun — though standard-issue supermarket fare — was fresh and suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they were easily the highlight.  They were perfectly fried, and were nicely seasoned with a tasty spice blend.  This can sometimes be overbearing, but in this case it really worked.

2.5 out of 4

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Ozzy’s

Ozzy's in Kensington Market
Location
: 66 Nassau Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/ozzysburgers

Salt is a funny thing.  Add just enough of it to a dish, and it disappears into the background, enhancing flavours without calling attention to itself.  I was talking to a friend about the burger at Ozzy’s being too salty (because spoiler alert: the burger at Ozzy’s was way too salty), and he seemed surprised by the notion that a burger should even have salt.  Because done right, salt just enhances the beefy flavour of a burger without actually adding a particularly salty flavour.  It does its magic and then recedes into the shadows, happy to let the beef take all of the credit.

Done wrong, on the other hand?  You end up with the burger at Ozzy’s.

I ordered the Classic burger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, griddled onions, and Ozzy’s sauce.

Ozzy's in Kensington Market

It’s kind of tragic, because aside from the extreme saltiness issue, the burger was top-notch.  The patty had a really impressive amount of crust from the griddle and a perfect texture, despite being cooked to well done — it was surprisingly juicy, it had a nice coarse grind, and it wasn’t overhandled.  It also had a decent beefy flavour.  It was actually pretty great.

The toppings were all solid, and the fresh, slightly sweet bun suited the burger well, though it was slightly too large.

But when I say that the patty was too salty, I mean that it was in-your-face salty.  It was unpleasant.

It’s a damn shame, because with a normal amount of salt, this would have easily been a top-tier burger.  But it was what it was (and my dining companion had the same complaint, so this wasn’t a one-off mistake).

As for the fries, bafflingly, they were completely undersalted (or maybe they just tasted that way after the salt-bomb of a hamburger).  They also had a bit of a stale oil flavour, but were otherwise pretty good.

2.5 out of 4

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