El Furniture Warehouse

warehouse
Location
: 410 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/ElFurnitureTO

In case you’re not familiar with the place, El Furniture Warehouse’s whole shtick is that every item on the menu costs five bucks (or more accurately, $4.95).  Yes, all the appetizers, mains, and desserts are five bucks.

As you can imagine, it’s a popular place — I went on a Saturday afternoon, and it was pretty much packed.  The vibe seemed a little bit forced, like they were trying really, really hard to be hip, including a purposely unfinished design with a hodgepodge of ephemera on the walls, servers with piercings and tattoos aplenty, and the requisite uncomfortably loud music (how much of a curmudgeon do I sound like right now?).

As for the food?  Surprisingly enough, it’s not horrible.

It’s not particularly good, mind you — but considering what they charge, it could have been a whole lot worse (it certainly doesn’t seem to be any worse than a place like Kelsey’s or Boston Pizza, where the prices are double if not triple what they’re charging here).

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I’m not sure the quality of the food even matters at these prices, but I’ll note that the burger is frozen and industrially produced.  The patties are a bit higher quality than usual (similar to what they serve at Zet’s), so that’s good at least.  It’s not quite as hot-doggy as some, and actually does have some vague beef flavour.  Still, no one will be confusing it for anything but what it is: a cheapo burger that can claim to be edible, but not much more.

There are three burgers on the menu, but the waitress helpfully pointed me in the direction of The Works, their signature hamburger: “maple bacon, cheddar, crispy onion strings, macho sauce, shredded lettuce and tomato on a toasted Brioche bun.”

The toppings were all actually pretty decent — the macho sauce was some kind of garlic mayo, and everything else was pretty good, including the fresh, slightly sweet brioche bun.  With a better patty it could have actually been not bad, but that patty does bring the whole thing down several pegs.

Still, for five bucks including fries (i.e. cheaper than fast food), it might be worth a vague recommendation, provided you know what you’re getting into.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, however, to hear that the fries also aren’t that great; like the burger, they obviously originated in a factory many, many miles away, followed by a long stay in a freezer.  They’re pretty bland, but again, I’ve had worse.

2 out of 4

El Furniture Warehouse - the outside El Furniture Warehouse - the inside El Furniture Warehouse - the burger and fries El Furniture Warehouse - the burger
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Food Cabbie

cabbie
Location
: It’s a truck, so check Twitter to see where they’re parked
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Food-Cabbie/137387466356927

Food Cabbie is one of those places I’ve been meaning to check out almost since I started this blog.  As one of the earlier food trucks in Toronto’s recent food truck boom, they obviously have staying power, which you’d think would indicate they’re serving up some pretty good food.

You’d think.

They have a few burgers on the menu: quarter pound, half pound, and a chili burger dubbed the L.A. Tommy Burger.

If it weren’t for this review, I wouldn’t have ordered anything.  I would have gotten the hell out of there posthaste.  My dining companion ordered first; he got the L.A. Tommy, and since we could see the man doing the cooking, we could clearly see him pull out the saddest looking pre-cooked burger I’ve ever seen and slap it on the griddle.

I suddenly got PTSD-esque flashbacks to BBQ Express, an experience I was doing my best to completely erase from my memory.  Like with that burger, every bone in my body was telling me to high-tail it out of there and never look back, but you know what?  My self-imposed burger blogging duties mean I have to take the bad with the good.  I’m here to eat this garbage so you don’t have to.  I’m here to jump on that grenade for you.  

I steeled myself and ordered the quarter pound burger.

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It comes topped with mayo and tomato, with further condiments available on a picnic table just next to the truck.  I figured I’d keep it simple and eat the burger as it comes.

I just… I don’t…  What.

I think it might have been a frozen patty, but I honestly couldn’t tell because it wasn’t quite like any other pre-fab burger that I’ve had; it was worse.  It certainly looked like a frozen burger, but… Everything about it was wrong.

I’m not sure if it was the reheating or what, but it was just awful on every level.  I don’t even know what to make of the texture, which had that chewy, hot-doggy texture typical of frozen burgers, but which was also horrifically mushy.  Like, I’m not even sure how to describe that texture, other than to say it was horrible, and — I’m pretty sure — mere steps away from triggering my gag reflex.

The taste wasn’t much better.  Acrid and burnt around the edges, it had a gamy, downright nasty flavour that, at the very least, was somewhat disguised by how incredibly salty it was.  I’ve obviously never eaten cat food, but this is what I’d imagine it would taste like if you mashed some Fancy Feast into a patty and griddled it.

It’s one of the worst hamburgers I’ve ever had.  It’s certainly right down there with Hero Certified Burgers, which I didn’t even think was possible.  Like with that burger, I couldn’t finish it (an exceedingly rare occurrence for me).  I got a bit more than half-way through and I just couldn’t stomach another bite.

I actually feel kind of bad.  I felt no remorse whatsoever ripping into Hero Burger, a soulless corporation whose modus operandi is to fleece Canadians by using slick marketing and sheer omnipresence to trick them into buying a shoddy (at best) product.  I only gave them what they had coming.

Food Cabbie, on the other hand, seems to be a mom and pop operation.  No one opens a food truck to get rich; these are people who, presumably, wanted to share their food with the city, and thought they could make a living doing so.  That’s what makes the complete lack of care in the food they’re serving so baffling.  I’m honestly quite confused by it, but I can only comment on the food I was served that day, which was atrocious.

And the sad fact of the matter is, this burger was so thoroughly horrible on every level that it’s very difficult to speculate that they were just having a bad day.  It was bad food, period.

They must have been serving something worth eating at some point, otherwise I don’t see how they could possibly survive in the GTA’s ever-expanding food truck scene, but those days are clearly long gone.

As for the fries, they were almost as bad as the burger. Pale, with a soggy, grease-soaked exterior and a chalky, undercooked interior, they joined what was left of the burger in the garbage.

Yikes.

0 out of 4

Food Cabbie - the truck Food Cabbie - the truck Food Cabbie - the fries Food Cabbie - the burger Food Cabbie - the burger
Food Cabbie Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Sonny’s Drive-In

sonny
Location
: 21 Kennedy Road North, Brampton
Websitehttp://www.sonnysdrivein1964.com/

Sonny’s Drive-In — a small, rickety old take-out joint — is absolutely dripping with old-school charm. It is lousy with it. Though in other cities that might fill you with a warm fuzzy feeling, visiting an old-school burger joint in the GTA is pretty much a guarantee of two things:

1) The burgers will be grilled. I have no idea why, but prior to the rise of places like Burger’s Priest and Holy Chuck a few years ago, griddled burgers were exceptionally difficult to find in the GTA (aside from fast food chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s). Everyone grilled their burgers.

2) This is the thing that always makes me hesistant to check out old-school burger joints: the burgers being served will almost certainly be of the frozen, industrially-produced variety. Or if you’re lucky and the burger is freshly made, it’ll inevitably be a meatloaf burger.

Number two is what makes it impossible for me to feel anything but trepidation when I visit an old-school burger joint, and makes me seriously confused as to how these places stay in business. I think it’s safe to say that nostalgia plays a very strong role.

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Before I bury the lede much further: yes, Sonny’s serves a frozen burger. No, it is not good.

It’s a tiny little place that does mostly take-out business — there are four picnic tables outside, but aside from that seating is non-existent. The burgers can either be had plain, with cheese, or with bacon and cheese. I went plain and had mine topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.

Accuse me of snobbery all you want, but cheap frozen burgers like the ones they serve here (and these are seriously bottom of the barrel) barely even taste like a hamburger to me. I’ve mentioned this before, but with their rubbery texture and generically salty flavour, they taste more like a flattened hot dog than like a hamburger. They’re bad.

The toppings were fine, though the mayo was actually Miracle Whip or something similar. The bun was pretty good, though when it’s part of such a shoddy hamburger, who cares?

As for the fries, they were much better than the burger, though that’s not saying much. They were soggy and a bit undercooked, but otherwise pretty good. They were also completely unsalted, which is a bit of a bummer coming from a take-out place.

Sonny's Charcoal Broiled Foods - the restaurant Sonny's Charcoal Broiled Foods - the inside Sonny's Charcoal Broiled Foods - the fries Sonny's Charcoal Broiled Foods - the burger Sonny's Charcoal Broiled Foods - the burger
Sonny's Drive In on Urbanspoon

Zet’s Restaurant

zets
Location
: 6445 Airport Road, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.zets.ca/

Zet’s is in a bit of an odd location (it’s close enough to Pearson to see the planes take off), but having heard a few good things about their burger, I knew that at some point I’d have to check it off the list.

It’s an endearingly run-down Greek diner that serves stuff like soulvaki and gyro, along with burgers and other diner stand-bys.

I walked in at around one on a Saturday afternoon and was happy to note that the place was absolutely packed, with a line going all the way back to the door; crowds this deep are generally a harbinger of good things to come.  Generally.

The menu is on the wall above the grill.  Noting an eponymous burger on the menu, I ordered that, along with a side of fries.  A few minutes later I was asked what I wanted from the toppings behind the glass (I went with tomatoes, pickle, and mayo) and I was ready to go.

The Zet burger is a double with cheese and bacon, and with two fairly large patties, it’s not kidding around.  Clearly, it is not for the weak of appetite.

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The patties are frozen and industrially produced. If you are seeking a hamburger worth going out of your way for, turn back now.  These are not the droids you’re looking for.

It is, however, a better-than-average frozen burger.  It wasn’t nearly as rubbery and hot dog-esque as some frozen burgers tend to be, nor was it as funky and off-tasting as some others.  Basically, it was pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to freezer-born burgers — but that is a very low water-mark indeed.

It still, of course, had that generically salty “this is meat?” flavour and hot doggy texture, but to a lesser degree than pretty much any other frozen burger that I’ve had.  It was also nicely grilled, with the gooey mild cheddar and thickly-cut, smoky bacon doing their best to hide the patty’s deficiencies.  It was probably the most I’ve enjoyed a frozen burger in quite a while, so props must go to Zet’s for successfully putting lipstick on a pig.

The other toppings were fine, as was the soft, fresh bun.  It’s actually pretty sad that Zet’s isn’t working with better patties; their technique is obviously pretty great, so if they were starting with better quality meat, they could be serving something special.  Oh well.

The fries, too, made me want to give Zet’s a pass.  Crispy on the outside and pleasingly creamy on the inside, they were absolutely outstanding.  Again, you can’t make fries this good unless you really know what you’re doing, so what’s the deal with the frozen burgers, Zet’s?  What’s the deal?

Zet's Restaurant - the restaurant Zet's Restaurant - the propeller sign Zet's Restaurant - the line-up Zet's Restaurant - the burger Zet's Restaurant - the burger
Zet's Drive-Inn Restaurant on Urbanspoon