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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Northern Maverick Brewing Co.


Location
: 115 Bathurst Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://northernmaverick.ca/

I told myself I wasn’t going to trust Toronto Life again after the great frozen burger fiasco of 2015 (a quick recap: they included a frozen, industrially-produced burger in their list of the 25 best burgers in the city back in 2015 and made smoke come out of my ears like a cartoon character).

But when they specifically mentioned the greatness of the burger at Northern Maverick Brewing Co. in their recent list of the best new restaurants in the city, I couldn’t ignore it.  That’s like catnip for me.  I can’t resist.  I’m physically incapable.

(They also recently published my list of the ten best burgers in the city, so I guess they’re not all bad.)

I like Toronto Life, but they should clearly stop trying to recommend burgers, because they are terrible at it.

The burger here was an absolute disaster.  The menu certainly makes it sound good: “dry-aged house ground chuck, housemade bacon, house smoked cheese, house pickle” (they sure like the word “house,” don’t they?).

I’m going to start with the bun, because holy crap that bun was so profoundly awful that I’m having a hard time believing that it even happened.  Like, did I really eat that?  Or was it some kind of bizarre nightmare?

I knew I was in trouble immediately, because I almost couldn’t even cut through it with the knife they provided.  It was dense and impenetrable and horrible.

It made it really difficult to actually eat the hamburger — it was so dense and unyielding that it had zero give.  You couldn’t compress it down even a little bit, and it’s big, so I had to open my jaw as wide as it would go, and it was barely enough.

The flavour was fine — it was slightly too sweet, but otherwise okay — but the texture was a complete disaster.  It was closer to stale pound cake than to a traditional bun.  It overwhelmed everything.  It was the worst.

The patty, sadly, wasn’t much better.  It had a decent beefy flavour and a nice amount of crust from the griddle, but it was immediately apparent that the beef they were using was way too lean, because the well-done patty was dry AF.  I can’t remember the last time I had a burger that dry. Between that and the stupid bun, it required so much chewing.

The toppings were fine, at least. I was a bit worried that the smoked cheese would be overwhelming, but it was pleasantly mild and melty.

But it’s irrelevant. That bun. That patty. The horror.

Oh, and the fries were of the ultra-generic frozen variety, so how this place wound up on a major magazine’s list of the best restaurants of the year is truly baffling.

1.5 out of 4

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Super Burger

super
Location
: 3327 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Etobicoke
Website: None

Super Burger pretty much follows the old school burger joint playbook to a T. Grilled burgers? Check. Run-down decor? Check. Both frozen and homemade burgers on the menu? Check. A choice of toppings from behind glass? Check. Meatloaf burger? Ch… wait, what? They don’t serve a meatloaf burger?

Huh.

The lack of meatloafyness makes Super Burger a bit of an oddity among older burger joints, but I’m certainly not complaining. Read this blog for a while and it’ll become pretty clear that I think the seasoning should go outside of a burger. And of course, the aforementioned seasoning should be salt and maybe pepper and that’s it.

No, I’m not going to get into yet another rant about the perils of meatloafery in the burger world, especially since this place doesn’t even commit that particular food crime.

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But yes, they do have the choice between frozen and homemade, and yes, of course I went with homemade. I ordered the five ounce, and got it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.

Alas, despite the fact that it was fresh and un-meatloafified, it just wasn’t particularly good. The middling quality beef had almost zero flavour, with almost all of the taste coming from the vaguely bitter smokiness that you get from a patty that’s been on the grill for a really long time.

The texture, too, wasn’t great; the patty had an overly fine grind and an almost complete lack of juiciness, which resulted in a bit of a mealy chew.

The lightly toasted bun was mostly okay, but probably about a day past its shelf life, and the toppings were fine (the mayo was actually mayo and not Miracle Whip — another oddity for an old school burger joint).

As for the fries, they were of the battered frozen variety. Forgettable, but with enough of a crispy/creamy contrast to be quite edible.

2 out of 4

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Cactus Club Cafe

cactus
Location
: 77 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.cactusclubcafe.com/location/first-canadian-place/

Cactus Club Cafe, like Earl’s and Joey before it, is the latest Western Canadian upscale casual chain to make its way to Toronto.  A great burger from a chain like this is kind of like Bigfoot — some people claim it exists, but I haven’t seen any compelling evidence myself.  But in his (mostly unfavourable) review of this place in the Globe and Mail, Chris Nuttall-Smith singled out the burger as “a wide, deliciously sloppy mess.”  Okay.  Sold.

There are actually two burgers on the menu — the Feenie Burger, and the Cheddar Bacon burger.  As far as I can tell the two burgers are identical, save for the presence of mushrooms on the Feenie.  But that burger (created by celebrity chef Rob Feenie) is the one referenced in Nuttall-Smith’s review, so that’s what I ordered.

There’s a ridiculous amount of stuff on the burger.  Aside from the aforementioned mushrooms, it’s topped with aged cheddar, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, red relish, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.  I’m actually kind of surprised that Feenie wanted to put his name on this burger, because it’s essentially like going to Harvey’s and asking for everything.  It might be tasty, but it’s more like a random hodge-podge of stuff than a chef-crafted creation.  In particular, the vinegary-sweet combination of the abundant ketchup and mustard are easily the dominant flavours here.

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As for the mushrooms that apparently warrant Rob Feenie slapping his name on the burger?  There’s so much else going on that I literally couldn’t even tell they were there.

Still, it’s a pretty good hamburger.  The patty has a bit of crust from the griddle, and in the rare bites where you get a taste of the beef without too much else getting in the way, it has a pretty decent flavour.  It’s also fairly juicy, with a nice coarse grind that hasn’t been overhandled.  It makes me a bit sad that it’s completely overwhelmed by the voluminous toppings (Nuttall-Smith called the patty “somewhat irrelevant” in his review, which is apt), but tasty is tasty.  Sometimes it’s best not to overthink it.

As for the fries, they were lightly battered, cardboardy, and personality-free.  They couldn’t have been more obviously from a bag if they came with a big lighted sign that said “FROM THE FREEZER.”

3 out of 4

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The Opera House Grill

opera
Location
: 737 Queen Street East, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/theoperahousegrill/

I’m going to keep this one relatively brief.  If you’ve read my recent rant about the Opera House Grill’s inclusion on Toronto Life’s new list of the city’s 25 best burgers, then you already pretty much know what I think about this burger: it’s made with a frozen patty, and it doesn’t belong within a million miles of any kind of “best of” list.

Still, that’s not to say that it’s the worst thing ever.  It’s actually pretty okay, as far as frozen burgers go.  The Shaggy Burger (the one that made Toronto Life’s list) is an impressively ridiculous behemoth of a burger.  Piled high with sweet griddled onions, crispy onion rings, bacon, tsatziki, and a healthy mound of cheddar cheese, not to mention the standard burger toppings like lettuce, pickles, and tomato, it’s pretty much the definition of a kitchen sink burger.

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And I won’t lie: it’s pretty good in the middle.  It’s topping overload, but everything in the pile is fairly tasty, and it all tastes pretty good together.  The big mound of shredded cheddar cheese never quite melts as much as it needs to, but aside from that the toppings are solid.

Where the burger really falls apart (figuratively — the bun held up surprisingly well to all the toppings) is around the perimeter of the burger, where all of the many condiments begin to fade away. That’s when you really taste that hot-doggy, mediocre frozen patty, and realize that greatness is simply never going to be in this burger’s vocabulary.

As for the fries, they clearly came out of the same freezer as the burger patty, and were about as middling as you’d expect.

2 out of 4

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Galito’s

galitos
Location
: 5200 Dixie Road, Unit 55, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.galitoschicken.com/

In my continuing quest to check out any halfway decent burger near my work (which is no easy task when you work in Mississauga, a horrifying burger wasteland), I did my semi-regular “best burger in Mississauga” search, and found a top 15 by Foursquare.  Number 13 on that list: Galito’s.

Wait, Galito’s?  That Galito’s?  The peri peri chicken joint?  Do they even have a burger on the menu?

Apparently they do.  I was fairly certain it was going to be bad (because why does that place even serve a burger??), but I figured, sure – why the hell not?

Ordering a hamburger here is so bizarre that I was honestly a little bit embarrassed even asking for it; I glanced around furtively as I ordered, like a guy buying a Hustler at a convenience store.

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I was asked how spicy I wanted it, which certainly isn’t a question you expect when ordering a burger.  I thought, at the very least, that this might be interesting.

Well, I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I got was a run-of-the-mill frozen patty – grilled – that had been slathered in peri peri sauce.  It was also topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion.

The frozen patty was what it was: with its chewy texture and anemic flavour, it’s identical to the hamburger you’ll find at any number of crappy old-school burger joints, hospital cafeterias, and company picnics. The spicy, lemony peri peri sauce adds some heat and some zip, which kind of helps, but there’s no saving a patty like this.

The burger came with one side — I went with the peri peri fries, which were just mediocre frozen fries that were dusted with some kind of peri peri seasoning.  With the hamburger, I can barely even blame them for going the frozen route – no one but a madman would order a hamburger from a restaurant that otherwise so single-mindedly specializes in chicken. The fries, on the other hand, I have a much harder time forgiving them for.

1.5 out of 4

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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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