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

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Belfast Love Public House

belfast
Location
: 548 King Street West, Toronto
Website: http://donnellygroup.ca/belfast-love/

Despite an ostensive Irish theme, Belfast Love’s menu is pretty much all generic upscale pub — thin crust pizzas, fancy salads, the obligatory chicken and waffles (at what point did chicken and waffles graduate from an occasional novelty to something that’s 100% obligatory for every restaurant with an unfocused menu like this one?).  And there’s a burger on the menu.  Because of course there is.

Well, a cheeseburger, to be specific.  “House ground chuck, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, mustard mayo.”

It looked good, I’ll give it that.  And I liked the toppings — the melty American cheese, the fresh tomato, the crunchy iceberg lettuce, and the mayo/mustard combo all worked quite well.  The patty itself, on the other hand…

I’m always afraid that, the longer that I do this, and the more and more that I obsess over the minutia of what makes a burger great (and vice-versa), I’m becoming increasingly out of touch with how normal people (i.e. people who don’t think about things like grind coarseness and beef-to-bun ratios on the regular) experience a hamburger.

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So it was nice when my dining companion echoed my sentiments on this burger exactly, confirming that I’m not being an overly picky weirdo (at least not in this particular case).

Because no, this was not a good hamburger.  The texture of patty was downright weird — dense, with an oddly chewy, vaguely sausagey texture.  I suspect they’re mixing salt in with the ground beef, which tends to make the texture of a hamburger sausage-like.

It probably didn’t help that the griddled patty was cooked to well done and then some, but I suspect that even perfectly cooked, this would have been a funky patty.

The taste wasn’t much better.  Whatever flavour the beef might have had was completely annihilated by the downright insane amount of pepper.  It was so peppery; it was nuts.  Literally the most peppery-tasting hamburger that I’ve ever had. I don’t know if the pepper was mixed in with the beef along with being used as seasoning on the patty, but the flavour was everywhere. It permeated every bite; there was nothing else.

The bun was fine, though it was slightly too dense, and cold throughout despite being toasted.

As for the fries, they were great.  Easily the highlight of the meal.  Not too thick, not to thin, perfectly cooked, just the right amount of salt…  good stuff.

1.5 out of 4

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Hidden Burger

hidden
Location
: 22 Front Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.hiddenburger.ca/

If nothing else, Hidden Burger certainly lives up to its name.  Tucked away in the Bottom Line, a sports bar near Union Station, there’s absolutely no signage for the place outside, and even when you get into the bar, it’s not immediately apparent that you’re in the right place.  It’s only when you walk through the place and go around a corner that you finally see it.

It strikes me as a thoroughly odd strategy to literally hide your restaurant and make random walk-ins completely impossible, but then what do I know about such things?  It’s either a genius marketing move or completely insane.

It’s mostly a take-out place, with only a few stools to sit across from the register.  They’ve got an admirably simple menu, with a cheeseburger (single or double), a veggie burger, and a weekly special, along with the requisite French fries.  I went with the cheeseburger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and red onion.

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It’s a griddled burger, which ideally gets you a tasty, dark brown crust on the patty.  Often, the griddle isn’t quite hot enough and the crust isn’t particularly there.  But I actually had the opposite problem here, which I can’t say I’ve ever encountered in a burger cooked in this style.  The crust was coal black; it was burnt and it tasted burnt, with an acridly bitter flavour pervading every bite.  That griddle must have been insanely hot.

The patty was, not surprisingly, quite overdone, with a completely gray interior that was cooked all the way to the peak of well done.  It was actually still vaguely juicy, which was nice, but suffice it to say, it needed way less time on the griddle (and it was black on both sides, which makes me think it may have been intentional, as baffling as that seems).

The patty was also a bit too tightly packed and dense, but aside from that the texture was okay.

The flavour was decent enough (aside from the bitterness, of course). There was some mild beefiness, which is always nice.

As for the toppings, they suited the burger well, though the slice of American cheese wasn’t all the way melted, which is kind of crazy given how hot the cooking surface must have been.  And the soft, squishy bun suited the burger perfectly.

The fries were the resounding highlight. They were great — super crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  They were particularly good with the optional jalapeno aioli, which costs 50 cents and is worth every penny.

2.5 out of 4

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McCoy Burger Company

mccoy
Location
: 3334 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://mccoyburgerco.ca/

It’s a bold move opening a burger joint on this particular stretch of Yonge Street, mere steps away from both the Burger’s Priest and the Burger Cellar, and just a few blocks north of Stack.  That area is pretty well covered in terms of burger availability.  You’ve gotta have confidence in what you’re selling to wade into that scrum.

So with cojones like that, I wanted to like McCoy Burger Company.  I really did.  And I didn’t dislike it; it was just aggressively average.

They’ve got a few pre-topped burgers on the menu, and a few different meat choices aside from beef (chicken, lamb, turkey). I did my usual thing and went with the simplest choice: the plain McCoy Burger, which I had topped with mayo, pickles, and tomato.

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The patty has a little bit of crust from the griddle, though it’s not really enough to add a whole lot of texture or flavour. The menu, confusingly, refers to the patty as being “grilled to perfection,” even though it has obviously been griddled (I think they just don’t realize that there are different words for grilling or griddling a hamburger).

The texture is actually pretty good — the loosely-packed patty had a nice, coarse grind, and though it was cooked all the way to well done, it was still a little bit juicy.

It’s the flavour that really sinks the burger.  They season the patty with some kind of spice blend; that’s generally not my favourite, but it wasn’t too overwhelming.  The biggest problem is the flavour of the beef itself; it’s just kind of tasteless, with a slightly off flavour that you typically only get from middling quality beef.

It’s a shame; with better tasting beef and with a bit more crust from the griddle (which they obviously know how to do — the video on their website shows a burger with an impressive amount of crust, so your mileage may vary), the burger could have been well above average, but instead it’s just a resounding shrug.

The fries, on the other hand, were great — featuring an addictively crispy exterior and a fluffy interior, they were really hard to stop eating.

2.5 out of 4

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Royale’s Luncheonette

royales
Location
: 1418 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.royalesluncheonette.com/

I like surprises.  Actually no; scratch that.  I like pleasant surprises.

This was supposed to be a review of the burger at The Federal, but they were absolutely slammed, with a half hour wait.  So we walked a few shops over and found ourselves at Royale’s Luncheonette, with absolutely no idea what to expect.  I’m definitely looking forward to checking out the burger at the Federal, but man am I glad they were so busy on this particular day.  Because spoiler alert: Royale’s was a very pleasant surprise.

It’s a tiny little place with just a couple of tables. The menu is posted on the wall, and you order at the counter.  The burger is dubbed the Royale with Cheese.  Given the name and rating system on this blog, I think you can guess that I approve of the reference.

It’s a fast-food-style burger done right: griddled patty, melty American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickle and tomato.  It’s topped with a sauce that, if you’ve ever had a Big Mac, is going to taste very familiar.

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I honestly wasn’t expecting all that much from this place, but I was surprised by how good it was.  The patty had a good amount of crust from the griddle, and when cooked to a pleasing medium, retained an impressive amount of juiciness.  It also had a nice, beefy flavour that easily cut through the zesty sauce.  Beefy flavour?  Juicy patty?  Not overcooked?  Why, I believe it’s time to do the dance of joy!

It wasn’t completely perfect, however.  It was way too small for the bun — the circumference of the patty was probably about two thirds of the circumference of the bread, leaving you with a lot of bun overhang.  That was a shame, as was the grind of the beef, which was ever-so-slightly too fine.  But those are minor complaints for what is otherwise a superb burger.

The lightly toasted Wonderbread bun (I could see the bag in the tiny open kitchen) suited the very unpretentious burger quite well, as did the classic burger toppings — though I wish there had been slightly less of the Big Mac-esque sauce.

No fries on the menu, sadly (I doubt that the ridiculously tiny kitchen could even accommodate a fryer), but when the burger is this good, it speaks for itself.

3.5 out of 4

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Hangry Burger

hangry
Location
: 435 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://hangryburger.com/

If you’ve ever wondered what the hamburger equivalent of a shrug is, look no further.  Hangry Burger now exists to answer that question.

That’s the thing: it’s not a bad burger.  There’s nothing offensive about it, and I didn’t dislike eating it.  But it’s not particularly good.  It’s just… it’s fine (you can’t see me right now, but I’m shrugging pretty hard).

This is going to be a pretty short review, because I honestly don’t have all that much to say about it.  It’s hard to muster up all that much enthusiasm to write about a burger that’s so thoroughly middle-of-the-road.

I ordered the Hangry Burger, which is their no-frills choice, and had it topped with Hangry sauce, pickles, and tomato.

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The patty had some colour from the griddle, though it was cooked all the way to well done and a bit dry.  It was also too finely ground, giving it a mealier texture than I’d like — but I’ve certainly had worse.  As for the flavour of the beef?  Remember all that shrugging I was doing earlier?  Yeah, I’m still doing it.

The toppings were fine, though if the Hangry sauce was anything other than plain mayo, I couldn’t taste it.

The bun, too, was fine, though it was clearly too big and dense for the simple single-patty option — the bun-to-patty ratio was way off.  The fact that it was cold and untoasted probably didn’t help.

As for the fries, they looked good, but they were a bit overcooked.  They were vaguely bitter, with a borderline burnt flavour.

2.5 out of 4

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Nader’s Middle Eastern Grill & Bakery

naders
Location
: 3900 Grand Park Drive, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.naders.co/

Have you ever been bored, browsing Instagram, seen a photo of a burger that looked good from a restaurant you wouldn’t expect, then thought “hey, I should review that for my burger blog!”

No? That phenomenon is weirdly specific to me? Well then.

Let’s face it, a burger isn’t exactly the first thing you’d typically order at a Middle Eastern joint like Nader’s. Or the second. Or the third. Or even the tenth. It’s weird that it’s even on their menu, but hey – it’s there and I’ve got this burger blog, so let’s do this.

I visited around lunchtime on a Thursday, and despite the fact that the impressively enormous restaurant was about 90% empty, the people behind the counter seemed frazzled. My burger took about twenty minutes, and I overheard another customer complaining that he had been waiting for his shawarma plate for over half an hour.

There were other issues. The guy behind the counter asked what I wanted on my burger; after telling him mayo, pickles, and tomato, he immediately started putting ketchup on the burger. I clarified what I wanted. He apologized, then reached for the lettuce.

Yeah, the service wasn’t great.

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This is the part of the review where I wish I could say “but it was all worth it once I tasted that burger. I definitely didn’t waste my time eating the latest in a long line of depressingly mediocre hamburgers!”

You have no idea how much I wish I could say that.

I ordered the single patty option, and it came glistening, with an impressive amount of crust from the griddle. I often complain about burgers that are weakly browned, with little to no crust. I have the opposite complaint here; the exterior of the patty was borderline burnt. It had a dark, crunchy exterior that makes you realize that yes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

I think they mostly use the griddle to crisp up already-cooked shawarma, which necessitates a surface that’s far hotter than you need to cook a burger.

Though the beef actually has a pretty nice flavour, it’s finely ground, tightly packed, and lean. Which means it was crazy dry and unpleasantly tough, despite being cooked to medium with a bit of pink remaining.

The toppings were fine, though the bun, despite being toasted on the griddle, was stale and dry.

As for the fries, they were pale and underwhelming, both in appearance and flavour. They were about on par with the burger.

1.5 out of 4

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