Maison Selby

Maison SelbyLocation: 592 Sherbourne Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.maisonselby.com/

As far as I’m concerned, a great burger doesn’t need much when it comes to toppings.  Is the the patty made from good quality beef?  Is it juicy?  If the answer to both of those questions is yes (and the answer to both of those questions should always be yes), then please just step out of the way and let the burger do its thing.

Sure, throw a couple of toppings on there that enhance or compliment the beef — but that’s it.  A lot of chefs tend to overthink it or want to put their own stamp on a tried-and-true dish.  Don’t do that.  The beef is the star.  It’s been the star for over a hundred years.  You’re not better than that kind of history.  If the toppings are getting in the way of what makes a burger great, you’re doing it wrong.

Maison Selby

Of course, I probably should have known that something called a “French Onion Beef Chuck Burger” would be over-condimented.   But how could I resist?  French onion soup is delicious.  Hamburgers are delicious.  Surely combining the two should be delicious?

And yeah, it kinda is.  That’s the thing.  This was a Tasty Burger.  But it was all about the toppings.

Maison Selby

In my defense, caramelized onions and gooey cheese are both a hamburger’s best friend, so I had high hopes for this.  But the sharp Gruyère was way too assertive, as was the voluminous pile of rich, flavourful onions (not to mention the dijonnaise, which adds another strong flavour into the mix).

It’s too bad, because the patty was decent.  The waiter asked if medium was okay, but it actually came out closer to medium rare — a delightful surprise.  And it was quite juicy.  But even aside from the fact that it was way over-condimented, the quality of the beef itself was only so-so.

Maison Selby

That’s pretty much moot, however — the only way I was able to tell what the patty tasted like was by specifically pulling out a piece so I could try it on its own.  Underneath all of those assertive toppings, the patty is more about its texture than anything else.  And the texture is great.

I don’t know.  I’m probably just being a curmudgeon and/or a burger snob.  I enjoyed eating the burger at Maison Selby.  It tastes good.  But for all the creativity on display, is it better than a plain burger that’s well prepared and made with great quality beef?  No.  No it is not.

As for the fries, they could have been fresher, but were otherwise quite tasty.  In particular, the herby aioli that comes on the side is fantastic.

3 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

Gourmand’s Burger

Gourmand's Burger (Gourmand 5AD)Location: 3100 Winston Churchill Boulevard, Mississauga
Website: http://www.gourmand5ad.ca/

It’s hard to get too excited about yet another place serving a smashed and griddled fast-food-style hamburger.  Unlike Toronto, however, Mississauga is still quite burger-starved.  There are exceptions, like Gladiator Burger and the now-ubiquitous Burger’s Priest, but great burgers are still something of a rarity in this city.

So fine, another smashed burger?  If it’s in the wilds of Mississauga?  Yeah, bring it on.

Gourmand's Burger (Gourmand 5AD)

(And yes, it’s bizarre that there are two burger joints in Mississauga with an ancient Rome theme, but as far as I can tell, this place and Gladiator Burger have no affiliation.)

Normally I’d order a restaurant’s namesake burger, but in this case the Gourmand is topped with cheese, bacon, fried onions, mushrooms, garlic aioli, and an egg.  It’s a bit much.  So I went with the simple cheeseburger instead.

The pricing is wonky; the plain cheeseburger actually costs less than the plain hamburger, at six bucks versus nine bucks.  I was told that this is because the classic burger comes with condiments (lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles), and the cheeseburger doesn’t.

Gourmand's Burger (Gourmand 5AD)

Which means that they charge for even no-frills toppings like lettuce or tomato, or at least I’m assuming they do; I should have asked, but I was too busy being flabbergasted that a plain burger cost more than a cheeseburger.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever been to a burger joint that charged for basic condiments, but based on what my bill came up to, it seems like that’s the case.

I ordered the cheeseburger and had it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.  Which I had to pay for, I guess??

Gourmand's Burger (Gourmand 5AD)

It’s a solid burger.  The patty has a nice crust from the griddle, it’s juicy, and it’s got a fairly pronounced beefy flavour.  It’s not bad at all.

But the beef is way too finely ground; combined with the fact that they cook it all the way to well done, it gives the patty a slightly mealy texture.

Gourmand's Burger (Gourmand 5AD)

The cheddar-Jack cheese has a nice mild flavour, and would have suited the burger well if it were melted all the way through.  Alas.

The other condiments (which I paid extra for???) were fine, and the bun is what it looks like; it was fresh, lightly toasted, and suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they’re quite good.  They’re nicely cooked, and they have a very pleasant rosemary-tinged flavour.

3 out of 4

Ronto’s Burger

Ronto's BurgerLocation: 772 College Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.rontos.ca/

Generally speaking, if a burger joint exists in the GTA, I want to review it.  It makes no difference to me whether I’ve heard good things / bad things / nothing about it.  My impossible goal is to review every burger place in Toronto, though obviously that’s an epic task that I’ll never complete.

So the fact that I hadn’t heard a single thing about Ronto’s Burger certainly didn’t deter me from checking it out, though it did make me skeptical that it was going to be particularly great.

Ronto's Burger

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have been skeptical; Ronto’s Burger is surprisingly fantastic.

I ordered the namesake Ronto’s Burger: “One beef patty, Ronto’s sauce, lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomato, onions.”

It’s a griddled six ounce patty; it’s slightly more substantial than the typical smashed burger that’s so common in the city, and the added substance is quite nice.

Ronto's Burger

The patty is really good; it’s got a pronounced crust from the griddle and it’s abundantly juicy despite being cooked to well done.  The texture is right where it should be, with coarsely ground beef that hasn’t been overhandled.  It’s great.

It’s not the beefiest tasting patty I’ve ever had, but the beefy flavour is definitely there, and it’s quite satisfying.  I wish it hadn’t been cooked all the way to well done — it’s ever-so-slightly tough — but considering how good it is otherwise, that’s a minor complaint.

Ronto's Burger

Though the menu calls the cheese cheddar, it’s clearly American, which definitely isn’t a bad thing.  It’s gooey, salty, and perfect for this type of burger.

The Ronto’s sauce wasn’t my favourite, however.  It’s fine — it’s actually quite tasty.  It’s the usual zesty, Mac-Sauce-esque concoction, but it’s a bit too zesty for its own good.  It overpowers the beef, which is a shame when the patty is this delicious.

Ronto's Burger

The nicely toasted, soft and fluffy bun is mostly perfect, aside from being slightly too wide for the patty.

As for the fries, they’re generic battered, frozen fries, but they’re well prepared and tasty enough for what they are.  They come with a little container of Ronto’s sauce for dipping; that stuff works much, much better with fries than on the burger.

3.5 out of 4