Tag Archives: GTA

Skyline Restaurant

19 Mar


Location
: 1426 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.theskylinetoronto.com/

I wasn’t crazy about the Skyline Restaurant on my first visit, but that was before the recent change in ownership; I figured another try was probably in order.

My first impression was how delightfully cheap the burger is; for twelve bucks with a hefty side of fries, it’s very much on the low end of what you’d expect to pay from a restaurant like this in Toronto.

It’s a no-frills hamburger, topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, and mayo.  The waitress asked if medium was okay; it was.  And the grilled patty was indeed cooked to a perfect medium, with a rosy pink interior.

Griddled burgers are so ubiquitous in this city that a grilled burger is almost a novelty these days.  I like a griddled burger as much as the next guy, but cooking a hamburger patty on a grill gives it a bit of a smoky flavour and a unique character, so it’s always nice to have that option.

It’s especially nice when the burger is as good as it is here; with its satisfying punch of beefy flavour, it’s very obvious that they’re using above-average beef.  It’s not the juiciest burger that I’ve ever had, but it’s very far from dry, and the texture was about 95% where it should be (it was just a bit too finely ground, making it ever-so-slightly tougher than it needed to be, but that’s a very minor complaint).

The toppings were mostly quite good, though the very thickly-sliced tomato was a bit mealy.  And the soft, fresh bun — lightly toasted — suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they were amazing.  Perfectly crisp and perfectly tender, with just the right amount of salt — very close to fry perfection.

3.5 out of 4

Skyline Diner - the sign Skyline Diner - the restaurant Skyline Diner - the burger and fries Skyline Diner - the burger and fries Skyline Diner - the burger

Weslodge

5 Mar

wes
Location
: 480 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://weslodge.com/

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I’m constantly complaining about overly-dry burgers.  Constantly.  Aside from mixing superfluous gunk into the patty, I think it’s the thing that Toronto restaurants and burger joints get wrong the most.

So I really need to applaud Weslodge’s burger (“Braised beef cheek, branston pickle, English cheddar”) for the exact opposite: it was gloriously, intensely juicy. You could tell just by looking at the glistening patty; once I cut it in half, the juices came rushing out in a veritable torrent. As I ate it, they dripped readily from the patty, soaking into the bun and pooling on the plate.

It was amazing.

I should note that it wasn’t too juicy, in case it sounds that way. The patty itself wasn’t mushy or wet at all; the texture was just right. I requested medium rare and they hit it perfectly. It also had a nice coarse grind and expertly straddled the line between tenderness and substance.

In case it wasn’t already obvious that the chef here knows his way around a burger, the griddled patty had exactly the dark brown crispy exterior that you’re looking for. Suffice it to say, texturally it was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long, long time.

wesa

The flavour was quite good as well, with a really satisfying beefy, buttery flavour. This was complimented quite well by the condiments, particularly the Branston pickle (essentially a medley of cubed pickled vegetables) which performed the same function as the typical pickle, but which tasted a bit more interesting.

The bun, though a bit on the dense side, actually suited the substantial, very juicy patty quite well — a softer bun almost surely would have crumbled to bits.

My only real problem with this burger — though it’s kind of a big one — is the cheese.  The patty is topped with a big, honkin’ slice of very sharp cheddar.  Aside from the fact that it was doing its best to overwhelm the flavour of the amazing patty, it was completely unmelted.  If you’re serving a cheeseburger with cold, unmelted cheese, I’m pretty sure you should have to go on TV to apologize to the nation.  You have committed a crime against food.  You are, I’m sorry to say, a monster.

I’ve mentioned this before, but a burger with unmelted cheese isn’t a cheeseburger — it’s a hamburger with a piece of cheese on top.  The cheese needs to melt and become gooey and mingle with the patty to earn that distinction.  Melted cheese on a hamburger patty is one of the greatest things ever; cold, unmelted cheese is an abomination.

It’s funny how thoroughly a few moments of heat can transform an ingredient, but there you go.

As for the fries, sadly they were the polar opposite of the hamburger.  They were terrible. They’re insanely thick.  You really have to be careful when you’re cooking fries at this thickness, because they can easily wind up undercooked, with a chalky, dense middle.  That’s exactly what happened here.  Thick-cut fries aren’t my favourite to start with, but undercooked thick-cut fries?  They are the french fry equivalent of a cheeseburger with unmelted cheese.  They are an affront to humanity.

But since I’d like to end this review on a positive note, I’ll reiterate that — unmelted, too-strong cheese notwithstanding — Weslodge serves a fantastic hamburger.  If not for the cheese issue, I’d probably rank it among the best in the city.  It’s that good.

3.5 out of 4

Weslodge - the outside Weslodge - the restaurant Weslodge - the burger Weslodge - the burger

Colette Grand Cafe

12 Feb

colette
Location
: 550 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.colettetoronto.com/

You wouldn’t think Colette Grand Cafe — which is mostly about brunch, and pastries, and classic French food like duck confit and moules frites — would have a great burger.  It must just be there because a burger is obligatory on pretty much every menu, right?

Wrong.

The burger at Colette Grand Cafe (which is kind of insufferably named “L’Hamburger”) is indeed pretty great.  The menu describes it as coming topped with “farmhouse cheddar, pepper bacon, tomato jam, bibb lettuce, dijonnaise.”

It’s always a good sign when they ask you how you want your burger cooked; I went with medium rare, and yep, the burger came cooked medium rare.

colettea

I’ll get the worst out of the way first: normally I’d mention whether the patty was griddled or grilled, but in this case I’m honestly not sure.  There was pretty much zero browning on the surface of the patty, so it’s tough to say.  That’s certainly not a good thing, but the patty was otherwise pretty tasty, with a good texture and a mild beefy flavour.

I also quite liked the melty, mild cheddar cheese — places like this are often inclined to get a bit too fancy for their own good, and wind up with a cheese that overpowers the patty.  That wasn’t the case here.

It’s hard to go wrong with bacon, and the smoky, thickly-sliced version on this burger didn’t disappoint.

The dijonnaise, on the other hand, was a bit overpowering.  Probably a good idea to ask for that on the side.

The other condiments were all solid, including pickled onions, which the menu doesn’t mention (it’s a fairly rich burger, so some form of pickle is certainly welcome to help balance that out).  And the sesame seed bun was slightly sweet, fresh, and held up nicely to the fairly substantial hamburger.

As for the thinly-cut fries, they were a tad soggy, but were otherwise pretty tasty, with a tinge of rosemary and a dipping sauce that was packed with even more rosemary flavour (yeah, they really love rosemary on their fries here, apparently).

3.5 out of 4

Colette Grand Cafe - the outside Colette Grand Cafe - the restaurant Colette Grand Cafe - the burger Colette Grand Cafe - the burger

Rudy

15 Jan

rudy
Location
: 619 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.rudyresto.com/

The burgers from Rudy look amazing in pictures. I mean, look at it. Look at that crust. If you’re getting a burger cooked in that style (i.e. smashed on a griddle), then what Rudy is serving up is pretty much the Platonic ideal of what you want it to look like. That combination of melty, bright orange American cheese and the mahogany-brown crust from a perfectly hot griddle is a thing of beauty. You could look at it forever.

But could it actually taste as good as it looks?

Yes. The answer is an emphatic yes.

I ordered the Rudy, which is a single-patty cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, and Rudy sauce.

Oh man, it was so good.

Foremost was that crust: the beautiful brown crust amps up the burger’s beefy flavour and provides a perfect crispy contrast to the tender beef.

rudya

I got a little bit concerned when I cut into the burger and saw well done, uniformly gray beef.  At least a little bit of pink would have been nice, but it’s hard to complain too much when the patty remains so admirably juicy.  Add in the fact that the beef was loosely-packed and coarsely-ground, and you’ve got a patty with a texture that’s exactly where it should be.

The flavour was pretty great too; perfectly seasoned with just salt and pepper and with a nice beefy kick, it’s pretty much exactly what you’re looking for in the taste department.

The toppings, too, check all the right boxes.  Gooey American cheese?  Check.  Big-Mac-esque sauce?  Check.  Fresh lettuce and tomato?  Check.  Oh, and that bun?  Pillowy, sweet, and perfect.

Yes, in case you can’t tell, I loved this hamburger.  One of the best in the city for sure.

It’s a bummer to end on a sour note, but the fries weren’t the best.  Some of them were slightly underdone, and others were potato-chip-crispy.  Also, I think they might have been seasoned with vinegar instead of salt?  A few had a mildly vinegary flavour; the rest tasted completely unseasoned.  Still, considering how good the burger was, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume something was just off with this batch.  Either way, the burger was so damn good that it really doesn’t matter.

4 out of 4

Rudy - the restaurant Rudy - the restaurant Rudy - the burger Rudy - the fries Rudy - the burger

Bar Reyna

18 Dec

reyna
Location
: 158 Cumberland Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.barreyna.com/

If you’re charging over twenty bucks for a hamburger, that burger had better be damn good. It had better be foolproof.

The burger at Bar Reyna is 21 dollars. It is not foolproof.

Their burger is labelled Big A’s burger and fries (is that a play on “big ass”?  An actual guy named Big A?  What, no one cares?). I’ll let the menu describe it: “brisket + ribeye / sweet potato bun / muenster / caramelized onions / lettuce / tomato / chipotle aioli.”

There isn’t a single element here that particularly works.

They actually asked me how I wanted the burger cooked, which is always a delightful question. I asked for medium rare, and I know I wasn’t misheard, because the waitress proudly proclaimed “medium rare hamburger” as she set my plate down. It was closer to well done.

reynaa

It was still actually fairly juicy, which was nice, but the texture was off; it was way too finely ground, and a bit mealy. It also had pretty much zero beefy flavour — considering the hefty price tag, it’s not unreasonable to expect that they’ll be using top-shelf beef. If they were, it certainly didn’t taste that way.

Then there were the toppings, which were mostly okay, though between the very sweet caramelized onions and the equally sweet “chipotle aioli” (which tasted exactly like thousand island dressing), it was sweet overload. I will say, however, that the muenster cheese was pretty much perfect — it had a subtle cheesy flavour and a perfect amount of gooey meltiness. I’m really not sure why you don’t find it on cheeseburgers more often.

But I’m not even going to sugar-coat it: the bun was the absolute worst. The texture was closer to a stale biscuit than a traditional hamburger bun. It was incredibly dense and so thoroughly inappropriate for a burger that I’m legitimately curious if the restaurant just made some kind of mistake and used the wrong bun. It had zero give — normally, when you pick up a hamburger, the bun absorbs most of the pressure from your fingers and leaves the insides of the burger undisturbed.  But here?  The bun was a solid, unyielding mass.  As soon as I picked it up, the patty and all the toppings started squishing out of the sides. It was game over once I took a bite.  I had to eat the majority of the burger with a fork and knife. Like a monster.

The shoestring fries, on the other hand, were really good.  They were cut super thin, which can sometimes result in fries that are too crunchy, but the fries here still managed to retain a decent balance of crunchiness and creaminess.  They were seasoned with smoked paprika as well as salt, which gave them a unique flavour and a bit of a kick.

1.5 out of 4

Bar Reyna - the outside Bar Reyna - the restaurant Bar Reyna - the burger Bar Reyna - the burger