Reds

Reds Square OneLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Website: https://redsrestaurants.com/

I don’t know why I keep reviewing the burger at chains like Reds.  They’re always just as mediocre and personality-free as you fear they’re going to be, so why do I keep subjecting myself to them?  Because I hate myself, apparently?

Reds Square One

To be fair, Reds only has three locations, so it’s not quite a full-on chain like Moxie’s or Milestones.  It’s also slightly better than those types of places.  But it’s not great.

I ordered the Reds Burger: “lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, fresh baked potato bun.”

Reds Square One

It’s… well, it is what it is.  It’s mostly inoffensive.  The griddled patty is dry, because of course it’s dry, but it’s otherwise decent enough.  There’s a good amount of crust from the griddle, and the texture of the beef is basically where it should be.  The flavour isn’t particularly beefy, but it’s not unpleasant.  If it weren’t so dry, it would have been pretty good.

Reds Square One

The no-frills toppings are exactly what you think they’ll be, and the fluffy, fresh bun is actually really good.

I don’t know.  It’s a burger.  It’s mostly inoffensively tasty, but it’s so bland and unmemorable that it may as well not exist.

Reds Square One

As for the fries, they were mostly quite good, though they were a little bit undercooked.

2.5 out of 4

Station Bar & Kitchen

Station Bar & KitchenLocation: 866 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.stationcafe.ca/

The burger at Station Bar & Kitchen is solid.  I’ve had better and I’ve definitely had worse.  Nothing about it particularly stands out, but if you’re looking for a hamburger, it’s there.  It exists, and it won’t make you sad.

I know that’s faint praise, but what are you going to do?  Not every burger can be a home run.

Station Bar & Kitchen

The “Station Cheese Burger,” per their menu: “7 ounce beef brisket patty ground in-house with our secret spice mix, on a toasted brioche burger bun with house made burger sauce and a slice of melted cheddar.  Topped with lettuce, tomato and onions.”

The reference to a spice mix had me worried; this has been discussed ad nauseam on this blog, but once you mix spices directly into a hamburger patty, it starts losing its essential burgeriness.  It becomes meatloaf.

Station Bar & Kitchen

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here.  Though I think they had mixed spices into the patty, it was done subtly enough that it wasn’t particularly an issue.

The griddled, medium-well patty was pretty decent — most notably, it was juicy, and the texture of the grind was pretty much exactly where it should be.  It also had some crust from the griddle.  It’s a solid patty.

Station Bar & Kitchen

I wish the beef itself had more flavour, however.  The flavour certainly isn’t bad, but there’s such a distinct lack of beefiness that I briefly wondered if pork was involved.

Everything else was pretty good, from the nicely toasted bun to the zesty mayo-based burger sauce and the mild, melty cheddar.

As for the fries, they’re quite tasty, and come with a little container of gravy that makes for a delightful dipping sauce.

3 out of 4

Mama’s Boys Burgers

Mama's Boys BurgersLocation: 480 Danforth Road, Scarborough
Website: None

If nothing else, I have to give kudos to Mama’s Boys Burgers for doing something a bit different.  They serve a grilled burger that, at six ounces, is a bit heftier than the small griddle-smashed patties that are de rigueur in the city.

They also have a small griddle-smashed burger, because this is Toronto, so of course — but the grilled burger is there, and it’s called the Mama, so it’s the specialty.

Mama's Boys Burgers

I ordered the Mama’s Signature, which is a double cheeseburger with bacon and caramelized onions.  You can get it topped with your choice of condiments (I went with Mama sauce, pickles, and tomato).

I need to mention the caramelized onions first, because holy crap, those onions.  They’re so sweet.  It’s overwhelming.  They’re syrupy and cloying and in your face.  I’m pretty sure I have diabetes now.  Is that how diabetes works?  Because if it is, I have it.  Most desserts aren’t that sweet.

Mama's Boys Burgers

It overwhelms everything else to an almost absurd degree.  For the first few bites I assumed they were mixing sugar right into the meat; the sweetness is so pervasive I thought it had to be coming from the patties themselves.  It’s bonkers.

The patties aren’t bad, though I literally had to pull a piece right out of the bun to even tell what they tasted like.  They don’t have much of a beefy flavour, and they’re definitely too finely ground (they’re a bit tough), but they’re fairly juicy and agreeable enough.  They also have a bit of a smoky flavour from the grill, but again, it’s completely wiped out by the sugary onions.

Mama's Boys Burgers

The other issue is the slice of mild Cheddar.  They put it on top of the onions instead of right onto the patty, so it never gets hot enough to fully melt.  I’m sorry, but that means that this isn’t actually a cheeseburger — it’s a hamburger with a slice of cheese on it.  The only way for a hamburger to make the magical transformation into a cheeseburger is for the cheese to melt and mingle with the beef.

The other toppings are fine, though again, they’re lost in the unforgiving deluge of sugar.  I was only able to identify the Mama sauce as garlic mayo by trying it on its own.  Otherwise I just couldn’t tell.  I wish I was exaggerating about how overwhelming the onions were.  It’s madness.

Mama's Boys Burgers

As for the fries, they’re slightly underseasoned, but are otherwise very good.  They’re quite thick, but they’re perfectly crispy and creamy.  They were easily the highlight.

2.5 out of 4

Cabano’s Comfort Food

Cabano's Comfort FoodLocation: 75 St. Nicholas Street, Toronto
Website: http://cabanos.ca/

I just counted, and my list of hamburgers to try for this blog currently sits at 154.  Suffice it to say, it’ll be a while before I get to all of them.  If you’ve left a comment or sent me an email suggesting a burger I should try and I haven’t gotten there yet, that’s why.

I’ve been hearing good things about the burger at Cabano’s since they were located in Vaughan.  I’ve been meaning to check the place out for years.

Cabano's Comfort Food

Well, I finally got there, and yeah — it was worth the wait.  The burger didn’t rock my world, but it’s very, very good.

You can either get the no-frills cheeseburger, or the Cabano burger, which is a double cheeseburger that comes topped with Cabano sauce, lettuce, onions, and fried pickled jalapenos.

I got the Cabano, and it’s a quality burger; it does pretty much everything right, and very little wrong.

The patties are smashed and griddled, because of course they are.  This is Toronto.  If you attempt to cook a burger in any other style and serve it in a restaurant, the police are going to show up at your house, roll you up in a carpet and throw you into a river.

Cabano's Comfort Food

They’re cooked all the way to well done, which can sometimes be an issue, but absolutely isn’t here — they’re basically perfect.  They have a nice crust from the griddle (though only on one side), and the texture is absolutely outstanding.  They’re tender and abundantly juicy.  Perfect.

They have a pleasant but mild beefy flavour; that’s the one area where the burger is lacking.  Because the patties were otherwise so superlative, I was looking for that nice strong beefy hit that you get from truly top-shelf hamburgers, and it wasn’t quite there.

It didn’t help that the patties were overwhelmed by the gooey American cheese.  I’m not sure how many slices they used — Two?  Three? — but it was too much.  The cheese was clearly the dominant flavour.  It easily overpowers the mild beef.

Cabano's Comfort Food

Otherwise, the toppings were great.  The Cabano sauce was the typical tangy mayo you’ll find in so many burgers, and the chopped onions and lettuce work quite nicely (I’m normally not a fan of raw onion, but these were mild enough to not offend).

The fried jalapenos, however, are the highlight.   They’re crispy and a little bit spicy, with a nice vinegary bite that helps cut through the burger’s richness.

The bun — a Martin’s Potato Roll, I think, which are becoming delightfully common in the GTA — was quite good as well.

Cabano's Comfort Food

As for the fries, they weren’t great.  They tasted lightly battered, which I’m not crazy about.  They were also undercooked.  Considering how good the burger was, they were shockingly shoddy.

3.5 out of 4

Uncle Betty’s

Uncle Betty'sLocation: 2590 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.unclebettysdiner.com/

The burger at Uncle Betty’s is odd — it’s really tasty in a lot of ways, but it’s also fails as a hamburger on a pretty fundamental level.

It’s the patty.  It’s the meatloafiest meatloaf burger I’ve had in a long, long time.  The flavouring of the beef is aggressive, and any natural flavour from the meat is completely wiped out.  The spicing punches you in the face.  It’s too much.

Uncle Betty's

Worse, it has that off-puttingly squishy texture that plagues some meatloaf burgers, and it’s got it bad.  Despite the fact that its cooked all the way to well done, the texture of the beef is essentially akin to eating a burger rare, only mushier.

The texture only emphasizes how un-burger-like it is.  It’s not necessarily the most unpleasant thing in the world, but if I had eaten this blindfolded, it would have taken me a whole bunch of guesses to get to hamburger.  The spicing of the beef and the soft consistency makes it taste more like a Sloppy Joe.

Uncle Betty's

Otherwise it’s actually quite good.  The burger has an impressive amount of crust from the griddle (or grill?  The menu says it’s grilled, though it tasted griddled to me) — this gives it some nice texture, and helps to mitigate the patty’s mush factor.

It’s topped with a lot of stuff — garlic aioli, mustard, pickles, sport peppers (which is a Chicago thing, apparently, and kinda like a less spicy banana pepper), an onion ring, and cheddar cheese.

Uncle Betty's

Normally this would be way too much stuff, but the aggressively-spiced patty stands out even under the deluge of toppings.  It helps that everything is quite tasty, and it all goes together very, very well.  The cheese isn’t melted all the way through, but there’s so much other stuff going on that you can barely notice.

The bun is quite good, too — I think it’s a Martin’s Potato Roll or something similar.  It has a great balance between fluffiness and heft.

Uncle Betty's

If the patty were better, this would be an outstanding burger.  It’s nicely cooked, and all of the toppings are great.  That patty, though.  Oh well.

As for the fries, they’re thinly-cut and nicely seasoned (I think they’re using some kind of seasoning salt, but it’s mild enough to not call attention to itself); they would have been great if they had been served hot or even warm, but alas, they were room temperature (at best).

2.5 out of 4

Johnny’s Hamburgers

Johnny's HamburgersLocation: 2595 Victoria Park Avenue, Scarborough
Website: http://johnnyshamburgers.com/

Look, I don’t want to be the buzzkill telling people that the place they love actually sucks.  Especially with a restaurant like Johnny’s, which has been slinging burgers since before most of its clientele were born.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  A lot of people have been going to Johnny’s since they were kids, and I get it: if you have warm, fuzzy memories of a place from your childhood, of course you’re going to overlook its flaws.

Because here’s the thing: that place you love, Johnny’s?  It sucks.  And I think deep down, you know that’s true.

Johnny's Hamburgers

Though it’s still popular, the city has (mostly) gotten over its collective delusion that Johnny’s is good.  Most of the time now, when people post about Johnny’s on social media, they’ll preface it with something like “I know it’s junk, but…”

That wasn’t always true.  Before the burger boom hit the city over the last decade or so, Johnny’s frequently appeared on — and topped, no less — lists of the best burgers in the GTA.  That doesn’t happen anymore.

I still remember going there for the first time something like 15 years ago, having heard so much about how “good” it was.  The crushing disappointment I experienced on taking my first bite was palpable.

It’s a bottom-of-the-barrel industrially-produced frozen patty.  It’s bad.

Johnny's Hamburgers

It’s so bad that I managed to avoid reviewing it for the last eight years of running this blog, despite the fact that it’s a Toronto burger institution.  It should have been one of the first places I reviewed.  But their burgers are a bummer to eat.  I didn’t want to.

I knew I couldn’t avoid it forever, however.  Eventually, I’d have to bite the bullet.  And I finally did.

On this particular visit, I got the plain burger (cheese and bacon are also options) and had it topped with pickles, tomato, mayo, and griddled onions.

There’s not much to like about the el cheapo frozen patties they serve here.  They have a chewy, borderline mushy texture that’s closer to a lousy hot dog than a hamburger, and any beefy flavour is basically nonexistent.  The only flavour here, aside from the generically salty hot dogginess, is that mildly gamy flavour you get from the absolute cheapest meat imaginable.

Johnny's Hamburgers

Johnny’s defenders will typically expound on the burger’s unique flame-broiled flavour, but on this particular visit there were almost no grill marks on the patty, and zero smoky flavour.  So they managed to mess up the one good thing the place has going for it.

The other thing people bring up to defend Johnny’s is the price; the burger is currently $4.01 before tax.  That’s cheap, but it’s not that cheap.  A no-frills burger from a nicer fast food joint like A&W or Wendy’s is about the same price and is much better.  Or for a couple of bucks more, you can go somewhere like the Burger’s Priest and get a burger that’s about a million times better.

The bun’s not bad, I’ll give it that.  It’s way too big for the patty, and it’s certainly not a typical hamburger bun.  But it’s soft and fresh, and has a nice lightly crispy exterior.  It’s not a cheapo supermarket bun.  They obviously get it from an actual bakery.

Johnny's Hamburgers

As for the sides, I tried both the onion rings and the fries, and they’re both exactly what you think they’re going to be.  They’re not great, but they’re a hell of a lot better than the burger.

1 out of 4

Queen Street Burger & Taters

Queen Street Burger and TatersLocation: 45 Queen Street North, Mississauga
Website: https://www.queenstreetburger.com/

I have a Google phone, and every now and then it’ll pop up with an unsolicited recommendation for a restaurant it thinks I’ll like — I guess based on my search history and places I’ve visited?  It is equal parts unnerving and impressive.

Recently, it popped up and said there’s an 87 percent chance I’ll like Queen Street Burger & Taters.  Its reasoning: “you seem interested in hamburgers.”  I seem interested in hamburgers?  It’s like you don’t know me at all, Google.

Queen Street Burger and Taters

Anyway, it’s fine.  I basically enjoyed it, so I guess Google was correct, but it’s not exactly a place I’d strongly recommend.

I ordered the Premium Burger, which is the bare-bones hamburger topped as you like.  I went with tomatoes, pickles, and Queen Sauce.

Queen Street Burger and Taters

They serve a griddled patty that’s significantly more substantial than the smashed burgers that are de rigueur throughout the GTA.  And for the most part, it’s not bad — specifically, the texture is on point and it’s actually decently juicy, which is particularly impressive considering how well done it is.

Queen Street Burger and Taters

But the flavour is lacking.  The patty is nicely salted on its exterior, but the flavour of the beef is middling and bland.  It’s neither pleasant nor unpleasant.  It’s just kinda there.  The patty also has almost no colour or crust from the griddle, which is unfortunate.

The Queen Sauce is slightly zesty, but otherwise doesn’t particularly stand out, and the bun is exactly what it looks like.

Queen Street Burger and Taters

I ordered taters on the side, mostly because it’s right there in the name of the restaurant.  I’d call what they serve here wedges rather than taters (I was expecting something more like this), but they’re tasty regardless, with a crispy seasoned exterior, and a creamy interior.  They reminded me of the wedges I used to order from a pizza place near my house when I was a kid, so at the very least, they gave me a nice comforting dose of nostalgia.

2.5 out of 4