Location: 830 Yonge Street, Toronto
In case you’re confused, this is the place that up until a few weeks ago was known as Craft Burger — apparently the owner wanted to trademark the name, but ran into problems thanks to American chef Tom Colicchio and his Craft-centric chain of restaurants (Craft, ‘wichcraft, Craftsteak, etc.). This is a complete aside, but if you ever find yourself at ‘wichcraft, order the turkey sandwich. Best turkey sandwich ever.
Anyway, Big Smoke Burger = Craft Burger. Nothing has changed but the name.
The location I visited, around Yonge and Bloor, is quite small. I showed up at around six and was able to find a seat without any difficulty, but by the time I left it was already pretty packed. There have been a few times in the past that I’ve wanted to eat here, discovered that there wasn’t a seat to be had, and left sad and burgerless. Be warned.
You can pick your own toppings, but they have a number of customized burgers that seem to be the main draw. Using the philosophy that it’s generally a safe bet to order an item on the menu if it shares a name with the restaurant, I got the Big Smoke Burger (I used this same philosophy on my last visit and ordered the Craft Burger, which didn’t particularly work out — but then I’m not crazy about mushrooms on a hamburger, and that burger featured mushrooms prominently. I dug my own grave on that one).
I ordered at the register, was given a number, and took my seat. It probably took about ten minutes to get my burger, but I was happy to wait. I’d much, much rather have to wait a bit than receive a pre-made burger from under a lamp.
As seems to be the trend at Toronto burger joints, classic rock was playing on the radio. What is it about burger places and classic rock? Not that I’m complaining; Riders on the Storm is a solid song to eat a burger by.
The burger is pretty good. The meat is tightly packed and a bit on the lean side, so the well-done burger is drier than it should be. But it’s good quality meat, it’s not overwhelmingly dry, and has a decent flavour — or at least it seemed to. Why am I not sure if the meat had a decent flavour? That’s a good question. A good question indeed.
The Big Smoke Burger is described as having “horseradish mayo, caramelized onions, smoked cheddar, tomato & lettuce.” The horseradish mayo, sadly, is the culprit behind my inability to properly discern the flavour of the beef. Sweet, strongly vinegary and completely overpowering (and oddly enough, without any discernible horseradish flavour), the sauce — which is slathered on the top and bottom bun — completely overwhelms the burger. I would order this hamburger again, but I would definitely either substitute the horseradish mayo for regular mayo, or just omit it altogether.
The other elements of the burger all worked quite well. The sweet caramelized onions were perfectly cooked, and were soft and yielding without being mushy. The smoked cheddar was nicely melted and added a welcome creaminess to the burger, though if it had any smoky flavour it was completely obliterated by the super-strong mayo (I didn’t like that mayo, can you tell?). The lettuce and tomato were good as well, and the bun was soft and fresh and complimented the burger perfectly.
I got the combo, which came with fries and a soda. The fries were pretty darn good, though they were a tad overcooked, and were a bit on the crunchy side. Despite this they were still some of the better fries I’ve had in a while, so I have to imagine that they’d normally be pretty fantastic.
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