The Samuel J. Moore

1087 Queen Street West, Toronto
UPDATE: The restaurant is closed, apparently.  Can’t say I’m too surprised.

The Samuel J. Moore just opened a few weeks ago, and the early word is that they’ve got a burger worth eating. Obviously, I had to give it a shot.

I came at around noon on a Saturday during brunch service.  I was hoping to get the regular hamburger off the dinner menu, but sadly, only the Brunch Burger was available.

Before I get into the less-than-great things about the place, I will say that the design of the restaurant is quite nice.  Spacious, with a classy old-school diner aesthetic and lots of sunlight streaming in from the windows, it’s certainly a pleasant enough place to have a relaxing meal.

And when the burger came, it looked pretty darn good.  This is a place that seemed to have it all figured out — or so I thought, until I actually took a bite.

The Brunch Burger comes topped with a fried egg, peameal bacon, smoked cheddar, and coleslaw.  There are a lot of flavours here, and sadly, they never coalesce into anything particularly satisfying.


It looks good, though, doesn’t it?

But let me talk about the patty, because that’s really where this burger takes a wrong turn and never comes back.  Finely ground,densely packed, overly lean, and cooked all the way to the tippy-top of well done, it’s a perfect storm of density and dryness.

The patty also has a distinct lack of beefiness that was so pronounced I felt compelled to ask my server if it was all beef, or some kind of beef/pork blend.  It’s all beef, apparently, so I’m not sure how to account for its almost complete lack of beefy flavour.  It didn’t taste bad, at least.  It just tasted like nothing.  Chewy, tough nothing.

Of course, I was only able to discern this in the bites I took of the patty alone, because this is a hamburger with a lot going on.  The dominant flavour is the peppery, tangy coleslaw, which is surprisingly spicy and completely inappropriate as a topping for a hamburger.  It might have been okay on its own, but as a condiment it is ridiculously overpowering and tragically misguided.

The somewhat dry, tough peameal bacon also didn’t do the burger any favours.

The fried egg, however, was perfectly cooked with a satisfyingly runny yolk.  It couldn’t do much to save the burger, but it was nice.  The fresh, toasted brioche bun was also pretty great, and definitely deserved to be part of a better burger.

And I guess there was cheddar in there, too, but with all the other stuff going on I honestly couldn’t even taste it.

The burger also came with a side of perfunctory hash browns and bland house-made ketchup.  They were on par with the burger, which is to say not good.

The Samuel J. Moore - the outside The Samuel J. Moore - the restaurant The Samuel J. Moore - the Brunch Burger The Samuel J. Moore - the Brunch Burger
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Brown Bag Sandwiches

Location: 377 Church Street, Toronto

Some Eastern philosophies state that there should always be balance; if there is good in the world, there must be bad to balance it out.  So it goes, then, that if a burger joint as delicious as Holy Chuck or The Burger’s Priest exists, there must also exist a place that is as bad as those restaurants are good.  Enter Brown Bag Sandwiches.

No, this is not a dedicated burger joint.  It is a sandwich shop — however, they do have a kitchen and a griddle and all of the tools they would need to make a delicious burger, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to expect something halfway decent.  Moreover, the hamburger is the first item on the menu, so it’s clearly not something that only exists to pad out their selection.  It’s front-and-centre, and therefore fair game for scrutiny.  And scrutinize I shall.

I got the burger as a combo with a can of soda and a very generous order of fries, and it came up to about ten bucks, so it’s reasonably priced.

I ordered my combo, waited a few minutes for the burger to be ready (there are a handful of tables in the small restaurant for those who want to eat in), then asked for my hamburger to be topped with pickles, tomato, and chipotle mayo.

The burger is oblong, presumably to accommodate their choice of bread.  It’s a little bit unorthodox, but I suppose that there is no rule that says a hamburger must be round.

You’ve no doubt gathered as much from the opening of this review, but this was not a good hamburger.  In fact, I would say that it was a terrible hamburger.  I’m not even sure that I need to write this review; if a picture is worth a thousand words, then I believe that the picture above communicates all that needs to be said about this burger.  It looks gross, to put it bluntly, and it tasted just as bad as it looks.

It’s a meatloaf burger.  Though this isn’t my favourite style of hamburger, I have no problem recognizing a good meatloaf burger when I see one.  Again, this was not a good burger.  For one thing, it was way overcooked, and the too-lean, impossibly dense beef was egregiously dry.  Sucks-the-moisture-out-of-your-mouth dry. Sahara Desert dry.  Dry.

Even by the standards of a meatloaf burger it was overseasoned, obliterating whatever beefy flavour the meat might have once had.  Then there was the very crusty, toasted bun; this might work okay in some of their other sandwiches, but it was wildly inappropriate as a hamburger bun.  It was completely overwhelming and far too substantial for the task at hand.

Any flavour that the chipotle mayonnaise might have had was annihilated by the strong patty, so I can’t speak to its success as a condiment.  The tomato and pickles were fine.

The burger actually reminded me a lot of the hamburger I had at BBQ Express. This is not a flattering comparison, to put it mildly.  I should also note that my dining companion had the fried chicken sandwich and was similarly unimpressed, so the quality of the food (or lack thereof) was not restricted to the hamburger.

The one redeeming quality of the meal were the French fries.   Though they were a tad overcooked, they were crispy, well-seasoned and delicious.  They came with a side  of ketchup, which they make in-house, and which was pretty fantastic.  Bright and tomatoey, and far less sweet than typical ketchup, it proved to be surprisingly addictive when combined with the above-average fries.

Brown Bag Sandwiches - the restaurant Brown Bag Sandwiches - the menu Brown Bag Sandwiches - the dining room Brown Bag Sandwiches - the burger Brown Bag Sandwiches - the burger Brown Bag Sandwiches - the fries
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