The Abbot Pub & Fare

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Location: 3367 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://theabbot.ca/

I’m not gonna lie: though I have a vague recollection of reading something positive about the burger at the Abbot, I decided to review this place almost entirely because of its proximity to the Rolling Pin, a bakery that specializes in elaborately decadent doughnuts. Two birds, one stone, and all that jazz.

(The doughnuts were great, by the way.)

Though I came at lunch and could have ordered the brunch burger, I went with the standard hamburger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion. You can also get optional stuff like cheese or caramelized onions for an extra charge, but I kept it simple.

In the spirit of not beating around the bush, I’ll say that this was not a good hamburger and you should absolutely never order it. But I guess I should elaborate a bit?

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It’s a meatloaf burger, and a particularly strong one at that. This isn’t necessarily the worst thing ever, but oh man it was strong. The odour of garlic and spices hit me almost as soon as the plate was set down in front of me. My dining companion could smell it from across the table, which should tell you something.

This, of course, means that the flavour of the beef itself was completely gone, but if that were the burger’s only problem, it wouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker.

It wasn’t the burger’s only problem.

Worse was the hamburger’s texture, which despite being grilled and cooked to well done, was a particularly off-putting combination of mushy and stringy. I’ve reviewed mushy burgers before, but this was the worst one yet. By far.  It was the stringiness that really got me, with a texture that was soft but refused to get fully chewed, like a trying to eat wet fabric.  It was unpleasant enough that I got a bit more than halfway through and had to throw in the towel.  It’s not that I couldn’t finish it; I’ve had worse.  But I really didn’t want to.

Everything else was fine, though the bottom layer of the bun was weirdly crispy, making the burger harder to eat (and cut in half) than it needed to be.

As for the fries, they were pretty good.  They’re nothing anyone is going to lose their minds over, but they were slightly above average.

1 out of 4

The Abbot Pub and Fare - the outside The Abbot Pub and Fare - the restaurant The Abbot Pub and Fare - the burger and fries The Abbot Pub and Fare - the burger

Tom’s Burgers

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Location
: 5775 Highway 7, Markham
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/TomsBurgers

Yep — another old school burger joint serving a grilled, meatloaf burger.

Hey, at least it’s not frozen — that’s an option, of course (because that’s the rule: every burger place that opened before, say, 1990 needs to have a frozen burger on the menu.  Don’t ask me why), but they also serve a burger labeled as homemade.

I ordered the homemade, because I’m not a crazy person, but if you really like your burgers rubbery with an indiscriminate meat-like flavour, the frozen burger is there.

The sky was still blue and up was still up, so I knew that it was going to be a meatloaf burger, and it was.  No; pigs have not learned to fly quite yet.

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It was okay.  It was super meatloafy, with the flavour coming predominately from the seasoning, and with a vaguely mushy texture from the sheer volume of non-meat-related gunk they’ve got mixed in.

It wasn’t overly dry and it didn’t taste bad, I guess, so it’s got that going for it, but even by the standards of meatloaf burgers it was middling.

It was grilled, with a nicely crispy, smoky exterior; this was a highlight.  Actually it was the highlight, because there wasn’t much else that stood out here.

But again, it wasn’t bad — people like it (in fact the impetus for this particular visit was a recommendation from a friend on Facebook), and I guess I can kind of see why.  I’ve certainly had worse.

I ordered it as a combo with fries and a drink, and a ten dollar bill netted me some small change, so it’s definitely not overpriced.

As for the fries, they were typical frozen fries.  Bland, but they get the job done.

2.5 out of 4

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Town Crier Pub

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Location
: 115 John Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://towncrierpub.ca/

The burger at Town Crier Pub could have been a lot worse. I know, I know — not exactly a ringing endorsement. But considering the epic amount of European beers this place has on tap (over fifty, with the tap-lined bar being quite a sight to behold), it’s obvious enough that Town Crier is more about beverages than food.  They could have very easily just backed a Sysco truck into their kitchen and called it a day.

So even if I didn’t think the burger was particularly great, I applaud them for making it as decent as it was when they clearly didn’t have to.

The Town Crier Burger is pretty simple — it’s topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion, with other condiments available by request (I asked for mayo).

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The grilled burger is cooked to medium, and is actually pretty juicy, which is a pretty big plus in its favour.  But it’s a meatloaf burger, with a really ho-hum flavour.  Nothing about it stands out. It’s basically the meatloaf burger equivalent of Jai Courtney: serviceable, but generically bland and unmemorable to a fault.

The texture wasn’t bad, though — a lot of meatloaf burgers tend to be overhandled or sausagey, but this one was loosely packed and fairly tender.

The nutty whole wheat bun would have been disastrous with a more traditional hamburger, but the meatloafy flavour here is able to stand up to it.  I still would have preferred white, but it was fresh and generally suited the burger okay.

The fries, too, were much better than they needed to be.  Billed as Belgian frites, they weren’t quite as crisp as you’d like fries of that style to be, but they were definitely above average.

2.5 out of 4

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(Image of the outside of the restaurant in the header photo courtesy of Caroline’s Culinary Delights. It was quite rainy when I visited and I didn’t particularly feel like getting soaked trying to take a photo.)

Fran’s Restaurant

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Location: 20 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.fransrestaurant.com/

I was perusing the menu at Fran’s with no particular desire to order the burger — but then something caught my eye.  On the menu, they claim to have invented the banquet burger.  A banquet burger, for the unaware, is another name for a bacon cheeseburger.

I’m a little bit skeptical that the bacon cheeseburger was created at a diner in Toronto; I’d say it’s more likely that they invented the term banquet burger, but hey, who knows?

Either way, they’ve clearly been serving it for a long, long time (they’ve been around since the ’40s), so I figured I’d be remiss in my burger blogging duties if I didn’t give it a try.

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The menu also states that they make their burger patties with a “special blend of spices and seasoning.”  I’m generally not a fan of burgers with stuff mixed into the patties, so I’m not going to lie: I was skeptical. But you know what? Sometimes places like this can surprise you.

This was not one of those times.

It’s so meatloafy.  Like, crazy meatloafy.  I could talk about how strongly spiced it is, how the flavour of the beef is completely gone. I could talk about how it’s ground way too finely, and has a texture that’s closer to sausage than to hamburger.  I could talk about how a burger like this completely misses the point of what makes a burger so great in the first place.  I could talk about all that, but instead:

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The banquet part of this burger is actually the highlight; the creamy mild cheddar is nicely melty and gooey, and the thick-cut bacon was way above average.  Too bad they’re both resting atop a mediocre patty.

The fries are even worse. At least they put some effort into the burger, even if that effort is ill advised. The fries are just bottom-of-the-barrel frozen fries.  I am continually baffled by how terrible frozen fries like this continue to be served at restaurants.  They taste so lousy, and really, is it that hard to cut a potato into strips?  Get out of here.

1.5 out of 4

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Chef Burger

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Location
: 8910 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://www.chefburgers.ca/

Burger?  Check.  Cheeseburger?  Check.  Fries?  Check.  Onion rings?  Check.  Tongue sandwiches?  Check.  Wait, what?

You don’t often find a burger joint with multiple tongue sandwiches on the menu (both calf and lamb), but Chef Burger’s Middle Eastern owners obviously have a bit more on their mind than just burgers and fries.

I was actually kind of tempted to get one of those tongue sandwiches, but then how would I satisfy my insatiable need to review more and more burger joints for this blog?  I ordered the namesake Chef Burger, and had it topped with their special sauce, along with pickles and tomato.

The grilled, well done burger is somewhat juicy, but it’s too finely ground, giving it a vaguely mealy texture.  I’ve certainly had worse in this regard, but I do wish that the grind was a little bit more coarse.

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It’s also a meatloaf burger — but as far as these types of burgers go, the flavouring is pretty subtle.  I definitely noticed onions in there, but it otherwise wasn’t very aggressively spiced.  You’d think this would allow the burger’s beefy flavour to shine through, but not really.  It’s surprisingly bland.  It doesn’t taste bad, but it’s very neutral-tasting beef.

Any issue with the flavour of the burger itself, however, is almost entirely moot if you get your burger topped with their special sauce — a garlicky, tzatziki-esque concoction that, while tasty, completely overwhelms any other flavour that the burger might have.  It’s good, but man, it is seriously in your face.

The other toppings are pretty good, and the bun is surprisingly good.  It looks like it should be too big, but it’s fresh, light, and fluffy, and suits the burger perfectly.  It also has a very lightly crispy exterior, which is always delightful.

The fries, however, aren’t great.  They’re not terrible; they’re just run-of-the-mill frozen fries.  They suit their purpose, but don’t do much more than that.  My dining companion got the onion rings, which are pretty much the same deal: frozen, mediocre, okay.

2.5 out of 4

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