Maison Selby

Maison SelbyLocation: 592 Sherbourne Street, Toronto

As far as I’m concerned, a great burger doesn’t need much when it comes to toppings.  Is the the patty made from good quality beef?  Is it juicy?  If the answer to both of those questions is yes (and the answer to both of those questions should always be yes), then please just step out of the way and let the burger do its thing.

Sure, throw a couple of toppings on there that enhance or compliment the beef — but that’s it.  A lot of chefs tend to overthink it or want to put their own stamp on a tried-and-true dish.  Don’t do that.  The beef is the star.  It’s been the star for over a hundred years.  You’re not better than that kind of history.  If the toppings are getting in the way of what makes a burger great, you’re doing it wrong.

Maison Selby

Of course, I probably should have known that something called a “French Onion Beef Chuck Burger” would be over-condimented.   But how could I resist?  French onion soup is delicious.  Hamburgers are delicious.  Surely combining the two should be delicious?

And yeah, it kinda is.  That’s the thing.  This was a Tasty Burger.  But it was all about the toppings.

Maison Selby

In my defense, caramelized onions and gooey cheese are both a hamburger’s best friend, so I had high hopes for this.  But the sharp Gruyère was way too assertive, as was the voluminous pile of rich, flavourful onions (not to mention the dijonnaise, which adds another strong flavour into the mix).

It’s too bad, because the patty was decent.  The waiter asked if medium was okay, but it actually came out closer to medium rare — a delightful surprise.  And it was quite juicy.  But even aside from the fact that it was way over-condimented, the quality of the beef itself was only so-so.

Maison Selby

That’s pretty much moot, however — the only way I was able to tell what the patty tasted like was by specifically pulling out a piece so I could try it on its own.  Underneath all of those assertive toppings, the patty is more about its texture than anything else.  And the texture is great.

I don’t know.  I’m probably just being a curmudgeon and/or a burger snob.  I enjoyed eating the burger at Maison Selby.  It tastes good.  But for all the creativity on display, is it better than a plain burger that’s well prepared and made with great quality beef?  No.  No it is not.

As for the fries, they could have been fresher, but were otherwise quite tasty.  In particular, the herby aioli that comes on the side is fantastic.

3 out of 4

Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill

: 33 Yonge Street, Toronto

The last burger I tried from an O&B joint was thoroughly forgettable, but when I found myself at Café Grill, I figured, sure, why not?  I’m here, the burger is here, let’s do this.

(And I did debate whether I should even be reviewing more than one O&B restaurant, or if all their locations count as one big chain.  But since each menu seems to be completely different, I think they’re all fair game.)

Though I approach each burger I eat hoping for the best, I sort of figured the burger here would be much like the one I had from O&B Canteen — passable, but mediocre.

As it turns out, I was longing for the comparative delights of “passable, but mediocre.”


The Café Grill calls their hamburger the Smashed Ground Chuck Burger, and it comes topped with “housemade BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar, iceberg lettuce, special sauce.”

I rant about overly dry patties all the time on this blog, and I really don’t feel like doing it again right now.  I’ll just say this: the griddled patty was punishingly gray throughout and was devoid of anything even resembling moisture.  It was also really substantial, making each mouthful a bit of an ordeal.

It actually tasted pretty okay, but since it had the approximate texture of a bunch of mashed-up saltines held together with glue, does it matter?

And though the bun was a bit over-toasted and more dense than it needed to be, the toppings were all tasty enough.  But again: dry saltines.  Glue.  Agony.

Oh, and it also cost 19 bucks, putting it on the more expensive end of burgers in the GTA.

As for the thickly-cut fries, they were quite good.  Nothing too special, but they were solid French fries.

1.5 out of 4

Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the restaurant Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the restaurant Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the burger and fries Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the burger

O&B Canteen

330 King Street West, Toronto

I’m at the Lightbox to watch movies semi-regularly, so I’m actually kind of surprised it took me this long to check the Canteen out.  I used to enjoy getting pastries from here when I was on my way to a movie, but a couple of TIFFs ago I got a croissant that totally put me off the place.  It looked like a croissant but tasted like Wonder Bread.  It was shockingly bad.

The O&B Canteen has an all-over-the-place menu that ranges from jerk chicken and prawn curry to pulled pork and pizza.  And of course, a burger.  It’s a mish-mash of dishes that might lead you to believe that the restaurant is a Jack of all trades, master of none, and… well, you’d be correct (at least if the burger is anything to go by).

The Canteen Burger comes topped with “bacon, aged cheddar, pickled jalapeño, herb mayo, hot house tomato,” and also includes a side order of fries.

It’s fine, I guess.  The well done patty generally has a decent texture, though it’s dryer than I’d like.  The taste is a bit more questionable.  The beef is pretty tasteless, and has a vague gamy flavour that was kind of unpleasant.  However, this is less of an issue than you’d think; it’s nearly impossible to taste the beef with all the stuff they’ve got piled on top of it.


The toppings are pretty tasty, at least, which is good because that’s where about 95 percent of this burger’s flavour comes from.  Though the cheddar was almost completely unmelted, it tasted good. The sharp cheese and creamy mayo contrasted nicely with the vinegary bite of the abundant pickled jalapeños, and though the tomatoes kind of got lost in the mix, it was overall a pretty good combo.  It doesn’t quite make you forget how mediocre the burger itself is, but it helps.

The bun was amazing.  Super fresh, with a very delicately crackly exterior and a fluffy interior that still had enough substance to hold up to the many toppings, it was pretty close to bun perfection (I guess I should give their pastries another chance).

The fries were also above average, and came with a delicious curry-tinged ketchup for dipping.  So basically, everything was actually pretty good — except for the burger patty itself.  Which is kind of an important element in a hamburger.  You know, just a little bit.

Since I mentioned prices in my last review, it’s only fair for me to point out that for 17 bucks for the burger and fries, it’s a bit expensive.  This wouldn’t be a problem if the burger was great.  The burger was not great.

2.5 out of 4

O&B Canteen - the restaurant O&B Canteen - the restaurant O&B Canteen - the burger and fries O&B Canteen - the burger