The Rhino

The RhinoLocation: 1249 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.therhino.ca/

My visit to The Rhino was completely unplanned — I was in the area, I wanted to check out a burger, and hey, that place looks like it serves a hamburger.  No recommendations, no research, just a random pop-in.

My dream in situations like this is that the burger will turn out to be amazing, and that I can announce a hidden gem to the world.  I mean, anyone can go and review a place that everyone’s talking about.  Who cares?  Finding a restaurant that people wouldn’t have heard of otherwise — that’s a service to the world.

The Rhino

That absolutely, positively isn’t what happened here, but hey, I can keep dreaming.  One day.

The Rhino burger: “hand-pressed ground beef patty, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, brioche bun. Served with fries or house salad.”

The Rhino

It’s not good.  And it’s not good in such a boring way that I don’t even particularly feel like talking about it.  It’s the usual bad burger trifecta: the beef is too finely ground, it’s packed too tightly, and it’s too lean.  It’s crazy dry.  I normally eat a burger as it comes, but in this case I just couldn’t stomach it.  I had to put on copious amounts of mustard (which I typically find to be way too assertive as a burger topping) just to give it some moisture, and to give the bland, personality-free beef some flavour.

The Rhino

I will say that the medium well patty is perfectly grilled, which gives it a great amount of smoky flavour.  Not enough to save it, of course — but it that element was nice nonetheless.

And the fresh brioche bun was quite good (not that it particularly matters).

The Rhino

As for the fries, they were delicious, with a delicate exterior crispiness and a perfect amount of fluffiness.  They were seasoned with big, flaky grains of salt that added more texture and nice pops of flavour.  They were top notch.

1.5 out of 4

The Commoner

The CommonerLocation: 2067 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.thecommonerrestaurant.ca/

Here’s a classic good news / bad news type of situation.  The good news: The Commoner seems like it’s a quality restaurant.  It’s quite popular, and most of the food they served when I visited was very good.

The bad news: the hamburger.  It’s not great.

The Commoner

The Commoner cheeseburger, as per the menu: “Brioche. Lettuce. Tomato. Pickles. Onion. Provolone. Dijon Mayo.”

Nothing about the burger is awful, but nothing is particularly good, either.

The patty is grilled (I think? It’s got that char flavour that you typically only get from the grill, but it’s possible that it was just enthusiastically griddled), and while it’s cooked all the way to well done, it’s fairly juicy.  But the texture is off — I think the grind is too fine — and it’s a little bit tough.

The Commoner

The flavour of the beef is another issue.  It’s generally inoffensive, but it also has a mild gaminess.  It’s not in your face, but it’s there, and it’s unpleasant.

I can maybe forgive the shoddy flavour of the meat; it’s possible that they got an iffy batch from an otherwise quality supplier.  What I can’t forgive, however?  The cardinal sin of  cheeseburger cookery: the cheese isn’t fully melted.  In my world, that would be a crime punishable by serious jail time.  Get out of here with that.

The Commoner

Then there’s the brioche bun.  I knew it was trouble as soon as I cut into it; it’s dry and dense.  Again, I’ve certainly had worse, but it’s not great.

Everything else was fine, though the Dijon mayo was somewhat overpowering.

The Commoner

It’s not a great burger, sadly.  On the other hand: my dining companion had the huevos rancheros and said it was the best he’s ever had, and the fries that came with the burger were spectacularly delicious.  French fry perfection.  So there’s that, at least.

2 out of 4

Maison Selby

Maison SelbyLocation: 592 Sherbourne Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.maisonselby.com/

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

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

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

Hambrgr

HambrgrLocation: 207 Ottawa Street North, Hamilton
Website: https://www.hambrgr.ca/

I don’t want to bury the lede: yes, Hambrgr is in Hamilton.  It’s far.  I’ve never reviewed a hamburger outside of the GTA for this blog, but after seeing Hambrgr on John Catucci’s new Food Network show, Big Food Bucket List, I kinda had to try it.

While I was mulling over whether I wanted to expand this blog’s range into Hamilton, I discovered that something called the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (or GTHA) exists.  I’m not making this up; it has a Wikipedia page.  That was really all the excuse I needed.

And seriously: watch that segment on Big Food Bucket List and tell me you don’t immediately want to check that place out.  I dare you.

Hambrgr

I’m happy to say that it is absolutely, positively worth the drive to Hamilton.  It’s so damn good.

The burger from the show is the #HamOnt: “double 1/4lb patties,  grilled onions, ‘merican cheese, mustard glazed bacon, brgr sauce, iceberg.”

Sadly, my pictures turned out terribly — the lighting in the restaurant is a bit wonky, so in the photos, the griddled patties look like they’ve been completely blackened.  They were not completely blackened.

You’ll just have to take my word for it: they were perfect.  They had an absolutely amazing dark brown crust.

Hambrgr

They also tasted fantastic; they were profoundly juicy despite being cooked to medium well, with a thunderclap of satisfying beefy flavour.  According to the show, they’re made from a blend of chuck, inside round, and navel.  Unlike so many burgers in the GTA, you can tell that a great deal of thought was put into the blend they used.  It’s juicy and flavourful in a way that puts most burger joints to shame.

The patties were maybe a bit too finely ground and tightly packed — they’re ever-so-slightly tougher than they should be, but that’s a very minor complaint.  Considering how superlative they are in every other way, that’s easy to overlook.

Hambrgr

The toppings are just as good.  The gooey American cheese is perfect, griddled onions are always welcome on a burger, and the shredded lettuce adds some nice crunch and freshness.  Then there’s the mustard-glazed bacon, which is honestly kind of ingenious.  The zippy flavour from the mustard enhances the bacon and helps to cut through the burger’s richness, but doesn’t overwhelm the burger the way mustard as a condiment does.

The bun is great, too.  I mean, it’s all great.  If you have a car, it’s totally worth the drive to Hamilton.  And if you don’t…  I dunno, take the bus, I guess?  Just get over there.  It’s worth it.

Hambrgr

As for the fries, I ordered the half & half, which comes with regular and sweet potato fries.  It also comes with two dipping sauces: ketchup and sambal mayo.  The fries are very good, and that sambal mayo makes them even better.  It’s a great dip; it’s spicy, zesty, and addictive.

2.5 out of 4

Extra Burger

Extra BurgerLocation: 1357 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.extraburger.ca/

Another day, another smashed-and-griddled burger in Toronto.  At some point, this city’s obsession with the thin, griddled patty (to the exclusion of every other type of burger) will cool down.

We’re not there yet.

Not that I’m complaining — well, not entirely, at least.  Though a little more variety would be nice, there’s a reason this style of patty is so popular.  It’s damn good.

Extra Burger

But there’s something to be said for the satisfying meatiness of a thicker patty, and for the smokiness that you get from the grill.  I love chocolate cake, but other flavours of cake are good too, you know?

But I digress.  Extra burger is an especially bare-bones burger joint; the menu consists entirely of a cheeseburger, a double cheeseburger, and fries.  They have a few stools where you can sit, but mostly, it’s take-out only.

I ordered the double, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, special sauce (well, they call it special sauce, but it looked and tasted like plain mayo to me), and two slices of American cheese.

Extra Burger

The burger certainly looks impressive; their griddling technique is exactly as it should be, with an impressive amount of dark brown crust on the exterior of each patty.  And the burger is well proportioned and photogenic.

Alas, though it’s a solid burger, it’s not quite as good as it looks.  The well done patties are nicely juicy, but the beef is finely ground and overhandled, resulting in a burger that isn’t nearly as tender as it should be.

It’s also bland; the meat has a very neutral flavour that, while certainly not unpleasant, lacks the beefy punch that you’re looking for in a top shelf hamburger.

Extra Burger

It’s otherwise very good — the gooey American cheese is perfect, the bun is soft and fresh, and the toppings are all on point (particularly the zippy, thickly cut pickle slices that I’m assuming they make in-house).

As for the fries, they’re okay.  They’re crinkle-cut, and they’re seasoned with a spice blend that brings them a nice flavour without overwhelming.  But they were slightly underdone, with an unpleasantly chalky interior.

3 out of 4