Mama’s Boys Burgers

Mama's Boys BurgersLocation: 480 Danforth Road, Scarborough
Website: None

If nothing else, I have to give kudos to Mama’s Boys Burgers for doing something a bit different.  They serve a grilled burger that, at six ounces, is a bit heftier than the small griddle-smashed patties that are de rigueur in the city.

They also have a small griddle-smashed burger, because this is Toronto, so of course — but the grilled burger is there, and it’s called the Mama, so it’s the specialty.

Mama's Boys Burgers

I ordered the Mama’s Signature, which is a double cheeseburger with bacon and caramelized onions.  You can get it topped with your choice of condiments (I went with Mama sauce, pickles, and tomato).

I need to mention the caramelized onions first, because holy crap, those onions.  They’re so sweet.  It’s overwhelming.  They’re syrupy and cloying and in your face.  I’m pretty sure I have diabetes now.  Is that how diabetes works?  Because if it is, I have it.  Most desserts aren’t that sweet.

Mama's Boys Burgers

It overwhelms everything else to an almost absurd degree.  For the first few bites I assumed they were mixing sugar right into the meat; the sweetness is so pervasive I thought it had to be coming from the patties themselves.  It’s bonkers.

The patties aren’t bad, though I literally had to pull a piece right out of the bun to even tell what they tasted like.  They don’t have much of a beefy flavour, and they’re definitely too finely ground (they’re a bit tough), but they’re fairly juicy and agreeable enough.  They also have a bit of a smoky flavour from the grill, but again, it’s completely wiped out by the sugary onions.

Mama's Boys Burgers

The other issue is the slice of mild Cheddar.  They put it on top of the onions instead of right onto the patty, so it never gets hot enough to fully melt.  I’m sorry, but that means that this isn’t actually a cheeseburger — it’s a hamburger with a slice of cheese on it.  The only way for a hamburger to make the magical transformation into a cheeseburger is for the cheese to melt and mingle with the beef.

The other toppings are fine, though again, they’re lost in the unforgiving deluge of sugar.  I was only able to identify the Mama sauce as garlic mayo by trying it on its own.  Otherwise I just couldn’t tell.  I wish I was exaggerating about how overwhelming the onions were.  It’s madness.

Mama's Boys Burgers

As for the fries, they’re slightly underseasoned, but are otherwise very good.  They’re quite thick, but they’re perfectly crispy and creamy.  They were easily the highlight.

2.5 out of 4

Johnny’s Hamburgers

Johnny's HamburgersLocation: 2595 Victoria Park Avenue, Scarborough

Look, I don’t want to be the buzzkill telling people that the place they love actually sucks.  Especially with a restaurant like Johnny’s, which has been slinging burgers since before most of its clientele were born.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  A lot of people have been going to Johnny’s since they were kids, and I get it: if you have warm, fuzzy memories of a place from your childhood, of course you’re going to overlook its flaws.

Because here’s the thing: that place you love, Johnny’s?  It sucks.  And I think deep down, you know that’s true.

Johnny's Hamburgers

Though it’s still popular, the city has (mostly) gotten over its collective delusion that Johnny’s is good.  Most of the time now, when people post about Johnny’s on social media, they’ll preface it with something like “I know it’s junk, but…”

That wasn’t always true.  Before the burger boom hit the city over the last decade or so, Johnny’s frequently appeared on — and topped, no less — lists of the best burgers in the GTA.  That doesn’t happen anymore.

I still remember going there for the first time something like 15 years ago, having heard so much about how “good” it was.  The crushing disappointment I experienced on taking my first bite was palpable.

It’s a bottom-of-the-barrel industrially-produced frozen patty.  It’s bad.

Johnny's Hamburgers

It’s so bad that I managed to avoid reviewing it for the last eight years of running this blog, despite the fact that it’s a Toronto burger institution.  It should have been one of the first places I reviewed.  But their burgers are a bummer to eat.  I didn’t want to.

I knew I couldn’t avoid it forever, however.  Eventually, I’d have to bite the bullet.  And I finally did.

On this particular visit, I got the plain burger (cheese and bacon are also options) and had it topped with pickles, tomato, mayo, and griddled onions.

There’s not much to like about the el cheapo frozen patties they serve here.  They have a chewy, borderline mushy texture that’s closer to a lousy hot dog than a hamburger, and any beefy flavour is basically nonexistent.  The only flavour here, aside from the generically salty hot dogginess, is that mildly gamy flavour you get from the absolute cheapest meat imaginable.

Johnny's Hamburgers

Johnny’s defenders will typically expound on the burger’s unique flame-broiled flavour, but on this particular visit there were almost no grill marks on the patty, and zero smoky flavour.  So they managed to mess up the one good thing the place has going for it.

The other thing people bring up to defend Johnny’s is the price; the burger is currently $4.01 before tax.  That’s cheap, but it’s not that cheap.  A no-frills burger from a nicer fast food joint like A&W or Wendy’s is about the same price and is much better.  Or for a couple of bucks more, you can go somewhere like the Burger’s Priest and get a burger that’s about a million times better.

The bun’s not bad, I’ll give it that.  It’s way too big for the patty, and it’s certainly not a typical hamburger bun.  But it’s soft and fresh, and has a nice lightly crispy exterior.  It’s not a cheapo supermarket bun.  They obviously get it from an actual bakery.

Johnny's Hamburgers

As for the sides, I tried both the onion rings and the fries, and they’re both exactly what you think they’re going to be.  They’re not great, but they’re a hell of a lot better than the burger.

1 out of 4

Goody’s Diner

Location: 133 Manville Road, Scarborough
UPDATE: It appears that, sadly, Goody’s Diner has closed down.

When a place gets a 300+ post thread at Chowhound, you pretty much have to sit up and take notice.  When that thread deals largely with the greatness of the establishment’s burgers, you can pretty much guarantee I’ll be there at some point.  So of course, I eventually found myself at Goody’s Diner, an unassuming little place tucked away in a drab business park.  Not the most auspicious of locations, but it’s the food that counts.

A quick glance at the menu reveals a burger called the Goody’s Burger; since it’s my general policy to to get any burger named after the restaurant, the selection process was quite easy.  The friendly waitress came by; I ordered.  Fries or salad?  Yeah, okay, I’m really going to order a salad.  With a hamburger. (to be fair, my dining companion ordered the salad and said it was above average.)

A short while later, the burger came, and it is enormous.  The menu labels it as an eight ounce burger (i.e. half a pound) and that’s definitely no exaggeration.  The thing is massive.  It’s not kidding around, that’s for sure.

The Goody’s Burger comes topped with “grilled peameal bacon, mushrooms, jalapeno havarti, caramelized onion, lettuce and tomato.” First things first, this is a meatloaf-style burger; they tell you right on the menu that it’s mixed in with “roasted garlic and our secret spice blend” (and I have to thank them for this — there’s nothing worse than expecting a standard burger, only to get one perfumed with onion, garlic, and who-knows-what-other-spices.  This style of burger can be perfectly tasty, but there is no doubt that it is very different from a traditional burger and should be labeled as such).

And it is actually pretty tasty.  Meatloaf-style burgers are not my favourite, however this was definitely one of the better ones that I’ve had.  It was quite juicy, and the spicing wasn’t too aggressive, allowing some of the burger’s beefiness to shine through.  The burger was a bit chewier and more sausage-like than I would prefer, but that seems to be par for the course for this style of hamburger.

As for the many toppings — they would almost surely overwhelm a smaller, more traditional burger.  But between the gigantic size of the patty itself and the strong spice blend, the burger is definitely the dominant flavour here.  The toppings compliment it quite nicely, as does the soft yet substantial bun.

Though the fries are of the battered variety (like the meatloaf-style burger, this is generally not my favourite), they are above average; crunchy, potatoey, and without the overly processed flavour that battered fries tend to have.  They’re also lightly seasoned with rosemary, which makes them pretty tasty on their own without much need for a dipping sauce.

Goody's Diner - the restaurant Goody's Diner - the Menu Goody's Diner - 7 Days Without a Goody's Burger Makes One Weak Goody's Diner - the Goody's Burger Goody's Diner - the Breakfast Burger Goody's Diner - the Goody's Burger Goody's Diner - the dining room
Goody's Diner on Urbanspoon