Little Fin

: 4 Temperance Street, Toronto

Little Fin is, as the name implies, mostly a seafood joint; it probably would have been very low on my list of places to check out for this blog, but then I saw the header photo on Toronto Life’s write-up of the place and that was pretty much that.  A visit was inevitable.

It’s a tiny little place that’s obviously meant to be a take-out joint for local office-dwellers, though they do have a few narrow tables (but no stools, so prepare to eat standing up like a horse).

The menu’s up on the wall, and though it’s mostly an array of fish sandwiches, there is a cheeseburger that can either be had single, or double.  The aforementioned photo made it look a bit small, so I went with the double; bacon jam is optional for an additional $1.25, but I passed on that.

It’s actually not quite as small as it looks.  They don’t say how big the patties are on the menu, but I’m guessing they’re somewhere in the ballpark of five ounces.

It comes topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, cheddar, and a sauce that is unmentioned on the menu, but which Toronto Life calls a “sea-urchin sauce.”


It’s good, though like last week’s review, Cardinal Rule, I’m loathe to even call it a hamburger.  The patty is so thoroughly suffused with onions and spices and who-knows-what-else that the simple beefiness that makes a good hamburger so special has been completely annihilated.  It’s meatloaf.  It certainly looks like a hamburger, but if appearances are all that matters I’m pretty sure I could take brownie batter and make it look like a hamburger, but that doesn’t make it so.  

Put simply, if I wanted meatloaf I’d order meatloaf.

I think I need to calm down.  Especially because, unlike at Cardinal Rule, what they’re serving here is actually not bad.  While I would argue until I’m blue in the face against it being a traditional hamburger, it’s okay for what it is.  It’s a decent meatloaf sandwich.  It’s not a hamburger, but it’s tasty.

It’s fairly well spiced, though it’s strong enough that the beef’s natural flavour has been almost entirely wiped out.  It’s also a bit too finely ground, with a slightly odd, overhandled texture.  It’s fairly juicy, however, which is nice, and which helps to compensate for some of the patty’s textural deficiencies.  The cheddar is also fully melted and nicely gooey.

The condiments are mostly okay, though the tomato was a bit mealy.  The very tangy sea-urchin sauce would easily overwhelm a traditional hamburger, but with a through-and-through meatloaf burger like this, all bets are off.

The bun has been off-puttingly dyed jet-black (because charcoal black is clearly the colour you want your bread to be, right guys?), but aside from its weirdly dark colour, it’s above-average.  It’s fresh, soft, and slightly chewy, and holds up to the burger quite well (though I suspect it might be a bit overwhelming with the single-patty option).

As for the side… there wasn’t one.  I’ll admit that I only gave the menu a cursory glance, but given the fairly steep $14.25 price tag for the double burger, I just assumed that a side of some sort would be included.  Nope.  Suffice it to say, it’s a bit overpriced.

2.5 out of 4

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Brock Sandwich

1260 Bloor Street West, Toronto

Sometimes I wonder if it’s even possible for me to get to every burger in the city that I want to review. The list of burger joints I still need to check out is fairly voluminous, not to mention the new places that open regularly. And of course, there are the non-burger-joint restaurants that serve noteworthy hamburgers. But I’ll keep rolling that rock up the hill, because there are worse things in life than feeling compelled to eat a bunch of hamburgers.

Enter Brock Sandwich. It’s not a burger place, but I’ve been hearing good things about their burger since they opened last year (including mention in blogTO’s list of the best cheeseburgers in the city).

It’s mostly a take-out place. I was lucky enough to snag one of the few tables, but if they’re busy (and they do seem to be busy) eating in will be a challenge.

The burger, as per their menu: “House Ground Beef, Smoked Tomato Jam, Mustard, Mayo, Lettuce, Onion.” The menu doesn’t specify the cheese, which I think is a white cheddar of some sort.

There is a lot of stuff on this burger. I’m a less-is-more guy when it comes to burgers, but I’m not anti-toppings, either. If it tastes good, it tastes good.


Though the toppings here are all fine, they never quite cohere into something special — it just tastes like a burger with a lot of toppings. They get in the way of the beef without really justifying themselves to any meaningful degree. They’re certainly not bad; they’re just nothing particularly special.

The griddled patty is good, but again, not great. It actually has a fairly satisfying flavour (though it’s tough to tell with all that other stuff), and it’s juicy and not overcooked. But the texture is off. It has a slightly chewy, sausagey texture. It’s the type of texture that you typically find in a meatloaf burger — but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any spices or any of the other stuff typical of a meatloaf burger mixed into the patty.

So how to account for that texture? I suspect that they mix salt right into the beef, something that can have a profound impact on a burger’s texture, though it’s hard to be too sure.

It’s not a deal-breaker — it’s still pretty tasty — but it’s a shame that what could otherwise be an above average patty has such a noticeable defect.

As for the fries, they were seasoned with paprika or something similar, and were quite tasty. They were a tad on the soggy side, but were still quite stellar — especially when dipped in the restaurant’s amazing malt vinegar mayo.

I should note that my dining companion had the fried chicken sandwich, and it looked amazing.  I wish I had taken a picture because it was maybe the most perfect-looking fried chicken sandwich that I’ve ever seen.  And apparently it was as good as it looked, because my dining companion proclaimed it to be the second-best fried chicken sandwich he has ever eaten (the best, apparently, being the Beastwich — it’s tough to top that one).

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BBQ Express

Location: 1240 Bay Street, Toronto
Website: None

I’ve seen things done to burgers.  Bad things: frozen burgers, overly-spiced burgers, too-lean burgers, burgers ground too finely, burgers with filler, burgers with bad quality meat…  I thought I had seen it all.  I was wrong.

BBQ Express is one of those places I’ve walked by many times, though it took the prospect of reviewing it for this blog to actually walk in.  It’s a tiny place; there’s basically just enough room to stand there and order.

They advertise a homemade burger, so I ordered it thinking “how bad could this be?”

Then something happened I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  The woman who took my order moseyed on over to the grill, opened a foil bag with a stack of pre-cooked hamburgers, and slapped one on the grill.

I stood there in shock.  Did I really just see that?  Is that really a pre-cooked hamburger, cooked who-knows-when? Is she actually going to reheat that and serve it to me?

My pulse quickened.  Fight or flight kicked in.  A voice in my head screamed “Run!  Run now and never look back!”  And if it hadn’t been for this blog, there’s no way I would have eaten that hamburger.  I would have politely given the grill lady some excuse, and I would have high-tailed it out of there.

The things I do for you.

I got my hamburger topped with pickles, tomato and mayo, and I walked across the street to sit outside and eat my meal.

I took my pictures of the uncut burger, then, as I am wont to do when I’m reviewing a burger for this blog, I cut it in half so I could take a picture of the burger’s innards.  Cutting into the burger, it was immediately clear that something was wrong.  The hamburger was suspiciously difficult to cut in half.  The meat was tough, almost like trying to cut through a steak.

Hesitantly, I took a bite.  The burger was — surprise, surprise — unusually dry.  It was also tough and leathery with an almost jerky-like texture around the edges.

This was also a meatloaf-style burger.  It wasn’t too strongly-spiced, though this was one instance where I actually would have preferred for the beef to be disguised by other flavours; the beef had a funky, vaguely unpleasant flavour.

The only reason I’m not going to give this burger zero stars is that I actually managed to finish the whole thing, so I guess it wasn’t completely inedible.  But then that probably speaks more to my gluttony than to the general quality of this burger.  Seriously: this was a terrible, terrible hamburger.  I’m pretty sure I’ve had worse in my lifetime, though I’m having a hard time thinking of any right now.

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