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

Avenue Open Kitchen

Avenue Open KitchenLocation: 7 Camden Street, Toronto
Website: https://aveopenkitchen.ca/

I probably shouldn’t like the burger at Avenue Open Kitchen quite as much as I did — mostly because it’s a meatloaf burger, which isn’t my favourite style of hamburger, putting it mildly.

Actually, no, that description doesn’t quite cut it; it’s not just a meatloaf burger.  It is the meatloafiest of meatloaf burgers.  The patty absolutely slaps you in the face with its oddly sweet, heavily-seasoned flavour.  The taste of the beef?  Completely gone.

So, I hated it, right?  Well, about that…

Avenue Open Kitchen

It’s otherwise so well prepared, I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

I had heard that that the banquet burger is the thing to order here, so that’s what I got.  And yeah, that’s what you should be getting; the bacon is nice and crispy and the gooey American cheese is perfectly melted.  Bonus: their saltiness helps to balance the sweetness of the patty.

Avenue Open Kitchen

That patty is quite sweet, though.  It’s so weird.  I’m guessing they’ve mixed in some kind of sweet sauce into the beef?  It’s not bad, per se, but it’s strange.

Avenue Open Kitchen

Still, everything else about the patty is so right that it almost makes up for the wrongness of the flavour — its got a great crispy crust from the griddle, it’s very juicy, and the texture is on point (it’s slightly too soft, but that’s par for the course for a meatloaf burger).

The toppings are the usual suspects, and the soft, fluffy bun suits the burger perfectly.

Avenue Open Kitchen

As for the fries, they’re nothing to write home about, but they’re solid.

3 out of 4

Ronto’s Burger

Ronto's BurgerLocation: 772 College Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.rontos.ca/

Generally speaking, if a burger joint exists in the GTA, I want to review it.  It makes no difference to me whether I’ve heard good things / bad things / nothing about it.  My impossible goal is to review every burger place in Toronto, though obviously that’s an epic task that I’ll never complete.

So the fact that I hadn’t heard a single thing about Ronto’s Burger certainly didn’t deter me from checking it out, though it did make me skeptical that it was going to be particularly great.

Ronto's Burger

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have been skeptical; Ronto’s Burger is surprisingly fantastic.

I ordered the namesake Ronto’s Burger: “One beef patty, Ronto’s sauce, lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomato, onions.”

It’s a griddled six ounce patty; it’s slightly more substantial than the typical smashed burger that’s so common in the city, and the added substance is quite nice.

Ronto's Burger

The patty is really good; it’s got a pronounced crust from the griddle and it’s abundantly juicy despite being cooked to well done.  The texture is right where it should be, with coarsely ground beef that hasn’t been overhandled.  It’s great.

It’s not the beefiest tasting patty I’ve ever had, but the beefy flavour is definitely there, and it’s quite satisfying.  I wish it hadn’t been cooked all the way to well done — it’s ever-so-slightly tough — but considering how good it is otherwise, that’s a minor complaint.

Ronto's Burger

Though the menu calls the cheese cheddar, it’s clearly American, which definitely isn’t a bad thing.  It’s gooey, salty, and perfect for this type of burger.

The Ronto’s sauce wasn’t my favourite, however.  It’s fine — it’s actually quite tasty.  It’s the usual zesty, Mac-Sauce-esque concoction, but it’s a bit too zesty for its own good.  It overpowers the beef, which is a shame when the patty is this delicious.

Ronto's Burger

The nicely toasted, soft and fluffy bun is mostly perfect, aside from being slightly too wide for the patty.

As for the fries, they’re generic battered, frozen fries, but they’re well prepared and tasty enough for what they are.  They come with a little container of Ronto’s sauce for dipping; that stuff works much, much better with fries than on the burger.

3.5 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

Cabano’s Comfort Food

Cabano's Comfort FoodLocation: 75 St. Nicholas Street, Toronto
Website: http://cabanos.ca/

I just counted, and my list of hamburgers to try for this blog currently sits at 154.  Suffice it to say, it’ll be a while before I get to all of them.  If you’ve left a comment or sent me an email suggesting a burger I should try and I haven’t gotten there yet, that’s why.

I’ve been hearing good things about the burger at Cabano’s since they were located in Vaughan.  I’ve been meaning to check the place out for years.

Cabano's Comfort Food

Well, I finally got there, and yeah — it was worth the wait.  The burger didn’t rock my world, but it’s very, very good.

You can either get the no-frills cheeseburger, or the Cabano burger, which is a double cheeseburger that comes topped with Cabano sauce, lettuce, onions, and fried pickled jalapenos.

I got the Cabano, and it’s a quality burger; it does pretty much everything right, and very little wrong.

The patties are smashed and griddled, because of course they are.  This is Toronto.  If you attempt to cook a burger in any other style and serve it in a restaurant, the police are going to show up at your house, roll you up in a carpet and throw you into a river.

Cabano's Comfort Food

They’re cooked all the way to well done, which can sometimes be an issue, but absolutely isn’t here — they’re basically perfect.  They have a nice crust from the griddle (though only on one side), and the texture is absolutely outstanding.  They’re tender and abundantly juicy.  Perfect.

They have a pleasant but mild beefy flavour; that’s the one area where the burger is lacking.  Because the patties were otherwise so superlative, I was looking for that nice strong beefy hit that you get from truly top-shelf hamburgers, and it wasn’t quite there.

It didn’t help that the patties were overwhelmed by the gooey American cheese.  I’m not sure how many slices they used — Two?  Three? — but it was too much.  The cheese was clearly the dominant flavour.  It easily overpowers the mild beef.

Cabano's Comfort Food

Otherwise, the toppings were great.  The Cabano sauce was the typical tangy mayo you’ll find in so many burgers, and the chopped onions and lettuce work quite nicely (I’m normally not a fan of raw onion, but these were mild enough to not offend).

The fried jalapenos, however, are the highlight.   They’re crispy and a little bit spicy, with a nice vinegary bite that helps cut through the burger’s richness.

The bun — a Martin’s Potato Roll, I think, which are becoming delightfully common in the GTA — was quite good as well.

Cabano's Comfort Food

As for the fries, they weren’t great.  They tasted lightly battered, which I’m not crazy about.  They were also undercooked.  Considering how good the burger was, they were shockingly shoddy.

3.5 out of 4

Uncle Betty’s

Uncle Betty'sLocation: 2590 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.unclebettysdiner.com/

The burger at Uncle Betty’s is odd — it’s really tasty in a lot of ways, but it’s also fails as a hamburger on a pretty fundamental level.

It’s the patty.  It’s the meatloafiest meatloaf burger I’ve had in a long, long time.  The flavouring of the beef is aggressive, and any natural flavour from the meat is completely wiped out.  The spicing punches you in the face.  It’s too much.

Uncle Betty's

Worse, it has that off-puttingly squishy texture that plagues some meatloaf burgers, and it’s got it bad.  Despite the fact that its cooked all the way to well done, the texture of the beef is essentially akin to eating a burger rare, only mushier.

The texture only emphasizes how un-burger-like it is.  It’s not necessarily the most unpleasant thing in the world, but if I had eaten this blindfolded, it would have taken me a whole bunch of guesses to get to hamburger.  The spicing of the beef and the soft consistency makes it taste more like a Sloppy Joe.

Uncle Betty's

Otherwise it’s actually quite good.  The burger has an impressive amount of crust from the griddle (or grill?  The menu says it’s grilled, though it tasted griddled to me) — this gives it some nice texture, and helps to mitigate the patty’s mush factor.

It’s topped with a lot of stuff — garlic aioli, mustard, pickles, sport peppers (which is a Chicago thing, apparently, and kinda like a less spicy banana pepper), an onion ring, and cheddar cheese.

Uncle Betty's

Normally this would be way too much stuff, but the aggressively-spiced patty stands out even under the deluge of toppings.  It helps that everything is quite tasty, and it all goes together very, very well.  The cheese isn’t melted all the way through, but there’s so much other stuff going on that you can barely notice.

The bun is quite good, too — I think it’s a Martin’s Potato Roll or something similar.  It has a great balance between fluffiness and heft.

Uncle Betty's

If the patty were better, this would be an outstanding burger.  It’s nicely cooked, and all of the toppings are great.  That patty, though.  Oh well.

As for the fries, they’re thinly-cut and nicely seasoned (I think they’re using some kind of seasoning salt, but it’s mild enough to not call attention to itself); they would have been great if they had been served hot or even warm, but alas, they were room temperature (at best).

2.5 out of 4