Tag Archives: Toronto


11 Mar

Ozzy's in Kensington Market
: 66 Nassau Street, Toronto

Salt is a funny thing.  Add just enough of it to a dish, and it disappears into the background, enhancing flavours without calling attention to itself.  I was talking to a friend about the burger at Ozzy’s being too salty (because spoiler alert: the burger at Ozzy’s was way too salty), and he seemed surprised by the notion that a burger should even have salt.  Because done right, salt just enhances the beefy flavour of a burger without actually adding a particularly salty flavour.  It does its magic and then recedes into the shadows, happy to let the beef take all of the credit.

Done wrong, on the other hand?  You end up with the burger at Ozzy’s.

I ordered the Classic burger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, griddled onions, and Ozzy’s sauce.

Ozzy's in Kensington Market

It’s kind of tragic, because aside from the extreme saltiness issue, the burger was top-notch.  The patty had a really impressive amount of crust from the griddle and a perfect texture, despite being cooked to well done — it was surprisingly juicy, it had a nice coarse grind, and it wasn’t overhandled.  It also had a decent beefy flavour.  It was actually pretty great.

The toppings were all solid, and the fresh, slightly sweet bun suited the burger well, though it was slightly too large.

But when I say that the patty was too salty, I mean that it was in-your-face salty.  It was unpleasant.

It’s a damn shame, because with a normal amount of salt, this would have easily been a top-tier burger.  But it was what it was (and my dining companion had the same complaint, so this wasn’t a one-off mistake).

As for the fries, bafflingly, they were completely undersalted (or maybe they just tasted that way after the salt-bomb of a hamburger).  They also had a bit of a stale oil flavour, but were otherwise pretty good.

2.5 out of 4

Ozzy's - the restaurant Ozzy's - the restaurant Ozzy's - the burger and fries Ozzy's - the burger


25 Feb

Aloette burger
: 163 Spadina Avenue, Toronto

I was traveling when Aloette opened, and seeing pictures of the burger made me want to drop everything I was doing and get on the next plane home.  I mean, it’s a burger created by one of the best chefs in the city.  It’s topped with fried cheese.  How could it not be amazing??

How indeed.

It seems I’m fated to continually be disappointed by Toronto’s best chefs.  First there was Victor Barry.  Then Grant van Gameren.  And now, sadly, Alo’s Patrick Kriss.

Of course, there are different levels of disappointment, and this one was much more mild than the other two: I actually enjoyed the burger at Aloette.  But I was expecting my socks to be knocked off.  I’m looking down, and yep: there are my socks, firmly on my feet.

The Aloette Burger comes topped with shredded lettuce, pickle, onion, mayo, and the aforementioned Beaufort cheese.  The toppings are mostly quite good.  When you first look at the burger, the big pile of lettuce seems overdone, but I think the fine shredding makes it look poofier than it actually is.  It was just right.  The soft bun just barely holds up to the messy burger, but it manages.  It’s good.

The cheese was, shockingly, the weakest element.  It was good in theory — gooey, with a satisfying cheesy brown crust on its exterior.  It was actually quite delicious.  But just because something’s delicious doesn’t mean it belongs on a hamburger; it was sharp and assertive, and it completely wiped out all of the hamburger’s other flavours.  It would be absolutely amazing in a grilled cheese sandwich, but on a burger it’s all wrong.

The patty didn’t seem to have much of a beefy flavour, but then how can you even tell with that cheese?  The bulk of the flavour was a mild bitterness from the slightly burned exterior.  The patty mostly had an amazing mahogany-brown crust from the griddle, but there were a few spots that were blackened and bitter.

And while the beef was somewhat juicy, the well done patty was kind of dry.  It was also a little bit too finely ground and a bit too tightly packed, resulting in a patty that’s tougher than it should be.  When you’re eating a burger and thinking “why is this taking so long to chew?” then you know you’ve got problems.

Still, I’m coming off super negative here, so I should make it clear that I actually quite enjoyed the burger: it was tasty.  It has way too many issues to be anything better than just good, but it is good.  It’s just not even close to the burger perfection I was hoping for.

As for the fries, they were a bit overcooked (most of them were potato-chip-crunchy, which is a bit much), but otherwise quite tasty.  They also came with a tangy dipping sauce that was easily the highlight of the meal.

3 out of 4

Aloette - the restaurant Aloette - the restaurant Aloette - the burger Aloette - the burger Aloette - the burger

Kitson and Co.

16 Jul

: 1205 Queen Street West, Toronto

Sometimes, you just wanna stop eating your burger, slap your hand on the table, walk back into the kitchen and shake everybody’s hand.  Sometimes a burger is so delightfully great that it just makes you want to do something.  Especially when you’re in a place that doesn’t even specialize in hamburgers, and the burger’s greatness is all the more improbable.  A great burger from a random sandwich shop?  That just makes my day.

It’s a pretty simple cheeseburger: “Classic Double Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onions and Kitson & Co. secret sauce”

It’s an amazing example of a classic, no-frills fast-food-style burger executed perfectly.  You’ve got the gooey American cheese, the crusty griddled patties, the Big-Mac-esque secret sauce, the sesame seed bun, and the classic veggies.  It’s all there.

Those patties are top notch; the flavour could have been a bit beefier, but it’s hard to complain too much when all of the other elements are right where they should be.  They were also ever-so-slightly too densely packed, but again, it’s hard to complain too much when the overall package is so damn satisfying.  The patties are cooked to a perfect medium rare with a nice layer of dark brown crust on the exterior.  They’re also super juicy; that alone is reason enough to celebrate.

The melty American cheese adds creaminess and a nice salty tang; I kinda wish that there was only one slice instead of two, as I feel like two slices of cheese on a double cheeseburger starts to overwhelm the meat, but that’s more of a personal preference than anything else.  Two slices is the standard, so it’s hard to fault them for that.

The tangy secret sauce is pretty much exactly what you think it’s going to be — it works great with the cheeseburger and, more importantly, it doesn’t get in the way.

Even the bun was surprisingly great: soft, fresh, and perfectly toasted, it somehow manages to stand up to that very juicy, messy burger without ever feeling overly substantial.  The beef to bun ratio?  On point.

As for the fries, they were crispy, creamy, and flavourful; as great as the burger was, the fries might have been even better.

3.5 out of 4

Kitson and Co. - the outside Kitson and Co. - the restaurant Kitson and Co. - the cheeseburger Kitson and Co. - the cheeseburger

Jumbo Burgers

3 Jul

: 685 Runnymede Road, Toronto
Website: None

Jumbo Burgers is yet another orange-hued old-school burger joint in Toronto, which means it’s probably lousy.  Not to be a pessimist, but these places pretty much all either serve a flat-out terrible frozen burger, or if you’re lucky, a freshly-made hamburger that has so much stuff mixed in it may as well be meatloaf.

Well, good news: Jumbo Burgers falls into the latter category, and it’s actually not too bad.  It’s not particularly good, mind you, but when the alternative is a rubbery slab of sadness bound together by pink slime (sorry: lean finely-textured beef), a freshly-made meatloaf burger is a pretty big win.

Like almost every other burger joint of a certain age, you order your hamburger and then pick your toppings from behind the glass.  I went with pickles, tomato and mayo (which, again, like most older establishments, was actually Miracle Whip or something similar).

It wasn’t bad.  The burger had a good amount of char from the grill without being burnt (like most places that were open before the fall of the Soviet Union, the burgers are grilled rather than griddled.  Yeah, these places all followed the same template back then).

The patty had a pretty pronounced meatloafy flavour, I’m assuming from garlic and other spices mixed right in with the beef, but as far as this type of burger goes, I’ve certainly had worse.  There was still a vague beefy flavour, even if it was mostly wiped out by the spices.

The well done patty was a little bit dry and a little bit tough, but again, I’ve had worse.  Like I said: it’s not particularly good, but it’s not bad, either.

The toppings were fine, aside from the aforementioned mayo substitute.  The bun was slightly too big and too dense; the beef-to-bun ratio was off, but it was otherwise a decent bun.

As for the fries, they were a bit undercooked, but aside from that they were pretty good.

2.5 out of 4

Jumbo Burgers - the outside Jumbo Burgers - the restaurant Jumbo Burgers - the burger Jumbo Burgers - the burger Jumbo Burgers - the fries

George the Greek

18 Jun

: 3575 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Etobicoke

So, it turns out it’s actually not a great idea to go to a restaurant based on one post from some random guy on a message board. Who knew! (What? That’s just common sense? Literally everyone knew that? Hmm.)

George the Greek is one of those really old school places that has two types of burgers on the menu: a cheap hamburger (i.e. a bottom-of-the-barrel frozen patty) and a more expensive “homeburger” (which, logic dictates, is one that they make themselves).

I ordered the homeburger, only to find that George the Greek has pulled a C & Dubbs — it’s also a frozen burger. It’s one of the thicker, premium varieties of frozen burger, but a frozen burger is a frozen burger: rubbery hot dog texture with a mildly unpleasant, salty, off-meat flavour.

If you could see me right now, you’d see that I’m giving a very vigorous thumbs down while making a farting noise.

The burger had a pleasant, mild smoky flavour from the grill, and the toppings were fine (I went with pickles, tomato and mayo — and the mayo was actually mayo, not Miracle Whip, which a frequent and unwelcome substitution at old school joints like this. So that was nice.).  The bun was pretty good too — it was standard supermarket fare, but it suited the burger quite well.

Alas, there isn’t much you can do to make a lousy patty like this particularly palatable.

As for the fries, they were slightly better than the hamburger, but they were a bit undercooked and completely unseasoned.

1.5 out of 4

George the Greek - the outside George the Greek - the restaurant George the Greek - the burger and fries George the Greek - the burger