Tag Archives: Union Station

Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill

20 Nov

oliver
Location
: 33 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.oliverbonacini.com/Yonge-Front.aspx

The last burger I tried from an O&B joint was thoroughly forgettable, but when I found myself at Café Grill, I figured, sure, why not?  I’m here, the burger is here, let’s do this.

(And I did debate whether I should even be reviewing more than one O&B restaurant, or if all their locations count as one big chain.  But since each menu seems to be completely different, I think they’re all fair game.)

Though I approach each burger I eat hoping for the best, I sort of figured the burger here would be much like the one I had from O&B Canteen — passable, but mediocre.

As it turns out, I was longing for the comparative delights of “passable, but mediocre.”

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The Café Grill calls their hamburger the Smashed Ground Chuck Burger, and it comes topped with “housemade BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar, iceberg lettuce, special sauce.”

I rant about overly dry patties all the time on this blog, and I really don’t feel like doing it again right now.  I’ll just say this: the griddled patty was punishingly gray throughout and was devoid of anything even resembling moisture.  It was also really substantial, making each mouthful a bit of an ordeal.

It actually tasted pretty okay, but since it had the approximate texture of a bunch of mashed-up saltines held together with glue, does it matter?

And though the bun was a bit over-toasted and more dense than it needed to be, the toppings were all tasty enough.  But again: dry saltines.  Glue.  Agony.

Oh, and it also cost 19 bucks, putting it on the more expensive end of burgers in the GTA.

As for the thickly-cut fries, they were quite good.  Nothing too special, but they were solid French fries.

1.5 out of 4

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Hidden Burger

25 Sep

hidden
Location
: 22 Front Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.hiddenburger.ca/

If nothing else, Hidden Burger certainly lives up to its name.  Tucked away in the Bottom Line, a sports bar near Union Station, there’s absolutely no signage for the place outside, and even when you get into the bar, it’s not immediately apparent that you’re in the right place.  It’s only when you walk through the place and go around a corner that you finally see it.

It strikes me as a thoroughly odd strategy to literally hide your restaurant and make random walk-ins completely impossible, but then what do I know about such things?  It’s either a genius marketing move or completely insane.

It’s mostly a take-out place, with only a few stools to sit across from the register.  They’ve got an admirably simple menu, with a cheeseburger (single or double), a veggie burger, and a weekly special, along with the requisite French fries.  I went with the cheeseburger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and red onion.

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It’s a griddled burger, which ideally gets you a tasty, dark brown crust on the patty.  Often, the griddle isn’t quite hot enough and the crust isn’t particularly there.  But I actually had the opposite problem here, which I can’t say I’ve ever encountered in a burger cooked in this style.  The crust was coal black; it was burnt and it tasted burnt, with an acridly bitter flavour pervading every bite.  That griddle must have been insanely hot.

The patty was, not surprisingly, quite overdone, with a completely gray interior that was cooked all the way to the peak of well done.  It was actually still vaguely juicy, which was nice, but suffice it to say, it needed way less time on the griddle (and it was black on both sides, which makes me think it may have been intentional, as baffling as that seems).

The patty was also a bit too tightly packed and dense, but aside from that the texture was okay.

The flavour was decent enough (aside from the bitterness, of course). There was some mild beefiness, which is always nice.

As for the toppings, they suited the burger well, though the slice of American cheese wasn’t all the way melted, which is kind of crazy given how hot the cooking surface must have been.  And the soft, squishy bun suited the burger perfectly.

The fries were the resounding highlight. They were great — super crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  They were particularly good with the optional jalapeno aioli, which costs 50 cents and is worth every penny.

2.5 out of 4

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b.good

8 Mar

bgood
Location: 100 Front Street East, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.bgood.ca/

My last review was of a burger joint with two different tongue sandwiches on the menu. Speaking of incongruous pairings, we have b.good, the latest American restaurant chain to head north.  Their theme?  Health food and hamburgers.

I’m going to let that sink in for a second: Health food.  Quinoa.  Kale.  Salads.  And hamburgers.

To me (and to any rational person) the words “health food” and “hamburgers” should never be in the same sentence, other than to say “hamburgers are not health food.”

Needless to say, I was skeptical, but still hopeful; perhaps b.good’s definition of a healthy burger was merely one without any unnecessary chemicals/additives/preservatives.  Maybe you can make a hamburger with high quality beef and call it healthy.  Maybe I wouldn’t have to suffer through a dried-out patty made under the ill-advised notion that any food can be made healthy if you wish hard enough.

Maybe I’ll win the lottery tomorrow.

No, b.good’s burger isn’t healthy in the “we used good quality ingredients” sense of the term.  It’s healthy in the “lean beef” sense of the term.  It’s healthy in the “let’s ruin something good” sense of the term.  It’s healthy in the “what the hell have you done to this hamburger” sense of the term.

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They have six pre-topped burgers on the menu; I went with the simplest choice, the Cousin Oliver.  That one comes with “lettuce, tomato, onions, Chef Tony’s homemade pickles.”  They have beef, chicken, turkey, and veggie patties, as well as white or whole wheat buns.  Do I even need to mention I picked beef with a white bun?  Because of course I picked beef with a white bun.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: it’s dry.  Oh good heavens was it dry.  If you poke around this blog for longer than a few minutes, you’ll probably see me complaining about overly-dry hamburgers, but this one takes the cake.  I’m not a hundred percent sure if it’s the driest burger I’ve had in my life, but it’s a contender.

It’s way too tightly packed, which doesn’t help.  It also doesn’t help that it was cooked all the way to well done, but there were still vague hints of pink in there, so it wasn’t overcooked.  But it’s obvious that they started with ridiculously lean beef, because there wasn’t even a hint of juiciness.  As you chew it, the beef just sort of crumbles into sad little pellets of desiccated meat.  It sucks all the moisture out of your mouth.  It needs it.

It also tastes weird.  It tasted odd enough that I actually looked at the menu to make sure bison wasn’t an option, because it didn’t really taste like beef; it didn’t taste right.  It was gamy and funky and weird.  It was unpleasant.  It tasted like maybe they had cooked it yesterday and reheated it today (that would also account for some of  the absurd dryness), but don’t take my word for that.  That’s a serious accusation and I don’t make it lightly.  I’m just trying to figure out what could possibly make beef taste like that.

My dining companion had the same complaints vis-a-vis taste and texture, so this wasn’t just the case of one burger gone awry.  In fact, he posted a Yelp review, and if you’re noting similarities between the two reviews?  Yeah.  That’s inevitable.  The burgers here are dry, and they taste weird.  It’s hard not to take note of that.

The toppings and the bun were fine, though the bun was too big for the patty, and the burger oddly doesn’t come with any condiments like ketchup or mustard or mayo.  That didn’t help matters, but you could have dunked this patty in a bath consisting of all the condiments in the world, and it still would have been unpalatably dry.

As for the “fries,” they weren’t fries.  B.good proudly proclaims that they’re “oven finished” a.k.a. baked, a.k.a. not fried.  If you don’t fry a fry, is it still a fry?  Do I really need to answer that?  They tasted baked.  They didn’t taste anything like fries, though they basically looked the part.  They weren’t terrible (they were well cooked at least) but they weren’t fries.

1 out of 4

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