Burgers, burgers, burgers. What can I say: they’re a force to be had when you combine a delicious mixture of magical toppings and juicy beef in a savory warm bun.
It’s no lie that Toronto is in the middle of a burger revolution. And as the king and connoisseur in Toronto for all things bunned, I feel it’s only right that I put my hard earned research into fruitation.
First, lets just preface by first acknowledging the playing field:
• This is based completely on my opinion, and you therefore must understand that even though you may not believe in my findings, you should seriously re-evaluate your standards for hamburgers and your concept of life as a whole.
• I take into account many areas of evaluation when breaking a burger down:
• Burger Meat: Juiciness, temperature, chewability, and greasiness
• Burger Toppings: Freshness and compatibility
• Burger Bun: Softness, temperature, and volume
• If a ton of options are on the table, I always start with their classic and work through their menu. If you can’t make a simple hamburger correctly, then I’d rather save my patience.
• I’m writing this on an empty stomach for maximum effect. Growling hard right now.
On the show, lads and lassies!
Burger’s Priest is pretty much top dawg in the Toronto burger circles, and I for one am not one to choose another burger joint just because everyone else is on the BP Hype Wagon. The Priest is best known for its juicy, smush-in-your-mouth meats and simplistic, $5 (ish) approach. They’re small enough to do the dirty with in dual patty format or even go back for seconds. They have a not-as-secret menu of specialty burgers too, for those in the know.
While I fully enjoy taking a Car2go east to make a day adventure of it, Burgers Priest plans to open their third location right down the street from me at Queen/Spadina in May. If they’d done any datamining before finalizing in my ‘hood, I’m sure my burgalicious frenzy had something to do with it.
2. Holy Chuck
I’ve had little faith since meeting the Priest that I’d find a competitive burger place for the much acclaimed #2 in my top burger list. When I met ol’ Chuck, I was blown the fuck away. Holy Chuck had been on my list of go-to’s for a few months, but lets face it: me going north of Bloor is about as realistic as a Rob Ford’s weightloss plan (expect another round of Ford jokes until 2014). Located at St. Clair and Yonge, this super delightful burger shoppe grabbed my heart with its crisp approach: unlike most burger joints, these ones actually look perfect too. Aside from the usual suspects of delicious burger beef and rich bacon, the combination of flavours is ferocious. If you’ve yet to indulge in one of their many burger options, do it. And let me know if you make it through the Go Chuck Yourself while you’re at it (alive).
Okay, okay, I know. Late entry to the game. And they’re American. And they use peanut oil in their fries (also known as instadeath to me). And it’s already stupid popular all across the world. I don’t care – it’s still a good friggin’ burger that requires all of your attention.
Five Guys is probably the only place where I have absolutely no problems going to and having just a burger and a pop. Because it’s just that good. I’m also a big fan of diner-style original burgers, for their greasy minimalism – which, by the way, Johnny Rockets makes a pretty good one at that – and their happy, go-lucky approach. I’m not one for cheesy branding, because it sure as hell gets played out like Hooters, but when it comes to burgers it just feels natural. Anyways, they just opened at Yonge/Dundas, so please do make a visit.
I used to be a huge hater of BQM. Almost as much as Hero Burger. When they moved down the street from me at Queen/Spadina, I was ecstatic to sink my teeth into their potentially dangerous burgers. Maybe it was the name that queued the excitement; or maybe it was the fact it was the only good burger joint in the area. But no, sadly it sucked. Really bad. Enough that I went on a 1-year verbal boycott.
Then one day, I did a double take – mainly because they have so many awesome beer specials during the week – and noticed their burger menu flipped. And not by toppings, no-sir-ry. They went off and gave me the option to choose meats: the chuck, the brisket, and the sirloin. Now I had the option to pick what part of the cow I’d love to stuff into a patty. I went for the chuck, and man.. it’s like a complete 180 from their previous burger stint. I’ve since repeated the chuck in my burgers a few more times, and have continued to order it simply because I a) just can’t get enough of it, and b) fear that I’ll relive my past damnation. But with Burger’s Priest moving in the neighbourhood in May, my days at BQM may be numbered. Thank god for Sapporo beer specials, eh?
5. Tied: W Burger & Gourmet Burger
I think of W Burger and Gourmet Burger as equals. They both make a decent, filling burger that doesn’t suck. It sure beats out fast food by a long shot. I can’t even compare ’em to Hero, because well, Hero Burgers taste like rotten sandpaper with ketchup. They’re both essentially the package deal: they get my frequent business when I’m looking for a burgerific evening with poutine and milkshakes. If I’m looking for a full meal, that’s where I end up. I’ve never walked away unhappy with an experience at either location, but at the same time, it just isn’t a Holy Chuck / Burger’s Priest. They deserve some love, and you should give them your wallet.
What About Restaurant Burgers?
Then of course, you have the other burgers. The restaurants or bars that happen to serve something exceptionally surprising. It’s a burger that you order at a restaurant because you feel like it’s a burger day, only to be surprised with composition, flavour, and a jolt of perennial excitement under your trousers. These six restaurants make a burger light years better than Jack Astors or a Firkin pub. Sorry that I have null photos for all.
“Pjeskavica” at Hvarti Bar
“Bolt Burger” at the Jerk Joint
Also check out:
“Roxton Burger” at the Roxton
“John’s Burger” at Marben
Anything at Utopia
“New York Burger” at Bar Wellington
Honourable Mention: Johnny’s Hamburgers (Video)
This is more of a plug for myself than a quality measure, but it seems that anyone that’s grown up in Scarborough has a commonality. His name is Johnny and he makes hamburgers. As a original hamburger, I respect the name they’ve carved out from themselves over the past 30+ years, capturing the hearts of an entire suburb and city’s childhood. And that alone is what counts. Much like how most of us have the off-craving for a Big Mac because you grew up to golden arches and birthday parties in a caboose, I have to hand it to Johnny for producing that same delicious illusion with its memorable flavour. Because that’s all we really want, right?
Here’s me driving a Bentley to get burgers at Johnny’s Hamburgers.