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Canadian Version of "Burgers to Eat Before You Die" ?

Someone mentioned Peter Luger's Steakhouse recently - it reminded me of a recent Oprah show that my wife showed me. One of the features on the show was an Esquire list of "Top 20 Burgers to Eat Before You Die" (list was easy to find with Google).

It was a really 'mouth-watering feature and my wife, my sister & I are now dying to go to some of these places when we are near any of them on future travel to the U.S.!!!!!!!!


Does anyone know of any places in Toronto / Ontario / Canada that would belong on this type of list???

NOTE - The places featured in the Esquire U.S. list were seldom Lick's-type chain places but rather independent restaurants /steak houses in places like Hollywood Florida, Brooklyn, Santa Monica, suburban Detroit etc.

BTW - Peter Luger's was listed as # 2.

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  1. No - killed by politically correct overcooking, the general supine refusal of Canadians to complain and the lack of availability of truly prime beef.

    There are pleasant and well-seasoned burgers (Studio Café at Four Seasons Hotel), juicy well-plumped burgers (Licks, my favorite for the price), toothsome lamb burgers (Rosedale Diner, eg), overpriced and overtouted "gourmet" burgers NOT (Hero, eg), well charred burgers and - overwhelmingly - flaccid chain-produced disgraceful lumps of odd meats long distant from any reputable part of the steer, and masquerading as burgers (including Harvey's which if you taste without bun or toppings is distinctly unpleasant).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bigtigger

      I kind of like that Harvey's taste, until I think about it. It just ain't beefy -- in fact, I would swear it had pork and nutmeg in it. That's what is so unnerving the unbeefy nature of the flavour. The only national chain burger even worth eating is Wendy's -- it, at least, tastes like beef. That said, it isn't good eats.

      Back to topic, I haven't had a really good burger in Toronto, unfortunately. However, I frequent a bar enough that I'm a regular. They will now cook a burger to medium for me (they know I won't be suing if I'm ill, or calling the health people, I guess). But, their burger still isn't good (in fact, kinda bad). So, my suggestion is frequent somewhere with a decent burger enough to be able to ask for it cooked to your preference.

    2. Go ahead and fork out the 30-or so dollars at Bymark- I think it is an amazing burger. BUt you know what, for my money I'm going to Allen's every time. I don't know if it is the sweet potato fries or the burger itself, or even the great Bloody Marys they make, but I love it every time. I don't like Lick's at all though- so we may be burger-ly incompatible.

      1. I have three burgers to recommend. Not sure they qualify for must have before you die, but...

        In order of least to most expensive...sorry don't know exact prices.

        1) Shanghai Cowgirl - awesome beefy backyard burgers - great fries $10.00?

        2) Liberty in Liberty Village - again, great beefy backyard taste - comes with a barely blue cheese dressing that is excellent and great fries too.

        3) Beaconsfield - Gourmet taste and quality all the way. Really great. Awesome fries. Now the chef has changed since I was last frequenting the place (I seem to change my patterns every once in a while) but I am hopeful it is still great. It is about $15.00.

        Agreed to stay away from Hero and especially Hal. Licks is OK in my books when in a pinch.

        Other recs are Epicure Cafe and Utopia for fresh beef and great fries.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bestandworst

          I used to love Epicure. I was even OK with Licks. But that was before most places in Toronto were cowed (sorry -- couldn't resist) into cooking all burgers into inedibility.

          The only decent resto burgers I've had recently in Toronto were at Allens. Delicious, but not a "life experience" level of deliciousness.

          Will Shanghai Cowgirl, Liberty, and Beaconsfield serve a burger that is pink and juicy? I'm much more worried about fresh berries, bean sprouts, spinach, lettuce, carrot juice, and unwashed food handler hands than about rare burgers.

          Bigtigger - complaining is useless. Resto managements have mainly been convinced that burgers that aren't cooked to death are illegal.

          1. re: embee

            Re: Shang, Lib, Beac...sorry I really don't know. When I BBQ at home I leave pink, but because these burgers are so tasty and really very juicy, I have never asked for pink. I realize that texture of pink is part of it too, but I guess I just love these burgers so much just as they are...

            Admittedly, I may be just too adaptive in that I allow different types of burgers to completely satisfy me, but I can't see holding a grudge against the gov't and never enjoying the burgers that Toronto calls a burger.

            I may not be a purist, but I do know quality, and these are real burgers made with care.

        2. I like my burgers to be simple. Like burgers you get in the back yard. As such, I don't get all excited about burgers topped with alfalfa and truffles.
          With that in mind, the best burger I've had at a restaurant is at a greasy spoon in Richmond Hill called 3 Coins. Huge, great flavour and just greasy enough to be good.

          Do not under any circumstance to go to Hero.
          Read the thread I started. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...


          1 Reply
          1. I love the bison burger at the Rebel House, medium rare, with a side of poutine. Yeah, practically raw meat and fries with extra grease and sodium -- that's the last burger you eat just before you die, but what a way to go...

            5 Replies
              1. re: Davwud

                I hate to do this, but, where is the Rebel House? I'd give this burger a try sometime.

                1. re: Atahualpa

                  It's on Yonge St. across the street and just north of the Rosedale subway station. There's a Fourbucks next door to it.


              2. re: TwinklyTerrapin

                ^^I finally had the bison burger at Rebel house!!

                good lord it's BIG!
                ..but I wish I didn't get the mushrooms- didn't notice they were the "oyster" type on the menu- which normally I love, but not on my burger..

                Anyway- it satisfied- and HOW-especially when washed down with a pint from black oak..

              3. The Bison Burger at The Bow and Arrow is pretty dang good too, but I find their poutines lacking in the cheese department....

                1. I think Goldenstar (in Thornhill), and Burger Shack are in the breed of now-rare homemade diner style burgers that are hard to beat.
                  Also, Allen's on the Danforth has superb home made burgers.

                  Personally, I'm not impressed with the $35 dollar burgers that have the price justified by truffles and foie gras thrown in;(

                  1. Can't speak about the ultimate Canadian hamburger, but being from Winnipeg, I've got to say that the FATBOY is the ultimate type of burger. Three cheers for the Fatboy!

                    1. I second Golden Star's homemade burgers

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: lcohen999

                        Are they still good?? I haven't had once since the 80's I think.


                        1. re: lcohen999

                          I could be remembering wrongly, but I recall Golden Star once admitting that they bought their ground beef from Nortown Foods.

                        2. Allen's is probably my favourite Toronto burger, but I often have a craving for the burger served down the street at the Detroit Eatery (Danforth & Chester). It's highly seasoned, but very large and always delicious.

                          1. Burgers :-)

                            - I ate the Bymark burger once and couldn't have been more disappointed: the bun was stale, the meat too densely-packed and the foie gras overkill
                            - I've never ordered the burget at Shanghai; I'm too head-over-heels-in-love with their Philly cheesesteak sandwich
                            - Hal's is okay: big, overcooked, fine
                            - Hero is terrible: dry and tasteless
                            - Epicure's not bad but IMO their chicken burger's better
                            - Lick's horrifies me; the meat has such a strange undertaste

                            Does Barney's Deli still exist on the south side of Queen west of Peter? They used to make a great burger. (I bet I'm dating myself; it's probably been gone since the mid eighties ;)

                            Typically I just save myself for trips to California, where I will drive hours for In 'N Out. Mmmmm; fresh and hot and fabulous.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: spigot

                              foie gras as overkill? I"m afraid i'm not familiar with this concept :)

                            2. Hair of the Dog serves up an excellent burger.

                              1. The Tulip, Shanghai Cowgirl, Steve's, The Canary and Jim's are my favourite places for burgers. As much as I am a cheese lover, only one type of cheese (if you can call it cheese,lol) makes a good cheeseburger: Kraft Orange processed slices. No respectable diner owner will lower him/herself to put Brie or BLue. An insult to the burger and more so an insult to the cheese!

                                1. After reading, We decided (well, I decided) to go and eat at Shanghai Cowgirl. The burger (8oz beef plus fried mushrooms) is very good. It's not the best in the world, but I think it's one of the best in Toronto. (I worked in AUstin Texas back when!)
                                  Shanghai Cowgirl. A+

                                  1. I am not a big proponent of burgers in the $25+ range. To me, a burger should taste great, come with a good range of topping options (but nothing too bizarre, gourmet or exotic). And cost $6 or less. So my nomination for a decent basic burger (customizable with about a dozen different options) is McGoo's (in a strip mall on Dundas just east of Royal York). Anybody familiar with McGoo's?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: mchuchra

                                      Don't know the place but I do agree with you. Exotic toppings and what not are out. A burger is a burger. Don't reinvent the wheel. If I want fois gras or truffles or some other high priced ingredient on it, I'll order something else, somewhere else. Now we have to have "Angus" burgers. People are losing touch with what the burger is. Lousy meat, simply seasoned, ground and cooked relatively simply. How hard is that??
                                      I just don't see why the basic hamburger is so hard to pull off. I guess too many people are trying too hard.


                                      1. re: Davwud

                                        That is exactly it...too many people trying too hard.

                                        As well, the greedy bottom line and uniformity required for franchising is driving the quality down...as a result I am sure no one is getting rich.

                                        Shanghai A+++

                                        1. re: deelicious

                                          The only time I've truly enjoyed an "expensive" burger was travelling in the middle east, and after a couple of weeks of eating hummus and pita and schwarma and kebab, i really needed a "western" burger. So I stopped at a Hilton, paid $20 US for a half pounder. It was one of the best burgers I've ever had (even if it was a bit dry).

                                    2. Another vote for Tulip's Jumbo Burger -- plain, with loads of flavour. And a side of fried onions, what more could a girl want.

                                      The burger at Hair of the Dog is okay, in a pinch.

                                      1. I love Shanghai Cowgirl. Almost always there when I'm having a late dinner. The Geisha Grill is equally amazing as their burgers. That said, I'm surprised there hasn't been any mention of burger joints outside of downtown... Johnny Burgers (Vic Park and Sheppard) is pretty darn good. Always a lineup out the door in the summer. Much better than Webers, Apache Burgers or Burger Shack.

                                        1. The House on Parliament (south of Carlton) recently added a Kobe burger to their Wednesday night line up of specials. It's only $15 and they will cook it to your specs (although of the two times I had it, only one came the medium I'd asked for). When cooked right (medium or medium rare) it is the best burger I have had - ever.

                                          1. I don't know if I'd die for it, but the burger at Weezie's on King @ Power is great. I've posted this before and I'll say it again. Juicy, tasty, & not too fancy. It's a cute little intimate restaurant as well. Right burger, right place. That'd be everything I want.

                                            1. for cheap and good, the European Meat Market in Kensington does a burger for 2.29 (use to be 1.99), it's pretty good considering you just paid 2.29. Just go next door to the cheese place and get a few slices to go with it. smoked gruyere goes well with it. they are a butcher, so they do not serve anything decent on it, but since the quality of the meat is good, it's totally worth it

                                              1. I've had burgers at many of the places mentioned in this thread. My second-place vote goes to Goldenstar (oddly, in spite of all the mentions in other threads of this place, no-one mentions their grilled chicken breasts.)

                                                The best burger I've encountered in Ontario is free - yes, free well, with a voluntary donation to whatever charity of the time. But it's allyou cna eat on demand.

                                                Each year, about the second weekend of August, Pine River Cheese & Butter Co-Operative has a customer appreciation day put on by the co-op members. The beef is provided by local farmers(members?) and barbequed by them out in front of the plant. The buns are plain white ones probably from the local Zehr's or Sobeys bakery - plain, puffy white buns. The crazy thing is that anything better would detract from the burger - the bun is simply a holder - not part of the parade.

                                                The burger itself is well done, not pink, but not overdone. It's flat and fits easily into its holder - it's about the size and thickness of a MickyD. There is no binder that we can detect. There is none of the jucieness, fatty or "restaurant backtaste" in the patty, and the grind is perfect - not macerated, instead chunky, but still holding tightly together. An amazing beef taste and coarse texture. Who on the board has had one? Am I right?

                                                Mustard, relish, ketchup, onions, tomatoes? Bad choice! You can have it with a slice of Pine River Extra Old instead of Kraft-slice for a cheeseburger, but what a waste of burger! Have the cheese on its own.

                                                It's great to encounter a burger you can laud without dressings.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: DockPotato

                                                  ^^thanks for the Pine River Cheese & Butter Co-Operative tip-lovely review-another reason to love bruce county!

                                                  You're now on my reading list- I feel it's only fair to tell you_!

                                                  1. re: DockPotato

                                                    I have heard that Dangerous Dan's (Broadview & Queen) serves up a good burger. I haven't tried one myself. Has anyone else?

                                                      1. re: jilly bean

                                                        it is not a good burger. it is simply a huge burger.

                                                    1. I went to Weezie's a couple of days ago just to try the burger. :-) It was good. One of the best I've had in a long while. However, it wasn't very big. I think they jacked up the prices a notch and downsized the portions, compared with when they first opened.

                                                      For those of you who are York University students, a surprisingly good burger can be had at the York Lanes mall on campus, in a bar called Blueberry Hill. Not "to die for", but it's actually quite juicy and the choice of toppings is good. Overall far better than I'd expect from an establishment like that. Nonexpensive, of course, given that it's on campus. Wash it down with a pint of Waterloo Dark they have on tap (I think... they have one light beer and one dark beer, and the dark one is good) if you're of legal drinking age - and you don't have to spend precious TTC tokens and wait forever for the 106 bus to go to a downtown pub. :-) Mmmm... I want one now...

                                                      And yep, DD's burger is a huge greasy tasteless mess.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: chephy

                                                        chephy, any chance that Blueberry Hill is the same BH that used to be about a block away from Lee's Palace? That was a great burger. Yes, I ate them before Lee's not after.

                                                        1. re: Googs

                                                          The York University Blueberry Hill was part of the mini-chain back in the late 1980's and early 1990's. It was quite a good and affordable burger - oh the memories of spending quite a number of late nights there back in the old university days - it's time for a re-visit.

                                                      2. I dont know if it can be considered one of the best, but Utopia makes a decent burger as well.. I had the bison burger lasttime.. they made it medium nice and thick

                                                        1. Yummy's (Yonge/Welsley location). The burger is made with good quality halal meat. Seasoned nicely and char broiled. Fresh sesame seed bun. Toppings inlcude choice of pickles, onions tomatoes, lettuce as well as any other middle eastern dip you choose and other random toppings such as feta cheese, pickled beets etc. The Yummy sauce is perfect on the patty! Herbs and garlic. It is absolutely gigantic as well. I don't know meat weights very well but I'm a big eater and could only eat half. It's $4.95 and could keep you going all day. The burger takes up the diameter of a dinner plate...seriously. I actually think this burger is better than most gourmet burger joints such including Craft burger and Terra Burger on Eglington.

                                                          1. if you're ever in Oakville, check out Stoney's Bread company on Kerr St..

                                                            They have a daily burger that is usually amazing!! The last one I had was the best bison burger topped with goat cheese/bacon creamy aioli..
                                                            Their sandwiches are out of this world good, but they only do one daily burger special..