HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >


Why is it so hard to find a burger in this city?

I read recently that city regulations don't allow beef to be cooked medium rare? But then how does that explain getting a steak rare? The first sign that you're getting a good burger should be when you are asked how you want it cooked. I've never once been asked that in Toronto. I went to three different bars in Chicago over a long weekend, and each asked me how I wanted my burger, and each time they blew Toronto's options out of the water. Forget Hero. That place offers the most bland, tasteless patty I've ever had. Just because you put brie or avocado on a beef patty does not make your burger great. It's insulting to their customers that they adverstise themselves as gourmet.

It shouldn't be that hard to walk into a pub and expect a fresh ground beef patty. My feeling is, most bars in this city are corporate owned. So their food is going to suck.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I always take my steak blue and my burger medium well. It's the abundance of 'bland' burgers that are the problem, not cooking it to the cleanest point. Try Weezie's for an example of good & clean.

    1. Have you tried Allen's? You can get their burger medium rare and it is (99% of the time) excellent.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Vise

        I appreciate the suggestion, but I'm not a fan of Allen's service. Stopped going long ago.

        1. re: Googs

          Yes the service sucks, but the burger definitely does not. Worth it IMO, I can put up with a bit of crappy service for a hot, juicy, medium rare burger.

          1. re: Googs

            I can't condone the service at Allen's, though it isn't actually bad ALL of the time. But I don't know of a better restaurant burger anywhere in Toronto at any price. And if it isn't cooked to my liking, I have no reservations about sending it back - which I have done (unfortunately) more than once.

            1. re: embee

              I'll suffer through the service for an awesome Bloody mary (provided you get a mary, not a ceasar), the sweet potato fries and the awesome burger.
              But only once every few months or else I'd lose my mind over the service issues.

              1. re: nummanumma

                We went there again last night. The usual perfect burger and okay sweet potato fries. Service - by a short, young, blond waitress - was impeccable. But I have experienced the other kind of service there as well.

                I'd be much happier at places where two burgers, one order of fries, and two beers didn't cost $45, but the owners need to get the message that they CAN cook burgers to taste in Toronto without getting closed down.

                1. re: embee

                  I get great service and a great burger every single time I go to Weezie's.

                  If I can't relax while dining out because I'm playing 'find the server', what's the point? The alternative to bad service is stay at home and keep my money.

        2. I vote just go to johnny's, and stop worrying about brie.

          1. I was at the Gladstone Hotel's melody bar on Saturday night and three of us had the burger. We were not asked how we would like it done, but two of them came very pink in the middle. Mine, sadly, was the fully cooked one---but nonetheless, it was one really tasty burger! I've been looking around for a good one myself. My neighbourhood favourite is Burger Shack and I recently tried the fancy burger at Meating on Yonge. It was pretty decent, but could have used a much larger patty and fewer fancy toppings...it has good flavour though. But I digress, the Gladstone burger is the best I've had in a long time: thick, juicy, flavourful, great toppings.

            7 Replies
            1. re: mstacey42

              Mstacey42 - Is Burger Shack the place at Oriole and Eglinton? I used to go there when I lived up that way and it was a darned good burger. Nothing fancy, just an old fashioned burger joint burger. I miss those!

              For something a bit more upscale, I like beerbistro's burger. I usually prefer burgers medium rare and tend not to order them in Toronto restaurants because the cooking regulations usually lead to dry, flavourless patties. But the beerbistro manages to make it moist and flavourful even though it's cooked through. I often order it without the bun and eat the patty plain or with the occasional dab of mustard. I think the mark of a good burger is when you don't need to hide it with the bun and toppings. (Though a great patty inside a great bun with your favorite toppings is a thing of beauty.)

              1. re: mstacey42

                Question to the board: Is it not possible to have a juicy, flavour-packed burger that doesn't show red or pink inside? My fave burger joint right now is a place in Mississauga called C & Dubbs. They serve big, thick homeburgers. They don't cook them to order and show no trace of pink, but they're bursting with juicy goodness.

                1. re: Brain of J

                  Normally the concept of a medium rare or rare burger is unappealing, the texture of raw ground meat simply doesn't appeal to me. As for good well-done burgers, I used to like Fat Phil's down on Marlee between Lawrence and Eglinton, and although I wanted to go and try it out after a long hiatus, I had to admit that I decided not to because the place looked deserted.

                  1. re: Blueicus

                    I've given up trying to find a GOOD burger in this city. I'd rather make one at home, grind the meat myself and add the flavourings of my choice... That having been said, has anyone tried the Burger Shoppe in Leslieville? It seems to be getting good buzz...

                    1. re: Lotus Seedling


                      Lots of buzz, some good, some bad. I didn't like it; others did.

                  2. re: Brain of J

                    Yes it is possible. But it is unusual. I can do it at home using a filler (such as a panade of bread soaked in milk) or by adding lots of juicy flavourings to a thick patty that contains sufficient fat. But what I want is a "steakburger" cooked to medium rare.

                    1. re: Brain of J

                      Agreed Brain. Its like chicken. So many people won't eat white meat chicken because it is too dry. It is only dry because it was prepared and cooked wrong. It didn't start out dry, it was dried out! White meat chicken when cooked properly releases more juice than dark meat which seems to be juicy but it is really just fattier.

                      Same with burgers, if you don't cook them to death and don't keep squeezing the juices out on the grill, they will be very juicy even when just a spot of pink is left. The truth is that you need to cook the meat to release the juices. In my opinion wanting raw meat in the middle of your burger is more about taste and texture and less about actual dripping juice.

                      Shanghai Cowgirl - great burger, not rare, very tasty and juicy.

                  3. I was at a function at the Rosewater Club last night. They were serving mini burgers that were pink in the middle and juicy and flavourful.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: pescatarian

                      BURGER SHACK!!! I have been going there since high school (I'm now almost 36 y.o) and it is still my favourite burger in TO. They do in fact ask how you want the burger cooked, but only for the homeburger. I usually get mine medium or medium well. Amazing grilled flavour and a thin patty. The best.

                      My understanding is that if the beef is ground in house, the restaurant can cook it any way it wants. Burgers that come in frozen or from outside sources must be cooked all the way through.

                      1. re: acd123

                        The only way to get a burger exactly the way you want it every time in this city is to do it yourself. Find a butcher who'll grind up 100 per cent fresh chuck for you (chuck being, in my view, the only meat to use for burgers). I use Nortown Meats for this service, and though the staff (at the York Mills and Bayview location) often grumble about having to do it, in the end they'll do it graciously. Then season it at home the way you like it - and barbecue. It's not the healthiest thing to dine on, but it's only once in a while (after you've been disappointed again by a commercial burger), and it's delicious.

                    2. We were able to get tasty medium rare burgers at both the Senator Diner on Victoria Street and Hal Burger on Adelaide. I prefer the burger at the Senator, it was fantastic. There was a 2 for 1 special a couple of weeks ago which was a nice bonus. I think it's on for the month of April. Best to call first if you're interested before going.

                      1. There was a problem with the site in yoyodyne's entry, so I couldn't read what was posted, but when I lived in closer proximity, Dangerous Dan's at Queen and Broadview was where I got hooked up for my fix. Excellent burgers!

                        I'm unaware of the city regulations to which you refer, but I'm usually asked how I'd like my burger - perhaps this wasn't a regulation, but a guideline. There is good reason for the different preparation of a steak and a burger: ground beef is much more likely to harbour something undesirable than is a fresh solid cut of beef. I order my steak rare, but burgers medium for that reason, and if the burger is properly prepared, it's no less succulent. And before anyone raises the objection, steak tartar (which I love) is *hand-cut* from sirloin immediately before serving.