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New Yorker looking for a good burger...

Okay Toronto chowhounders, I'm a transplanted New Yorker looking for a good burger. Of course, I recognize that everyone's opinion on the matter varies, so I'll be as specific as possible. Any help would be much appreciated.

Wanted:

One decent cheeseburger. Ground chuck, fresh enough to be cooked medium-rare... 70 to 30 beef-to-fat ratio. No more than 7 ounces. Greasy...I'm talking fat dripping through the bun greasy. Sesame seed or regular hamburger bun, no kaisers, portugeuse rolls, or any of the like. No fois gras, truffle oil, garlic butter, chipotle mayo, etc... No oversized balls of overcooked beef...no frozen patties... nothing that comes with pickles, onions, lettuce, relish, etc... the freshness of the beef cannot be overstated.

As far as my experience with Toronto burgers so far, I would say that even the highly recommended places seem to take short-cuts. Lick's is just awful, dry, flavorless meat, too focused on toppings; Bymark is too loaded with stuff and loses focus; Fran's, eck...

I'm hoping someone would know of a busy pub-like environment with a high turnover and daily beef and bun deliveries, with a finicky cook who knows how to make a killer burger...

Many thanks!

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  1. Hi nyct, I couldn't mention anything that isn't posted already, you seem to have gotten started with the current list...I have a question for you though, I will be in NY in january and will be posing the question on that board, any tips for me?...thanks in advance!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Recyclor

      No problem.

      Top 3 places.
      JG Melon on 74th and 3rd - Upper East Side institution for many, many years. I've had their greasy burgers sitting next to two different NYC mayors...
      The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridian on 57th St....they literally built a dive bar into a hotel with faux wood panelling and 2 small staticky tv's from the 80s. Burgers are phenomenal...
      Louis' Lunch in New Haven - Probably best burger I've ever had -- considered the original burger spot in America, owned by the Lassen family since the 1890's...still use the same vertical broiler; no ketchup or mustard available.

      Avoid:
      Corner Bistro - It died in like 2002 when the bankers took over and all the good cooks left.
      DB Bistro Moderne - Daniel should stick to cooking game - his 40 buck burger is like a 5 inch tall meatball in a portugeuse roll...the center of it is filled with foie gras, truffles, and all this other garbage...completely unnecessary...
      Smith&Wollensky - overrated suit hangout.

      1. re: nyctransplant

        Thanks for the info...BTW welcome to T.O... good luck + enjoy with the quest, you are not alone, I'd like to hear your findings...

        Later!

        1. re: nyctransplant

          Oh my , see my review on the Yellow Griffin Pub.....YUM
          A very very good Burger!

      2. I didn't see it on your list, so I am going to recommend the Yellow Griffin Pub on Bloor West at Runnymede.

        http://www.yellowgriffinpub.com/

        The burgers are made fresh to order, they do have a bunch of different "showcase" burgers (e.g. the Sicilian, the Jerk, etc) but you can ignore them and just order it as however you want with whatever cheese you want.

        The one thing re: medium rare. Last time I was there I did ask for medium rare, but I believe that it was a little more done that what I wanted. So I guess stress that with the waitress.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Lazar

          I went here once with high expectations but never even got to sample the food!...one of my all time worst experiences...was a Saturday around 6pm, we sat inside patio was full maybe 1/3 full inside...we (5 of us) ordered a pitcher and placed our burger orders. 20 min's goes by as we chat and the waitress (who was nice) shows up and says it will be an hour before our food arrives because they are backed up, we question her friendily, this means an hour wait for 5 burger platters -- their specialty, and the menu offers nothing harder to make that fired food and salads, we order another pitcher and agree to wait. 10 min's later the manager shows up, we didn't request her or give the indication we were upset even, she says burgers take a while to cook, I agree but suggest something more like 10-15 min cooking time, she starts muttering under her breath and remarks aloud "I will not say what I would like to to people like you!", shocked I press her to say it, she blows up, as if taking our curiosity for how it can take so long after she initiated the conversation personally...bad day or just plain crazy? We were in awe, we had agreed to wait, and thus order more product from her resto in the meantime, and she lost it and became belligerant, we left, tipped the poor waitress who has to work for this monster and vowed to never go back...

          1. re: Recyclor

            this place sounds like home. perfect. it's first on my list.

            1. re: nyctransplant

              ..heheh, I'll bear that in mind...all part of the experience...

            2. re: Recyclor

              Recyclor, i had a very similar experience, waited forevvvvvver for my food , all the other people in the restaurant were getting really roudy because of the bad service, I felt bad for the servers because they just couldnt handle it but they should have stopped seating people if it was too much. Mind you, the burger was good, but not worth the wait in my opinion

              1. re: hungryabbey

                These days, they will tell you when you walk in the door if they're backed up. It seems to be a very popular place with adult sport leagues that will get 40 orders at once.

                When they're not backed up, the burgers are good, the portions substantial, and they're not shy on the flavourings. They swing a mean pint, too.

                1. re: Snarf

                  Yes I did enjoy the burger, but I mean I knew it was a busy spot so I got there at 5 pm on a sunday night so I was just a little surprised.

                  1. re: hungryabbey

                    YellowGriffinPub -- Went for lunch yesterday. There was no wait, and both the Raptors and the Argos were flickering on the old school televisions. Things looked promising. The menu reminded me of Island Burger in Hell's Kitchen - 40 different suggestions and a chicken option. From what I saw on the other tables, the burgers looked fantastic - perfectly proportioned beef to bun, not too many toppings, freshly ground hand formed patty. When the waitress came over (friendly, btw), I ordered a cheeseburger ("You mean the triple cheese fiesta cheesie burger" "Umm, no, just a cheeseburger.") When I asked for it "medium," the response was "No, I'm sorry, we cook all of our burgers well-done. *Health code*." Oh. So 25 minutes later the burger shows up, and sure enough, it looks fantastic but is burnt to a crisp, dry as cardboard, and reminiscent of something you'd see in the lunch line in an episode of Prison Break. I ate half, nodded politely, left a big tip. Moving on...

                    1. re: nyctransplant

                      Oh, I am sorry about your experience....but maybe they have a consistency issue, because the times I have gone (granted only a couple), the meat was juicy and flavourful. By no means was it burnt to a crisp, nor dry.

                      Next time I go, I will try to ask for it medium and report back.

                      1. re: nyctransplant

                        Did you ever find the burger of your NY dreams?

                2. re: Recyclor

                  When we went, the owner came into the restaurant and started berating our (charming) server. She was literally yelling at her in front of all the customers, and other servers. It was uncomfortable. Then she went outside and got her big, hairy dog and brought it into the kitchen, where she deposited it before leaving the restaurant.

                  The concept is good, and the burger was actually quite good. Two big thumbs down on the atmosphere, however.

              2. Hey there- here are a couple of suggestions for you:

                1. Burger Shack on Oriole Park and Eglington- made fresh to order
                2. Mike's Munchies on Bathurst
                3. Wylie's on Yonge Street
                4. Joe Allen's on the danforth- famous for their burgers but they aren't on the menu...home that helps

                1. Rebel House's buffalo & beef burger is pretty darn tasty. I can't recall if the bun is a regular soft hamburger bun or a kaiser. I do remember that it got all squishy from the juices, though.

                  Note of warning: they put a layer of a bbq-type sauce on the bun. Make sure you request without it if you want a pure burger experience. Actually, Rebel House is worth a visit regardless for some of the yummiest pub fare in the city.

                  1068 Yonge Street
                  http://www.rebelhouse.ca/

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    I like Rebel House's burger - but it's on a kaiser: http://www.rebelhouse.ca/

                  2. Golden Star in Thornhill. Bit a of a trek but worth it.

                    Check out this link:

                    http://www.toronto.com/restaurants/ar...

                    But from experience - Golden Star is the hands down winner.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: MindGrinder

                      With the Golden Star, just note that they carry 2 burger versions...a standard frozen patty or a homemade patty....its the homemade (& more expensive) version that people are raving about. Onion rings are also good here.

                      1. re: T Long

                        The homemade cheeseburger at Burger Shack is what you're looking for. They will cook it medium and put on whatever topping you want.

                        The perfect "burger joint" burger. Check it out.

                        1. re: acd123

                          wood oven grill in kensigton market makes an awsome organic burger as rare as you want it with your pick of topings on a straihgt up bun. very good. golden star is terrible in my opinion, don't waste your time going all the way up there.

                          1. re: acd123

                            Tried the homestyle cheeseburger at Burger Shack today... It's starting to seem as if there was one guy who had a burger recipe in Toronto many years ago and everyone's been using it ever since... not to suggest they're terrible, they're just *ok* - and certainly should not be on anyone's best-of list in a city of so many millions. The patties at the Shack are shipped frozen and thawed day-of - they do not grind in-house; it's not a good sign when you see the wax paper patty separator as the guy grabs the next tray from the fridge. The patty itself was just that - a patty - though not enough salt and a little too much pepper. The burger was slightly redeemed by the freshness of the available ingredients - the tomatoes looked good, a nice, deep greenhouse red, onions were freshly sliced with no browning, as were the pickles. But the meat was too lean, too thin, and overcooked, and as such, you invariably end up with what seems to be the Toronto standard for burgers - overcooked, charcoal-y backyard taste with too much focus on toppings.

                            Allen's on the Danforth is my next stop. From what I've read, the guy seems to be on the money.

                            1. re: nyctransplant

                              THAT'S WHY I TOLD YOU TO GET THE "HOMEBURGER" at Burger Shack!!!

                              There are two kinds of burgers at Burgershack. The regular and the homeburger. The homeburgers are FRESHLY GROUND and they cook them to whatever doneness you want.

                              Of course the regular burgers are frozen and pretty much suck in every way.

                              Go back and do it right this time.

                              1. re: acd123

                                No, it was the homeburger I got. It was about $4.10, left side of the menu board. The patty was thawed out and cooked on the grill. The regular burgers, which were about a buck cheaper and listed as "from our charbroiler" looked disastrous, and only one guy in the line of six ahead of me risked it. Regardless, even the, ahem, freshly ground homeburger was just ok.

                                1. re: nyctransplant

                                  Okay, I have another suggestion for you. I like the Burgershack burger but I had a burger a few weeks ago that I think you'll love.

                                  A place called Weezie's, at the corner of King St. E. and Power St., which is one block East of Parliament. It's a little neighbourhood bistro kinda place, and the burger at Weezie's was freshly ground and super juicy.

                                  I usually stay away from burgers at 'proper' restaurants (I usually stick to the greasy spoon-style burgers) but the burger as Weezie's is an exception (The burger at Allen's is also an exception). Restaurants seem to always mistake thick for flavourful. They are mostly dry and flavourless. Even the $30 burger I had at One last weekend was less than stellar.

                                  Have the burger at Weezie's and let me know what you think.

                                  See the thread below regarding the burger at Weezie's.

                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/398826

                                  1. re: acd123

                                    While Weezie's is my favourite burger in town, it's sooooo not what nyc is looking for. The fat doesn't drip from the bun. It isn't a pub. It is simply a great banquetburger made from beautifully fresh and well chosen ingredients by a delightful chef who makes comfort food incredibly well.