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Which bakery makes the best burger buns?

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BBQ season is upon us, and the search for great buns for my burgers resumes anew. From dense and chewy to soft and fluffy, I ask you: in your opinion, which bakery in Toronto makes the best buns for burgers, and why?

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  1. Brick Street Breads on Logan @ Queen (you can buy 'em from Rowe Farms around the corner). Soft (but not too soft) and big (but not Gigantico big) - in other words, a good vessel for ground meat and condiments.

    1. So far I've tried Ace, Fred's, Brick Street and Epi and I like Epi sesame seed the best. Available at Epi on Bayview (down the street from Cumbrae's - purveyors of the best sirloin burger but that's another story) and also available at Lelieville Cheese Market - Queen E and Logan.

      1 Reply
      1. re: KitchenVoodoo

        Thanks for the recommendations - I'll be sure to try these out soon (I haven't tried either Epi's or Brick Street's).

      2. i cannot recommend one specifically quite yet... but have you considered going brioche? or tried it?

        the sweetness and eggy richness are a perfect foil for a freshly ground burger with mayo and maybe a little truffled dijon. the only thing you need to worry about is when they don't mention if it's infused with some citrus or other fruit/herb/whatever as it can severely throw off the whole experience. i really like the soft fluffy texture as well and it toasts up nicely. i find regular buns get lost beside the delicious meat where as brioche is very good at complementing it.

        i don't eat burgers that often and it's usually such a last minute thing that i haven't had the opportunity to really do a proper comparison.

        4 Replies
        1. re: pinstripeprincess

          I have tried brioche, and while I do think it's an excellent alternative to a more standard sesame seed bun, for example, I can't see it becoming the go-to platform for my patties. I think I find it just a little too sweet... Incidentally, which bakery makes your favourite brioche?

          1. re: redearth

            because i mostly eat brioche in croque madams.... the portuguese gigantor loaves from a dundas bakery. they seem to be everywhere (le gourmand, the latin grocers in kensington, brazil bakery... etc) but i can't remember the exact name of the bakery. these are unfortunately not suitable for burger eating because they come in such large forms, but they would be the most ideal. they are not too sweet!

            as i said before... burgers tend to be last minute and often in that case our bakery sources tend to be closed by the time we've decided on them. so we'll take anything that resembles brioche and still like it quite a bit better than regular buns! one of the times i thought of it in advance i ended up with the unfortunate orange scented one though it would have been perfect otherwise. this one was from bonjour brioche of all places ;)

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              i think its just called Dundas Bakery, and they do make smaller brioche that work for large-ish burgers. my convenience store sells them!

              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                does the brioche buns have irregular air pockets or is it dense despite its own softness????

          2. When I want a denser bun, I go for Thuet's - the name escapes me, but they are available at the Healthy Butcher (and Thuet's other stores no doubt). There's a nice chewiness to them and the outside reminds me of a pretzel - shiny and with a few large embedded salt pieces! They come in a hot dog shape too, great with grilled sausages.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dxs

              That's the Alsatian roll you're referring to, and it is an incredible piece of bread. Highly recommended.

            2. Sometimes I like the `burgers first` buns from Loblaws...those thin little things appeal to me when I just don`t want much `heft`to the bun...

              At other times I like a chiabatta bun...nice and chewy especially when it`s toasted on the grill and it`s pretty readily available...

              Those are my two choices depending on my mood etc.

              6 Replies
              1. re: tochowchick

                I've tried the "Burgers First" buns, and I like them, but again, I can't see them being my first choice when it comes to a utilitarian burger bun. Same thing goes for ciabatta buns - I think both of them are great for particular burgers or sandwiches, but I can't see myself using them for my "perfect" classic burger... I guess what I'm thinking of is a bun that's something like the one they use at In-N-Out Burger - a classic, soft burger bun, with or without sesame seeds, perhaps with a little sweetness to it... I've tried many in Toronto that I've liked, but none that have made me say: "Yes, that's it! That's the one!"

                1. re: redearth

                  Perfect is in the eye...or rather the mouth...of the beholder (consumer)...to each their own...

                  1. re: tochowchick

                    Which is exactly why I put the word in quotations... I welcome any and all recommendations, and I can assure you that I will attempt to try all of them. I've already made plans to visit Epi and Brick Street, and I look forward to trying anything that I haven't tried before. While I might have a notion in my head of the kind of bun I'm looking for, I am flexible and ready to change my mind, should the "perfect" bun happen to present itself to me. But thanks for the lesson.

                    1. re: redearth

                      Okay, I'm sure this won't stack up to something like Brick Street, but my local Wal-Mart always has a rack of buns and such from...I think it's called Central Bakery? I find this really random, but so is my neighborhood for the most part. They're brioche buns with sesame seeds, and they're really good for BBQ. There's a touch of sweetness, but not too much (at least for BBQ, but that can stand up to a little more sweetness than a burger can IMO), and the somewhat dense, eggy character is good for holding in juices and condiments. Haven't tried them with a burger yet, but I like them better than anything else at the grocery store level. The actual bakery is somewhere on the northwest side, so I imagine you could find them in your neck of the woods pretty easily.

                      1. re: Wahooty

                        Excellent! These sound exactly like what I'm looking for! I plan to get a few friends together next week and have a burger bun testing day - fresh ground chuck, charcoal grill, cold drinks - let's hope the sun will be shining!

                        Thanks for all the excellent recommendations!

                2. re: tochowchick

                  I'm down with the lo-heft thing too, which is why I like the straight-up Portuguese bun - the one you can just find in open boxes in small grocers, don't know proper name - they are a tad oblong so cutting them in half horizontally before slicing them works for me!

                  If you like that In-n-Out burger light and fluffy, I would ask Craft Burger what they use - they're close.

                3. Open Window/Health Bread makes sesame hamburger buns that appear to be made using challah dough, so they're slightly eggy and just a touch sweet, but not as sweet as brioche.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Tatai

                    I also like to use the Buns from Open Window but my preference is for the onion buns...same sweet taste as the sesame buns but I think the 'onion ones' add a bit of a punch...

                  2. Well, thanks to all the suggestions, I held my first annual "BUN-OFF" on Friday. We tested buns from Metro (I went there in search of Central Bakery's buns, but as they didn't have any, we opted for the in-house bakery burger buns), Dundas Portuguese Bakery, Open Window Bakery, Epi Breads, Brick Street Bakery, and Buns Master. Four people took part in the "BUN-OFF", two of whom did the tasting "blind", having no knowledge of where the buns came from. Two of us did know, as we had done the shopping together the morning of the "BUN-OFF". The buns were lightly toasted and contained one 7 ounce patty of beef chuck that I ground twice, seasoned with kosher salt and pepper, and grilled on a propane barbecue. The one exception was the dinner roll from Open WIndow Bakery, which was quite small, and as such held only a 4 ounce patty. All participants received forms on which they could score the buns from 1 to 10, as well as make any notes they thought might be helpful in determining the best burger bun.

                    The results were as follows (scores out of a possible 10):

                    1: Metro: 7 (eggy, soft, reasonably good sponge structure, a little dry)
                    2: Dundas: 5 (too sweet, lacks a resilient sponge structure)
                    3: Open Window (Dinner Roll): 4.75 (small, too dense, flavour was good)
                    4: Open WIndow (Burger Bun): 7 (great crust, not eggy enough, too white, too dense)
                    5: Epi: 7.75 (too "milky" for one tester, good sweetness, great body, too soft?, very springy sponge)
                    6: Brick Street: 6.5 (slightly chewy, not much flavour, one tester really liked it)
                    7: Buns Master: 2.75 (testers responses were: nope, not so much, na, and too light, no structure).

                    So, with 1, 4, 5, and 6 scoring highest, we decided we would pit just those buns against each other, in a second taste-off, this time with the burgers fully dressed with pre-selected condiments. The buns this time contained 8 ounce patties, slices of vidalia onion and ripe tomato, a nice chunk of cool iceberg lettuce, a slice of medium cheddar cheese, and a healthy dollop of a basil and pickle mayo. Here are the scores from the second round:

                    1. Metro: 8.25
                    2. Open Window: 5
                    3. Epi: 8.5
                    4. Brick Street: 6.38

                    Having condiments on the burgers definitely made a big difference to our experiences of the buns, as we were able to see how they would hold up to the challenge of having to contain a large amount of toppings, as well as their ability to deal with the juiciness of said toppings, especially when combined with the juices oozing from the beef patties. The clear winner was the Epi Breads bun, which was not only a gorgeous bun (a slightly eggy, brioche-like interior colour, but with the springy softness of a more traditional burger bun; a golden-brown shiny exterior, with a nice even sprinkling of sesame seeds on top), but it was also delicious, having just the right amount of sweetness to compliment the very savoury ingredients that it had no problem supporting, as it had a nice resilient sponge structure that was still soft enough that it did not cause the toppings to ooze out when bitten into.
                    It's really too bad that the Epi bun is so expensive, though. At 95 cents per bun, it was only slightly less expensive than Brick Street's buns, which were a dollar a piece!! In contrast, the buns at Metro, which scored second highest, were 45 cents a piece, and the Buns Master rolls were 25 cents each. Also, part of me didn't want Epi to score the highest, as my experience there was less than stellar, at least in terms of customer service. The lady who served me tried to sell me buns from the day before! It wasn't until I enquired whether the buns had been baked that morning that she rolled her eyes and headed back into the bakery to get me fresh buns... Unforgivable, particularly at that price!!
                    Anyways, thanks again for all your suggestions. The only bun I have still to try is the one from Central Bakery - I went to 1 Walmart and 2 Metros and didn't find any. Apparently these are the stores that stock their products, just not the locations I visited, I guess. More bun reports coming your way! Stay tuned!

                    16 Replies
                    1. re: redearth

                      My Fav buns for burgers are:
                      for fluffy light bun - the Summer Hill Market sesame buns (i think they are house baked, all the other buns have the listed baker on them, the one that come in a clear bag)
                      pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lricharz...
                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/lricharz...

                      for a dense doughy bun -thuets pretzel bun 'alsatian roll'
                      pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lricharz...

                      1. re: flying101

                        More buns to try!! Nice photos - no problem with contents squishing out with Thuet's "alsatian roll"?

                        1. re: redearth

                          nope just the angle for the photo, if you are looking to fill up on a burger (not good for a bbq party as you probably want to be eating throughout the night) go for the Thuet buns, it is dense, chewy, tasty (pretzel element ads a new flavour the burger). And at 1$+ for a bun it might not be worth it. Dinner for two or three its perfect tho.

                          Summer Hill buns are perfect for the summer (no pun). Also if you go to summer hill market they have a large selection of diff bakery buns to try (if you go early on a weekend or during the week) and you can pick ones that look appealing for your BBQ, make sure to grab their homemade lemonade...

                          1. re: flying101

                            Great suggestions - I think I'll have another "BUN-OFF" in a few weeks - the last one was a lot of fun!!

                            1. re: redearth

                              Trust me, the Alsatian roll kicks ass.

                              1. re: redearth

                                Ack! My apologies, redearth, the buns I was referring to are from Corner Bakery, not Central Bakery - they also make bagels and things, but they don't look very appetizing. Perhaps this is why you were having trouble finding them...<blush> And today I noticed my NoFrills has started carrying their products as well, but the actual bakery is near Steeles and Weston if you want to go to the source. Since I haven't tried most of your other candidates, I'd love to hear if they stack up at all in your next bun-off.

                                Mostly, I just really love to SAY "bun-off."

                                1. re: Wahooty

                                  Ah! Thanks for the clarification! I will try to find them, and they will definitely be a part of my next bun-off!!

                                  1. re: redearth

                                    Redearth....you've been doing some valuable research here. I know your focus is on burgers, but have you come across a bun that you think woudl work well for pulled pork? I'm hosting a big gathering this weekend.

                                    1. re: grandgourmand

                                      I'd have to say that, in my experience, the best bun for pulled pork is one that is the most unobtrusive - one that serves merely to hold the whole sloppy mess together. By that definition, I would recommend (GASP!!) generic supermarket burger buns, or soft brioche or potato bread buns.... I am of the opinion that for burgers, something similar, but perhaps with a little more character, is also suitable. I intend to continue my search for the "perfect" burger bun, but I feel that I unable to accurately contribute to someone's search for the "perfect" pulled pork bun, as my criteria do not match those of such. More research is required. I shall begin soon.

                                      1. re: redearth

                                        I figured that since burger buns are traditional for pulled pork and that since it seems you're testing a whole bunch of different burger buns (including soft, fluffy ones that would seemingly be ideal) you'd have some insight.

                                        1. re: grandgourmand

                                          I've found that the soft portuguese style buns work well for pulled pork. They're soft enough to yeild to the meat but not so soft that they disintegrate.

                                          Plus they're a little bigger, so more meat.

                                          I've made pulled short rib sandwiches before and used the Thuet buns from The Healthy Butcher and they were awesome.

                                          1. re: grandgourmand

                                            The reason I hesitate to recommend any of the buns that I reviewed above is that most of them have sesame seeds on them, and somehow I just don't think that a bun for a pulled pork sandwich should have sesame seeds on it...
                                            Disregarding that criteria, I would recommend the Epi bun and the in-house burger buns from Metro. The ones that Wahooty describes from Corner Bakery sound like they may also fit the bill.
                                            I had some pulled pork on a kaiser the other day, and I have to say that it was completely wrong - not soft enough, resulting in mega-filling-squish-out. Soft is definitely better. I know you've heard this before, and I hate to repeat it, but the ubiquitous Wonder bun is perfect for pulled pork.

                                            1. re: redearth

                                              We've used the oblong buns from the Golden Wheat Bakery on College for our pulled pork. I think they are perfect. They are the buns used across the street at The Fish Store. They work great for pulled pork because they are soft on the inside with the slightest crispness on the outside (that can be ramped up with a couple minutes in the toaster oven). They don't overpower the pork at all.

                                              1. re: Delish

                                                Those buns are good and the ones I was referring to. In fact I tried to buy some this weekend and stood at the counter with the bag in my hand while the cashier and a woman chatted for 5 minutes not acknowledging me once. Then an old guy came up, wedged him in between me and the counter and she immediately started to cash him out. I just left the bag on the counter and walked out. They're not that good.

                          2. re: redearth

                            i finally had a little more forethought in some of the recent burger forays and will have to say that my brioche buns didn't hold up the way i had hoped they would. i didn't find them too sweet at all, in fact not sweet enough but the lack of "resilient sponge structure" was what really got to me. it flattened too quickly and got too soft.

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                              Good to know - I certainly found that was the case with buns we got from the portuguese Dundas Bakery - they were brioche-like in their egginess, but they were far too sweet and really collapsed under pressure.

                              We're still planning another bun-off soon, and will have more results to report!!

                          3. I have tried them all....Ace, Harbord, Fred's, Brick St., ....I have to say that although they are a little small, EPI is hands down THE BEST.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: killerkroc

                              I've just stumbled upon this most intriguing topic, which will clearly become a Chowhound classic, with assorted knowledgable folk delightfully pondering the merits of various hamburger buns. Like many others on this thread, I've given up on hamburger joints in Toronto, which, no matter how fancy and high-priced, never make the burger to my liking - it's invariably overcooked - and have taken to doing it myself with fresh ground chuck (usually from Nortown Meats) over a charcoal grill. And for a while at least, I didn't think about the buns much, mainly because the buns don't have to be outstanding, just serviceable enough to hold the burger and toppings without competing in taste with the all-important burger. Indeed, the buns don't need much character at all. So I don't like them chewy, or expensive - this need not be a gourmet item (so thanks but no thanks, Epi). Many of those already mentioned do the job admirably - Metro's buns come first to mind. But if you're ever around Sheppard Ave. W. and Bathurst St., you might try the buns on offer at Bagel Plus, a good little bakery (with small resto attached) in the northwest corner plaza of that intersection. Light and fluffy, respectable size and color, with sesames on top, lightly egged (the best burger buns always are), invariably fresh from the bakery in back and at a fair price, though you can sometimes buy a package of them in the half-price bin (when they're almost as fresh).

                            2. On a tangent, which would work best for veggie burgers? They don't have the same juiciness that meat does, so no need for the bread to absorb, but it should still be soft enough not to crush the parry when you bite down...

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: piccola

                                Have you tried the PC Burger First buns? I could see those working very well with veggie patties...

                                http://www.presidentschoice.ca/FoodAn...

                                1. re: redearth

                                  No, I've been a little wary of their pita-like appearance. But I'll give them a shot.

                                  1. re: piccola

                                    Interesting, I think Pita is the best way to enjoy a veggie burger. Cuts down on the dryness factor.

                                    1. re: Sui_Mai

                                      I guess we're not eating the same veggie burgers. :)
                                      The ones I get are soft and full of veggies, not tough meat imitations. So I like a real bun, even an English muffin once in a while.

                                  2. re: redearth

                                    I had those recently with my veggie burger (topped off with stilton and portabella mushrooms) and it was really nice to have less of that "bread" taste with every bite!

                                2. Just reviving a thread I started awhile ago, as I need to ask: does anybody know where in the GTA to buy potato rolls similar to the ones that the Shake Shack in NYC uses (which are from Martin's in Pennsylvania)?? With or without sesame seeds, I'm easy...

                                  Thanks!

                                  http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...
                                  http://www.potatoroll.com/

                                  1. Just wanted to report that I found excellent hamburger buns at Harbord Bakery. sesame seeds, nice egg wash color and soft and spongy and a good size to fit the perfect size patty. The best Ive had in the GTA so far.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mlukan

                                      Awesome! Thanks! Will try soon!

                                    2. I'm going to try this once more, before starting a new thread, as I need to ask: does anybody know where in the GTA to buy potato rolls similar to the ones that the Shake Shack in NYC uses (which are from Martin's in Pennsylvania)?? With or without sesame seeds, I'm easy...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: redearth

                                        Good thread...and I am curious about the equivalent of a Martin's potato roll here too. Right now I make my own Shake Shack style burgers - smashed in a screaming-hot cast iron pan, topped with American cheese (Kraft Extra Cheddar) and served in a classic Wonder bun. That to me is burger heaven...but if I can upgrade my bun experience, I'm all for it.

                                        1. re: childofthestorm

                                          Hear, hear!! That's my idea of a great burger, indeed! Though I have to admit that I usually go for real cheese instead of American (I can hear the burger purists shouting SACRILEGE! as I type these words!!)... But, that said, I have been known to slather a homemade Philly cheesesteak with copious amounts of Whiz.

                                          Anyways, back on topic - is there anybody out there who knows where to get a bun in the Tdot that resembles a Martin's potato roll? Hello? Anyone?

                                      2. I know this will sound crazy, but I love the white dinner buns at Whole Foods and I have used them for hamburgers before and they were pretty darn good!

                                        I have also bought slider buns direct from Silverstein's Bakery and I'm sure they do a larger size as well. I thought they did a really good burger bun. Nice wash, good egg taste, a nice light bun.

                                        Lisa - The Hip & Urban Girl's Guide @ http://www.hipurbangirl.com

                                        1. I didn't check all of the places mentioned in this thread but i was on a search myself and for me it is definitely harbord bakery - [perfect texture and sweetness and size. brick is second. but double the price of harbord.

                                          1. Cobb's has excellent buns.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Everythingtarian

                                              I agree. I love Cobb's buns. Lots of choice and they have a wholewheat sesame.

                                            2. I like getting the fresh kaiser or hamburger buns they bake at the Dimpflmeier Outlet on Adanvce Rd north of Kipling and Queensway.

                                              They're super fresh and super cheap.