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ISO: Good burgers and fries

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I've read through a whole string of threads on burgers and fries but I'm hoping that CH-ers will give me some more good ideas. I have some NYC guests coming over for the Canada Day/Independence Day holidays and they've expressed hopes for some good burgers and fries. I cringed since they are NYC-ers, and what we have they have... and I'd even suggested cuisines that they don't do as well/specialize in (i.e., I'd treat to LWH) but was gently declined.

This would be for four adults and a newborn, so I'm not hoping for super-swank. We're not interested so much in what's on tap since we're mostly driving to any destination that would be suggested.

I'm hoping for locations that are within the Toronto boundaries because I do need to see my guests back to their hotel within a reasonable time.

I already have Golden Star (Yonge Street, north of Steeles) down as an option.

All of your suggestions are warmly welcome. :)

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  1. Wow, they sound pretty adventurous, eh? Just kidding.

    The new Queen & Beaver public house on Elm has a much-talked-about burger made of hand cut beef (not ground) and mixed with marrow for extra deliciousness. I've not tried it myself, but based on the quality of the other offerings there it's probably a decent gamble.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gary

      I tried it about 3 days after the place opened. It's okay, but nothing special that I'd go out of my way for. I opted for the Stilton rather than the Cheddar, and felt the cheese overpowered the meat. A bit overpriced for what you're getting as well.

    2. Hoping to have a good fish and chips lunch at Olde Yorke on Laird last Sunday, my family and I were disappointed to find that the restaurant is closed on Sundays. Starving by this time, we ended up at South St. Burger Co. in the plaza just north of there. We were surprised to find that we enjoyed our meals, which included beef burgers, a veggie burger, onion rings and fries.

      The beef burgers are not running-down-your-arm juicy, but the texture and flavour were fine, the topping goods, plentiful and free (!), and the choice of a very tasty whole-wheat bun was most welcomed. They claim that their meat is antibiotic/hormone-free.

      The fries (NY Fries) were delicious, as were the breaded (as opposed to battered) onion rings.

      Better than Golden Star, in my opinion and, with a newborn in tow, I doubt you'd want a long, lingering meal in a full-service restaurant.

      It's a chain, by the way, so you're sure to find a location that's convenient. http://www.southstburger.com/

      1 Reply
      1. re: Tatai

        I was hoping to avoid chain restaurants but I'll float the idea and see what happens. :)

      2. Terra Burger
        Gone downhill, but everyone I take there seems to enjoy it. Amazing fries (and the sweet potato fries are even better) lots of options now. Kid friendly

        Burger Shack

        Allen's if you are looking for more of a bar/restaurant option.
        Craft Burger (both locations are small, wouldn't recommend a family outing, but tasty, fries are hit and miss)

        2 Replies
        1. re: flying101

          Of Craftburger - is there any difference on the locations? I'm pondering whether parking on King St. is any better than say... Yonge Street.

          1. re: HSz

            Street parking's better on King since on Yonge it's nonexistent!

        2. Unless you live close by, the Golden Star isn't really destination dining. It's a good burger — I've been going since the 60s — but there's lots better out there.




          http://www.thegourmetburgerco.com/ — Australian burgers but only a five seat lunch counter.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ChalkBoy

            I'm relatively close to the Golden Star and have been going there on and off for years so I'm aware of what's available there. When I'm told that the new-mother wants burgers and fries... I'm hoping to avoid serving up McD's ;-) although I'm certain that they would allow us to sit for a long while in conversation. :D

            Out of the four that you've mentioned here, are there any particular variations on the burger that you would suggest?

          2. Utopia on College has a good burger.

            1. 3 categories.....

              ultra posh - bymark's burger is the best burger in the city, but realistically it's unfair to compare it to others. The price point and the ingredients used gives it an unfair advantage.

              classic rare - Allen's, they grind their meat in house and will cook to desired doneness, you can order it rare.

              old school - your choice of Golden Star is great imo, very old school burger joint, make sure you get the homeburger, not the regular hamburger which is just a frozen patty. Burger Shack is very similar to Golden Star.

              The rest of the burger spots getting shine in the city are all those new fandangled "old to the new" styled places. None of them are really any good imo, I would pass. It seems all these owners care about is expansion and franchising.

              Burgers at sit down restaurants that have received praise on the board but I haven't tried.....

              Nota Bene
              Harbord Room

              3 Replies
              1. re: aser

                I pretty much agree with these suggestions, though I didn't find the burger at Weezie's to be that great. Nota Bene's is pretty good, as is Harbord Room's. I had a lunch special burger at Globe that was pretty good too.

                1. re: tjr

                  Weezie's can be really good...I've had it about four times. twice, perfectly cooked med rare, the other two, on the overcooked side.

                  1. re: grandgourmand

                    The only time I had the burger it was really overcooked.

              2. As I was reading your post I was going to say Bymark for sure, until you mentioned the newborn. I wouldn't call Bymark newborn friendly but Utopia on College may do the trick. Good burgers and a good variety of choices for the type of meat you’d like your burger to be fashioned from.

                1 Reply
                1. If done-ness is important to them, i.e.; they'll only eat medium rare burgers and they consider well done burgers to be a mortal sin, you might want to tell them they can only get well done burgers in Toronto. If they still need a burger fix, just grill some in your backyard or at the park to whatever your preference. Or go to Allen's as someone else suggested.

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: GoodGravy

                    I agree -- there is no better burger than a backyard burger!

                    1. re: GoodGravy

                      I thought if the restaurant grinds it's own meat, they can cook it anyway they like. It's only frozen patties that have to be cooked to death. Or that's what I've found.

                      1. re: ChalkBoy

                        If they grind their own beef, they will have to sanitize the equipment every night.
                        They should grind beef from one animal at a time, to avoid cross contamnination.
                        Finally, they will be advised by public health officials to cook burgers to 160 F., although they may opt for less.

                        How many places would do this?

                      2. re: GoodGravy

                        I'm not certain if done-ness is important. These are not very adventurous!Foodie-friends. :) Unfortunately, my skills with the grill are... flambe and very well done. Not an encouraging sign for anyone that would try to eat the food made. ^_^;

                        1. re: HSz

                          then I suggest you just stick w/ your intuition and go with Golden Star.

                          1. re: aser

                            I'll draw up the list of suggestions and see what draws their interest. Of course, I will also have to hope that whatever they choose will be open on the evening of Canada Day. ^_^;

                            1. re: HSz

                              Well, that limits your selection right there. Most so-called "good" restaurants will be closed.

                              1. re: ChalkBoy

                                Ah, then I guess I better start practicing at not-burning burgers then. :)

                                1. re: HSz

                                  Pre-formed fresh burgers from Cumbrae's or Costco are easy to deal with. If fries at home are difficult, then buy a potato salad from Moishe's or Reiser.

                                  1. re: jayt90

                                    The ground prime rib from Cumbrae's makes an outstanding burger. The best I have ever had!

                                  2. re: HSz

                                    Grilling your own is half the fun! Meat + beer + fire = fun times!

                                2. re: HSz

                                  I really like the burger at Mildred Pierce Temple Kitchen, though it would likely be closed on Canada Day. Hotel burgers, Hazelton One would likely be the best bet, but you should book in advance.

                                  1. re: Squeakycheese

                                    Don't know why so many people are recommending $20 burgers??

                                    the orig post 'I'm not hoping for super-swank'

                                    1. re: flying101

                                      Well. :) It's better that I have more options than less. :) I've paid for some relatively meals in the past, and as long as it tasted very good, I didn't mind the price itself.

                                      I had someone recommend other options that included the availability of burgers and fries (just in case we wanted non-burger food), so I remain ever hopeful that I'll be able to find something that allows my friends and I to enjoy a meal without being rushed. :)

                            2. re: GoodGravy

                              Aside from Allen's, you can also get burgers to your desired doneness at the Queen & Beaver and Cowbell. Although they're both on the spendy end of the price spectrum.

                              They used to do them rare if requested at Epicure on Queen West as well, but I don't know if they still do. I haven't been there in a while, and the last time I ordered a burger there was close 10 years ago, before I spent a number of years not eating meat. Might be worth a shot.

                              I've also heard that Original Motorcycle Burgers will cook them as requested, even though the menu says "we like to serve it Medium, with a touch of pink". They grind their own meat, so it would make sense for them to offer the option.

                              Oh, and I got a medium rare burger at Stampede in Parkdale not long after they opened. I asked for rare, and it was cooked a bit past what I prefer, but was still pink most of the way through.

                            3. Some of the ones I've tried and recommend:
                              Harbord Room, cooked perfectly medium rare, served up with homemade condiments, fries and salad. get it with berkshire bacon.

                              Bymark, very pricey but a divine, heavenly tasting burger. go all out and order it with the lobster poutine!

                              Craft Burger: get the avocado and blue cheese burger. tasty and different from the everyday variety

                              Johnny's Hamburgers: old school place in the victoria park area, a combo is on special for $5 (if memory serves me correctly) during their peak lunch hours. the place is small. literally a shoebox with orange signage, but there are benches outside.

                              Gilead Cafe: a cheeseburger was offered, though I am not certain if it is a regular item. it was a thin patty but enhanced with herbs and spices. hand-ground meat.. tasty.. but a tiny bit dry.

                              Haven't tried yet, but intend to:
                              The Yellow Griffin Pub: Have not been yet, but heard lots about it. They have over 35 kinds of burgers!!

                              Globe Bistro: I've been here for dinner before and the food was pretty good. For lunch they offer a tasty sounding burger

                              Beerbistro: for lunch they have a bistro beer burger, seasoned with belgian ale on a beer buttermilk bun... and of course, lots of different kinds of ales and lagers.

                              Cafe du Lac: have a bison burger there as well as their infamous foie gras and short rib poutine (though I imagine you can order just the fries)

                              Do not recommend:
                              - Hero burger- frozen, mcdee's caliber burger
                              - Golden Star (I really really wanted to like this burger after hearing so much about it.. the staff were so friendly too...and even though we ordered the special homeburger, it was really bland tasting)

                              Will give it another go:
                              Drake Hotel: drake burger.. found a few pieces of gristle in my burger, but the staff were great about it and immediately swapped my dish out with something else. the meat itself was tender, well seasoned, nice char on the outside, and cooked to medium-rare, as I requested.

                              hope this helps!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: sugarcube

                                The burgers at the Yellow Griffin are ok if you like lots of toppings on your burger. I guess that's differentiates it from the competition. If you like a plain burger, it 's about average.

                                1. re: sugarcube

                                  That's the first time I've heard someone complain about underseasoning at Golden Star. The usual complaint is overseasoning, especially garlic, in the homeburger.

                                2. The poutine at Craft Burger is quite good. So that may be another reason to go to Craft Burger.

                                  1. Bamburger was a fairly decent burger experience. Good sized, cooked to order, and decent pints. Fries aren't going to cause world peace, and toppings ramp up the prices, but in the same ball park as most sit down licenced places.

                                    1. Definitely go for Harbord Room if you can go on a day other than Canada Day. Hard to get a table though so try and get an early dinner table (no lunch). Good non-burger choices available as well.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Chester Eleganté

                                        McCoys are located on Markham Rd. in the plaza at Brimorton (south of Ellesmere). The burgers are good, but pretty much standard fare. The fries are handcut and really good. I've been to Johnny's and I like their burgers better, but the fries at McCoys blow them away. Think New York Fries, but thicker. Both places are basically take-out with a small place you can eat there.

                                        1. re: Dflip

                                          If burgers are standard fare at both places, why go?

                                          I expect a burger to be ground on site from selected beef, and cooked to order.

                                          Otherwise, home is better.

                                          1. re: jayt90

                                            I see that the request of my friends is not only breaking my brain but also those of the CH-ers. :)

                                            If I had any confidence in not burning beef patties into hockey pucks, then I'd already have had the option of stopping by the butcher's and picking up some good meat and grinding it. Unfortunately, my culinary skills are not meant to make people want to reach for the Tums and the extinguisher at the same time, so it'll probably be some place not at home for this round of dinner. :)

                                          2. re: Dflip

                                            The burgers at Johnny's and The Real McCoy are only similar if you order the frozen patty at McCoy, or if you are dead-drunk (which is the only time I'd ever eat a Johnny's burger)

                                            The Real McCoy has home-made, hand-patted burgers, similar to Burger Shack or Golden Star, but just MUCH better meat flavour than either, (thus eliminating the need for all the pepper and garlic) and Johnny's offers only frozen (Schneiders?) garbage.

                                            Trust me, there's NO COMPARISON between the "Mojo Burger" at Real McCoy (fresh beef, cheese, grilled bacon) and anything that has ever come out of Johnny's.

                                            1. re: TorontoTips

                                              I think there's more filler than meat in a Johnny's burger. Burger shack has an awful ambience (seats with holes in them, anyone?) and ghastly food to match.

                                        2. As an ex-pat American in Toronto, I've always been amused by this urban legend in the US that Canada is the land of the best hamburgers and donuts. I'm not sure where this comes from but I've encountered it in multiple places (most amusing in the old Bob and Doug McKenzie skits on SCTV). Is that the basis for your guests desire to eat them while in town? Anyway, I'll second the suggestion of South St. Burger Co., chain restaurant be damned. I've consistently had excellent burgers there.

                                          1. There was a review of a few burger restaurants in the Star this morning. I was wondering if anyone has tried the place that got the best review...Oh Boy Burger on Queen West.

                                            1 Reply