Let me first apologize (as any good Canadian is ought to do inordinately) for the geographic focus of “The Best Burger in Toronto” because it’s myopic. In fairness, Toronto is Canada’s economic and cultural center (did anybody from Ottawa or Vancouver just fly into a rage?). The article is also about one of my realms of imagined, rather than actual, expertise. Again, apologies all around.
On Friday, when I was in the T-Dot for CPFC12, I finally did it: I ate at Holy Chuck.
OK, so I ate a burger. What’s the significance? Well, Holy Chuck was the last of the “big five” burger joints that I hadn’t eaten at. What are the “big five”? Based on my surfing of the internet and my year of reading Tonight, these are the five places that are most often heralded as serving the best burger in TO (in no particular order):
- Hero Burger
- W Burger
- The Burger’s Priest
- Five Guys
- Holy Chuck
Most of these burger joints crush their fast food chain competitors. I actually hate eating Big Macs. The Whopper is a close second (in terms of grossness). A&W is often cited as serving ‘premium’ fast food burgers, but they’re really nothing special. I will say that Wendy’s burgers are very good after some recent improvements.
In fact, I’d prefer Wendy’s over the first two burger joints on my list (despite their excellent reputations): Hero Burger and W Burger. So I’ll review those first.
Hero Certified Burgers, a.k.a. Hero Burger
This burger joint is spreading across the GTA like Mad Cow Disease spread across the UK in the 1980s. It’s got over 30 locations. Hero Burger has some interesting premium toppings like cranberry sauce. Problem: each topping costs an arm and a leg. And it’s not like the burger is cheap to begin with. You’d think that a $10 burger would be pretty awesome. It’s not. I expected better than a pre-formed, frozen-not-fresh, texture-less patty. I was sorely disappointed.
I have a vegetarian friend who praised its veggie burger. You can eat your burger on an egg bun (is this like challah bread? Is it Kosher?), or replace the patty with salmon, turkey, or chicken. Blech.
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W Burger is a sit down restaurant. I think they spent all of their time getting the decor right and then completely forgot to make a great burger.
If I was looking for the “most customizable burger”, rather than Toronto’s best burger, then W Burger would win. The customization options at this restaurant are insane. I think the plethora of options has tricked weaker-minded people — they think that, if W Burger offers so many toppings, the restaurant must be serving a great burger. Or perhaps people order too many toppings on their W Burger and can’t taste the meat. In any case, the burger that I had was filling but 100% “Grade A” forgettable.
As for the panko-breaded onion rings, however: eat them. They are fantastic. Go in and order the onion rings. Then save one onion ring, and use it as a topping on any of the burgers served by a restaurant that’s a member of…
Toronto’s Burger Trifecta (that’s the first-, second-, and third-place burgers)
The Burger’s Priest
This indie micro-chain serves up 100% ungodly perfection. Er… godly perfection. The founder of TBP actually went to seminary. It’s a fast food restaurant that would have been quick, except it was lined up out-the-door. There are two locations: a literal hole-in-the-wall in the Beaches and a newer spot near Young and Lawrence.
The Burger’s Priest grinds its chuck twice a day at each location. You can literally still see the hamburger’s curls from the meat grinder even after it’s been cooked. Compare this to the compacted, crumbly, formerly-frozen “burgers” served by most other joints, and you start to realize why The Burger’s Priest is the real deal in a field of impostors.
Five Guys Burger and Fries
Have you had Five Guys? Actually, don’t answer that question.
My biggest complaint about Five Guys is that, for an alleged fast food restaurant, it’s slowwwww. I used to write this off as “I go at busy times”. But I’ve eaten here on at least a dozen occasions.
So why do I keep coming back? Their burgers get a score of 11 out of 10, duh. My typical order is a little bacon cheeseburger (note that just ordering a “burger” will always get you two paddies. A “little” burger is not little.) with the following toppings:
- Pickles (I don’t know what “style” these are, but they’re distinctive and delicious)
- Grilled onions (I ask for “lots” of grilled onions every time. I have no idea if this makes a difference as to the amount of onions served)
- Bar-B-Q sauce (their spelling, not mine)
Holy grease! When I say this burger is greasy enough to kind of gross me out, remember: I’m the guy that makes his own McGriddles. Honestly, the grease dripped off the burger and, by the time I’d finished, there was a pool of fat in the basket.
I ordered their signature burger, The Holy Chuck, which is a double bacon cheeseburger with caramelized onions. Per their request, I got it without any additional toppings. Not even ketchup.
The bacon was bacon and the two slices of American cheese were… oh, right, I’m a Canadian so I can’t compliment anything that’s American. The carmelized onions, however, were meh. Perhaps they were too soggy from the grease or they were under/over-cooked. I don’t know. But it’s pretty hard to prepare an onion-based burger topping that inspires ambivalence in me. I either hate it (e.g. fat rings of fresh onion) or love it (e.g. fried or grilled onions).
I don’t regret trying Holy Chuck and, if I happened to be hungry and on the corner of St. Clair and Yonge, I’d go back. I just can’t say it beats the best burger in Toronto.
Speaking of which, the best burger in Toronto is served by:
Suffer the hipster vibe and be rewarded with Toronto’s best burger. If you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket and a passion for burgers burning in your grease-clogged heart, then you really won’t regret patronizing TBP. If you’re not near one of this burger joint’s two inconveniently-placed locations, then go to a Five Guys (you won’t regret this, either).
Oh, TimelessFinance is a personal finance blog? Umm… well, all of the “big five” burger joints are expensive. But if you’re in Hogtown, consider trying the best burger in Toronto at The Burger’s Priest. Should I charter a tour bus for CPFC 2013?
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