The Burger Showdown

In honor of father’s day I decided to write about burgers since to this day, my father makes the best burger I have ever had.  I have come across many good burgers in my travels but few great burgers.  The 2nd best burger I had was at a little shop called JJ’s in Kingston, ON.  I remember it like it was yesterday… being welcomed into this humble shop by the owner Paul.  The group of us sat at a large table while two of us attempted the “Pluto Burger Challenge”.  The burger is 2 half pound patties of beef, four strips of bacon, two slices of cheese, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato and two pickle slices.  This is served with a plate of poutine.  The challenge was to eat two of these plates.  I remember taking the first bite and thinking, “this should be easy.  This burger is amazing!”  I was a naive young man back then and came up short by half a plate of fries.  I would attempt it again a number of years later and fail yet again.  My stomach just wasn’t as big as my ego.  Here is a picture before the second attempt.


And yes, I wore the bib the whole time.  JJ’s is gone now (I think a part of me died inside when I had heard they closed) but the memory of that burger will stay with me forever.

Coming to Toronto I figured that they had the JJ’s equivalent or perhaps something better.  I have eaten at a lot of burger joints in this city and have decided to write about four that stood out, one of which I just tried out tonight.

The first really good burger I had in the city was at a place in King St. call craft burger.  It was a narrow shop with a kitchen in the back.  I ordered the “craft” burger with a side of fries.  I sat at the counter and watched at they prepared the burger fresh to order.  The fries were freshly cut and thrown into a metal bin before heading into the fryer.  It was a cold winter day and with the front door shut, the aroma of grilling beef filled the air.  The friendly waitress served me the burger and I dug in.  The meat had a spicy-ness to it which I really like.  The bun was toasted perfectly and the veggies were fresh.  The fries were also excellent.  A couple nights later I tried going to a new pizza place that had been getting a lot of buzz but they told us it would be an hour wait, at minimum.  So, I took my friend to Craft burger and I tried the “spicy” craft burger.  It was delicious!  I have been back several times since and I have never been disappointed.  I did try the one  just north of Bloor on Yonge street.  I was very disappointed.  It was not like the Craft burger on King St.  The beef tasted the same but there wasn’t enough sauce and the veggies fell apart and were all over the place.  There was no love in this burger… not like the burger at the King St. Craft Burger.

CIMG0154A few weeks later I read about a new burger place opening called Gourmet Burger Co.  I made my way over to cabbage town to check it out.  It felt kind of strange walking into the place since you walk into a wide open room with no chairs or tables.  There is a counter by the window where a few people were eating but I was a little surprised when I saw all the open unused space (this would later reveal itself).  My friend and I ordered a couple burger combos with fries.  Two minutes after ordering, a huge influx of people began coming through the door.  Suddenly this empty room I had walked into was full of people.  So all the extra space is a waiting area.  Mystery solved.  Our order arrived and I bit into the burger.  The bun and veggies were very fresh.  The meat had a beefy flavor to it but lacked that zing that I liked at Craft.  The fries were okay, again not as good as craft.  They had some interesting specialty burgers on the menu that I would go back to try if I was in the area but as a go to burger place, this place came up short compared to craft.

gourmet-burger-coSeveral Toronto publications rave about the “off-the-menu” burger at a place on the Danforth called Allen’s.  I was a little reluctant to compare this burger to the others since sit-down restaurants usually have a different standard when it comes to burgers (i.e. I’ve been to a restaurant that ground a New York Striploin steak to make their burger).  Given that the price point was similar, I figured it could be compared.  There were five of us there to test this sucker out.  First off, very impressive beer menu.  Good beer always seems to add to my food experience.  We ordered five burgers with a few sides of fries and onion rings.  The nice thing is that they ask you how you want your burger cooked (this could be one of the only places in Canada I’ve experienced this).  I ordered a medium burger since I didn’t want to gross out the present company with my carnivorous Albertan roots (normally would have gone medium rare or if I felt really ambitious, rare… I find restaurants out here typically overcook steaks and burgers).   The burgers were thick and very juicy.  If you like a juicy, beefy tasting burger, this is your spot.  The veggies were great, the bun was perfectly toasted and the fries were okay.  All in all, a great burger.  It’s a little far from where I live and I personally liked the zing of the craft beef but I would definitely go back to Allen’s for a burger.  I’ve also been meaning to try their chicken wings, but the search for good chicken wings is a story for another day.  I didn’t have a camera on me and can’t find a picture of it on the internet that does it justice so I can’t provide any visual aid… just hold out your fist and imagine it between two buns.  Mmmmm, delicious.

The last place I’m writing about is a diner called Dangerous Dan’s.  I’ve read a number of things about this greasy spoon and was pretty excited to try it.  I read the menu online and noticed something that reminded me of JJ’s.  They had a burger called the “Quadruple C” which stands for Colossal Colon Clogger Combo.  It comes with a 24oz burger, a quarter pound of cheese, a quarter pound of bacon, two fried eggs, a large milkshake and a small poutine.  Amazing!  I took the street car down Queen St. East to meet them.  I ran into the diner as I was running late and smiled as soon as I stepped in.  You sit in car seats!  The bench seats you would find in most diners were bench seats of cars and the single seats looked like those removable mini vans seats.  I love this place already.  We placed our order with the front and waited for the burgers.  While waiting, the thoroughly tattooed but surprisingly friendly staff gave us water and I heard the burgers frying on the grill.  The fries arrived first.  They were definitely fresh since we kind of burned our fingers diving right in.  Crispy and golden, like good fries should be.  The burgers arrived and it was stacked pretty high with the usual suspects, tomatoes, onions, lettuce ketchup, mustard, relish and hot peppers which was a pleasant surprise.  Seeing as it was stack so high and I wouldn’t be able to fit it into my mouth I took my hand and pressed down on the top bun.  The burger, layer of cheese and bacon looked as if it was sweating as grease started to spew down the burger and onto my plate.  I had two natural bodily reactions to this: HUGE grin on my face and a slight twinge in my left arm.  Tackling this burger was a pretty messy task but it was worth the mess I left on the plate.  The cheese was gooey, the bacon was crisp and delightful, the veggies (which ended up everywhere) were good.  The only problem I had was keeping the whole thing together which is probably due to me squishing the burger and letting all the grease soak into the lower bun which disintegrated half way through the meal.  The burger didn’t have the beefy juice of Allen’s, the well spiced zing of craft, but it was just a good greasy burger.  There is something very comforting about a good, simple diner burger.  I’ve been to many diners and pubs over the past couple years but this burger tops the other greasy spoons that haven’t been mentioned.  Again, I didn’t have my camera but I did find a picture on the internet that demonstrates the height of this burger (we only had single burgers while the picture illustrates a double… after all I’m not that young and naive anymore… well… most days).

6a00d83451db7969e200e54ff5c4da8834-640wiThe pleasant evening was capped off with a nice long walk home.  I love summer nights in Toronto (cue John Travolta and Olivia Newton John), especially after a good meal.  On my walk home, I walked through several different areas I have never been through before.  That is one thing I love about this city, each community is so unique and each are full of their own culinary delights.

I have not found a JJ’s substitute, Dangerous Dan’s is close but Craft is now my go to burger.  I will continue the search for the ultimate burger and when I find it, I’ll have to bring my Dad there and dethrone him as the burger grill master (his steak, I’m convinced, is simply unbeatable).  Happy Father’s Day Dad.


~ by jlowjlow on June 22, 2009.

One Response to “The Burger Showdown”

  1. Nice blog man! Keep it coming!

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