FOOD AND DRINK
Old School vs. New School: Toronto’s Best Burgers
Only a couple of years ago, fairly priced, old-school burgers dominated the city. This was before craft and artisan-inspired ingredients entered the Toronto foodverse. But once our burgers went gourmet, we never looked back. It’s safe to say that over the past 10 years, Hogtown’s fast-food burger joints have undergone somewhat of a revolution.
Thankfully, some of those old, iconic gems have sustained popularity. It seems Torontonians still have an appetite for the classic, burger, fries and milkshake combo. Funny enough, the best new-school burgers in the city do a modern take on what is old, taking traditional flavours and toppings, and amplifying them. We’re certainly happy to have so many options.
Of course, declaring a burger the best is a fool’s errand, since individual preferences (sloppy and juicy or tidy and well contained; thick or thin; decadent toppings or classic simplicity) dictate one’s assessment. Still, we’re giving it a go, so with that in mind here’s where you’ll find the best burgers in the city – both the nostalgic and the new.
BURGER JOINTS FOR OLD SCHOOL CLASSICS
Burger Shack has a dated, diner vibe that the city adores. You can only pay for your grub in cash, but that doesn’t sway patrons from this mom-and-pop shop that’s been serving up homemade, charbroiled burgers for the past 30 years. People go gaga over the banquet burger, which features house-made BBQ sauce, fried onions and bacon. There’s also an extensive condiment bar so you can customize your toppings, not to mention the Shack’s inimitable milkshakes (the pineapple is a must-try).
233 Eglinton Ave. W.
Those yearning for the classic burger combo flock to Apache Burger, the uber retro Etobicoke jewel that’s been satisfying many a late-night craving since 1969. Neighbourhood devotees swear by Apache’s classic beef patty and straightforward toppings – iceberg lettuce, ripe red tomatoes, two pickles and American cheese. You won’t find caramelized onions here, but that’s all part of the charm. Swap out basic fries with piping hot poutine or nicely browned onion rings. A milk shake simply tops off the experience.
5236 Dundas St.W.
Toronto’s first square burgers were actually seen at Square Boy, east Danforth’s hotspot for greasy-brown-bag burger and fry combos that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. You really can’t miss the place – it’s retained its 1960’s red and white façade, and that’s just part of the reason why Square Boy has remained such a fixture in the old-school burger scene. Customers rave about the price (a little over $5.00 for a combo), bottles of beer (only $3.50) and the gravy. Goodness, they love the gravy.
875 Danforth Ave.
WHERE TO SAVOUR THE BURGER REVIVAL
Ask any burger connoisseur in the city where they get their weekly fix and they’ll fill you in on the secret – the Burger’s Priest. The basic burger is all-American: a hint of sweetness from of the soft, squishy buns, good char on the beef, (which is only seasoned with salt and pepper and smashed on the griddle), and classic condiments. The High Priest is wildly popular; you get all the flavours of a good ol’ Big Mac, only this one’s far more superior.
463 Queen St. W. (and many other locations)
Undoubtedly the most addictive burger in Toronto, Holy Chuck’s original flagship in Woodbridge, a borough just north of the city, got so popular that they were forced to open up an outpost in midtown. Holy Chuck patties are ground in house right before they’re grilled on a flat top at 450 degrees. Owner Johnny Prassoulis swears by his 45-35-20 ratio – chuck to secret cow parts to fat – yielding one of the juiciest medium-well burgers you’ll taste in Hogtown.
1450 Yonge St.
It’s easy to dismiss The Stockyard’s burger because they do so many other things so impeccably well – slow-cooked ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, buttermilk fried chicken. For the price they sell their goods ($7.50 for a classic burger), you’d never guess the artisanship that goes into making the food. The patties are a bit of a mystery though; we know they contain both chuck and brisket along with some other beef parts, which the owner prefers to keep to himself. The “Dirty Thirty” is their claim to fame: the patties marry blue cheese and housemade cheddar, but still retain their beefy flavour. It’s topped with fried onions, pickles and mayo, and they only make 30 of those a day.
699 St Clair Ave. W.
(This article was originally published on Jan. 12, 2016)