Upscale burger barn offers primo perch

Midtown location has potential

PACKED CHOCKABLOCK with thirtysomething gal pals on power lunches and IPhone-toting guys of a certain age, this justopened burger joint, the third in the chain, draws the crowds with promises of “the best burgers possible” and 100 per cent biodegradable packaging.

Toronto’s burger boom is getting old. Standouts need an angle — or some other redeeming feature — to survive. Gourmet Burger turns out a passable patty, but its strength lies in location, location, location.

The Yonge and Eglinton ’hood draws two crowds: daytime office workers and residential community members, a good cross-section from which to lure customers. And Gourmet Burger’s street-facing window stools, set before retractable windows that will open completely to the sidewalk in warmer months, make an ideal people-watching perch.

Inside, dark brown matte paint on walls and a black tiled floor give the room a dark and epicurean feel.

A flat-screen television broadcasts sports and news from one corner of the room, distracting customers and getting boyfriends in trouble. Although this location opened just a few weeks ago, the room’s black, faux leather–topped stools are cracked, scratched and worn — possibly snagged from Gourmet Burger’s other locations.

To one side of this 20-seat hangout, staff work the ordering counter, filling innumerable takeout requests and calling out patrons’ dine-in numbers. The view through a peekaboo window to the kitchen is a blur of activity.

Burger buffs order one of the six set burger assemblies or create their own concoction from various grades and prices of patties and topping options — everything from roasted garlic and Dijon mayo to balsamic-marinated caramelized onions to portobello mushroom to goat cheese.

The heavy cornucopia that is the Aussie burger ($8.50) promises much, with a six-ounce patty made from 100 per cent Canadian farmraised beef, aged for a minimum of 30 days, and a smorgasbord of toppings. But the cubed beets contribute little to the overall flavour, the egg is but a tiny albeit greaseless thing, and the kitchen has forgotten to add pineapple. Other toppings include lettuce, thick tomato slice and two strips of bacon.

The burger patty itself is acceptable, but we wouldn’t exactly call it flavourful or succulent. A pleasingly plain, dense and thin bun, untoasted, sandwiches the lot. New Zealand lamb burger (patty $6.75), cooked to well done, scores similarly. Roasted red peppers add some zing; white cheddar (extra $1) contributes a bit of bite. Gourmet Burger’s fries ($2.95) and onion rings ($2.95) impress. Packed into huge cylindrical containers, the greaseless French fries flaunt a gorgeous golden brown colour, crispy on the outside, fluffy and potatoey on the inside.

Thick, expertly deep-fried onion rings brag of crunch as well. For those without stretchable waistbands: mixed organic greens and classic Caesar in two sizes. Old-style milkshakes ($3.50) stand up to the straw test, and it takes much control to resist filling up on these two-scoop indulgences while waiting for orders.


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