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It goes without saying that smash burgers are definitely having a moment in Toronto's food scene as of late.
Not long ago, the burger scene in Toronto was all about grandeur and thick and juicy Angus beef burgers. Gone are the days of outrageous burgers stacked high with anything from onion rings and mac n' cheese to churro buns and burgers wrapped in 24k gold foil (seriously, look it up).
More popularized renditions of the smash burger come from our neighbours south of the border, such as California's exclusive In-N-Out and Shake Shack, by Michelin starred New York restaurateur Danny Meyer.
Although the burger frenzy looks a lot different this year, I can't say that it's not a nice change in direction for Toronto's food culture -- call it patriotic, but enjoying a smashburger in our own backyard is more rewarding than having to travel for it.
Whether it is the pandemic that has us yearning for simpler times and comfort food or just the love of all things classic -- one thing's for sure; there's something humbling about the tried and true cheeseburger that warms the soul and chases the blues away. If you like your burgers with shredded lettuce, whole leaf or none at all, or you're a sucker for thick cut pickles and milkshakes, here are six Toronto smashburgers you should try!
Burger fanatics will swear that Rudy is the OG of Toronto's smash burgers. Childhood friends Luke McCann and Chris Simpson came together in 2015 to open a local neighbourhood burger bar that was no-frills and pure nostalgia. Steering away from what these big-name corporate burger chains were putting out, the duo wanted to create something that hadn't already been done in the Toronto food scene.
McCann and Simpson wanted a burger that was simple but done well, using fresh, quality ingredients. Inspired by the smash burgers they would regularly indulge in during trips to LA and New York, the team created the Rudy Burger, as it's known today, and opened their first location on College Street in 2016.
"When we started out in 2016, there were only a few places doing smash burgers," says McCann, "we felt it was what Toronto was lacking."
The infamous Rudy Burger features a single 4 oz patty made from beef chuck ground fresh in-house daily, topped with American cheese, whole-leaf lettuce, tomatoes and Rudy's signature sauce stuffed between a soft Martin's Potato Roll.
The Rude Dude, dressed the same as the single, comes with two smash patties, each with perfectly crusted, caramelized edges smothered in melty cheese.
A newer not-so-secret menu item is the Rudy Mac, dressed like a Big Mac with two patties and a third bun sandwiched between Rudy Sauce, shredded lettuce, American cheese, pickles and diced onions.
'Rudy' is an inside joke between the two childhood friends used to describe someone who was being rude or mean. And let me tell you, they are serving up one mean burger.
This family-run shop had been around the block (literally) before settling into their permanent home in Liberty Village this past September. Founded by the former Aloette sous chef, Greg Bourolias, Burger Drops is dishing out some of the best smash burgers in town; their multiple sold-out weekends and pop-ups speak for itself.
To Greg, the smash burger is more than a patty on a bun -- there's an art behind making a quality smashburger that requires love and lots and lots of fine-tuning.
"The Maillard reaction that happens when the meat comes in contact with the piping hot grill brings out the natural beefy flavours and creates that 'beef caramel' crust in a smashburger," says Greg.
These perfectly crusted smash patties are made using a signature blend of chuck and other premium cuts of AAA Canadian beef ground fresh in-house daily and are made to order. Topped with American cheese, pickles brined and hand-cut in house, griddled sweet onions and their signature Drop Sauce, on none other than a pillowy Martin's Potato Roll.
Let's not forget about their cheese fries. Hand-cut shoestring fries made in-house are doused with a jalapeno-infused cheese sauce and a pickled jalapeno relish that single-handedly knocks all other cheese fries out of the park.
Drawing inspiration from some of the iconic LA and New York burger brands, and of course, the Godfather of the American Cheeseburger, George Motz, Greg and the Burger Drops team want to "bring people together over delicious, honest food."
As unpretentious and as simple as Extra Burger is, their burgers are extra special and here's why: the pickles.
These extra thick kosher dill pickles are hand-cut in house giving way to the bitey crunch that all burgers deserve. The juicy dill pickle compliments the well seasoned, crusty beef patty perfectly. To top it all off, Extra Burger's secret sauce isn't the typical ketchup-mayo concoction that you find on most burgers. Rather, their secret sauce has a subtle kick of dijon mustard that instantly hits the palate and brings together the flavours of the burger.
Jesse Fader of popular wine bar Nice Nice, Paris Paris and Superpoint pizza, opened Extra Burger in 2017 as a late night burger hideaway that the neighbourhood was missing. Their unassuming yellow burger wrappers, cafeteria trays and doodles on the wall emphasizes the idea that "you can dine unpretentiously and still enjoy quality food," says chef-owner Rob Jones.
Their new location at the corner of Dundas and Dovercourt opened mid-pandemic in April and since then, they have been smashing classic cheeseburgers paired with a killer natural wine list curated by restaurant manager, Hannah Ford.
Well Done Burgers is the ongoing pop-up at Baddies Cafe and came about as a reaction to covid closures. Unable to serve their chic brunches and artfully plated dishes, Baddies Cafe shifted gears to cater to consumer needs during these unprecedented times. They turned to simple food that travels well and can comfort people in their time of need and nothing says comfort food like a good ol' cheeseburger, milkshake and tater tots.
"Baddies, as a brunch concept, didn't cater to the covid lifestyle. People weren't waking up early and meeting their friends for Sunday brunch anymore. The pandemic lit a fire under us to do a burger and shake shop that was missing in Bloordale and the surrounding area," says Alex White, owner of Baddies Cafe.
And so, in the matter of a week, Well Done Burgers was slinging smash burgers, heavenly tater tots with a signature jalapeño queso and custard shakes alongside ice cream pop-up Ruru Baked.
Well Done Burgers is a double entendre playing on the idea that the burger patties are fully cooked through but also done well -- and it shows.
From the subtly spiced secret sauce and perfect bun to meat ratio (they use a slightly bigger Martin's Potato Roll than everyone else so that there's enough bread down to the last bite) to the precise amount of seasoning on the beef and the silver lining sleeve that keeps the burger warm, without condensation and making the bun mushy, everything here is carefully crafted and well thought out.
But beyond their tots and shakes and everything in between, what sets Well Done Burgers apart from the rest is their creative branding, designed by Adam, The ill-ustrator.
Rosie's Burgers is bringing it back to the basics with their classic smash burgers and shakes. Dustin and Daniel Gelman opened Rosie's Burgers on the popular Lakeshore strip in Mississauga this past June. When prime real estate became available in the highly sought after Port Credit area, the brothers jumped on the opportunity and overnight, Rosie's Burgers was born.
They felt that people needed simple, nostalgic food, especially during these times and as a takeout-only concept, burgers and shakes just seemed right.
"There aren't very many places doing smash burgers in Mississauga," says Dustin, "we just wanted to bring it back to the basics and the simplicity of a good cheeseburger."
Rosie's Burgers is the epitome of no-frills. Seasoned ground chuck is rolled into 4 oz balls before being pressed onto a hot griddle. The beef is left to caramelize for several minutes before it is flipped over and topped with American cheese. Shredded lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and their signature sauce, reminiscent of Thousand Island dressing on a Martin's Potato Roll, are the finishing touches to this classic smash burger.
"We imagine Rosie's to be that neighbourhood burger spot that kids could just ride their bikes to and crush a burger with their friends on the sidewalk," he continues.
From the classic smash burgers and shakes to their white pepper gravy poutine and banana bread pudding layered with banana slices and Nilla wafers, Dustin and Daniel Gelman are serving up sweet nostalgia at Rosie's Burgers.
Celebrity chef Matty Matheson surprised us all when he announced that his famed burger Matty's Patty's, will have a permanent home on Queen Street last month. Previously one of his many pop-up concepts, Matty Matheson, is winning over the hearts (and stomachs) of Torontonians yet again with his indulgent homestyle comfort food.
'The Matty,' a whopping 7 oz cheeseburger made with 100% AAA beef, features a thick layer of melty cheese that envelopes the entire patty, pickles, onions and signature sauce. If you're looking to level up, the 'DBL Patty' comes with two patties, a double layer of gooey cheese topped with either spicy ketchup, pickled jalapeno mayo or Matty's Patty's sauce on a toasted sesame seed milk bun.
If you're lucky enough to get your hands on one of these burgers (or even luckier to catch a glimpse of the King of comfort food himself), come with an appetite because this whopper of a cheeseburger is no small feat.