Sunday, June 10, 2012

“Smashed” Burger Showdown

Some call them “Diner style.” Other call them the “Classic American Cheeseburger.” Out west they’re known as “California style.”
Here in Toronto they’re known as “Smashed burgers” for the way raw meatballs are put on a flat top and “Smashed” flat. While some see them as cheap since they come on a simple bun with processed cheese and conventional toppings. However the simplicity of this sandwich is such that if the meat isn't up to par, there's no hiding it.
Led by The Burger’s Priest this style has made a huge comeback in the GTA and along with it the burger landscape in general is getting an upgrade. 
Recently, local food writer Eric Velland offered this list of TO’s top 25 burgers. It cuts a wide swath through burgerdom from the simple Smashed burgers up to and including specimens covered with things like raw milk brie, masala chutney and truffle mayo. Some of them seemly taking days to prepare. Well, those high fallutin’, hoity toity offerings may make some peoples day but I find them lacking soul. Gimmie a good ole greasy cheeseburger (with bacon) from the flat top any day. Good beef, freshly ground and simply seasoned is the best way as far as I'm concerned. After all, it’s a hamburger. It doesn’t aspire to be anything more. 
The Grid, a weekly online magazine trying to capture the pulse of the city from street level has come up with Burger Week. A seven day celebration of all things hamburger. Many local places were offering special burgers with the event culminating with Burger day. 20 Burger-Meisters would offer up their most inventive sliders at an outdoor festival. 
In honour of Burger Week I set out with Mrs. Sippi, JEB, Gus and the Coach to sample four of Toronto's top "Smashed" burgers. Burger's Priest, Holy Chuck, Stockyards and Stacked BBQ.
The rules were simple

~For control, burgers would be ordered as similar as possible (less mitigating factors).
~No "Secret Menu" style burgers.
~The winner was given a 10 with all others falling in behind. On my score card anyway.

I will first offer up my findings and summarize the groups over all feeling. 
In at a very respectable fourth with a score of 8 was Stack Smmmoked. This newly opened smokehouse is doing BBQ and sandwiches.
My thoughts, which I shared with the owner Bill are as follows. The brioche bun was too much. Too big, too much taste and a bit dry. Not stale but just seemed dry. Bill concurred stating he doesn't like it and is working on a different bun. As well, the grind on the meat I thought was way too fine. On that we all agreed. It didn't have a good chew/mouth feel. This is beef after all and it should seem meaty. On taste this one did well. It was certainly juicy enough, coming in at medium well but in retrospect I think a bit more fat would work better. It lacked that certain unctuousness derived from the fat. 
STACK Restaurant on Urbanspoon
In third place, surprisingly, was The Stockyards. I recently anointed them best but this day wasn’t theirs. They put out a great burger but it wasn't the best I've had there. 9 out of 10 was my mark. It just didn't quite have the great crust I found on my previous visits. Gus asked me if he got a "Sub par" burger and I didn't think it was. I pointed out that the other two times I was there I had the only burger on the griddle. They could devote all their attention to it. So more like what I'd had before was "Extra good" perhaps. They were absolutely swamped and were constantly turning over the flat top. 
The Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder on Urbanspoon

In second with a 9.5 was Holy Chuck. Once again they produced a fabulous burger with good taste, texture and a great amount of greasy, beefy, goodness oozing out. Perhaps, maybe, just slightly too much. The juiciness put it ahead of Stockyards however their meat wasn't quite as beefy tasting. 
Holy Chuck on Urbanspoon

The winner, and back as my favourite GTA burger is The Burgers Priest. Awarded the full 10 points. The Priest were totally on top of their game this day. The perfect balance of juiciness like HC and the better beef flavour like Stockyards. The word on the street was that this uptown campus was not quite up the the standard set by the original however, for one day anyway, they might have even been better. Of all the burgers I’ve had from BP, I gotta think this one was the best. It was clear from the first bite who won.
The Burger's Priest on Urbanspoon

As for the group as a whole The Priest was a unanimous winner. There was a split among the other 4 about second place. 2 had HC while 2 others had Stockyards. The big difference would be that the two who picked Stockyards second thought HC fell well short while the two who picked HC second still loved Stockyards. All agreed that Stack was in last but still made a terrific burger. 

Let me close by saying that you can’t really go wrong with any of these offerings and with a little fine tuning, Stack could get right up there at the top.

Well that’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the Food Court.


1 comment:

  1. Davwud: I loved this, as many other of your posts at CH. I will now only be following your writings here on your blog, since I've given up on CH and its excessive moderation. I've changed my password with a cut and paste of random characters so that I will not be able to log on their anymore. Former OTFOODIE on CH