Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Homeburger at Licks, Toronto, Canada

Licks is a chain of fast food restaurants north of the border. They've been around since I was in high school and my distant memories include being greeted at the register by the summer placement of a smiley zit faced teen in that awkward 16 year-18 year old range taking your order- and almost always screwing it up. They took your order, your name, and eventually your dignity when they would break out into songs (including your name in the chorus) about dancing burgers, fries and "ringidinigity" onion rings. The restaurants were always crowded- at least in my home town, with friends and groups of other teens out on a Friday or Saturday night. Going to Licks was fun and I have some interesting memories- and stories from those nights out which I'll choose to keep to myself :)...but my...how things have changed...

Lick's Hamburgers
I visited Licks late on a Friday night- probably around 10PM- a full hour before closing, however there seemed to be a late night rush of a post soccer game that ensued which seemed to overwhelm the middle aged Indian man taking orders and the one short order cook. Everything was "different" now at Licks- the menus are on vertically positioned plasma screens, no more singing, no kids taking your orders- at least not tonight- which made the place loose the nostalgic feel that it once had. No taking down of names, no songs, no energy....no nothing. I really wanted my wife, who was there for the first time, to step back in time and transport us to the old Licks- to experience it as I remembered 25 years ago- but it was not to be- Licks has become just another boring, modern day, average fast food joint. We were soon to find out that the burger was to be as underwhelming as the establishment itself.

The Homeburger is the staple burger on the Licks menu. The patties are large, fresh and never frozen Canadian beef cooked over a flame grill. Burgers are made to order with your choice of topping that include everything from puckery kosher full-sour sliced pickles (that I absolutely love), to alfalfa sprouts, to their signature "Guck" sauce which is a mayo/relish mixture that they slather on their burgers. What I don't get is why they add the cheese- a shred of what appears to be a colby/cheddar mix, after cooking when the final burger is built. This technique almost invariably never melts the cheese.
The Homeburger at Lick's Burgers
The sesame seed bun was stale, so lightly toasted that it may as well had not been, the burger was dry and well done even though I asked that they cook it to medium and the un-melted cheese added a grainy consistency to the point that this burger was not only underwhelming, it was almost un-palatable. What a total and utter disappointing. I won't be going back unless it's within a happy dream or memory of the Licks of years gone past.

A Burgeraday rating: 3/10

Lick's Homeburgers & Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Coronary at Woody's Burgers, Toronto, Canada

We are taking a burger a day north of the border this week with a trio of burger reviews starting with Woody's Burgers in Toronto, Canada. Woody's is located at the far west end of the Toronto on the lakeshore and borders the city of Mississauga. If you are coming to Woody's from downtown- it's quite the trip, but one that worthwhile after you try a burger.

Woody's Burgers
Woody's has often been voted as having one of the city's best burgers and their claim to fame are burger's that are hand formed daily using local farm raised beef cooked over a wood burning grill. They offer a variety of burgers- Beef, Turkey, Chicken and Bison with some stuffed with blue cheese or cheddar. Their menu also includes pulled pork sandwiches, sweet potato and regular fries as well as a full bar.

I gave the appropriately named "coronary burger" a try. The coronary is a 7oz patty stuffed with cheddar cheese, topped with more cheddar, an egg, thick bacon, fried onion and mayo on a soft toasted sesame bun. You can always add additional toppings so I also included fried mushrooms. As you can see from the picture, most of the cheese that was stuffed in the burger before cooking, leaked out while cooking,  but there was still plenty of flavor to go around. The beef was truly the highlight of this burger- it was either a different blend of cuts or cows north of the border just taste different- it was juicy, but not crumbly and held together tightly with a slighty "springy" almost elastic consistency. Overall, everything went together extremely well- the over-easy egg spilled it's yolk over the bacon which would yield bites similar to what you'd get with a breakfast sandwich. The onion strings added a nice touch too. This burger is simply fantastic and ranks with some of the better ones that I've had.

The Coronary Burger at Woody's Burgers
Woody's burgers are top notch and any burger aficionado should seek this place out. One note: be prepared to wait. It takes time to make these burgers- it took us 20 minutes and it was not all that busy. The one redeeming fact is that you can sit down and relax on the patio, enjoy some sun and a beer while you wait.

Aburgeraday rating- 8/10

Woody's Burger Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cheeseburger at In-N-Out

In-N-Out frequently gets ranked as one of the top burger chains in America, and even though it's only found on the West Coast, it's fame is known nation wide. This fame is partly due to quality, partly consistency, part affordability and partly for their not so secret menu. You can order your burgers "animal style" which grills the mustard right into the burger, or 'Animal Fries" which are fries topped with spread, melted cheese and grilled onions. You can check out the entire secret menu here.

In-N-Out Burger
First opened in 1946 in Baldwin Park in SoCal and has now has over 250 locations in Cali, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. When new locations open up, the line-ups can be miles long and they often don't settle down for months.
The menu (apart for the secret menu) is remarkably simple. Burgers or Cheeseburgers, Fries, Sodas and Shakes, and like other joints with limited menus, they do those few things really, really well.

Cheeseburger at In-N-Out
Today I ordered the cheeseburger. A single 4oz patty topped with fresh onion, lettuce, tomato, american cheese and spread. The bun was lightly toasted, warm, soft and chewy. The burger was a nice medium-well doneness that was juicy and flavorful, however I would have liked a bit more beef (next time I'll order the double instead). The spread had a nice vinegary tang that cut through the fattiness perfectly.

In-N-Out has to go down as one of the most affordable quality burgers around. The burger was only $2.30 and a double is just a buck more- which is a hell of a deal and why In-N-Out is a real contender in my search for the best burger around.

Aburgeraday rating: 8/10

In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cheeseburger at 5 Guys Burgers and Fries, Fremont, CA

Originating on the East Coast, 5 Guys opened their first location in 1986 in Arlington, Virginia. 26 years later they have grown to more than 1000 locations that span across the US and Canada.
The menu and philosophy are quite simple- High quality, fresh ingredients and a limited menu that allows for cooking perfection of the few items that they make. At 5 Guys it's 100% never frozen beef burgers, hand-cut fries fries, hot dogs and soda's- no shakes, no chicken, nothing else- nada.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Burgers can be ordered with a single beef patty (Little hamburger) or double (Hamburger) then a long list of toppings. Seems very common to order burgers "All the way" which includes mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, grilled onion, grilled mushrooms, ketchup and mustard. 

Cheeseburger "All-the-way"
Today I tried the Cheeseburger "All the way". I really liked 2 things about the burger above all else- The beef- it was moist, flavorful and was about as American as you can get when it comes to burger flavor. No Chili or pastrami to mask the flavor, just good 'ole american beef. The second was the grilled mushrooms- they were chewy with a griddle top sear that added a portobello like flavor injection that complimented the beef perfectly. The rest of the toppings sung in sweet harmony- not overwhelming and not creating an overly messy burger.  For $5.89, the burger is pricier than competitor- In-n-out, but it's well worth the money. From now on, 5 Guys is my local go-to location when I'm cravin' an all American burger.

Aburgeraday rating: 8/10

Five Guys Burgers and Fries (Fremont) on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Royale at The Oinkster, Los Angeles, CA

mmm.pastrami, the king of smoked meat sandwich goodness. Featured by the Food Network's Guy Fieri, this joint in the Eagle Rock area of L.A features it's own in house smoked pastrami, slow cooked pork, chicken and of course- burgers. The Oinkster claims to be "Los Angeles’ antidote to both, expensive gourmet meals and their cheap fast food counterparts" with most items on the menu under $10. They even offer Belgian style fries and home made mayo for dippin'.

The Oinkster
Today, I took on the Royale- a 1/3 lb. Nebraska Angus patty cheeseburger with bacon, chili & pastrami as well as dill pickles, onions, tomato, lettuce and 1000 Island dressing. I think the total weight on this sucker was nearly 3/4 of a pound and thanks to skipping breakfast, I was up for the task.

The Royale at The Oinkster
Upon the first bite you really tasted the smokiness of the pastrami and although there was a third of a pound of Nebraska hamburger in there, it was somewhat hidden by the sheer amount of pastrami, chili and bacon. The lettuce added a crisp bite and the bun held the whole mess together pretty well. I didn't really think the thousand islands dressing added anything- except perhaps, for more calories.

All in all, the Royale is pretty decent if you are looking for quantity, quality and something non-traditional when it comes to burgers. I'd love to try some other items on the menu, but will have to save that for next time.

Aburgeraday rating: 6/10

Oinkster on Urbanspoon