First, Crossroads Diner, a food truck covered in painted images of 1950s American icons and serving kitschy diner food, popped up in Toronto two weeks ago. Now, a roving restaurant with a ’60s California surf culture theme has hit the city’s streets. The Beach Boys Food Truck is painted aqua blue and sunshine yellow and is serving classic American greasy spoon dishes, like mushroom garlic burgers and chicken fingers and fries.
Toronto is crammed with craft burgers. Joints like the wildly popular Burger’s Priest and The Rude Boy on Roncesvalles are opening all over, Hero Certified Burgers are seemingly ubiquitous and, of course, the city’s more ambitious restaurants are serving ultra-artisanal versions with double-digit price tags. Holy Chuck, known for its stunt burgers, like a six-patty, six-cheese, three-bacon monstrosity, is the first gourmet shop to venture to the suburbs. The restaurant’s second location opens at Hwy 7 and Pine Valley Drive on the Canada Day long weekend, serving the same ridiculous burger bombs as the original Summerhill spot. The room is twice the size and has a drive-through, though we don’t recommend trying to eat the famed Cowlorie at the wheel: it requires two hands and a full stack of napkins to clean up each grease-unleashing bite.
After a surprisingly contentious three-hour debate, city council has decided to give Hero Certified Burgers the contract for the new snack bar space in the refurbished Nathan Phillips Square. Some councillors, including Paul Ainslie and Adam Vaughan, argued, reasonably enough, that the “gateway” to City Hall should have something more spectacular than a mere burger franchise, and pushed instead for a partnership with a culinary school. On the other side were mayor Rob Ford and his allies, who argued, also reasonably enough, that councillors shouldn’t meddle in a competitive bid process, which Hero had already won. City Hall has also awarded a contract to caterer Cashew and Clive to operate a concession stand during skating season, and will soon accept bids for a larger café space nearby, which is likely to set off another round of recriminations. After all, the city doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to picking food vendors. [Toronto Star]
Name: The Rude Boy
Contact info: 397 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-533-3269, @therudeboyronce
Owners: Faiez Bapoo, Liam Kelly, Paul Simmons and Alex Sengupta (The Lakeview, Samuel J. Moore), four friends who met working at The Keg over a decade ago.
The chef: Liam Kelly, an 18-year industry vet
The food: Burgers and other sandwiches, made in-house from local ingredients.
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- Fetta—Chef Mark McEwan’s new panini bar at Pearson is one of a slew of new eateries opening at the airport in 2013. Read our Dish post »
- Nejibee—Toronto’s latest izakaya is also a teppanyaki and sake bar. Its soft opening was Feb. 24, but the grand opening is slated for early March. Read our Dish post »
- Hitch—Named for noted author and imbiber Christopher Hitchens, the cozy neighbourhood bar focuses on classic cocktails and bourbon. Read our Introducing post »
With gourmet tacos, fancy hot dogs and “better burgers” popping up all over the city, Rich Lee saw a niche that was as yet untapped: sliders. Lee, whose background is in sales and finance, had noticed the surge in fun, hand-held foods, but was surprised that the mini-burgers that tend to fly off the plates at catered events were so hard to come by in a Toronto restaurant. That difficulty led him to open Slider Revolution, which takes over the space previously home to Three’s Company, the popular Danforth and Pape brunch spot and catering business.
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Ever since Five Guys announced its expansion into Toronto, the city’s burger fiends (and there are many of them) have been champing at the bit for a taste of the Virginia-based chain’s signature smashed patties. On Sunday, the Yonge and Dundas location opened its doors, and it’s been mostly packed ever since, despite locations in Don Mills and Mississauga which have been open for some time now. Five Guys has already dominated the “better burger” market in the States (it has over 1,000 locations), but with a new burger joint opening every other week or so in Toronto, it’ll have its work cut out for it.
Sliders, those tiny little burgers on their tiny little buns, have long been a fixture of catering menus in Toronto, but they haven’t really made their mark in restaurants. Richard Lee hopes to change that with his upcoming Danforth restaurant Slider Revolution. Lee, whose background is in sales and finance rather than food, worked on the ill-fated project to bring Wolfgang Puck to Toronto (there have been rumours and rumblings of a Puck outpost here for years, but a restaurant never materialized). Given that a new burger joint seems to open about every five minutes in Toronto (here are the best 25), Lee tells us, “Hell, yeah, I think we need a slider restaurant.” Instead of simply serving tiny patties of ground chuck, Lee will be offering fillings like pulled pork, chicken, meatball and veggies, in barbecue, jerk, bulgogi, Italian and other flavours. The restaurant is slated to be open for business sometime in October.
Slider Revolution, 673 Danforth Ave., sliderrevolution.com
As Five Guys readies its expansion into downtown Toronto, Big Smoke Burger is getting set to open a Manhattan flagship store by the end of the year, according to a post on Grub Street. This mirror-image expansion sort of makes sense, given that both burger chains have turned to Fransmart, a franchise consulting company, for help. An expansion to Chicago is also on the horizon, bringing the total planned stateside locations of Big Smoke to a staggering 50. The last Toronto chain to move stateside was Rawlicious, which made a move to Soho earlier this year (early reports are cautiously optimistic). [Grub Street]
Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the cult-favourite U.S. burger chain, has already set up shop in Scarborough and Don Mills, and is getting ready to open up its first downtown location at 329 Yonge St. later this year. The latest issue of Forbes has a fascinating article that breaks down how the company has managed to take a colossal bite out of the American burger market. Based out of Virginia, the chain has grown a whopping 792 per cent since 2006, and counts 1,039 stores under its name (it’s set to open another 1,500 in the U.S. and Canada). The uber-expansion is part of North America’s growing appetite for “better burgers” restaurants, i.e. those ”fast casual” spots selling patties in the $8 range. In the U.S., better burgers are a $2.2 billion industry, and Five Guys accounts for about half of that market. Part of their success is based on their simplicity: the sparse menu doesn’t go far beyond burgers, fries, hot dogs and the odd veggie sandwich. CEO and founder Jerry Murrell contends most franchises lose it when they over-expand their offerings. Of course, downtown Toronto is already saturated in “better burgers”—indeed, there’s a Big Smoke a couple dozen metres away from the new Five Guys spot. And there are all of these too. Read the entire story [Forbes] »
King West’s burger and karaoke bar Grindhouse is no more. The former gluten-free, vegetarian, and regular ol’ meat burger joint is up for lease due to non-payment of rent, according to a note on the door. The staff seems to be taking the news well, however: the glass-half-full kinda folk have been keeping their spirits high with visits to Ottawa’s Bluesfest, tweeting such optimistic thoughts as “no work, might as well play!” They hope to reopen in the future. [The Grid]
From New York City comes news of a burger so expensive, it makes M:brgr’s $100 offering (remember that?) seem entirely affordable. Introducing: the Douche burger, an aptly named $666 Kobe beef patty loaded with melted Gruyère, foie gras, lobster, caviar and truffles, then wrapped in six sheets of gold leaf (gold, by the way, turns out to be entirely flavourless but edible). In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Franz Aliquo, co-owner of 666 Burger food truck, told the magazine that the idea for the monstrosity arose during a conversation about over-embellished burgers with his girlfriend: “[She said] somebody should just make a burger and pile all the rich people stuff on it and it would be the douchiest thing in the world. So we’re like, Yeah! We’re gonna do it.” The interview also confirms that the burger is a complete joke, a dig at the level of ridiculousness some gourmet burgers have risen to. Naturally, one person has actually ordered it, but Aliquo is not one to turn people away: “I’ll tell you that you’re an a—hole, but I’m still going to take your money.” [Slate]
Introducing: The Works on the Danforth, the first Toronto location of the cult fave Ottawa burger chain
After 10 years in the burger biz, The Works has finally made it to Toronto. Hailing from the nation’s capital, the award-winning chain with an impassioned following is now set to give the city’s million other burger joints a run for their money. The Danforth spot is the first on the map, with other Hogtown locations already in the works (no pun intended). We met up with Danforth franchisee Zaki Zahur and CEO and “chief burgerhead” Andy O’Brien to get the scoop on the eatery and its 70 burgers.