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Today I went to Big Smoke Burger. Big Smoke used to be called Craft Burger and then, a few years ago, they changed the name. Why? I do not know. Should they of? Potentially. You see, when they were Craft Burger they were one of the first, if not the first, and one of the only gourmet burger joints in Toronto. They prided themselves in their quality and they had line ups out the door everyday and almost all the time.
Since those days it seems like a million gourmet burger joints have opened up in the GTA, half of them being Hero Burger. With all this competition did Craft Burger have a product that was as good or better or worse than the competition? Did Craft Burger stand to grow bigger or die out? So in order to feel new and fresh they changed their name. This and the fact that they couldn’t copyright the original name.
I have eaten at Craft Burger many times and at Big Smoke Burger once before. When there were not that many options I loved this burger. Then competition became fierce and I became less of a fan and I rarely go out of my way to eat here. But today is burger review day and today I chose to return to one of Toronto’s originals. My memories are that the burger, while good, is not the best burger out there and falls somewhere in the range of just above average. Let’s see if my memory is correct shall we?
This time out I went to the Yorkdale location which is located in the upscale food court of the mall. Thusly the aesthetics of a Big Smoke Burger cannot be discussed but this, as always, is all about the burger. So, like most places they have a Classic, Double, Chicken and Veggie Burger. Then they have their signature burgers such as on Organic Beef Burger, Crazy Burger or the Craft Burger. These signature burgers include toppings such as gorgonzola, roasted red peppers, cilantro-feta spread and caramelized onions.
After waiting in line (it was a busy Saturday lunch) I ordered the usual. A double burger (which was 12 oz of meat) with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, ketchup and mustard. Add mayo, substitute dijon mustard for regular and you have all the toppings available at no cost. I ordered it, of course well done and I made it a combo with fries and a coke. All told it cost 16 and change. While I waited I was able to watch the open space grill grill my burger. It looked delicious and I was salivating in anticipation. 5 minutes later it was ready.
I dug into the fries first. They were good but different from the older days. They were fresh cut and very much like Golden Star. Sadly, and this is happening more and more, there were way to many small and smaller fries in the bowl. Too small to hold and dip and to small to be pronged perfectly by a fork. Not all the fries were small but a good many of them were. Anyways they tasted good so I can’t complain to much.
Then I bit into the burger. To steal a phrase from the walls of Five Guys, it was ‘mouth wateringly delicious’. Better than I remember it. It was beefy and had a good texture and you could tell it was a fresh patty that had never been frozen. And it was juicy, juicy, juicy. It was well done and cooked perfectly; the juices dripped continually onto my plate. I ordered the double, two 6 oz patties, and while that is to much I do think 6 oz would be to small. Throw on some of the gourmet toppings though and it would probably be just right. Speaking of just right, the patty itself was perfectly shaped and sized for the bun which was toasted to perfection.
Where the burger falls short is in the toppings I had and the overall taste. Let’s discuss the toppings. The tomatoes, there were two, were perfectly cut and gave just the right amount of flavour. The mustard on one side of the bun, the ketchup on the other (clever). The onions were a tad short in supply (just barely) and the lettuce was one large and very crisp oversized piece of iceberg. I liked that it was crisp and whole but it was way to big and made the burger a little hard to eat. Then there was the pickles, or lack there of. It was a nice tasting pickle, when I could taste it, but it was so small and there was only one. Chintzy!
Now back to the taste of the burger. I said it was delicious because it was but I also said there was a problem with the taste. That problem is this: it tastes just like a many other of the grilled burgers out there. You can say that of a lot of places but then a lot of other places also have unique tastes. If I was to do a blind taste test between this and say South Street Burger’s I don’t think I’d be able to tell the difference. Maybe the texture is a little bit better here, I’d need to check on that. One thing I will say though, is that Big Smoke (or Craft Burger) was first, was before, was way before all these other guys so I guess their taste is actually more original.
Anyways, the burger was great. I was expecting to give it 4 out of 7 based on my memories but those memories were wrong. This burger is worthy of a long distance drive, it’s worthy of multiple visits, it’s worthy of being called delicious. With so much competition out there it may not be the greatest burger on the block but it sure is top notch. If it was not the original gourmet burger, the one that seemed to start it all in Toronto, then the rating would be lower. Due to this I have increased the rating by one notch.
Out of 7 Big Smoke Burger scores 6