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Review: The Stockyards Burger

Reviewers can’t seem to say enough good things about The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder; The Star puts it at 3.5 out of 4 stars; NOW Magazine goes all the way to a perfect five “n”s; and Eye Weekly agreed (a couple weeks later) with a five-star review.  So much attention has been paid (deservedly, I’m sure) to the porchetta sandwich, the pulled pork, the pastrami, and the ribs that I thought I would focus on a less noticed corner of the menu: the burger.  I have eaten a lot of burgers in Toronto (some quite bad) and I think I know a thing or two about them.  With this plan in mind I took myself last week to the Stockyards for a lone burger.

Burger and fries; next time Ill move the bun for a better view

Burger and fries; next time I'll move the bun for a better view

Foodies (and food snobs) should prepare themselves for a swift turning up of the nose but please bear with me.  The closest comparison–especially in terms of general characteristics–to this burger and fries duo is the McDonalds Big Mac.  Shocking, I know.  What I mean is that the bun is sesame seed, the patty is relatively thin and (I’m pretty sure) cooked on a flat-top griddle, and the fries are one step on the thinness scale from shoe string.Similarities end there.  The patty tastes freshly ground–the grind should be a bit coarser–and is cooked with some pink remaining (unfortunately into the realm of medium-well).  This may sound a little gross but my true test of a burger’s flavour is to judge what taste lingers well after it’s finished.  Big Macs and Whoppers fade to chemicals and salt, five minutes after a Craft Burger I could only taste ketchup, but after a Stockyards burger I’m left with slightly-minerally beef and the faint aftertaste of pickles.  The fries look at bit like McD’s but are darker (double-fried probably) and therefore have a more distinguishable flavour and texture difference between potato and crispy outside.

Obligatory Coke Classic in glass bottle.

Obligatory Coke Classic in glass bottle.

I guess it would be more fair to clarify that the Stockyards burger shares a common ancestor to the stuff served from under the Golden Arches.  It is a relationship between cousins and definitely not parent and child.  The both have their roots in the California diners and drive-ins of the first half of the twentieth century.  Too bad that the burger landscape in Toronto is so barren that the comparison to McDonalds springs to mind first.

The reviews of this place are a little inconsistent about the proprietor’s food service experience.  I’m willing to buy into the idea that this is his first venture for very good reasons.  Excellent restaurants run by veteran cooks tend to reflect a lifetime of cooking food for customers.  The food is often inventive, challenging and delicious but it always seems to be part of a conversation that the chef is having with his mentors, his competitors, reviewers and his past.  Fine and good.  Given the choice though, I’d rather eat the food created by a lifetime eater who serves what tastes great and leaves the conversation between diner and food.

At the top I make references to the other reviews of the Stockyards and feel I should mention one point.  In his otherwise good review the Star’s Corey Mintz devotes his first five paragraphs to ranting about the logistics of getting to the Stockyards at St. Clair and Christie by TTC.  For anyone concerned about this the easy solution would be to make the eight minute walk (gasp!) from St. Clair West station.  I’d do it in all but the coldest February blizzards for more of this goodness but next time it will be difficult to try anything else on the menu.

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  1. ehMon says:

    When the grill man puts the kosher salt on the burger before grilling is a nice touch.

    Really, I’m surprised you didn’t try the smokehouse specialties (pulled pork, etc).

  2. foodwithlegs says:

    Yeah, seasoning just before cooking is a hardcore burger technique.

    I’m saving the smoke-laden goodness for next time. Maybe I can convince a larger sharing-friendly group to join me.

  3. [...] that the naturally-raised beef probably also helps.  The only better pub-style burger patty (the Stockyards excellent burger is in the flattened style of California drive-ins and midwest diners) in Toronto [...]

  4. [...] August I posted a review of The Stockyards burger but for some reason I always seem to overlook The Stockyards when thinking of a place to eat.  [...]

  5. [...] bitch and moan the fast food chains do belong to one of these groups.  I have likened the Stockyards’ excellent burger to the flat-top griddled tradition of fast food style burgers that goes from nadir at [...]

  6. [...] in the last sixty years and really does need to be left to the experts–and the cooks at the Stockyards who seem to be expert at everything.  Happily I have now been introduced to the newest expert: [...]

  7. [...] Clair West Subway Station, it has a Loblaws very close by, and also has a burger join that serves amazing burgers (and damn tasty looking chicken [...]

  8. [...] of unexpected success. I’ve posted before about the place but the food is so good that just like the Stockyards it deserves another write-up. The Priest, from the regular, published [...]

  9. [...] burger is designed to compete with the ones from Burger’s Priest and (to a lesser extent) The Stockyards. They’re all fresh-ground from quality, fat-laden beef and griddled thin. Stockyards has [...]

  10. [...] other favourites. The Drake, Marben and Allen’s all make excellent pub style burgers. The Stockyards has a griddled burger that is pretty close but Holy Chuck Bugers and Burger’s Priest are clearly not just fighting [...]

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