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Eat & Drink

Comparison Shopper: Suburban Hamburger Battle

Posted by Jerrold Litwinenko / February 8, 2007

burger battleThere are two burger joints on opposite ends of the city that have been around for a long time, make really good burgers, and have gotten plenty of press. But if you're going to pit them against each other in a "best hamburger" battle, it's really no contest (and previous reviewers have gotten it wrong). One burger is very obviously superior to the other. In this episode of the comparison shopper, I present the no BS suburban showdown between the famous Johnny's Hamburgers in Scarborough versus the legendary Apache Burgers in Etobicoke.

Johnny's Hamburgers:

20070207_johnnysfront.jpgAt the corner of Victoria Park and Sheppard in Toronto's East end, Johnny's Hamburgers is a landmark. It's the kind of place that your parents would have gone to as teenagers (and maybe even did), and it's still around for good reason. Endorsed by the likes of Mike Myers, the brightly painted burger joint is not meant to be a place of fine dining or ambiance. You step up the counter, order your food, take a number and wait on a bench. It takes just a few minutes and you're back on your feet and picking your toppings. They don't offer lettuce, but I was surprised by and receptive to the offering of fried onions. The onions and tomato landed on my cheeseburger. No taste-confounding condiments were used in the eating of this burger, and the meaty goodness could be accurately assessed.

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There's no indoor seating, but Johnny's features a row of picnic tables in the parking lot. Instead of freezing outdoors, I chose the wind-shelter that was the inside of my car - where I then devoured my cheeseburger and fries at my dashboard, with the windshield fogged and my belly satisfied by the warmth of delicious fast food.

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Johnny's fries were really top-notch, but this isn't a French fry battle and I won't dwell.

The Johnny's cheeseburger was really flavourful - smoky enough, but a little undercooked and a little too soft in the mouth and a little bit pallid to the eye. The fried onions were a nice compliment to the beef. The bun was fresh and not too big. The best thing about this tasty charbroiled cheeseburger was the price - at just $3 it was amazing value. Overall, Johnny's burger is phenomenal bang for your buck goodness.
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Apache Burgers:

20070207_apachefront.jpgWay out west and on the other side of town, at Dundas and Kipling (a 3min walk from Kipling Station) in Etobicoke stands the legendary Apache Burgers. Often visited by then Toronto Maple Leaf hockey player Tie Domi, and once or twice even visited by the Stanley Cup itself, Apache also has it's celebrity fans. The grill is right there before you, and I like that you can see and hear the flames kiss and sizzle the burger as it's cooked. Also a landmark burger joint, Apache is a totally different experience than Johnny's.

The space is elaborately (i.e. overly) kitsched-out with 50's style stools, mosaics of Marilyn Monroe, a neon light in the shape of guitar on the ceiling and images of a native in headdress. I looked around as my cheeseburger cooked, and then had it topped with lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.

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I chose to have the fry/onion ring combination as my greasy side. The fries were decent, but much greasier and droopier than Johnny's near perfect, far crispier offering. Apache's onion rings took at least a day off my life, but were totally worth it.

The Apache cheeseburger was quite simply amazing. It was cooked to perfection, a little greasy but really juicy, bursting with charbroiled flavour, and textured just like a burger should be. Peeling back the bun revealed the slightly blackened outer crust on the beef patty - the sure reason for the flavour/texture punch that makes it the winner of the suburban burger battle! I also think it's better meat and seasoned better. The $4 cheeseburger ($1 more than Johnny's) is worth that extra buck, without a doubt. And if you're really hungry the signature "Apache Burger" (a hefty double cheeseburger) is worth the $6.29 price tag.

The next time you're out in either of Toronto's east or west ends, and you're in the mood for delicious, not-at-all-nutritious diner grub, I suggest you seek out Johnny's or Apache.

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Johnny's Hamburgers
2595 Victoria Park Avenue
Scarborough, ON
(416) 491-7222

Apache Burgers
5236 Dundas Street West
Etobicoke, ON
(416) 233-3046

Note (for the sake of transparency and blogger integrity):
I grew up in Etobicoke, and have eaten at Apache many times in the past. My preference for the Apache burger over Johnny's is in no way biased by my familiarity and love for Apache's burger or Etobicoke. My taste buds don't lie!

Discussion

22 Comments

Shawn@SoScooter.com / March 13, 2009 at 01:30 pm
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Mmm... Apache sounds good! I like crispy fries, though.
Heather Li / May 15, 2009 at 10:00 pm
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Liar! You're totally biased. Just like how I'm biased about Johnny's because I grew up in North York but very closer to the border of Scarborough, where Johnny's lies.

To be honest though, I've never tried Apache. But I will go one day (soon I hope) to have my own 'Burb-Burger Battle.
Michelle / July 13, 2009 at 11:12 pm
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OKay I am not biased, I had never heard of eaither of these places until I was almost 30. I prefer Apache's burgers, and fries ( I like limp fries).
Keith / May 7, 2010 at 11:00 pm
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Harry's at kennedy and Lawrence is better then either.
Peter / June 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm
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I work within walking distance of Johnny's for over ten years and have been there probably twice if that. The burger is big and cheap, that's where it's greatness ends. In the office of over 30 poeple (of whom some are meat hungry carnivores), nobody really goes there even though all we have to do is cross the street. I just don't get the "Johnny's Legend"
Canchichi / August 16, 2010 at 11:53 am
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well, I live closer to Johnny's, but I used to work near Apache, so I tried both of them.
I tried dine in (well, for Johnny's it will be in my car parked out front.), and I tried take-out back to home/office.
I think the burger experience have to include a side (fries or onion rings) and a drink (coke would be my first choice).

the burger at Apache was slightly better, but the fries was so bad, the only crunch I get from it was some of it being undercooked.
the burger at Johnny's was ok, with the help of two types of onion, it tasted better than one without them. The fries was great, so it added some points for the overall experience.
Baba Booey / November 4, 2010 at 02:27 pm
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What about the Steer Inn in Richmond Hill (Yonge south of Major Mack)? They have great burgers too.
Nicole Wiwchar / December 8, 2010 at 01:37 pm
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I live right across from Apache...but C and Dubbs is a recent discovery west of Apache burger on the south side of Dundas (mississauga actually: 1706 Dundas St E). Apparently it has been around forever as well, and found them to be better than Apache. I have never been to Johnny's.
NickiDubbs / December 8, 2010 at 01:38 pm
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I live right across from Apache...but C and Dubbs is a recent discovery west of Apache burger on the south side of Dundas (mississauga actually: 1706 Dundas St E). Apparently it has been around forever as well, and found them to be better than Apache. I have never been to Johnny's.
Reply
Saywhat / December 8, 2010 at 02:01 pm
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Royal Burger on Islington is by far the best. Their steak burger is insane!
Lucas / January 24, 2011 at 11:03 am
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Anyone in the west knows that Apache is inferior to Maggoo's
Sandman replying to a comment from Lucas / January 24, 2011 at 08:51 pm
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Maggoo's and Apache are two different type-of-burgers (like Tenderloin and Ribeye or Red wine and White wine).


Bella / June 25, 2011 at 05:47 pm
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Great post. I am an oddity as I grew up right by Johnny's but lived in the West end of the city as an adult (ya know that whole "no one moves across the Don" legend) so I have sentimental attachments to both places. I love Apache Burger but I remember Johnny's tasting smokier, that real 'grilled' taste. Now that I'm living closer to Johnny's again I'm going to have to see how the burger lives up to the memory.
anon / February 2, 2012 at 02:24 am
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Golden star up at yonge and steels kicks both of their asses in the suburban war. It's a fact.
seanto / July 7, 2012 at 11:57 am
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The only time I go to Johnny's is either when I am feeling nostalgic or just plain broke.

The burgers are mostly filler and there is nowhere to sit down and eat. There used to be picnic tables but a new development took that space away from them. Even when they had the space, there was always annoying gulls flying around you.

These guys are so old school, they dont have lettuce. If your hungry, do yourself a favour and get a double burger.

If you have never been to the famous Johnny's I think you should try it at least one time.
Tie Domi / July 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm
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I've been to both, Johnny's is way better. Add Tsaziki sauce on your Burger, you wont know what hit you.
Laura / February 26, 2013 at 01:30 am
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I've never tried Apache, but plan to since I have heard so many good things about it.
I can only speak of Johnnys, and I LOVE it. The prices are SO reasonable, you get a good amount of food...quick no fuss/no muss service.
I think it's a little strange that they don't have lettuce...as I only GET lettuce, pickles, ketchup, and mustard on my cheeseburger usually. But, I forgive them that based on how tasty their burgers are. The last time I went,the place was packed (as usual) but with the quick service, we were in and out within 5-10 minutes and VERY satisfied with full bellies.
The fries are crispy, the toppings are fresh and crisp. I've taken many friends from out of town and abroad there, and have never heard a negative comment OR seen any sign of leftovers from our meals. KUDOS to Johnnys! A true institution!
Tony A / October 23, 2014 at 03:30 pm
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The quality of Johnny's beef has dropped over the years into crap range. The fries are about the same. Had Apache a while back, and remember it being about the same. There's alot of these places in the suburbs, run by Greeks guys. Its pretty much the same formula. Scarb heads know Real mccoy is well, the real mccoy.
MIcheal / October 23, 2014 at 04:03 pm
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Johnny's is terrible frozen patties never been to apache but if they are frozen patties as well then neither should be in a convo about best burger. Frozen crap sucks frozen fries suck too.....
Sandra / October 23, 2014 at 04:31 pm
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I have only eaten at Johnny's once. It was nothing to write home about so I am not sure what the appeal of the place it. It's mediocre at best. The best burger in the east is at The Real McCoy on Markham Rd. at Brimorton. It's been there for years as well but I only recently had one. I hear their pizza is great, too. Next on my list...
Vera / October 23, 2014 at 10:47 pm
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The Real McCoy at Markham and Brimorton has been there forever, and the burgers and fries are ALWAYS amazing. I heard the pizza is served in HUGE servings and it's extremely cheesy and amazing. What the hell is this Johnny's place? Markham and Brimorton (near Markham and Ellesmere) is as Scarborough as it gets.
Jim / October 24, 2014 at 12:56 am
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I'll ad my 2 cents to this discussion. Never tried Apache, can't offer any opinion. Johnny's? I lived a block away as a young kid in the early 70's and fell in love with the place, moved east to McCowan in '76 and kept returning over and over, especially in my early 20's, great place to go for a bite after the bars closed. Good burger and great fries. But the real winner should be The Real McCoy! The best burger anywhere!!!! I have left Scarborough, as many of us have, but am willing to drive an hour just to get a burger there. The pizza is awesome as well

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