The ACME Burger Company: All Your Burger Are Belong To Us
Toronto's been burbling with digital chatter lately on just who serves the city's ace burger. There are more opinions on the T.O.'s fave sandwich stalwart than there are obscure pop culture references in a Ryan Couldrey post. And heck, to their credit, you couldn't swing a coyote lately without hitting a new burger joint opening up to near-messianic expectation ready to feed Toronto's nearly insatiable craving for grill-kissed ground beef. Sure, We all think we know the contenders (and the pretenders), but before you post that 'best-of-2007' list, have a look westward cos what you'll find there might just surprise you.
Nestled on a generic stretch of the Queensway tucked in-between strip malls, big box super-gargantuan-mega complexes and the odd purveyor of modular furniture of Scandinavian design hides the ACME Burger Company. The dining equivalent of a borg drone separated from it's cube, it's truly a restaurant in search of a franchise.
The first thing you notice entering the clean, well-organized space is just how generic everything feels. Take in the utter lack of idiosyncrasy of your surroundings awash in a well-orchestrated sense of 50s diner chrome with a hygienic, ultramodern-modern touch. Sidle up one of those blonde wooden tables that could have been purloined from the aforementioned local Scando-shop and if you can pull yourself away from the pleasant flicker of CP 24 bubbling from a flat panel TV above the door, you'll notice the branding exercise that makes this place feel suspiciously like any Harvey's, Lick's, or insert-burger-chain-name-here. It's actually a little eerie. Stranger still is that, as well manufactured as the experience seems, there actually doesn't seem to be another location besides this particular outlet of the ACME Burger Company-- anywhere! In fact, the only thing that's peculiar about a place that seems to be singularly un-peculiar is the beat up tables and chairs out front for al-fresco parking lot diners adding just the faintest whiff of quirkiness.
Acme's burgers, as the signage so proudly trumpets, are made from 100% Angus beef and come in either a reasonable 4 oz ($4.75, $6.45 in combo config.w/fries/fountain drink) or a healthy 6 oz ($5.75, $7.45 ). The patty's flame-grilled to order: well-done-but-not-dried-out (sorry folks ACME plays by the rules). The standard supporting cast is all there and all fresh with a tip of the hat to Lick's 'guk' in the form of the creamy, garlicky ACME sauce.
I order the 6 oz. "ACME Burger Signature" combo (6 oz., natch-- $8.75) which adds peameal bacon and a slice of real cheddar, lettuce, tomato, sliced red onion and ACME sauce and couldn't be happier with my choice. It's a testament to the quality of the beef that it is as utterly tasty naked as it is buried in the works-- toothsome and juicy, it stands up well to whatever condiments you throw at it.
The sides also surprise. Upgrade your combo for a buck and get a fantastically ice-creamy milkshake that'll do as nicely for desert as a hangover cure. Choose chubby, onion rings arriving crisp and piping hot, the perfect balance between onion and batter; or in my case, the fries: fresh-cut, English-chip thick, crispy golden outside and fluffy white inside, ready to be sprinkled with a little extra salt and whatever vinegar or ketchup you throw at them; truly some of the the city's best. I personally wouldn't mind a satellite outlet in my neck of the woods if it meant being a little closer to this stand-out spuds.
The service is also exceptional as long as you're not taking pictures of the place. Pleasant and accommodating to any request, they are one more example of how this place exceeds expectations of the run-of-the-mill burger experience.
So the next time you're hunting for home furnishings out south (no, not north) Etobicoke way and have a carnivorous craving, you should definitely be a little wily and head for The ACME Burger Company--Don't let the sign fool you, it's actually decent diner grub just disguised as franchise fodder and perhaps the prototype for a better burger chain-- either way, prepare to be assimilated...