Bamburger, which opened in May on Yonge a few blocks south of Eglinton subway station, is a place I'd heard mixed opinions of.
Finding the best burger in Toronto seems to have become a more common pursuit since the glut of 'gourmet' burger establishments sprung up as part of the apparently recession-ushered trend towards trussed-up comfort food began a few years ago.
Bamburger can certainly be grouped in with the not-much-change-from-$10 crowd that includes Burger Shoppe and Gourmet Burger, though it does have its own distinguishing features.
Although everything on the menu is available for take out, Bamburger, with its plentiful booth seating and wine selection, is more geared towards eating in than its fellow ground chuck peers. Bamburger also eschews offering any signature burgers in favour of total customization. This means that everything from the bun to the type of condiments has to be chosen individually (horseradish fans rejoice!).
While this theoretically means that everyone can construct their fantasy burger, regardless of how bizarre their tastes (potential toppings include tzatziki, mango chutney, curry sauce or pineapple) it also means that anything above the $7.95 basic burger, even pickles, will cost you extra. It should be noted, however, that fries are included in the price of any basic burger and substituting onion rings etc. is only $1 extra.
Paying per topping seems to be the crux of most of the grumbling about Bamburger that I've heard and certainly, if you object to the notion on principle, you'd be better going elsewhere.
On the night we visit Bamburger, we're plenty hungry and very much in the mood for constructing our own gorge-burgers.
My friend orders original beef Bamburger ($7.95) with extra blue cheese ($1.75) brie ($1.75), maple bacon ($1.75) with a side of sweet potato fries ($1).
Our photographer gets the portobello mushroom sandwich ($9.95), which is essentially two sizable grilled portobello mushrooms stuffed into a whole wheat bun with red onion, provolone, tomato and garlic mayonnaise, served with fries. She also adds a generous side of spicy chipotle mayonnaise ($1.35) for dipping.
Someone has to get the double-sized patty BamBamburger ($11.50), so my friend gamely volunteers, electing for a whole wheat bun and sweet potato fries on the side.
I go for the original Bamburger, topped with the house cheddar sauce ($1.75) and buttery mushrooms ($1.75). The food arrives quickly and we're all pleased with the crisp but not desiccated sweet potato fries. The BamBamburger is impressive looking and has the heft to defeat all but the most determined burger fiend. The burger patties themselves are well cooked, neither too oily or too dry but the meat could do with a little more seasoning as it's slightly bland.
As the desserts are all made in-house and are available in either regular sized or a post-burger mini-portion for 99 cents, we all follow up with a second course.
The mini brownie is bigger than we expected and comes topped with Kawartha vanilla ice cream. The desserts are all delicious, which comes as a welcome surprise from a restaurant that specializes in the savoury. The brownie, which is moist and densely chocolatey, emerges as our group favourite.
The ultimate combo ($2.95) is comprised of miniature versions of the hot fudge sundae, apple Betty and brownie.
After bracing ourselves for possible disappointment, we all leave Bamburger satisfied. It might not be as worthy of a special trip as Gourmet Burger, but with the myriad of possible variations on the basic burger that it offers, Bamburger is at least a notable contender.
Photos by Emma McIntyre.