The Burger Cellar
The Burger Cellar ushers in another gourmet burger joint to Toronto, this one near the corner of Yonge and Lawrence. The thing about the Burger Cellar is that it doesn't look like a burger place at all. The outside could easily be mistaken for a neighbourhood Italian restaurant (maybe smart marketing in this part of town) with a black and white banner and logo that I first thought was an upside down wine glass. (thanks to commenter D for pointing out it's a hamburger with a cork screw stuck in the top)
Inside, the space feels welcoming and comfortable. There's a fireplace, plenty of warm red tones, a bar with a wine cellar and a couple of flatscreen TVs.
I ask for the The Original Classic Burger with Kobe beef ($13) but was quickly denied with a "Sorry, but we're out of that." Since they just opened last week I can appreciate they're still figuring things out - like actually buying ingredients listed on the menu.
For my second choice - a tough one between the "Natural" or "AAA Black Angus" beef - I ultimately settled on the Natural ($8), a plain burger with no garnishes. The garnishes come extra, you see, so I ponied up an extra dollar each for smoked applewood bacon and mozzarella di la fiore.
The burger (top photo) was a decent size - comparable with those from Gourmet Burger (just north of Yonge and Eglinton). The apple smoked bacon looked, smelled and tasted...real...crispy, with the oil still simmering on top. The mozzarella was soft and savoury as it should be and they didn't skimp on the serving.
The beef, however, appeared dry and plain but thankfully tasted better than it looked with a juicy middle and crisp exterior. It wasn't a perfect burger and for the price I've certainly had plenty cheaper ones in Toronto with more flavour. If I had to sum it up, I enjoyed the toppings better than the patty itself. Maybe I'll just order $8 worth of those next time.
Hungry for more I then decided to order the Turkey Burger ($11) but their supplier must have been been short (with Thanksgiving and all) as they were sold out of that as well.
I was now in the mood for fowl and since there wasn't a chicken burger option on the menu my friendly guide suggested the Chicken Sandwich ($9) instead - and to make up for the disappointment, he'd serve it on a bun.
So out came the chicken burger, uh...sandwich. It was a mess. The chicken, barely visible, was drenched in tomato and avocado salsa and Swiss cheese with the bun seemingly engulfing the meat. But this was hardly the bun's fault. This was not a big piece of chicken by any means. It was somewhat tender with a delicate crisp on the surface, but hardly noticeable. It was also lacking that good ol' char grill smell and flavour.
As a side, I decided to take my chances with the sweet potato fries ($5). They couldn't mess that up, could they? Sure enough, out came the sweet potato fries engulfed in an odd, indistinguishable odor. They tasted bland.
Overall, the Burger Cellar was a bit of a letdown. They've put money into the decor and wine list but I'm not sure if that's what people want from a burger place. I certainly won't rush back. But I do wish them luck and hope that things get better. Until then, there are just too many other (and better) burger places in Toronto at which I'd rather spend my bucks.