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The Gourmet Burger Company

Posted by Frank / Reviewed on December 12, 2008 / review policy

Gourmet Burger CompanyFancy ground beef grillers like the Burger Shoppe and Craft Burger seem to've popped up faster than organized social behaviour in a colony of Bonobos. Earlier this year when I found myself noshing on an amusing if unremarkable wagyu burger with grilled porcini at Bymark, I figured the upscale burger upward evolutionary trajectory had reached an exhausted apex and despite the attendant hype, I found myself a little underwhelmed by pricey burgers unable to improve on the old stand-bys.

Admittedly, until I came across a post describing one in a food blog awhile back I had no idea that the Aussies even had a burger. What I discovered is that it may just be the best, strangest, most sublime thing since Aussies crossed a duck, a wolverine and a scorpion and called it a 'Platypus'. And Look no further than the recently opened scene-stealing Cabbagetown starlet, The Gourmet Burger Company for one of finest specimens of this chimeric concoction on this or any other continent.

The tiny, tight Parliament Street shop is cozy to the point of claustrophobic, with a few scant high, dark wood stools lining the rough-hewn wooden window counter. The space can accommodate 4 comfortably or 5 intimately - which in the summer is fine since there are more than a few places around to tuck into your burger al fresco, but on a cold, snowy, pre-winter afternoon, be prepared for dirty looks if you linger a little too long over your meal. Luckily, the friendly, efficient staff are exceedingly good at turning around orders which means you never get that cramped, clown-car feeling even during peak periods, although I suspect that might change once the word gets out on how terrific the food here is.

GBC brain-trust and proprietor John Ward, an Aussie ex-pat who honed his culinary chops in the Sydney food scene chose to throw his wide-awake hat into the burger ring with a singular idea: make the best burger possible. Ward says of the Toronto burger Scene: "I've always had a passion for the perfect hamburger, and you just can't buy one in this city. Toronto doesn't know what it's missing and I wanted to change that, plus i got tired of taking a 24hour flight everytime I had a craving for a good burger."

Bold words but the proof is in the tasting and the GBC patty doesn't disappoint. 100% Canadian Honeymans hormone-free 30-day aged beef that's never seen the inside of a freezer is ground in house, seasoned with pepper and "one other spice" that Ward wouldn't divulge. The burger is salted immediately prior to being applied to the grill and results in juicy, flame-kissed patty with a rich, meaty flavour that stands up with gusto to the myriad of gourmet house made topping and condiments on offer (most of which are offered gratis). As good as all the toppings are though, it's the beef that's the star of the show.

Gourmet Burger Company Aussie Burger and Fries

The "Aussie Burger" ($8.50) takes the outstandingly juicy patty and slides it between the halves of a soft crusted egg bun, and tops it with melted marbledcheddar, crisp iceberg leaves, tomatoes (which appear on all the signature burgers), and creamy house mayonnaise. Things are elevated to giddy stratospheres with the addition of bacon, pineapple, braised beets (also produced in-house) and gloriously tops things of with what would otherwise be breakfast in the shape of deliciously salty marbled strips of crisp smoky bacon and a golden-yolked fried egg. The yolk is perfectly runny without being messily so, creating a hollandaise effect which enhances every other topping. I've loved fried eggs on my burgers since my dalliance with the double 'd' and it's something that more burger joints should offer.

Far from being cloyingly sweet the pineapple creates a nice agre-dolce vibe and adds a deliciously novel earthiness to the burger. Though exceedingly substantial this burger will disappear faster than a Tory minority government. And while admittedly, this isn't the cheapest burger you'll ever eat, the price is definitely justified by the sheer volume and high quality of the cast.

Gourmet Burger Company The Works burger

The "Works" burger ($6.95) is yet another essay in seriously wonderful excess. It's topped with sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, bacon, cheddar and mayo. Our burger tester decides to add some complimentary avocado just because you can never have enough of a good thing and is more than pleased to opine that it's like a different burger with every bite!

Enjoy a little burn with your burger? The Spicy Cajun Burger ($5.95) seasoned with a hearty bayou spice blend and dressed with avocado, jalapeno (which come both in the pickled variety and flecked through the havarti melted on top) along with a smoky sweet chipotle & honey mayo.

Even the token veggie brought along says the patty in his burger is probably the best he's ever had and has a hard time believing it's not meat. The only complaint about any of the sandwiches enjoyed on this visit was the fact that the mushrooms and caramelized onions would have been nicer warm than the cold ones that adorn our burgers.

With burgers this good (and substantial enough to make a decent meal solo) it would be easy to ignore the sides but the perfectly salted and greaseless fries which come in chunky skin on potato and shoe-string sweet potato configuration are a welcome addition to any burger ($2.95 a la carte, any burger can also be combo-ed with a side and pop for an extra $3.95). The chubby onion rings ($2.95) are crispy, sweet, and arrive piping hot as well. Next time, I'll be sure to indulge in one of their extra-thick two-scoop milkshakes ($3.25, in either chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry varieties).

Ward makes no secret of how franchise-ready this joint is, beaming when he mentions he's already had several inquiries. And as long as he can keep the quality this high (and maybe add some space for people to eat-in) this GBC could be the next step in burger evolution and will make you very happy you have opposable thumbs to wrap around one of their top-shelf sandwiches.

Gourmet Burger Company With Gusto

I picked John's brain about the state of the Toronto Burger Scene and here's what he said:

What inspired you to start GBC?

I've always had a passion for the perfect hamburger, and you just can't buy one in this city. Toronto doesn't know what it's missing and I wanted to change that, plus i got tired of taking a 24 hour flight everytime I had a craving for a good burger. I thought Torontonians would appreciate and welcome something new and exciting. I've also seen a trend over the last five years toward wholesome non-processed food and that's what we strive for at GBC.

Upscale burgers seem to be increasingly popular in the city. Were you concerned at all that you were entering a market that already had a lot of competitors?

No, because we are completely different from other Gourmet burger businesses. We age our own beef for a minimum of thirty days; we grind our own beef; we add no fillers to our burgers; we make all our own toppings, from braising our beets to our sauces and mayos; and we always grill our burgers to order never pre-grill. I've never seen any other burger shop do that. In fact, I welcome competition because I know we make the best burgers in Toronto.

The test of a good burger is tasting a patty on a bun with no other toppings. If it's juicy, moist and perfectly seasoned then you have a great burger. Most of the other burger shops aren't able to fulfill those criteria. Trust me when I say I tasted a lot of burgers while doing my research!

What do you like on your burger?

Lettuce, tomato, bacon, aged cheddar, pineapple and fried egg with Aussie tomato sauce (which is a less sweet version of Canadian ketchup).

Is there such a thing as too many toppings on a burger?

Never! The great thing about our concept is that you can build your own burger and most of the toppings are complimentary which cuts the cost down for our customers. Everybody has completely different tastes.

We offer some unique burgers and toppings such as fresh beets and a 100% lamb burger which is generally only offered in higher end restaurants.

The Aussie burger's a standard down-under but what made you think of offering it here in Toronto? How's the reception been to it?

The aussie burger is to Australia, what poutine is to Quebec. It's a standard burger across the country and 20 million Aussies can't be wrong! The reception has been amazing, it's one of our top three best selling burgers. I think people are looking for something different and interesting and the flavors work very well together.

I also had a lot of people ask me when I was developing the concept if I would be offering an Aussie burger. I think that a lot of people have traveled to Australia and remember the burger.

photos courtesy David Smith



Paul / December 13, 2008 at 01:52 pm
Looks awesome. Might be time to schedule a trip to the east side...

Has anyone tried the new burger place on Bloor near Ghazale?
joe / December 13, 2008 at 05:05 pm
Where is Ghazle?

I just came from trying out GBC. I enjoyed the novelty of a new and gourmet burger joint. While each burger meal is subjective, even by the number of hours since your last meal, this place doesn't seem to stand above other burger places (think craft, burger shoppe, dangerous dan's, hero, etc). On top of that, if you need to use a washroom to washup before your meal, make a stop at Subway up the street.

I really liked the fries. They were perfectly crisp, buttery and salted but they're very much an unhealthy large portion and I suffer from the inability to portion control. The beef was fresh but lacks juicyness. since the grind their own meat, they could add probably 10% more fat in the mix. It kinda reminded me of eating a whopper. They try to compensate by overloading on the mayo, which just made eating the burger a bit messy.

They're place is quite cramped. We had to wait 5 minutes for the people that were just finishing up to eat their last bit of fries. There were 6 seats in a space that fits only 4 comfortably, which made having to add your own ketchup and mustard to your burger (i don't understand why it was not availale on the menu) that much more inconvenient on top of having to reach between people for the ketchup and mustard bottles.

Overall, it was better than decent. I would come back, but plan to have take out instead of eat in. Gourmet burger doesn't imply gourmet dine in experience.
Chris Orbz replying to a comment from joe / December 13, 2008 at 05:52 pm
joe, Ghazale is next to the Bloor Cinema, at least one location is.

I came up with the pineapple on a burger thing myself a while back... I called it Hawaiian, though. Seems like my Aussie relatives might've frowned to hear that.
R Brandenburg / December 13, 2008 at 10:53 pm
What is it with immigrants who want to brag about their product by taking a cheap shot at Toronto - ie: "I've always had a passion for the perfect hamburger, and you just can't buy one in this city." Is this clown for real! I tried his burger before I read this review. Like so much of what is Australian, the hype is much better than the product.
Bernard Madoff / December 14, 2008 at 04:36 pm
My mouth waters and I get a pretty big semi when I'm planning to eat at GBC...
Neil replying to a comment from R Brandenburg / December 14, 2008 at 04:56 pm
and I'm not sure exactly which burger mecca is on the other end of this 24-hour flight.
Nancy / December 14, 2008 at 05:08 pm
As a recent Canadian ex-pat to New Zealand, I'd have to say that it's the Kiwi's that would frown upon GBC calling it an Aussie. It's quite popular over here and McDonald's apparently agrees since they call their version of the beetroot burger the Kiwiburger. It's got an egg instead of pineapple, but the latter is also a very common burger topping here.
Heather / December 14, 2008 at 09:04 pm
Pineapple on an Aussie burger is news to me. And I thought the egg was a west coast thing only?

Anyone else wanna weight in?
Mike Daniel replying to a comment from R Brandenburg / December 18, 2008 at 12:12 pm
Immigrants!!! Nice one buddy.... Look around you my ignorant friend, those arriving from other countries have made this country what it is. Perhaps you should return to the depths of Alabama to where that attitude still reigns.
Dave.G replying to a comment from Heather / December 18, 2008 at 12:26 pm
Pineapple, fried egg and beet (beetroot as its known down under) are all very popular on burgers down there (I am Australian born and moved here 15 years ago). Its impossible to say that its an Australian invention but I don't think the owner is claiming it is.

I ate at this place 3 days ago and was impressed, I too would have enjoyed a little more seating but eating a burger (for me) isn't a 20 minute process anyway. I didn't have the Auzzie burger (I had aged cheddar and portobello mushrooms) and enjoyed it immensely. Incidentally, I had the $27 burger at ONE a couple of weeks ago, nice but a little precious for my taste, I actually preferred my burger that this place (minus the cute waitress and table cloth)!!!

One person mentioned the idea of not getting ketchup and mustard on your burger... that wasn't my experience, they offered it to me and added it on the burger (maybe they've changed that since their opening).

I think this guy is onto a good thing, I can see other franchises opening soon...
P Gothe replying to a comment from R Brandenburg / December 18, 2008 at 12:47 pm
To the best of my recollection "Brandenburg" isn't a native American surname or tribal name... So only a couple of generations ago your relatives where immigrants... Would you have made that comment if they where in front of you today?

Smarten up pal, use your brain before you open your mouth.
daniel / December 29, 2008 at 02:48 pm
joe / December 30, 2008 at 02:48 pm
daniel. u should try leaving cabbagetown someday and try other burger places.
Peter S. / January 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm
Stopped by yesterday for a burger on the suggestion of a friend and wow was i amazed very good burger.
Loved the large selection of complimentary toppings we had the cajun and smokey bacon burger
Great beef and the onions rings are amazing it was pretty busy so we had to wait a couple of minutes for seating could do with a few more seats thats the only complaint i have.
Oh by the way joe if you think there burgers taste link a whopper you obviously have no idea about a great tasting burger.
going back this weekend to try there Aussie burger sounds very interesting.
Peter S. replying to a comment from R Brandenburg / January 5, 2009 at 11:06 pm
Brandenburg the guy was probably joking my god lighten up buddy.
Rolf Harris / January 7, 2009 at 07:16 am
I'm a dinky-di, true blue Aussie and I'd have to agree, the guy sounds like a bit of a dickhead.

Hey Ward, where's the beetroot?
Judy / January 9, 2009 at 02:02 pm
Went there last night because of the article in the Star and all I can say is yummy. I had the Works and it was so good! I will be going back often!
Andrew / January 19, 2009 at 11:58 pm
Aussie burgers from home do not have pineapple and the beetroot is not sauteed.. we open the can and add, and no cheese. Must be a Sydney thing.

And to the NZ person above, McDonald's calls your kiwiburger an Aussieburger in Oz because that's what it is! A kiwiburger is a burger that wants to migrate to Sydney to get a better job. LOL.

V / January 26, 2009 at 02:58 pm
I just had my first GBC burger about 40 minutes ago. What a disappointment!

In short: clean joint, $$, burger bun was cold, patty lacked seasoning and overall flavour, they forgot the onions, the sweet potato fries were mediocre.

GBC gets branding and presentation right, however without flavourfull food the buzz is soon to end. This joint is definitely NOT GOURMET (way to set yourself for failure with your company name), mediocre at best.
papa / February 6, 2009 at 09:07 am
tried this place last night. (the aussie burger). it was alright. I'm sticking with Craft though. the meat is way tastier. and for some reason, it's the bun that really kills the GBC burger for me.
Stephanie replying to a comment from Paul / July 7, 2009 at 06:36 pm
My burger seems to have shrunk since the last time I ordered... and the lettuce was limp.
If it wasnt down the street from me, I would probably go elsewhere for a 8 dollar burger....
Haper / October 1, 2009 at 09:06 pm
Well, the Tory minority government never "disappeared quickly", or at all...In fact, it seems to be on the verge of a majority. *snicker*

Poor liberals...all they have left is low-end j-jobs talking about burgers. Not as if they are running anything in this country anymore. (And thank heavens for that!) :-)
Brian / March 25, 2010 at 11:23 pm
Awesome burgers, I love the Australian. I herd they are opening up a second location closer to the downtown core.
Steve / September 3, 2010 at 02:16 pm
I would like to point out for the record that the current Tory minority government has been in power for years now.
kyle / September 17, 2010 at 11:06 pm
This is a good burger. Not at the top level of gourmet burgers but better than most. I gave it a "What A Treat" rating on my burger blog.
Marcus / October 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm
The best burger in the city is from the GOLDEN STAR at Yonge and Steeles. Established in 1966, the GOLDEN STAR has been a landmark in the Thornhill area for decades. The only classic 'burger joint' left in the city is operated by three generations of the 'Star' family. The gentleman pictured in the restaurant is none other than Mr. Star himself. The star is so legendary it even has its own song: " The Golden Star is the best by far, you come from near and you come from far. Its the best by far, you can even take your car."
Rosa / December 26, 2010 at 02:14 am
Hamburger is okay, nothing spectacular.
The only reason I go back is because of the variety selection of toppings and sauces.
cee / February 18, 2011 at 10:51 am
I had the Aussie burger last week and the yolk was completely hard and overcooked. When I told the guy at the counter he was supremely rude and told me it was supposed to be that way. When I told him I'd had the burger there before as well as eaten many of them in Australia he just shrugged. Now I'm sad because I don't want to give them any more business, but I love Aussie burgers. Somebody else, please start making them!
Ritaboutit / May 19, 2011 at 03:55 pm
GBC is a place for people who are more focused on the toppings than on the meat.
That's all you need to know.
r weir replying to a comment from R Brandenburg / June 21, 2011 at 08:05 pm
you just stick to your big macs from u s of a
Wayne / June 30, 2011 at 03:55 pm
The food is pretty good which is why I go back. Other than that the customer service (not difficult in that kind of establishment) is very poor. It's not hard to say "Hi" to the customer when they come in and "Thank you" when they leave. I always say "please" when making my order and I'm consistently (not always) met with no response and a sour look.
CBear / August 27, 2011 at 08:52 pm
I am always in search of a good burger in the city. I have to say I was truly disappointed with this burger. It was small, dry, and flavourless. Also, the bun was a mile high and killed any chance of actually seeing or tasting the patty. I would rather get a burger from Chew Chew's (Sherbourne/Carlton), or Scallywags (Yonge/St.Clair)! Not impressed with the atmosphere, or the apathetic texting staff. Too bad. :(
CBear replying to a comment from V / August 27, 2011 at 08:54 pm
I absolutely agree.
JS / January 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm
that guy eating the burger looks like a f***ing vampire
Amy / February 24, 2012 at 04:44 pm
I work and live in the cabbagetown.
The quality and quantity of the portions is slipping everytime I go.
I really do enjoy the variety of toppings and sauces. However, I would never say it's close to Dangerous Dans. I'd rather wait for the delivery from DD's than walk down the street to get Gourmet Burger.
It's way way too expensive. Surly service. Long wait times.

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