W Burger Bar
Toronto has a lot to be depressed about, but W Burger Bar, a new eatery at Yonge and College, has developed a formula to heal us.
Their solution to the pains of a bad economy, pandemic fears, and the onset of winter is simple: burgers, booze and boobs. Lest this heady trio of indulgences get your guilt-o-meter soaring, W Burger Bar donates a portion of all proceeds to Sick Kids, ensuring each visit will mix the joy of sin with the satisfaction of redemption.
But first, the sins. W Burger Bar is foremost a hamburger joint, and their comfort-food menu is anchored on a solid selection of burgers. Emphasizing locally sourced, antibiotic-free meats and fish, and a host of vegetarian options, the menu isn't all guilty pleasures, but the meats and toppings are so tasty, it might as well be.
At $5.75, the Pure Beef Burger is succulence for a steal, the Rowe Farms beef providing, hands down, the most flavourful patty I've had this year. I shelled an extra $2.50 for "Aussie Rules" toppings, and graced my fresh, house-baked bun and burger with the singular flavours of fried egg, pineapple and pickled beets. I'll tell you something: those Aussies sure know how to sex up a hamburger.
It was challenging not to order the delicious Pure Beef Burger on a subsequent visit, but I selflessly sacrificed my desires for the sake of this review, requesting the Lamb Burger ($10.95) and a Quebecois Poutine ($6.95) instead. I also brought a friend, who got the Fresh Panko Breaded Chicken Tenders ($9.95) and a half-order of Macaroni and Cheese ($4.95).
We started with the poutine. A solid Toronto approximation, it was fresh golden fries, salty beef gravy, and a scattering of soft curds. Quebecois diners would have my pretty Anglo head on a platter for saying it was the real Montreal deal, but I quite enjoyed it.
Next stop on our palatable pilgrimage was the Macaroni and Cheese, the only dish on our journey that gave cause for penance. Despite perfectly al dente cavatappi (long macaroni curls) fresh mozzarella, and dried cilantro, the dish was overwhelmed by the plasticky taste of processed cheddar. Co-owner Frank Weshler assured me that the full-sized version, which is baked to a crisp, is better, but with so many solidly tasty alternatives, I'm not sure I'd order this again.
Panko Chicken Tenders, however, will definitely be on my plate next time. Fashioned from the soft muscle of the inner chicken breast and cooked till juicy in a dusting of crisp panko, they are a delight. The light panko allows the delectable chicken to take its rightful place as the dish's star flavour.
Although similarly juicy, W Burger Bar's Lamburger was subtler than both the chicken tenders and the beef burger. I ate mine in a wrap of bib lettuce, with menu-recommended cilantro yoghurt, mint sauce and alfalfa sprouts, plus a side of beets.
W Burger Bar serves a mean hamburger, but it's ripe for a sausage party, too. Female wait staff chirpily offer suggestions and shuttle dishes from kitchen to table, but good luck focusing on the teeming dining room, as their translucent pink v-necks and black bras emphasize bust over bustle. With such quality food on hand, the see-through tops seem unnecessarily tawdry, and I wish management would let the genuinely sinful mains speak for themselves. That said, I am guilty of my own indulgences, and will return to try W's confession-worthy after work special (2 mini burgers, a shooter and a beer for $9.95) and its boozy milkshakes.
A true believer, I know where all this booze and beef will take me, and I'm happy to go there: Heaven.