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Best of Toronto

The Best Old-School Burgers in Toronto

Posted by Robyn Urback / December 5, 2011

burgers torontoThe best old-school burgers in Toronto might as well just flip the.. uh.. "bun" at rosemary-garlic mayo, balsamic reductions, and portobello mushroom toppings. There's nothing gourmet about these burgers; they're meat--fresh, charbroiled, and juicy--a messy slop of (mostly cold) toppings, and a white bun. That's it. Paired with some greasy fries and a thick shake, the best old-school burgers in Toronto are that classic guilty pleasure that never seems to change.

While Toronto proper is certainly dominating the gourmet burger scene, the best old-school burgers--according to this list, at least--are often found outside of the downtown bubble; in Etobicoke, Scarborough, or other areas that haven't yet been infiltrated by the powers of truffle paste. And perhaps as a rule, some of the best-tasting old-school burgers are made in some of the worst-looking places. Though who says plastic booths are out?

Here are the best old-school burgers in Toronto.

See also:

The best burger in Toronto
The best cheeseburgers in Toronto
The best fries in Toronto
The best poutine in Toronto

Apache Burgers

Apache Burgers

Apache Burgers conquered the Etobicoke arena for best old-school burger a long time ago, back when its fluorescent signage and tiled walls were still in style. The thin burger comes topped with all the regular fixings, sandwiched in a fresh, white bun, and priced at $4.19. Onion rings, which are massive, are a choice side. More »

Johnny's Charbroiled Hamburgers

Johnny's Charbroiled Hamburgers

There's something charming about those late-night burger spots with only outdoor seating, and something even more charming about a fantastic classic burger to be had for only $3.20. That's Johnny's. Juicy, flavourful, and always without lettuce. Most go with fried onions or fries (obviously) alongside. More »

Burger Shack

Burger Shack

While the company can be questionable (drunk teens or Coffee Time regulars), Burger Shack serves up one of the best old school burgers in the Yonge and Eglinton area. Charbroiled, meaty patties are placed in a regular bun, and customers can pick and choose toppings from a station behind glass. Just be on the lookout for mascara stains and sexting. $3.25 More »

Golden Star

Golden Star

Golden Star has barely changed at all since it opened in the '60s, and neither, for that matter, have its burgers. No frills or anything fancy, Golden Star's regular charbroiled burger starts at $4.20 and usually is a bit too big for the bun. Which, for me, is a good thing. More »

Square Boy

Square Boy

While Square Boy's souvlaki may be a huge draw for regulars, its burgers are definitely in the top-menu-item running. Or else, maybe it's simply the amazing prices. Square Boy's square charbroiled burger, paired with fries and a drink, can be had for $5 and change. Old-school taste with old-school prices. More »

Magoo's

Magoo's

Magoo's freshly made burgers are available in two sizes, 4oz or 6oz, and are certainly in demand in the Etobicoke area. Don't stop by around noon, in other words, unless you like big crowds. Magoo sauce, despite how totally unappetizing it sounds, completes the burger. Priced at $4.25 or $4.85. More »

The Real McCoy

The Real McCoy

To say the burgers here are the real McCoy would be cliche, so let's just call them real good. While the Mojo burger is definitely a favourite, the classic homemade burger will do more than satiate those meat-related cravings, topped with all the regular fixings and served on a fresh bun. More »

Dairy Freeze

Dairy Freeze

It might look a little scary from the outside, but Dairy Freeze's burgers are worth a saunter inside. (Though perhaps not alone after dark.) For just $3.49, you can indulge in a classic comfort food that will wreck your diet, and yet, fill you with all sorts of pleasure. Dairy Freeze's fries and/or onion rings are perfect companions. More »

Jumbo Burgers

Jumbo Burgers

The burgers here are pretty jumbo, though more in diameter than in height (as most old-school burgers are). Charbroiled and served in an unchanged setting, these burgers can easily stand alone ($3.90), or else, paired with onion rings or fresh cut fries. More »

Discussion

45 Comments

Lucas / December 5, 2011 at 10:20 am
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Apache as number 1?!?! Apache burger sucks ass. If you're in the area go to Magoo's instead.
YUM / December 5, 2011 at 10:21 am
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huahaghghgalaagh Burger Shaaaaaaack
Erik / December 5, 2011 at 10:25 am
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I'm confused--why is Burger's Priest considered 'gourmet' and not 'old school?' Unless, of course, it IS considered 'old school' and didn't make this list, but that would be preposterous.
JoeCarter / December 5, 2011 at 10:25 am
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Magoo's pretty much raised me. They sponsored my hockey team, my soccer team and my baseball team growing up. Best place - amazing food.
Tim replying to a comment from Erik / December 5, 2011 at 10:29 am
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Our definition of old school is meant to only include burger places that are actually old - the places that have been around for decades long before the gourmet burger trend arrived.
Diana / December 5, 2011 at 10:32 am
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YES!!! JUMBO BURGER!!!!
i've been going there since i was little, the same dudes are still flipping their awesome burgers! it is worth the travel to the west end :)
Shawn / December 5, 2011 at 10:48 am
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Only one place within about 30 mins of the financial district via TTC; are you happy now, 905ers?
AV / December 5, 2011 at 10:48 am
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The best thing about Jumbo Burger is their interior... same was it was going back 30 years with the best "retro" tiles anywhere around
Tanya / December 5, 2011 at 11:02 am
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Johnny's is so gross. Second place is undeserved. If you're eating a burger in Scarborough, go to McCoy's
DuffoutLaw / December 5, 2011 at 11:04 am
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Golden Star has the best burger in the GTA. Should be number 1 on this list.
Toronto Todd replying to a comment from Shawn / December 5, 2011 at 11:06 am
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Two, actually. You have an outside shot of getting to Square Boy in under 30 minutes.
lola / December 5, 2011 at 11:25 am
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Golden Star is fabulous - a nice big sloppy burger that drips down your wrists. But whatever you do, make sure you get the more-expensive "homeburger" not the frozen patty cheaper burger. There is a huge difference. Their fries and onion rings are also very good.
danielle / December 5, 2011 at 11:46 am
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Oh brother - another '905er' comment. I've lived in this city my entire life, and I gotta say, I'm always very suspicious about those in the comments section making the 905 jabs. Are you all self-loathing former 905 dwellers yourselves, desperate to shed your old skins? When I want to check out something interesting or new, I'm willing to venture beyond the narrow confines of the downtown core. Be adventurous - there's a whole world out there beyond Queen Street!
Ritaboutit / December 5, 2011 at 11:55 am
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As a past contributor and fan of blogto, I have to say that I can now barely stand the site. You have the gone of the way of NOW Magazine I.e redundant categorical "best ofs" where everything is always good. The ridiculousness continues with this one; Apache is not what is was twenty years ago and Magoos, who identifies themself as gourmet is nothing more than an over cooked lean beef patty. No grease or processed cheese there. I often wonder if your current contributors actually eat the food or perhaps it's that they kno nothing about food in the first place?
CarrotsAndGlue / December 5, 2011 at 11:58 am
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Was it Johnny's that was fined for serving horse a while back?
burgers / December 5, 2011 at 12:09 pm
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The homemade burger at Golden Star is unreal. Can't be beat. Nothing else in the GTA comes close.
JS / December 5, 2011 at 12:13 pm
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Dairy Freeze is the real deal people. I've never been so amazed, yet grossly satisfied by a burger before eating there. I recommend the onion rings too but only if you aren't afraid of eating such monstrosities.
rbigmac replying to a comment from Tanya / December 5, 2011 at 12:17 pm
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Sorry Tanya need to disagree about The Real McCoy over Johnys for being clean...both have that greasy interior look and feel and thats from serving a zillion burgers over the years...I do enjoy both but would pick the Real McCoy over Johny's
pohop / December 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm
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Wow you guys really know nothing about burgers... There is no redeeming quality to a burger that is charbroiled. It leads to an unevenly cooked burger that are more than likely overcooked, which actually is good, because most of the meat from these places is of the bulk-bought pre-ground variety. Taste was obviously not a factor in this ranking, this was all about sentimentality and nostalgia. And calling burgers from The Burger's Priest (admittedly pretty overrated in its own right) part of the "gourmet trend" demonstrates your lack of burger knowledge.
Bela / December 5, 2011 at 12:37 pm
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How did Apache Burgers even make this list? That place is overrated. Food is greasy and gross. The service is horrible. Not sure what the hype is about that place. I rather eat at Harvey's.
nh replying to a comment from Erik / December 5, 2011 at 01:46 pm
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"old school" appears to be synonymous with "shitty"
Barb C / December 5, 2011 at 01:47 pm
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You know, it would be really helpful if you could standardize your reporting of the Top 10's to include the location directly under the business name (e.g. Yonge & Eglinton, Toronto or Kipling & Dundas, Etobicoke) so that we could see at a glance if we are likely to check it out, without having to click through to another page or a map to find the location. Your copy sometimes mentions a location, but not consistently.
Conjunction / December 5, 2011 at 01:49 pm
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Just had a banquet burger at Jumbo on Saturday. Wow, maybe not gourmet, but delicious and not $10!

Both Apache and Dairy Freeze were good like 20 years ago but now? I guess if you're drunk.
Bobby / December 5, 2011 at 03:27 pm
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Square Boy is brutal, I'd rather eat at MCdonald's than most of these spots
andrew / December 5, 2011 at 06:13 pm
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Magoos ain't old school style. but funnily enough if you order an "old school" which is off the menu I believe they'll give you a bun sans meat and you can fill it with their delicious toppings, a veggie alternative.
Tom / December 5, 2011 at 06:19 pm
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Also surprised Apache even made the list. It's been a staple in Etobicoke for the years, but for the last while the quality as slipped big time. I live almost across the street and I haven't been there in a long time. Worst buns ever? Also got sick of lining the owners pocket with their cash only policy, so he can buy him and his son another couple Mercedes AMGs.
McRib replying to a comment from pohop / December 5, 2011 at 07:19 pm
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burgers are a very serious business.
ian / December 6, 2011 at 09:30 am
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Collegiate Grill on Gerrard (near Jones) should be on there! Amazing old-school burgers/restaurant, and pretty much the nicest staff ever. One of those places that will be destroyed by yuppie gentrification unless people start eating there.
Chris / December 6, 2011 at 11:39 am
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I'm really surprised that People's Foods on Dupont didn't make the list. The 6.5 oz Jumburger is a classic, and their giant onion rings are some of the best in the city. The staff is great - Tommy, who waits the tables, is a total mensch.
Rico / December 6, 2011 at 08:53 pm
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Oh ya, baby. Square Boy & Burger Shack. Freeze is ok. Burger's Priest is average and shouldn't be on any list. Great Burger Kitchen much better. 905 not even worth mentioning. Yes I was born a true downtown 416.
Derek / December 10, 2011 at 12:24 am
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Sizzlers on Yonge St. just north of college is pretty awesome downtown old school burger and fries.
Derek / December 10, 2011 at 12:25 am
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Big M's in Pickering is pretty awesome burger as well.
Gabe / December 10, 2011 at 12:32 am
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You gotta be able to pick your own toppings and sauce to build your own burger...
goobie / December 14, 2011 at 06:31 pm
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I'm beginning to wonder if it's the prices that they are going on when it comes to defining them as the "Best Old School Burgers". I can't say Square boys is one but the rest of their stuff rocks... Just surprised Lick's or Mr Tasty's isn't listed..
Carlton60 / February 29, 2012 at 02:17 pm
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Johnny's, apache et al make this list, not because they necessarily have the best food but it's about the whole experience. Being from Scarboro myself, Johnny's is more of a local tradition, there's dos and donts while ordering ( ask for lettuce from one of the old Greek guys... I dare ya!) and a nostalgia about eating at one of the ruddy old picnic tables or off the hood of your car that can't be replicated. That's why they win top spots in these lists... We're not looking for locally sourced organic beef or sea salted fries, just real, old cranky Greek guys yelling at you for assuming there might be lettuce.
Dan / April 20, 2012 at 04:45 am
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I've checked out some of the new kids on the block (Holy Chuck), which were amazing, but I'm always loyal to the Burger Shack. Growing up in the Forest Hill/Yonge and Eglinton area, and having many friends from Thorn Hill, a classic debate would always be Shack vs Golden Star(another great burger). The great thing about these places is a lot of them are neighborhood institutions.
COSPLAY / September 26, 2012 at 11:20 pm
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Square Boy is brutal, I'd rather eat at MCdonald's than most of these spots
John / October 12, 2012 at 10:06 am
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Appache is all hype nothing else. I can't believe Magoos is on this list as well. Where is Sliders on Queensway? Those are some damn good burgers.
Henry / October 23, 2012 at 08:46 pm
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For simeone who just wants a burguer from an independent restaurant Apache was great!! Went there once when I was around etobicoke. If I am hungry around there and looking for Burguer, Apache is tr place.
Tkguy / April 13, 2013 at 10:35 am
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Apache used to be very good ...20 years ago...not the same now....

..Golden Star is VERY GOOD.... and yes the Home Burger will make you smile...!!
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Gabe / June 9, 2013 at 12:11 am
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SQUARE BOY!!!!! CLASSIC!!!!!!
Gabe / June 9, 2013 at 12:16 am
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The best burgers in the area. The best chicken dinners. Fries. Souvlaki. Gravy. SQUARE BOY!
n / April 27, 2014 at 01:28 am
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Detroit eatery???..no mention?...Top 5 banquet burgers in the city of toronto...

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