Bareburger is an organic burger chain with New York City origins going back to 2009. Over the past six years, it's quickly expanded from one restaurant to over 20 throughout the Big Apple and beyond. In January, it opened its first location outside of the U.S. in our fair city at Dundas West and Bay St. (franchises in Japan, Germany and the UAE are set to open soon as well).
Including the bar area, this Toronto location seats 61, and it's outfitted with lots of wood furniture and finishings, high ceilings, exposed pipes and occasional hits of quirk like "tough like a ukulele" written in fluorescent lights (a reference to Dr. Octagon's "Earth People" ?)
There are also neon-coloured bear heads on the walls. It's nice to see that it's not a total cookie cutter version of the one I visited last year at its second location on the Upper East Side.
While the menu is basically the same at every Bareburger, the bar program here is different from its American counterparts due to the chain's emphasis on keeping things local.
This particular bar stocks local Ontario craft brews (Beau's, Junction Craft Brewing, Side Launch, Nickel Brook, Thornbury Cider, etc.) on tap and in bottles, and its signature cocktails are made with local and/or small batch spirits (like Dillon's). Wine strays from local territory, with a small selection of reds and whites from South America or Spain.
The Arnold Palmer ($3.45) is a quasi-secret beverage since you won't find it on the menu, and it's definitely an American thing to order: a mix of unsweetened iced tea and lemonade.
Another U.S.-import is the fair trade, caffeine-free and organically sweetened Maine Root bottles of handcrafted sodas. The Sarsparilla ($3.25) is like a lighter, whiter root beer, and a pleasure to drink since it's not overly sweet.
As for food, the focus is on organic, all natural ingredients with local sourcing, and all gluten free, vegan or items that contain nuts are clearly marked on the menu.
Greens-wise, the Guapo Chop (small $11.95, large $15.95) contains little gems of romaine, cheese curds, pickled jalapenos, red onions, pico de gallo, guacamole, tortilla chips and avocado basil dressing. It's kind of like a nacho salad; a combination of creamy, crunchy and spicy.
Of course, the main event here is the burger. All the meats are free-range, pasture raised, antibiotic-, gluten- and hormone-free, and you can build your own burger by choosing your patty - basic beef, turkey or vegan (quinoa, black bean or sweet potato and wild rice) versions start at $9.80.
Add a bit more for game (bison! duck! elk! wild boar!), then pick a bun (brioche, sprout or wrapped in collard green, +$1.65 for hemp milk), toppings (various cheeses, bacon and veggies) and sauces (too many to mention). If you'd rather keep decisions to a minimum, choose from 14 pre-set versions ($11.15-$14.55).
One of the signature burgers is the Supreme ($13.20): beef patty, colby cheese, fruitwood bacon, lettuce, onion ring, chopped fries and special sauce on a brioche bun, with a couple of gargantuan onion rings piled on top.
Its sheer height is daunting, and you'll likely need to cut it down into smaller bites. The patty is cooked to medium well and the entire thing makes for a tasty - if messy - combo. You certainly don't need to order sides with this since it already comes with onion rings and fries.
"Bare Shares" are sides that should definitely be shared (the portions are large), and include onion rings and sweet potato fries ($10.95) that come with four dipping sauces (smoke sauce, special sauce, habanero mayo and curry ginger ketchup), and poutine ($9.95), a necessary addition to the Canadian menu, where optional slices of smoky brisket ($3.85) can be added on top.
It's also worth mentioning that the table condiments, Sir Kensington's all-natural ketchup and mustard, are top notch - they're healthier than their Heinz/French's competition but don't sacrifice flavour.
We try the snickerdoodle with roasted marshmallow ice cream, and the soft, chewy cinnamon sugar cookie is a nice complement to one of Greg's most famous ice cream flavours.
Overall, this is a good place to go if you're willing to pay to eat quality ingredients. The fact that almost everything is locally sourced, in addition to being organic and all natural, is a big draw. Just don't confuse that with eating healthy - I'm pretty sure that the Supreme's name also lends that trait in terms of calories and fat - but boy, does it taste good.
Photos by Jesse Milns.