Carl's Jr. is now open on Queen St. West, occupying the corner lot where HMV used to be. This is the second Toronto location for the American burger chain in as many months (the first being at Yonge and St. Clair).
I've eaten a Carl's Jr. hamburger before - my first taste happened last year in the departure lounge at the Las Vegas airport. I recall a greasy-beyond-belief burger as being one of the most regrettable decisions I'd made that weekend... one that made me feel worse than blowing all my cash gambling or drinking a boot-sized margarita.
I'm willing to concede that the Vegas airport might not have been Carl's finest representation, so I'm here for a redo and ready to see how this place stacks up in a neighbourhood already saturated with burger joints.
The expansive dining room offers a mix of comfortable upholstered booths and tables, as well as as a separate coffee corner/milkshake bar. Digital menu boards herald the counter where orders are placed. After cashing out, guests can retreat to a table to which staff will deliver your food.
The Original Six Dollar burger costs $7.49 here - which seems like some cruel joke. I don't have high hopes, but when I open the cardboard box I'm pleasantly surprised: A+ for presentation. This is a good looking burger, obviously assembled with great care.
It's built on a glossy house-baked bun and comes piled high with a standard assortment of toppings and oozing condiments. The patty itself seems thicker than the Quarter Pounder from the competitor, but the meat is just as processed and not especially juicy or flavourful.
The Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwich ($4.59) is one of several poultry options on offer from a roster of fried chicken and charbroiled selections. This one is hastily slapped together, the generic bun isn't nearly as tasty as the burger bun. Size-wise, it sure is a junior sandwich.
Aggressively seasoned Crisscut Fries ($2.99) are a nice novelty and might prove even more tempting in poutine form ($4.99). Alternative sides include onion rings ($3.49), natural hand cut fries ($2.19-$2.89), as well as chili cheese fries ($4.49).
Overall, this Carl's Jr. left a far more favourable impression than my first experience. Was it tastier, better quality or significantly cheaper than the other options in close proximity? Maybe not. It does however serve breakfast biscuits, so I may be back for round three yet.
Photos by Jesse Milns