Parts & Labour Burger, hold the hipsters!

The last time I went to Parkdale hipster dive Parts & Labour was a couple years back, when due to a double booking, uber-loud sludge duo The Body ended up sharing the bill with some indie dance rock outfit in their basement concert space.  Suffice to say, The Body went on first, and sent the hispters scurrying to the nearest vegan art gallery, heh heh.

That said, while I never tried the food, I heard that place made a pretty good burger.  So when it eventually opened a burger-only offshoot not nearly as far West on Queen Street, I figured I’d eventually stop by.  If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good burger

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The P&L’s Philly Burger comes topped with fresh mushrooms, sauteed onions, hot peppers and some good ol’ American cheese sauce.  All that’s missing is the steak, but with this thick, crumbly slab of beef, you don’t really miss it.  They must not use any binders in their burgers, cuz the patty falls apart all over the place, necessitating the use of several napkins…which probably isn’t environmentally conscious.  But paired with a side of thick-cut, juicy fries, it’ll fill ya up for that mid-afternoon drinking session.  (Go Jays Go!)  And the best part?  Not an indie rocker in site!

The P&L Burger, 507 Queen St West.  Open Saturdays 11 am to 11 pm.  Apparently, they deliver, too…

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John Catucci is a true Canadian!

It’s Friday, which can only mean one thing: back-to-back new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here!  When I first heard about the Food Network show, Canada’s answer to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I figured it had to be a pale imitation that could only thank CANCON regulations for its existence.  But y’know what, I think I actually like our version better now, and not just because I can actually walk to some of the places I’ve seen on the show.

Put it this way: YGEH! host John Catucci is not the Canadian Guy Fieri…and that’s a good thing!  Although I still watch his show–for the food–the bleach-blond broseph has been getting on my nerves lately, and not just because they brought my food to the wrong table at his American Kitchen and Bar.  When an old episode of Triple-D comes on, ever notice how Guy wasn’t covered in awful-looking tattoos back in the day?  And man, his catchphrases have become so cliche that even everyday diners on You Gotta Eat Here! are using them now.  Hmm, I wonder if Food Network Canada owes him royalties for that…

But while Fieri spends more time hobnobbing with Kid Rock and the cast of Grown-Ups 2 (ever the arbiter of terrible taste) than he does helping in the kitchen, The Catooch, as he’s affectionately called, is not afraid to get his hands dirty.  I must admit, I was entirely unfamiliar with the Canadian actor/comedian beforehand, previously best known for his role on the CBC children’s show The Doodlebops.  But he’s won me over with his self-effacing humour, his kind and gentle demeanour…and most importantly, his equal love of plaid and food.  When I watch the program, I think “Now there’s a guy who could eat as many hamburgers in one day as I can!”  Or maybe not;)

In a nutshell, what makes Catucci so endearing to Canadian viewers is his utter Canadianness.  Even the tagline “I’m not a chef, but I know great food when I eat it!” gives the impression that he’s not some overinflated, egotistical Texan, but just your ordinary, average Canuck, the kinda guy you’d like to have a beer with.  And hey, although I don’t live in the area anymore, if John ever visits Puck ‘n Wings or Burrito Bandidos in The Annex, I wanna be in that episode!  Dude, those wings are bananas, and bananas is goodTM!

TMGuy Fieri

I survived… the infamous Rochester garbage plate!

Rochester, New York might only be 75 miles from Buffalo, but if you think it’s a wing town, think again.  Sure, they serve chicken wings, like every other place on the planet, but their local culinary special is much closer to a French-Canadian classic.  In fact, it’s kinda like poutine on steroids…if steroids make you fatter.

The garbage plate was invented by local eatery Nick Tahou Hots, which owns both the trademark and the domain name.  The basic idea is to take french fries and/or macaroni salad, throw a buncha meat on top, then top with chili and cheese sauce.  I guess they called it the garbage plate cuz “heart attack on a plate” was already taken.  Mind you, while Nick’s mighta been the originators of this culinary creation (waaaay back in 1918!), most local diners, drive-ins and/or dives offer some variation of the plate–whether they call it a sloppy plate, a junkyard dog plate, or, in the case of the Marshall Street Bar & Grill, a volcano plate:

002Mmm, cheese-tastic!

If you’re wondering how this plate (which, technically, is more of a serving bowl) got its name, you obviously haven’t tasted it yet.  The chili offers up a pretty decent kick, and I suspect there might also be some spice in the cheese sauce.  I had mine topped with a cheeseburger and some pulled pork overtop the home fries (often used instead of regular fries) and the mac salad, which you can’t even see in this picture.  The burger was nothing special, just a thin, charbroiled patty, but the pork had a nice tang to it.  Hiding the macaroni near the bottom makes sense, since you’ll need it to cool your palate after all the heat…if you’re not knocking back a whole buncha $2.50 pints of American light beer, that is.  Of course, the fries on the bottom got pretty soggy from the nuclear cheese assault, and weren’t quite as good as the crisp ones up top.  But hey, I guess that’s what happens when you live in a volcano cheese-ruption zone!  Shut the front door and buy a ticket!

On that note, I found it funny–but also awesome–that this bar was showing Triple-D on the big screen when I walked in.  Guy hasn’t actually been to Rochester yet, has he?  Apparently not…

BURGER DAY 2014: It’s a beautiful day in the burgerhood…

Burger Day 2014 featured a few changes from the previous format.  For one, they moved it way down south to the park behind Fort York.  All in all, this was probably a good thing–green grass, picnic tables, more open space…and, most importantly, you could drink a beer outside, which wasn’t the case at the Wychwood Barns.

Now, I don’t know if it was the somewhat remote location, the wide-open spaces, or the pricing changes, but there actually appeared to be fewer people out this year.  As previously stated, after going all-you-can eat (for 30 bucks) last year, they brought back the burger and beer tickets from the inaugural edition, but also raised the cover from 5 bucks to 20 in the process.  While that wasn’t enough to stop a true Calgarian like me, I can see how some people might not wanna pay 30 bucks for just three sliders when they got unlimited sliders at that price one year ago.

For the record, I’m told that they did away with the all-you-can eat format because they thought it was wasteful.  Hey, when most of the money goes to a community food centre, I can see how having an all-you-can eat event seems just a tad inconsiderate…

In any case, I still scarfed down 10 sliders and polished off a couple beers–or, as Rob Ford calls it, breakfast.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)  Here are some hamburger highlights:

Holy Chuck: The Misbred Village Bahahastard: Two patties of aged beef, Ontario lamb, and saganaki cheese ground together and topped with red onion, Greek olive oil, and sautéed peppers.

Burger Day 2014 001I first had Holy Chuck’s during Burger Week 2012.  Still greasy and delicious!

Fidel Gastro’s Lisa Marie: The Nutella Burger: Burger stuffed with Nutella and topped with plantain chips and garlic coconut sauce.

Burger Day 2014 002Not as odd a combination as it might seem, though I probably shouldda saved this one for dessert.  Here’s hoping they add it to the menu on their food truck!

Fat Louie’s BBQ: The Smoked Belly Burger: Two beef patties, smoked pork belly, American/cheddar cheese, jalapeños, onion, ketchup, and mustard.

Burger Day 2014 004Speaking of food trucks, this one’s propane tank crapped out before I could order from it on Thursday.  But with double the beef and double pork belly, I knew I had to get it in my belly!

Boots & Bourbon Saloon: The Black & Blue Burger: Ground beef, Cajun seasoning, blue cheese, and fried onion strings.

Burger Day 2014 005Did you know that Toronto has its very own country bar? So, they weren’t blasting Brooks & Dunn on the jukebox, but there was just a little bit of Stampede in this little burger.

Hogtown Smoke: Angus burger stuffed with pulled pork and topped with cheese, pork belly strips, and pulled pork infused with BBQ sauce and bourbon.

Burger Day 2014 006Is that enough pork for ya?  Well, is it?

Spin Toronto: Cheddar jalapeño chicken burger with guacamole and sweet onion relish on a cornbread bun.

Burger Day 2014 007We interrupt your regularly scheduled beef programming to bring you this chicken burger.

Rock Lobster: Surf & Turf Burger: Kobe beef, spicy carrot and cabbage slaw, and grilled shrimp.

Burger Day 2014 008Who wouldn’t want a giant shrimp on your burger?

Frank: Wild boar patty with maple fennel bacon, wild mushrooms, onion, and sour cherry compote on a brioche bun.

Burger Day 2014 009It even has a cherry on top!  (Actually, I think that was just decorative plastic…)

Gangster Burger: The Jesse James: Candied bacon marmalade and southern-style slaw over a beef patty finished with honey Dijon glaze.

Burger Day 2014 010Presumably, this was named after the old west outlaw, not Sandra Bullock’s ex-husband.

The Works: War Pig: Canadian beef topped with fried mushrooms, smokey BBQ sauce, real Canadian cheddar, and smoked bacon.

Burger Day 2014 011How could I resist a burger named after the first Black Sabbath song I learned to play on guitar?  Unless, of course, it was named after the Toronto proto-metal band from the early 70’s…

The Crest: Beef and ‘nduja burger with smoked bacon, aged cheddar, caramelized onions, and smoked pepper aioli.

Burger Day 2014 012What in the heck is ‘nduja?  The guy told me it was andouille, but it says here that’s not quite the case.

Hmm, I just realized that I actually ate 11 burgers, instead of only 10.  Which is funny, because I only paid for 10 tickets.  Maybe they gave me an extra one for being such a great guy? :D

BURGER WEEK 2014: So I went to a Happy Hooker, and all I got was a tuna sandwich!

Man, Happy Hooker musta had a good night last night, seeing as they were late in opening this afternoon.  And no, I’m not referring to a brothel where all the ladies have a heart of gold, like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or Jamie Lee Curtis in Trading Places–but rather, a seafood shop on Dundas St W serving up some tasty sammies.  You can go back to searching for naked pics of reality TV “stars” now…

…or, you can check out this crispy tuna burger:

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True to its name, the burger was quite crispy, with the crisp lettuce adding even more bite.  The tuna patty was mixed with carrots, red and green peppers, and came topped with a generous dollop of tartar sauce between a soft and squishy bun.  This was not your grandma’s tuna sandwich!  They also advertised a Burger Week special of a pint and a burger for 10 bucks, but their taps weren’t working–like I said, good night last night!–so I was able to obtain a tallboy of Old Style Pilsner, the ol’ Saskie elixir, as a part of the same special.  Not a bad trade, if I say so myself.  I give this one a “Roy Orbison’s sunglasses” and a “genuine crop report!”

Location: 887 Dundas St. W

Line Time: 5 minutes…waiting for the doors to open (at a quarter after noon)

Prep Time: 8 minutes

In-and-Out Time: 30 minutes (hey, that tallboy didn’t drink itself!)

BURGER WEEK 2014: This one goes to e11even!

Although it was no-tie-day Friday at the office, I still got to try on a black-tie burger.  And at e11even, where a cheeseburger from the regular menu costs 20 dollars–and a “maple burger” sells for 25–I gotta say, 13 bucks for their Burger Week special is a damn good deal.  Hey, I am nothing if not a value investor!

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The real hidden treasure here are the woodland mushrooms, buried beneath that slab of gruyere cheese.  Great flavour, and a nice chew, although I couldn’t quite separate them with my incisors.  My dining party agreed that shredded lettuce and pickles are much better than sliced, while the buttery bun wrapped a warm blanket around a perfectly-cooked, tender patty.  Sure, it might be the most expensive sandwich I’ll eat this week, but you definitely get what you pay for!  I give it a “Stonehenge” and a “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight!”

Location: 15 York St (next to the ACC)

Reservation: YES, especially on a Friday.  I know I called ahead.

In-and-Out Time: 45 minutes (service was fast, but hey, it was a business lunch!)

BURGER WEEK 2014: Malfunction at The Junction!

So, the plan was originally to go to Fat Louie’s BBQ, a food truck in the parking lot of a Rona in The Junction.  But they completely lost power before I was able to place my order, shutting down early for the evening.  Thus, I had to find another alternative in the area, and fortunately, there were two at Keele and Dundas…although one was a vegan joint.  The other place was The Passenger, a trendy neighbourhood bar serving up beef, back bacon and cheese curds, like so:

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This thing came off the grill so hot it was steaming when I bit into it, juices oozing out all over the plate.  If anything, the bacon had more bite than the beef, while the curds got lost a little in the fresh veg.  Great chew on the brioche bun, nice and crispy, with a spicy aioli (horseradish?) to top it all off.  Hey man, you could put back bacon and cheese curds on a flip-flop, and it would still be delicious…although I’m pretty sure that’s a health-code violation.  Anyways, I give this one a Casey Janssen (cuz it saved the day) and a “Crazy Train!”

Location: 2968 Dundas St. W

Reservation: Nope.  The place was half-empty when I walked in, but filled up quickly shortly after 7.

In-and-Out Time: 25 minutes