Monday, July 9, 2012

The Beast of Toronto: Holy Chuck Burger

Amy and I took a whirlwind adventure to Toronto to see family and friends. I put that reason first to assure my family and friends that indeed we did not visit just because I wanted a burger review from the GTA!

Making a decision of which joint to go was the tough part. From the Burger's Priest secret menu to the very upscale Bymark Burger, the selection here is outstanding and I don't envy the task ahead for some of the 416/905/647/etc burger bloggers out there. The craze has completely enveloped the city. The deciding factor was that one of our friends is pescatarian and so we had to choose a noted burger joint that catered to her tastes in a creative manner.

There she is, freshly unwrapped. A very nicely built monster.
We settled on Holy Chuck Burger, a new but fiery competitor in the great jungle of Toronto burger joints. Open for less than a year, this modern diner at Yonge and St. Clair places its kitchen out in the open and its meat grinder in the fore of that kitchen. Chances are they are grinding your meat as you're staring at their menu considering what spin on the burger you want to try. It's quite the menu indeed. You can get a burger 'twixt two grilled cheese sandwiches or topped with a braised veal cheek or steeped in maple syrup and topped with foie gras or ground up with bacon, etc.

I of course settled for their signature burger, the "Holy Chuck", which is a double cheeseburger topped with thick-cut bacon and caramelized onions. There is a little note that follows the menu item asking the customer not to add any toppings on it, and since I'm not very contrarian I ordered the burger as-is.

So read on if you're a Torontonionian or TO-bound and want to know what the chuck's up with this cliche.

The burger

Each patty is four ounces of nothing but antibiotic-free meat, ground finely and pressed fairly thin right in front of you. Most burgers at Holy Chuck come with two patties (Five Guys style) and the eponymous offering is no exception. The meat is delicious, seasoned perfectly without extra onion or garlic tricks, and streams juice out of every bite. There's even a remnant of pink in there to remind you how a burger should be cooked, impressive given how skinny the patties are. It is a classic fatty, griddled flat burger from days of yore. I had a small puddle at the bottom of my basket at the end of the meal left to remind myself of what I just did to my cardiovascular system. This is not healthy cuisine.

That glistening ain't the flash.
Now you'll probably note that in my Five Guys review I wasn't a huge fan of such abundant fat. I generally find that it tends to distract from the texture of the protein. Eventually you reach "peak fat" where the amount of fat throws the burger out of balance and any additional does not contribute to the taste. I can't say that this burger quite fell into that category but it was close, hence the not-quite perfect BurgerDAR rating. It was still very beefy in flavour, likely because the patties were stacked, and the grind of the protein was very enjoyable.

The cheese was processed and there were two slices, one wedged between the patties and another on top of them. It wasn't Kraft but You could actually taste the cheese clearly in all of the hedonism, something that just isn't the case with many a more expensive cheddar. Despite my suspicion of such cheese, it actually fit well with what they were trying to achieve. The bacon was perfectly cooked, cut nice and thick and perfectly smoky. You got three big slices that were very evident with every bite. I appreciated the quality of the bacon - it contributed mostly protein and was trimmed of extra fat. We wouldn't want to be gratuitous now, would we?

Beautiful golden caramelized onions were generously heaped on top, adding a sweetness to the construction that was totally necessary. I'm on the fence about the request to not add any toppings; the burger would definitely benefit with a bit of freshness and crunch added in to break up the uniformity of texture. What it doesn't need is more moisture so I wouldn't add condiments (except maybe a hot mustard), but this is one of the few times I was craving lettuce just to put a damper on the fat.

The bun was delicious - soft, fresh, well toasted and in good proportion to the burger. In fact, when presented with the burger I remarked about how well composed and constructed it was for basically a notch above fast food. The bun itself was not able to stand up to the juice assault from the patties but few buns would. Interestingly a friend of mine had the "Big Chuck" burger which was similar to mine but with a bun bottom slipped between the two patties, and he was not faced with similar over-juiciness.
Portion size wasn't really an issue.

Overall, this sizeable burger was $10, perfect for the haute fast food paradigm that Holy Chuck is going for. It was delicious and very filling. I would go back in a heartbeat if I didn't have so many other burger places to try in Toronto. You can also get smaller ones for about $6 if the big boys aren't for you. 

The sides

You know that a place so expert in the ways of fat would put together a mean poutine gravy, and you're not wrong. Not only were the fries delightfully firm and the gravy rich, but the cheese curd coverage was exceptional.  They have a good selection of hipster bubbles if you're into artisanal soft drinks.



  1. omg...quality sear on the burger!

    looks amazing!

    Check out this showdown post pitting the Bruger's Priest against Holy Chuck Burger: