699 St Clair Avenue West Toronto, ON M6C 1B2 (map); 416-658-9666; thestockyards.ca
Cooking method: Griddled
Short Order: A tasty, straight-forward burger that's properly cooked to order
Want Fries With That? Absolutely! Skin-on fries are a must.
Price: Classic Burger, $7; fries, $2.50
Notes: Closed on Mondays
The Stockyards is one of Toronto's best burger options, even though it's their slow smoked chicken and ribs that have a cult following. What sets the burgers apart from most is two-fold: They're cooked on a griddle using the smashing technique and you can get your burger cooked reliably to order (most places don't even ask).
The Stockyards has some truly unusual options, like the Butter Burger, with bone marrow and blue cheese red wine butter, and a green chili pimento cheese burger, but even the simplest option, a classic burger, is stunning.
Patties are made from a blend of 80/20 beef, composed of 50 percent chuck and 25 percent brisket. The final 25 percent is a house secret, but I'm guessing it could be short rib. The beef is hand-formed loosely into five-ounce balls and smashed on the griddle to a thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. Once cooked, the patties are removed from the grill using a paint scraper.
Chef Tom Davis says his original plan was to grill the burgers, but after discovering the smashed technique on AHT, he quickly became a convert. He sold the grill and replaced it with a 20-year-old Miraclean griddle he found for a bargain on eBay (except for the $1,200 cost to ship it from Montana).
It was a wise choice. The cooking method delivers a burger with a thick, brown crust on both sides, while the patty's interior remains moist. Patties are seasoned simply with a quick dash of Kosher salt so that nothing muddles their beefy flavor. Mine was cooked expertly to my requested medium rare, with a warm, juicy center. Make sure you specify the cooking temp you prefer. By default, burgers are cooked medium well.
If you like bacon on your burger, add some strips and cracklins for $1.50—The Stockyards' thick-cut bacon is excellent. Adding fries ($2.50) to your order is also highly recommended. The skin-on, thin-cut fries are light, crisp, perfectly salted, and so tasty they could easily steal your attention away from the burger.
Even though I'm thousands of miles away from my hometown, seeing burgers done right at spots like The Stockyards, The Burger's Priest, and Allen's is encouraging. Locals are clearly on board with better burgers. Davis says initially there was some skepticism, but the crust won them over, and he now moves approximately 250 burgers a day.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax