About the joint
At one end of what used to be a strip of exclusively Greek restaurants in Toronto, is a New York-Irish Gastropub called Allen's. It's a gorgeous archetype of a dimly lit pub - the dark wood bar ushers you past the reception podium and into a smallish dining room positively rammed full of happy eaters. If it's a nice day you might go through to the rear patio, one of Toronto's best, according to BlogTO, and enjoy the shade of the enormous weeping willow there, voted, believe it or not, the best tree in Toronto by NOW magazine.
The staff are knowledgeable and swift, and the food is fantastic. The menu posted on their website states very modestly that they serve what are often considered to be Toronto's best burgers (have you noticed yet how many times the word "best" has come up?). Their printed menu says much more about their burgers, telling the story of each patty from farm to plate. From the purchase of a whole steer each month, the restaurant controls the whole butchering, storage and preparation process. Making for some of the best burgers you'll ever taste.
Some Like it Blue - A Savage's Derb
by basil on April 10th, 2012
I have to preface this review with a disclaimer. I am some kind of caveperson or something. I prefer my meat more or less completely uncooked. When I eat sushi, I order almost exclusively from the sashimi section, when I eat steak, I order it blue. I even prefer to eat a pork chop at no more than medium, if not medium-rare.
When I first had a burger at Allen's, I was told I could order it any temperature I liked. I promptly instructed that my burger be cooked as blue as the chef could bear. And I've never had a burger there cooked more than that. So this review of their cheddar cheeseburger is from someone who ate it practically still mooing.
Allen's makes their burgers from pure, extremely high-quality, grass-fed beef with little or no filler (I don't know the recipe). As far as I'm concerned, the beef tastes so good it's ridiculous to think they'd NEED to mix anything into it to alter the flavor at all. But I'll get to that.
When you order an Allen's burger you start by choosing either plain ol' burg or one with one of several kinds of cheese. I chose cheddar. Then you can dress it however you like (basic condiments are free, veggies and bacon have individual prices). Then you decide how it's cooked - I can't stress enough how important that is for someone who appreciates the flavors of beef cooked to various temperatures.
Allen's serves their burgs on fairly ordinary burger buns, and the only condiment that's bottled is the ketchup. Dijon mustard and house green relish are served in little dishes like briefly spotlit supporting players. The cheddar is good and sharp, as cheddar should be, only slightly melted on the patty. But who's really noticing the finer points of the cheese when there's a grass-fed, naturally raised beef patty to taste.
The beef is really the main event. That's what I've come for - the cheese, like the bun and the condiments, is merely a piece of scenery for the star of the show to strut upon. There's a farmy quality to the flavor of the beef. It tastes ever so slightly of grass, confirming the steer you're eating ate the green stuff itself. If that's not enough, my burgs from Allen's always have an incredible velvety texture - but that could be owing to their practical rawness.
If you're going to eat a burger at Allen's, I highly recommend ordering it whatever temperature the best steak you ever ate was. You won't regret it.