About the joint
The Works is a burger chain with several locations in the Toronto area. Festooned with sheet metal, stencilled lettering, and chain-link fence, The Works feels more like a sports bar that's owned and operated by Bob the Builder, and less like the gourmet burger joint it claims to be. Nothing about their aesthetic really says, "gourmet."
They pulled out all the stops: the washrooms are affectionately named, "Men's Dumping Area" and, "Ladies Waste Removal." Light bulbs are used as salt and pepper shakers. You get the idea.
They offer an overwhelming amount of burgs, and almost as many sides: fresh cut fries,veggies, sweet potato strings, spicy die-cut chips… and one can also upgrade to more spendy sides like poutine or onion rings. The list goes on.
Excess seems to be the name of the game at The Works.
The sevenest of 7's
by benjamin on March 16th, 2013
7 is supposed to be the number of perfection... but that's far from the case here. Here, 7 represents the completely unremarkable. The forgettable. The mediocre.
Having recently replaced the Pizza Pizza which used to occupy the north-west corner of Church and Front, The Works had been calling to me for several weeks. I was, however, mildly reluctant; the façade had me on the fence. I try not to judge a book by it's cover, but I've come to learn that often appearances aren't all that deceiving. Often, what's inside radiates out. Still, as a dedicated derbist, I have to give every joint a chance to surprise me.
The St. Lawrence location of The Works has a great view of Front St, and features a dedicated take-out section. I'll give them credit; they were packed at lunchtime, which is no small feat considering how restaurant-dense this part of town is.
The "super-American" industrial wore on me somewhat. It wasn't offensive, and I'll give them points for caring so much about trying to create a theme. But it was a bit heavy handed. I was worried that amidst the caution tape, drop-shadows, and faux-finishes, I would get an underwhelming burger. I tried as best I could to separate my experience of the decor from my experience of the actual food. After all, their menu heavily features the words, "world's best burger." We'll see.
Their patties are made fresh (which should always be the case), and while they use "Canadian beef," it's neither organic, nor grassed. The 4oz patties are fire-grilled (a cooking method I have mixed feelings about when it comes to burgs), and can be had single or double... and they even feature elk.
The menu listed 72 toppings. That is almost always a red flag. Joints that rely heavily on toppings don't tend to understand the art of making a great burger. A burger needs to be able to stand on its own… but more on that later.
$12.93 got me the "Smokey Mountain" burger, which came with fries. My burger was topped with BBQ sauce, jack cheese, bacon. According to the menu, it's, "the original best seller."
The bun appeared a tad strange, being somewhat oblong. However, its flavour and texture were pleasant... similar to the outstanding bun I discovered at Burger Brats. The bun was also buttered and toasted… a big plus.
The bacon was supremely underwhelming and bland. Flimsy, almost non-existent strips of processed nothingness, very much like the "readicrisp-ish" bacon Gourmet Burger Company used. This baffles me… how hard is it to get bacon right? There's a grocery store right across the street from The Works… not to mention the internationally-recognized St Lawrence Market. In 5 minutes I could be back with pounds of perfectly excellent bacon. This stuff is readily available to anyone, at any time. How can a joint mess up bacon so badly? If Wendy's, a food-service burger megalith, can dish up exquisite bacon, surely a small local chain can. Sad face.
The patty was decent, but bland. This is the risk one takes when they opt to flame-broil, as opposed to cooking with a flat-top. Fat tends to drip out of the meat. If it hasn't been heavily seasoned, and isn't a nice, fatty cut, things can get bland and dry, fast. Cook-tops preserve a great deal more flavour, and it's no coincidence that almost all of the best joints use cook-tops or skillets.
After my first bite, I felt something was missing… flavour, yes… but more specifically, the BBQ sauce! The burger was one-dimensional without it. But that's a huge problem. The greatest burgers don't require sauce to be great. The flavour should be in the key ingredients. Don't get me wrong, I'm a BBQ sauce fanatic, but it's often used as a bandaid to try and remedy unsatisfactorily prepared food… and that was most certainly the case here. If Five Guys can create a full-flavoured burg with a bun, patty, cheese and bacon, surely anyone can.
All in all, The Works isn't a great value, especially when one considers that there's a Hero across the street; while Hero is also a joint that relies heavily on toppings, it does so to a lesser extent. Hero is more flavourful, more refined, and as we all know, their patties have the added benefit of coming from grass-fed and organically raised cows.
While not a horrible burger, there's no good reason to return; not unless I want to feel like I'm dining inside the UFC Octagon or the gift shop at the Tonka Truck factory. With its kitchsy aesthetic and average burgs, The Works is the height of mediocrity. It is the sevenest of sevens.