Category Archives: burgers

Wendy’s rolls out caviar and lobster burgers

Regular readers know I’m somewhat duty bound to try new fast-food creations, which has led me to ingesting monstrosities such as KFC’s Double Down and Burger King’s Bacon Sundae. It was with horror, then, that I learned of Wendy’s new lobster and caviar burgers.

Yes, it’s true. The $16 burgers are available for a limited time only in Japan, which ordinarily might save me from my bizarro obsession, except that I’m planning a trip there relatively soon as part of the research on my next book, Humans 3.0. I’m dreading it because I loathe all forms of seafood, but the idea of a caviar burger seems too rich to pass up, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Ironically, my trip is going to revolve around studying life-extending technology. Japan, and especially the island of Okinawa, you may know, has some of the longest life expectancies in the world, largely thanks to healthy diets. It’s safe to say they got there by avoiding the likes of Wendy’s.

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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in burgers, japan, wendy's


London council blaming burgers for early death

The winner of the “Backwards Mentality” prize this week goes to the Haringey community council in London for attempting to limit fast-food restaurants in an effort to “increase life expectancy.”

The council is “set to become the first in the country to limit the number of pizza, burger and kebab shops on its streets in an attempt to improve the health of its poorest residents,” according to the Daily Mail. The move is apparently being motivated by studies that show the life expectancy in Tottenham Green, where there are 14 fast-food outlets, to be 72.5 years. In Fortis Green, where there are only three such outlets, the expectancy is 81.5.

Well. It’s hard to argue with science like that. Surely the other factors of being poor - like less access to health care, elevated stress levels, potential for drug abuse and even possibly being the victim of violent crime - couldn’t have anything to do with it, right?

For the record, the World Health Organization attributes obesity to two factors:

An increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat, salt and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients; and a decrease in physical activity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.

Clearly, any politicians looking to stem obesity simply by banning bad foods are suffering from some of that second factor - laziness - since it’s much easier to blame burgers than it is to encourage people to exercise, or to educate them about the effects of such a diet.

Even the National Obesity Forum seems a little leery. While a spokesperson said the organization welcomed the move, he also suggested that perhaps the council was barking up the wrong tree.

“What’s hugely needed is that the government actually moves for the manufacturers to take out excess levels of salt, fat and sugars,” said Tam Fry. “If they did that there would be no particular reason to ban fast food outlets because they would be selling good food.”

The ironically named spokesperson also brought up what is perhaps the key point in all of this - if the council takes away the cheap fast food, what will the poorest people eat?

“The banning of fast food joints is theoretical though as there are huge sections of the population which depend on this kind of food to stay alive,” he said.

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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in burgers, food, uk


Canada’s burgers are tasty, but expensive

As a self-styled burger maven, I took last week’s Now Magazine cover story as a call to arms. Toronto’s alt weekly newspaper had a feature on the city’s best burgers, complete with photography by my friend Mike Watier (who took what is perhaps the only good photo of yours truly, both for my book and blog - his site is here). I’ve already eaten at most of the burger joints covered in the magazine, but the articles gave me the impetus to try out a few newer places that I hadn’t got to yet.

Five Guys' cheeseburger.

This is my report. To readers who may not live in Toronto, never fear - I’m willing to bet the two places discussed here will be expanding dramatically soon.

First up is The Burger’s Priest, which claims to be “redeeming the burger one at a time.” The tiny hole in the wall opened up in the Beaches neighbourhood, ironically right across the street from a Harvey’s, just over a year ago and has been crammed ever since.

The signature burger, which I tried earlier this week, is the Double Double, not to be confused with the way we Canadians order our coffee. Simply put, the double cheeseburger was one of the best I’ve ever had, right up there with In-N-Out Burger in the Western U.S. and Port of Call in New Orleans (a big reason why I’m getting married in that city next year!).

Indeed, the In-N-Out comparison is apt, if not downright intellectual property theft, because the two restaurants’ burgers are amazingly similar. In-N-Out’s signature burger is also called the Double Double, with both packing two patties and cheese slices. Both are also about the same size and come in small paper envelope. Both restaurants also have very small menus with only a few items for sale, although In-N-Out also has a “secret menu” (see the comment on this post). I have no idea as of yet if Burger’s Priest has followed suit. Needless to say, the rabidly popular U.S. chain came first - it was founded in the 1940s - and I’m willing to bet it served as the inspiration for the new Toronto joint.

There is one big difference between the two - price - but more on that in a second.

Next up was Five Guys, which started in Virginia in the mid-1980s. The restaurant proved to be a hit and has been expanding across the U.S. to hundreds of outlets ever since, even claiming Barack Obama as a fan. The first Canadian Five Guys opened in Alberta last year and the chain has been growing quickly since, with 13 locations in the Great White North now.

I checked out the newest store on Wednesday, in Scarborough, and had the cheeseburger. Alas, I had no warning that it was actually a double cheeseburger, but I suppose when it comes to an American chain, that shouldn’t be a surprise. The burger came in a brown paper bag, wrapped in nondescript tin foil, both of which gave it that sort of 1950s, pre-commercialization retro feel. So too did the restaurant itself, a roomy cafeteria-like environment decorated with a simple red-and-white checker pattern.

Just as with Burger’s Priest, Five Guys’ burger was delicious, although it proved to be considerably messier. The patties were thicker, which meant the burger itself was taller and thereby harder to eat, requiring copious napkins. I’d put Burger’s Priest slightly ahead in taste, but Five Guys definitely lives up to they hype. If you like burgers, I highly recommend checking either or both places out.

The two restaurants did get me thinking about price, or how much a burger costs in different places. Both charge around $7 for just a burger, which seems a little high for a simple fast-food joint. All of the In-N-Out restaurants I’ve eaten at have, by comparison, charged about half that.

Further to that anecdote, The Economist has its own Big Mac index, which roughly compares purchasing power in different countries by the local price of a McDonald’s Big Mac. Based on that measure, Canada is indeed a pricey place, especially when Scandinavian countries aren’t counted.

For kicks, I made a few phone calls to Five Guys’ outlets around North America. The first two I called, in Medicine Hat, Alberta and downtown Manhattan, charged about the same for a cheeseburger as in Toronto: $7. A number of other places around the United States, however, charged only $5.

The price discrepancies between Canada and the U.S., outside of expensive New York, can be explained by a number of factors, including volumes and good old “what the market will bear.” Yet, with veritable parity in currencies, there’s no getting around it: Canada has costly burgers.

On the bright side, at least those expensive burgers - derived as they are from the U.S. - are tasty.

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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in burgers


Burger King woos women with less beef

This week’s funny comes, once again, via my man Tom Megginson. Where he gets this stuff, I have no idea. Well, I do… he attributes it properly, which means today’s blog post is something like fourth- or fifth-hand information. What can I say, it’s been a busy week and I’ve become a little bit lazy.

The news is that Burger King has decided to try and woo women customers in Asia with an unusual-although-probably-obvious idea: smaller burgers. The BK Shots, or tiny shots of beef to the mouth (that’s what she said), are essentially sliders. Or, as Burger King is pitching them to women in Singapore, they’re: “Petite and girl-friendly, it’s the burger that women have been wanting all along.”

Check out the ad, featuring beef of the cow kind and of the male stud kind (and click here if you can’t see it below):

Burger King’s strategy is of course in direct opposition to those employed by burger restaurants of all stripes when aiming their products at men, who like their beef as ample and grotesque as possible. I’m fairly sure there aren’t too many women who eat at the Heart Attack Grill or Dangerous Dan’s.

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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Burger King, burgers


I have a dream… of cheese-filled burgers

Yesterday was memorable for our American friends for a couple of reasons. First, it was Martin Luther King day. Second, and perhaps equally as important, Burger King officially rolled out its new stuffed burger. (Okay, clearly the second is a little less important.)

For a limited time only, the chain is selling the Jalapeno and Cheddar BK Stuffed Steakhouse, which is a burger with the cheese and peppers built right into the patty. Mmm… cheese… patty… built right in…

Is it a gimmick? Perhaps, but the folks at Burger Business don’t think so. The blog, which likes to predict burger trends, thinks 2011 will be the year of the stuffed burger. Burger King therefore appears to be leading the charge.

As usual, we Canadians will get this late, if at all, so in the meantime we’re stuck making our own stuffed burgers. Here are some tips on how to do so. Of course, if you’ve got a craving any time soon, you’ll first have to chisel the ice off your barbecue.

(Thanks to Justin for the tip!)

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Posted by on January 18, 2011 in Burger King, burgers, food


My new love: Dangerous Dan’s burgers

My praise of the Heart Attack Grill the other day for its unorthodox and anti-food-fascist marketing strategy drew a friend to point out to me that we don’t have to go all the way to Arizona for that sort of thing. We have our very own devil-may-care burger joint right here in Toronto, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s about three blocks from where I live.

I’ve been meaning to eat at Dangerous Dan’s, at the corner of Queen Street East and Broadview for some time. I always found something enticing about the restaurant’s relatively simple, no-frills signage every time I drove past it, and I remember a friend mentioning a while back that they had huge burgers. But I’d always put it off.

I had no idea it was something of a local sensation. A little research turned up a few articles, including a recent one in the Globe and Mail about Dan’s recent un-PC ad campaign, which is similar to the Heart Attack Grill’s.

How could I resist?

I ventured over on Tuesday to see what all the fuss was about. It was late afternoon and the place was deserted, but that’s okay because it meant I had the staff’s full attention. I looked at the menu and chuckled. It was full of the stuff I expected: the Big Kevorkian burger, with a fried onion, an onion ring, fried mushrooms, 2 slices of bacon, a deep-fried pickle, garlic dressing and mayo; the Elvis burger, with bacon, peanut butter and a fried banana; and of course, the Quadruple C, or the Colossal Colon Clogger Combo, which is a burger with two 8-ounce patties, four slices of bacon, two slices of cheddar and a fried egg on top, plus poutine and a large shake.

There’s also the dessert menu, which includes deep-fried Mars bars and the South Park-inspired Chef’s Salty Chocolate Balls.

Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Maybe, but the restaurant’s brochure proudly displays a review it got from CityTV: “Probably the most unhealthy restaurant in Canada.” Posters around the restaurant read: “22% of Ontarions are obese. We can do better.”

I was attracted to the Big Easy burger, which is an 8-ounce patty with spicy marinated peppers, cajun spice, hot peppers and hot sauce. I asked the guy at the counter how spicy it was, and he said, “It’s white-man spicy, not Sri Lankan spicy.” Har. I love this place already.

Here’s my burger. It was quite impressed with the size:

So how was it? I can honestly say it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. It was at the limit’s of this white man’s spice threshold, but otherwise it was very tasty. What’s more is that I felt really good after eating it. Usually I feel pretty bogged down and heavy after a burger, especially one that size, but the Big Easy left me feeling quite energized. The only downside is that I think I missed some of the burger’s true taste because of the spice. Next time I’ll get something a little less ass-kicking.

What makes Dangerous Dan’s even funnier is that it’s right across the street from Jilly’s, a strip club. If only there were an army surplus store on one of the other corners - then it would be the ultimate Sex, Bombs and Burgers intersection!

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Posted by on November 25, 2010 in burgers, food


Fast food as subversive social commentary

There are times when I really love America. Yesterday, when I came across the Heart Attack Grill, was one of those times.

What is the Heart Attack Grill? It’s exactly what it sounds like - a fast-food restaurant in Chandler, Arizona that specializes in horribly, horribly unhealthy food. Its menu consists of seven items: the Single, Double, Triple and Quadruple Bypass burger (add a patty for each), Flatliner Fries, no-filter Lucky Strike cigarettes and Jolt Cola. The Quadruple Bypass burger weighs in at an awesome 8,000 calories!

The restaurant, which uses a medical motif - its chefs are “doctors” and customers are “patients” - has rolled out a new promotion where people over 350 pounds eat free. Here’s the promo video, which you just have to watch. Apparently, a Heart Attack Grill can lead to a variety of health problems, including “mild death:”

What I love about this is that it’s so over the top and in your face - just like America. While the bleeding hearts there and in Canada complain about how unhealthy KFC’s Double Down is, the Heart Attack Grill is basically spitting in their faces. The whole tongue-in-cheek motif is almost subversive - who knew that a fast-food joint could provide subtle social commentary?

Of course, there are some tree-hugging, fish-kissing sticks-in-the-mud that just don’t get any of it. The folks at have started a petition protesting the restaurant and its gimmicky marketing campaign. It’s another typically American thing to do, although one that I don’t love nearly quite as much.

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Posted by on November 19, 2010 in burgers, food, kfc


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