Two hotspot restaurants. Both offering up comfort food. Both hailing from the East. One from the far-off coast of Nova Scotia. The other from the wilds of Leslieville. Yep, we’ve been eating well….At Hopgoods Foodliner and Burgers Priest. Terrible non sequitur. Terrific eats.
First off, we head east to Burgers Priest. But not all the way east. The iconic burger joint, recently ranked third best resto in TO by Zagat’s, has opened a spot on Yonge between Lawrence and Wilson. There’s a bit of a backlash of course, with claims that the new location isn’t as tasty or friendly as the first but whatev. I’m a bit late to the meat patty party and I just wanted to see what the dealio was. In the battle of the burger, this is the King. The spot with the secret alterna-menu. The one that has burger lovers lined up out the door, down the street and around the block. The real question is: is it worth the hype?
HELL YEAH! Especially if someone else does the picking up. I was blessed with a meat-lovin’ man whose absolute pleasure it was to head over to Burgers Priest and bring home the bacon (-double cheeseburger). With a couple of extra burgers on the side, no less. We mowed our way through the aforementioned classic with all the fixin’s. Yes, it was that good. Bacon was perfectly crisp, tomato slice tasted like a tomato. And were those Vidalia onions? Because they were sweet and crisp and delicious. Next up, “The Priest”. Picture two portobello mushroom caps with a whack of cheese. Now drop it into the deep fryer. YUM! This is the Official Vegetarian Option. They call it…The Option. We took that Option and raised it – atop a real beef patty. Oh yes we did. Veggie/real deal combo. Slide some panko-crusted deep-fried jalapeno peppers underneath and we found our winner! As an added extra, we also sampled “Jarge Style” per their suggestions. This was a burger fried in yellow mustard and topped with fried onions. That sucker put us over the edge. A bit of a lingerer, that final burger was not needed for so many reasons (and calories and fat grams). But now we know for next time. And despite the major meat hangover, there will absolutely be a next time. We failed to taste the piece de resistance of the secret menu: “Vatican Style”. Or perhaps “Tower of Babel”. Every website has a different name. Either way, they’ve replaced the bun with….grilled cheese buns!! Top and bottom. Disgusting? Delicious!
Pictures don’t do these meat parties…I mean patties…justice. Nor does this:
These are the homemade candy bar desserts at Hopgood’s. One is a maple square. The other, some kind of ridiculous fudge/rice crispie combo slice of heaven. Beautifully wrapped up. Could’ve had several. Then again, my compadres and I had tried almost everything. Marinated lemony halibut. Oysters. Smoked mackerel on homemade oatcakes. And even – gasp – lamb heart tartar. Full confession: loved the surf. Not the turf. I’m not a huge tartar fan at the best of times. But lamb? heart? Too lamby. Too organ-y. I tried to be adventurous. And failed. Tho’ the dehydrated cream bits – which sounds vile – were delicious. Like little morsels of dried ice cream or something. The others liked it.
All this was followed by a seared tuna in/on seaweed broth – divine. Scallops were ordered because the mashed potato balls on the side sounded too good to resist. The creamy kale was fantastic. Best of all, however, was the steak ‘n shrimp. We were warned that it wasn’t a steak per se, but more like brisket. Call it what you will – it was sublime. Definitely the winner of the night.
Room was plain -and packed. Great vibe. Great food. Great staff. They’ve clearly drunk the Hopgood KoolAid. They were as excited about each plate as we were. In some cases, more so! They didn’t serve coffee, as they were trying to keep the party going. They did, however, bring us some kind of milk liquor which was a creamy, dreamy dessert of a drink.
The big debate was whether or not Hopgood’s was a 10. Perhaps not, but it was pretty damn close. The place was packed with happy diners, tho’ no line out the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-door. Not yet….