Fake Burgers and Real Onion Rings at Fresh

Fresh Yonge and EglintonLocation: 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Website: https://freshrestaurants.ca/

The original plan was to review the veggie burger from Fresh for my burger blog.  But then I actually ate it, and to be honest… I didn’t want to.

It’s not a burger.  They call it a burger, and it basically looks like a burger, but the taste and the texture both contain zero hamburger-like properties.  I only post a review on Tasty Burgers every couple of weeks, and it just didn’t feel right wasting one on something that absolutely, positively isn’t a hamburger.

Fresh Yonge and Eglinton

We started with the much-lauded onion rings, which are frequently called the best in the city.  And yeah, they’re good — maybe not best-in-the-city good, but they’re quite tasty.  They actually reminded me a lot of what they serve at A&W — they’re similarly hearty, with a crispy breaded exterior encasing a perfectly cooked onion.

Fresh Yonge and Eglinton

They were slightly underseasoned, however, and a little bit greasier than you’d like (which is particularly odd given the restaurant’s health food pedigree).  I think I like A&W’s version slightly more, especially given how crazy expensive the ones at Fresh are (eight bucks for five substantial rings).

Fresh Yonge and Eglinton

As for the “burger,” I ordered the banquet burger, which features fake bacon and fake cheese on a fake hamburger patty.

It’s fine.  It’s actually not bad for what it is, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s not going to satisfy anyone’s hamburger cravings.  The taste and texture are quite falafel-esque (but without the crispy exterior).  Like most veggie burgers, it’s on the mushy side — a problem that’s compounded by how incredibly dense the wheaty bun is.  It’s so unforgivingly brick-like that it’s actually quite difficult to eat, but I got through it.

Fresh Yonge and Eglinton

The fake cheese is basically a thick, salty paste, and the fake bacon literally could not have tasted less like bacon.  It was sweet and vaguely plantain-like.  It wasn’t bad, but comparing it to bacon is absurd.

Beyond Meat Burger at A&W

A&W - Beyond Meat BurgerLocation: 1130 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.aw.ca/

A&W recently added a Beyond Meat burger to its menu; the company that makes these things calls them “the future of protein,” and word on the street is that it tastes surprisingly close to the real deal.

Veggie burgers that try to emulate actual beef are pretty much always disgusting (case in point: Doomie’s, a restaurant that actually specializes in vegan food but still manages to serve a vegan patty that tastes like pure, distilled sadness), so I was curious, but my expectations were about as low as it gets.

Well, maybe that helped, because the Beyond Meat burger?  Not terrible!

A&W - Beyond Meat Burger

I know, “not terrible” isn’t exactly high praise, but since I was expecting this to be an all-out disaster, I’m going to chalk that up as a win.

The biggest giveaway that this isn’t an actual hamburger is the texture — though it’s vaguely meaty, it’s also off-puttingly mushy.  But it wasn’t dry or rubbery, so it certainly could have been worse.

A&W - Beyond Meat Burger

(Yeah, I completely mangled the hamburger — it turns out wooden coffee stir-sticks are an absolutely horrible implement to cut a burger in half.  Lesson learned!)

The taste was a bit better than the texture.  It wasn’t beefy at all — but then the actual beef at most fast food joints doesn’t have a particularly beefy flavour.  The flavour is sort of generically meaty in a way that’s not great, but also not altogether unpleasant.  The burger is absolutely doused in ketchup, mustard, and mayo, which helps make it more palatable.

It probably isn’t going to fool anyone other than longtime vegetarians who have forgotten what a burger tastes like, and I don’t think I’d ever order it again, but I was still impressed at how non-gross it was.  I’d easily take it over the actual beef burgers at really bottom-of-the-barrel places like Hero Certified Burgers or Burger King.