Ask Jeff Ditcher what it’s like setting up an upscale burger bar at the tail end of Toronto’s burger craze, and he’s not too worried. The traveller, wine collector and founder of M:brgr opened his second location at King and Spadina on Sunday (the original location is in Montreal), despite the presence of Craft Burger and Grindhouse in the immediate vicinity. His rationale? Toronto’s burger demand is only going to get bigger. And besides, he says he’s got an edge on the competition, with waited tables, an extensive wine list, a resident mixologist and an awe-inspiring list of toppings ranging from the odd to the gourmet. Oh, and he’s got the only joint in town with a $100 burger on the menu.
M:brgr is all about options. Start by choosing a patty (AAA $8.75, organic $12, Kobe $19.75, veggie $9.75, or tuna $15.75), then a bun (whole wheat, white or a lettuce wrap), followed by cheese and then the mother lode of topping selections. While a more conservative customer might pop on some grilled onions ($1.50) or hot peppers ($1.25), someone partaking in a full-fledged burger bender might opt for black truffle carpaccio ($10), pulled pork ($6) or even foie gras ($11).
Take that burger indulgence to its logical extreme and you end up with the $100 burger: two Kobe beef patties, bacon, grilled pear, foie gras, brie, fig jam, asparagus, Piave vecchio cheese, garlic-roasted ham, porcini mushrooms, honey truffle aïoli and truffle carpaccio, and an assortment of sides. It’s like the more uppity brother of Dangerous Dan’s Colossal Colon Clogger.
On the more frugal end, M:brgr offers a lunch special ($12.75) featuring an AAA burger with fries and a soft drink. Part of the proceeds goes to SickKids.
The venue itself seats about 200 and is contemporary but warm with its oak-panelled walls. Large murals of Toronto’s cityscape are peppered with random oddities to keep customers amused in a Where’s Waldo sort of way (see if you can spot the space ship). Managing the kitchen is Adam Rutherford, who spent time cooking in such Montreal stalwarts as Globe and Rosalie.
As for the all-important burger preparation, the patties are made simply: ground beef is mixed with a medley of secret spices. But for Ditcher, the true test of a patty is how it tastes sans bun. “You have to be able to eat the patty on its own,” he says. “Most people don’t eat it that way, but that’s key for us.”
M:brgr, 401 King St. W. (at Spadina Ave.), 647-729-1747, mbrgr.com.