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Just Opened: Burger Bar

Just Opened: Burger Bar
Wholly Cow: Owner of the Rice Bar does a 360, turning his vegan outfit into a celebration of beef (Photo by Catherine Hayday)

Wholly cow: Owner of the Rice Bar turned his vegan outfit into a celebration of beef (Photo by Catherine Hayday)

Brock Shepherd used to run one of Toronto’s more vegan-friendly eateries, the Rice Bar, at the north end of Augusta Street in Kensington Market. That all changed a couple of weeks ago, when he decided to push the rice aside and fill his menu with its culinary opposite. Welcome to the Burger Bar.

Like many Kensington business owners, Shepherd always notices a decline in foot traffic when the weather turns cold, so October seemed like the prime time to change things up. He had been toying with the idea of making burgers for a while, initially planning to keep the Rice Bar as is and open a small takeout burger place elsewhere in Kensington. In the end, though, he decided it made more sense to do it the other way around. In eight quick days, he’d changed his restaurant, and a new burger spot was born.

Toronto, of course, is not hurting for indie hamburger options: Burger Shoppe Quality Meats, Gourmet Burger Co. and Craft Burger all have loyal followings, while Queen West’s Oh Boy! Burger Market is slated to open shortly. Though none of these places are close to Kensington, Shepherd still wants his burger to stand out. He has spent months working out a custom grind of naturally raised beef with his butcher and now has the blend delivered every other day. He’s also holding on to the same environmentally friendly attitude that backed the Rice Bar (well, as much as possible when switching from vegan-friendly to omnivore). For instance, he matches function to form, using take-away containers that aren’t just green, but that work with what goes inside them—a step above those drip-prone cornstarch containers that have become synonymous with eco-packaging.

Shepherd is also revamping the liquor options, focusing on brown spirits: bourbons, ryes and scotches. Fresh sour mixes will also have a special place on the cocktail menu, for their ability to cut through the burgers’ fattiness.

Though there is no new location yet for the Rice Bar, Shepherd hopes to reopen it in the spring, once Burger Bar is up and running. In the meantime, he’s left a few of the Rice Bar’s more popular items on the Burger Bar menu, out of respect (and consolation) for his loyal customers.

Burger Bar, 319 Augusta Ave. (at Oxford St.), 416-922-7423, theburgerbar.ca.

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