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Toronto’s top 10 burgers, according to a chef who ate more than 250 different patties on a North American burger tour

Chef Joe Friday did some delicious research before opening Friday Burger Co.

Toronto’s top 10 burgers, according to a chef who ate more than 250 different patties on a North American burger tour
Photo by Marc Santos

For chef Joe Friday, a perfect burger isn’t just the combination of impeccably seasoned meat; a soft, crusty bun; the right cheese melt; and super-fresh toppings. None of that hurts, mind you, but it all adds up to a goose egg if the burger doesn’t hit one crucial note: nostalgia. “I think we were all burger experts at the age of 12,” he says. That happens to be around the time he experienced his platonic ideal of a burger. “There was this little joint in Jacksonville, where I spent my teen years, with only two options on the menu. This guy smoking a cigarette took my order. One-handed, he threw some onions and a patty on the grill, spooning mustard on top before flipping it and tossing on the cheese. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but it was perfect. Hands down, the best burger I’ve ever had.”

Friday has been chasing that burger high ever since. He’s spent his career cooking in high-end restaurants across Europe, all the while promising himself that one day, he’d open a burger shop of his own. Now, he runs Friday Burger Co., with a stand-alone location on Danforth and a booth inside CIBC Square’s fancy new food hall, Table Fare and Social.

But, before he could put his name on a burger restaurant, he took himself on an R&D tour, eating 250-plus patties across North America and reviewing them on his TikTok and YouTube channels. Here are his 10 Toronto favourites (minus his own, of course), ranked.

Richmond Station’s Stn. Burger

10 “Richmond Station’s is extremely fancy but worth the price. When you eat it, you think, I’m happy to be spending my money here. It’s served with rosemary fries, and the patty is made from pasture-raised beef and topped with iceberg, garlic aioli and aged cheddar—but also things you don’t often see in a burger, like beet chutney and pickled onions. And listen, you can pickle anything and throw it on a burger, but here it’s all so thoughtful and well done that those unusual toppings don’t feel like a gimmick. You can tell the quality is there.”  

Holy Chuck’s Original Burger

9 “These guys have been one of the top burger places in Toronto for a long time, and the thing I’m most impressed with is their consistency. There’s something to be said about doing the same thing every day and not getting bored and letting the quality drop. My motto is that, if the first burger on the menu isn’t good, don’t waste your time with the rest—so I went for their original, with maple-smoked bacon, cheese and caramelized onions. It was juicy, the onions played beautifully with the bacon, and the onion rings it came with were solid.”  

Toronto’s top 10 burgers, according to a chef who ate more than 250 different patties on a North American burger tour
A bunch of hamburgers from Burger Drops, a Toronto-based burger chain Photo by Daniel Neuhaus
Burger Drops’ Double American Burger

8 “This was a particularly good-looking burger, with a good crisp on the outside and nicely diced fresh onion. But what made it stand out was this deliciously savoury tomato relish they had on there instead of a fresh tomato, which seemed to also have some pickles mixed into it. I would have gone for a touch more pickle to cut the fat, but overall, this burger ate really well—cheesy, well-smashed and a little something different with that touch of tomato.”  

Gold Standard’s Telway Burger

7 “First of all, this location is dope. It’s got that look that tells you they probably make only a couple of things, and they do them really well. It’s got a genuine vibe—sort of grungy, but in a good way. Now for the burger. The Telway is pretty standard as far as toppings and condiments go—mustard, pickles, onions and cheese on a potato roll. This is a particularly mustard-forward burger, which I love. It eats great, but just as importantly, the vibe hits that nostalgia note for me.”  

Manita’s Manita Burger

6 “Manita is obviously not your typical burger shop, but that didn’t stop them from creating an amazing burger. My favourite thing about it—besides the high-quality, beefy-tasting meat—is that it’s not overly smashed, which keeps the patty nice and juicy. Some places smash their burgers paper thin, and I don’t get that. You lose the opportunity to accentuate the meat. Over-smash, and you get a dry centre. It’s a myth that you have to smash the patties paper thin to get those crispy edges—those actually come from the fat. I also love the crunch of the sesame seed bun, and the pickles were really crisp and delicious.”

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Happy Burger’s Oklahoma Burger

5 “In an Oklahoma burger, onions are shaved paper-thin, fried and piled on top of the patty. I think they got really popular earlier this year when YouTuber George Motz featured them on his show. And because I lived in America, I’ve had them countless times. At Happy Burger, they do the onions just right, caramelized and a little bit charred. It typically comes with mustard, but I generally order my Oklahoma burgers without mustard, since I think it gets a little too dark on the flat top. But it’s delicious either way.”  

Harry’s Double Jane

4 “When I worked at Friday Roots, we ordered burgers from Harry’s all the time. They’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here—it’s two four-ounce patties topped with onions, pickles, ketchup and American cheese—but it’s a reliable, high-quality staple burger that’s been just as good for as long as Harry’s has been around. I’ve had the one in Toronto, but if you have a chance, visit the location in Prince Edward County. It looks like a 1950s ice cream shop, which really hits those nostalgia buttons for me. There’s a lot more going on here than just the burger.”  

A cheeseburger from Extra Burger in Toronto
This isn’t the double, but you get the idea—just pretend there’s another patty in there. It’s the sauce that you want to pay attention to here Photo by Daniel Neuhaus
Extra Burger’s Double Cheese

3 “I love this spot, from the hand-painted sign outside to the chill vibe inside. But, most importantly, of course, the burgers are solid. For me, a double cheeseburger is the quintessential burger, and Extra’s is one of the best in the city. Their house burger sauce is extra delicious, though I can’t put my finger on what makes it different. And the pickles are just perfect. It’s nothing fancy, but it hits every time.”  

A double cheeseburger from JABS, a burger joint in Toronto
Photo by Daniel Neuhaus
JABS’s Double Cheese

2 “This burger was clearly created by some smart people. It’s hard to think of something about it that I don’t like. Everyone who works at JABS is friendly and genuine when you walk in, which is always important when it comes to a burger place. The pickles are made in house, and the burger is topped with a house-made sweet onion jam, which is a nice touch. Their spice mix is really tasty; I remember it being heavy on black pepper—not too much, but in the sense that you could really taste that this burger is properly seasoned.”  

Burgers and fries from Cabano's Cheeseburgers in Toronto
@cabanos.cheeseburgers
Cabano’s Cheeseburgers’ Cabano Cheeseburger

1 “There’s consistency, and then there’s doing it perfectly every single time. That’s Cabano’s. Their patties are smashed, but not too smashed—not ultra-thin to the point where they gets dry, so they hold on to the integrity of the meat. There was literally nothing to complain about here: the cheese was melted properly, the sauce was on point, the burger wasn’t too toasted, the beef wasn’t over- or undercooked. It’s just a perfectly executed burger. What more could you want? Well, bacon—I pay a bit extra for bacon.”

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