Launched in Ottawa in 2001, The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro has grown to 26 Ontario locations, including two in Toronto.
It’s a simple formula: Top-quality Canadian beef, ground and garnished with all manner of toppings (more than 50 suggested combos in all). Alternatives to beef patties include elk, chicken breast, ground turkey, crispy chicken, veggie and Portobello mushroom cap.
Adding to the fun is “Patty Like a Rock Star.” Launched Jan. 18, the limited-time, rock-themed menu showcases patty options and toppings such as Surf and Turf, anchored by the new signature shrimp and beef patty, and Hazed and Confused, a new bacon and beef patty topped with red wine caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, arugula and Dijon.
Off we went to the downtown Toronto location, at Church Street and Wellington Street East, that’s fun in its urban industrial look of corrugated metal walls, hardwood floors and bare tables. From the PA system pours a classic rock soundtrack.
Burgers are top notch. Properly formed by hand, so that they’re lightly packed together and therefore juicy, the patties carry a deep from-the-grill char and good, beefy flavour. The Pony Express is topped with horseradish, cream cheese, Frank’s Red Hot sauce, cheddar cheese and tomato, while Grills Gone Wild features grilled eggplant, avocado, salsa and feta.
A patty made from lean ground elk is a bit gamier (in all the right ways) and is loaded with avocado, sun dried tomato and feta.
Killer sides include onion rings, greaseless and deeply crispy from their panko breading, and a brilliant vinegar/mayo slaw that’s crunchy and packing heat. Immense starter salads run to the likes of Caesar, and “Waldork” (romaine, red onion, avocado, walnuts and crumbled blue cheese).
Strawberry milkshake, charmingly served in a glass (well, Pyrex) measuring cup, is thick and creamy. Ice cream anchors desserts — say, a construction of cheesecake, vanilla ice cream, strawberry, graham cracker crumbs and whipped cream, and another made with vanilla ice cream, strawberry and chocolate sauce, walnuts, banana and whipped cream.
Featured at many locations, private dining areas (called Boiler Rooms), sectioned off areas and rooftop patios provide a number of group options. Some restaurants cater corporate events.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued almost 1,000 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.