Parts and Labour’s offspring, P &L burger, was in part due to its performance on Burger Wars, in which it beat out rivals Burger’s Priest and Dangerous Dan’s to claim supremacy. It opened its doors recently near Queen and Spadina, only a few doors down from Burger’s Priest and in an area with an ever increasing number of fast/snack food options. Upon entry, I was greeted by a young lady with modern enthusiasm who quickly took my order. Fifteen minutes later, almost to the second, my number was called and I proceeded to the counter. The cook was as cool as his facial hair and engaged me in a very pleasant conversation about the weather, cycling and growing up in Windsor, Ontario…a far cry from the less than enjoyable service I often receive from other places in the area.
Let’s do a quick historical recount of the evolution of the burger culture in the United States. It would be hard to argue that the Big Mac is not one of the most iconic and recognizable food on earth. In fact, economic models use the cost of a Big Mac to standardize the state of the economy across the globe. The brilliance of the Big Mac lies partially in the use of a secret sauce to add some tanginess to the other layers of flavours one would associate with a burger. The Big Mac was “invented” by a Pittsburgh franchisee in 1967 who developed it to compete with the Big Boy (developed circa 1937), the flagship burger of the restaurant of the same name. The Big Boy is a three layered burger, served on a sesame bun with all the fixing including a special sauce (sound familiar?). Once a presence throughout the United States, Big Boy still exists although primarily within the state lines of Michigan although a few still exist in Ohio and California.
What struck me the minute I tried the deluxe was the fact that I was eating a hipster Big Mac. It had most of the components with an extra emphasis on the the huge beef patty, which was cooked a juicy medium-well. The P&L sauce was an excellent condiment and resembled the special sauce that made the Big Mac famous. The cheese was melted nicely and crispy bacon pieces lined the thick patty. It was a big, sloppy and delicious mess. Consuming it did make me wonder why too many other burger places haven’t made an effort to mimic one of America’s favorite and most recognizable foodstuffs. As far as the sides, I found the fries rather soggy and the slaw unappealing in both colour and taste.
Not only did Big Boy invent the saucy burger, I argue they invented the hipster. I mean, look at the mascot:
1. He wears checkered clothing.
2. He has a clean side part and a a flip in the front.
3. He is wearing light blue shoes.
4. He has that “I’m cool because I’m about to eat a burger” look on his face.
Now McDonald’s stole the Big Mac concept but alienated the hipster concept and instead introduced Ronald McDonald in 1963. The famous clown (which apparently has 96% recognition in the USA), was created by Willard Scott (yes…the same Willard Scott who gained fame as a Today show weatherman). Since then, there have been eight actors who have portrayed the famous clown and none of them have worn, plaid, plastic rimmed glasses or parted their hair to the side.
P&L has created a DELICIOUS burger which competes for the best under $10 in Toronto. The sauce is the key, adding a tangy cut through the richness of the thick beef patty and accompanying melted Amercian cheese and bacon. The bun is terrific and the condiments are as harmonious are the Big Mac song itself. The fries were soggy and the slaw was unremarkable. You’re likely in for about a 15 minute wait but I think it’s worth it (after all some people in Toronto have no issue waiting hours for a stool tucked in the corner of a popular snack bar). Now that I’ve read a bit about burger history I realize that in fact the classic sandwich is the perfect food for the modern day hipster; you can dress like Big Boy and act like a clown.