There was a degree of fanfare with the opening of Bareburger, the small New York based chain which offers organic and healthier options to the slew of greasy options which fill the streets of every town and city in North America. One of those cities is now Toronto, more specifically the intersection of Bay and Dundas.
The theme is hipster meets hippy meets hillbilly. The hipster is the fact that there are usually line-ups at mealtimes and the staff is a mix of lumbersexuals, plastic spectacle wearing stylists and guys with man buns as big as those on the burgers. The hippy is the zen focus on clean eating such as vegetarian and vegan burgers, organic pasture-raised, no hormone meats, non-GMO/pesticide free produce and fair trade purchasing practices to appease the moral consciousness of the anti-capitalists. The hillbilly comes from unique meat choices including duck, wild boar, bison and elk along with the use of recycled barns and wood for the roof and floor respectively no to mention the bear heads (although not real) hanging on the wall.
The drink list offers a select list of microbrews, wines and spirits but what be more unique are the non-alcoholic drinks such as homemade unsweetened ice teas and 10 different sodas including a traditional cola and not so traditional blueberry . I was on the clock so I opted for the white peach ice tea ($3.25) served a glass which looked like a billboard for clean eating. It was quite refreshing.
I started with a jar of spicy pickles which is supposedly a 100 year old family recipe. They had great spice and flavour and were served in the quintessential hillbilly/hispter glassware…the mason jar.
The burgers are the main event but Bareburgers offers other sandwiches and salads as well. You have the choice of building your own or trusting the chefs who have devised 14 different choices using a variety of meat, buns and toppings. I opted for the blue elk ($13.65) which was elk topped with elk, amish blue, back bacon, stout onions and tomato fig jam all served on a sprout bun. The meat was cooked perfectly but the taste was hidden a little by the intense flavour of the jam and the bun. All in all, it was a good burger and clearly unique from most of the others in the area and despite the richness of some of the ingredients, didn’t leave that gross feeling in my stomach despite the side of fries and onion rings ($5.70) which I split with my table mate who also ordered the buttermilk buffalo ($10.90). It was buffalo fried chicken, amish blue, buttermilk ranch, green leaf and a brioche bun. I snuck a piece and was thoroughly impressed.The sauce was not your typical frank’s red. It was much deeper in flavour. The chicken itself was moist and delicious and complemented well with the cheese and sauce. The fries were quite good and the rings were among some of the best I’ve had; crispy and well seasoned versus greasy and salty. Special mention goes to the Sir Kensington’s ketchup available at the table which was much fresher than the Heinz which typically graces the tables of every other burger joint in town.
What do you call a hillybilly, hipster and hippy all in one? A hillster? Hipbilly? Hiphilly? Hippyster? Regardless, Bareburger would make any combination of the three feel at home. The rustic decor, organic meat choices and man buns would appeal to all of their desires at the same time. I’m not sure if it is the best burger I’ve ever had but it is certainly one of the more unique. The meat was cooked beautifully and the toppings, although a bit overwhelming resulted in one of the more unique burgers I’ve had, probably because it relied on fresh ingredients instead of grease and salt as the primary means of flavour. The chicken sandwich was a step above many (I’d put that shit on everything), especially those which usually play second fiddle in a typical burger joint. The fries held their own (especially with Sir Kensington’s help) and the rings were divine. When all is said and done a burger, fries and drink will run you $20 which can buy you a whole lotta karma, a cocktail at a hipster haven or an official duck commander quack pack duck call so I’ll let you decide.