Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Restaurant Review: Retro Burger

As stated in an earlier post, Retro Burger is opening an outpost in the east side of Toronto, near Danforth and Coxwell.  When Retro Burger opened up at Yonge and St. Clair, it was with great fanfare.  There are few affordable and quick options for lunch in the area.  The burger scene consisted of Hero Burger, McDonald's and Wendy's and  since that time, Harvey's has joined the fray. 

For the first months, the place was always packed.  I went about a half dozen times to try everything on the menu and hope that the ordering kinks exhibited in the first few days were fixed.  Well, I went back a few weeks ago to prepare for writing a review for the new one.  It is not as packed as it was earlier on.  For the past few weeks, I have been wrestling on what to say about it. 

It is easy to see what the restaurant is aiming at.  By Retro, it seems to be talking about the 80s given the music and the menus.  It is in imitation of Johnny's Hamburgers (Scarborough) or Apache Burger (Etobicoke).   An aside, my wife was raised in Scarborough and swore up and down about the legendary burger place but when we went back she remembered it being better.  I did not grow up in Toronto and Apache Burger was my favourite until the Burger's Priest.  Aside finished. Anyways, it is attempting to be a salt crusted burger with great fries. It falls short because the patty ends up watery and salty without the crust.  The buns act as a barrier to tasting the meat rather than a stage to show off the beef. 

The second issue is the pricing.  Originally, the burgers were priced reasonable at the Yonge location and they offered late afternoon specials but the prices have continued to rise and the specials evaporated.  The food has not gotten better.  Some of the toppings are good but not exemplary.  The fried onions are what I am talking about.

Once again, the placement of this new location is an underburgerized area near a McDonald's.  I don't like writing about a mediocre place.  It is easier and more satisfying to write about a place you love and would like a few tweaks.  It is a more guilty pleasure about writing about a horrible place and coming up with an interesting way to explain your disdain.  It is hard to write about ordinary.  This place will probably do well but I would like to see better from them and every burger place.

Update Just to be clear, there is a new location of this restaurant opening at Coxwell and Danforth but the one used to review the chain was located at Yonge and St. Clair. See comments for discussion.

As of August 22, 2011, the Retro Burger on Yonge has closed shop to be replaced by another burger place.

Retro Burger on Urbanspoon


  1. How are you posting this review when this place isn't even open yet? I live in the area and it doesn't even open until tomorrow, June 20th. I don't understand how you've been to a place a half dozen times when its not even open yet lol This makes all your reviews questionable imo

  2. This is a chain restaurant and this is the fourth one opened. The third one was at St. Clair and Yonge. I had thought this point was clear but thanks for letting me clear up any confusion about which location I was reviewing.

    I wrote this review for people who live in the area because I thought it was helpful to know what at least one other location was like. If I was going to a new restaurant and wanted to know what it was like -- Milestones for example, I would trust reviews from different locations to help me make my decisions. This is especially true of chain restaurants who pride themselves on the consistency of the experience.

    Could you let me know if this is a reasonable approach or is this something that still raises questions for you?

  3. You should try there take on the real philly cheese steak. Best I ever had.

  4. I was very excited to have this burger place open on the Danforth - s between Coxwell and Woodbine, not very much to choose from. I have been in twice, first time I decided to start with the Sweet potatoe fries...they are OK, however the forgot to give me the dip. Second time was the fish and fries - it's good I have no complaints other than their tarter sauce is like dipping your fish into a container of mayo - not impressed by that. I still have yet to try thier burgers and poutines.

  5. Just had cheeseburger and fries for dinner. I enjoyed it and would go back. Like that it was only 5oz burger - easier to track calories.

  6. I'm new to this area and when Retro Burger opened up here (Danforth & Coxwell) I was thrilled. So far I've tried many items on their menu, burgers, philly cheese steaks, fish & fries, poutines and definately the Mar's bars... :) I've enjoyed everything I've had so far, the staff is friendly and the place is clean... I'll be visiting again!!