Monday, June 25, 2012

Restaurant Review: Jetsun's Juicyburger

There are a number of Jetsun's Juicyburgers in Toronto but the one that really struck my fancy for many reasons was the one located  at the Golden Mile.  I find this location especially fascinating because of the history of the area and what that type of area meant for food culture.  So, onwards to the food review but if you are interested in what makes this place so damn interesting to me, read on.

The Golden Mile began its existence in the mid 50's. This type of area creation where the new living environment that would be close to work was innovative.  Mass housing to follow as living close to industry was a positive. That's right, the creation of the suburbia was so innovative that it was visited by the Queen. That it was worthy of a visit at all speaks to the importance of strip malls in particular and suburbia in general.   This visit also gave a boost to the area's growing mythology.

Strip plazas where celebrated as modern conveniences.  Toronto's first strip mall was at Sunnybrook Plaza at Eglinton and Bayview avenues.

Industrial areas within suburbia gradually morphed into strip malls everywhere.  Today, the working class and industrial ethic lives on in the idea of big boxes where the process of shopping and eating are unabashedly commercialized and mechanized.

1958 was the beginning of the roll out of McDonalds.  Before that,  Mom and Pop shops had varying degrees of success. Diners where opening up in the suburbs because people were moving there from the cities.  Jobs and homes could be had.

Some of the echoes of these concerns show up in popular culture. Soylent Green, pills as food (think about our vitamin and supplement culture), the idea that synthetic food will save us all and of course,Cyndi Lauper's She-bop

So, from there we go to a focus on how view of the future has changed.  Let's talk about the allusion in the name.  In 1962-3, the Jetsons, a futuristic prime time cartoon series was on television.  It was set in the far off time of 2062.  We are halfway there.  It showed a future of flying cars reflecting the techno utopianism of which we now tend to make fun. Jeffrey Tucker of the Ludwig von Mises Institute has argued that "The whole scene – which anticipated so much of the technology we have today but, strangely, not email or texting – reflected the ethos of time: a love of progress and a vision of a future that stayed on course."

There is a rumoured Jetsons movie to be made.  Universal and Warner Bros. set a 2012 release. It was put on hold by Rodriguez in favor of a fourth Spy Kids film. Universal's involvement in the project is a result of having previously acquired the film rights in the late 1980s, the resulting film being Jetsons: The Movie.

The Jetsons futurism stems from the situation within the Atomic age (1945) where there was  a great optimism that nuclear was the way to go.  Bombs would save us and bring peace, safe food through irradiation, power us and treat all cancers through nuclear medicine.  All our problems looked like nails because we had found the cosmic hammer. Couple this belief with the new Space age beginning around 1957 and you can see how all our futures were so much brighter.

In this area now, Vietnamese restaurant, Sally Ann, flea market, jewellery exchange and a courthouse now rub shoulders with the rest of the big box stores.  There is a move to redevelop some of these low rise buildings into condominiums.  The future from here looks different than it did.

So, WTF does this have to do with the restaurant and food?

Well, when you walk into Jetsun's Juicyburger, it is a kind of back to the future. But what the future was like imagined in the 1950's.  If McDonalds had never happened this would be the alternate universe restaurant.  The burgers are "handmade" and a note lets you know it might take a while.  The fries and the burgers are a good value.  What really impressed us, as a family, was that the meals were right sized. The small meal was perfect for my littlest one and anyone who wasn't particularly hungry.  There was enough variety in the toppings for the hamburger that I could have a decent burger topped with hot peppers and sriracha and the rest of my party could as they would.

The place was quite kid friendly and the fries... The fries were good.  Crisp and slightly sweet not from added sugar but rather the type of potato chosen.  The food does not taste like food supply company stuff but honest potatoes, meat and bun.  Meat was moist and juicy, sometimes bordering on the perfect medium cooked and always slightly salty and very beefy.  The bun was soft enough to sop the juices but thick enough not to dissolve in pasty tastelessness.

This is what a Mom and Pop shop would have been had fast food not been commodified to a machine driven process.  This is not to say that this is the best burger and fries that I have tasted and you should go out and get it.  But it is cool that the one that I tried on the Golden Mile a few times - first when it was lonely in a strip mall and later when Walmart and all the big boxes sprouted up around, reminds me of honesty and goodness in the land of the hard sell.  I would choose this place over so many more of those fast food places. It is nostalgic now.
Jetsun's Juicyburger on Urbanspoon

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