Ottawa burger chain The Works arrives in Toronto with a deep menu that includes celebrity-themed creations.
Up until relatively recently, Torontonians looking to get their hands on a burger were limited to the conventional options of a fast-food joint, a greasy spoon, or a fancy establishment hocking a bun and patty for upwards of $20. Within the last few years, however, some new blood has been injected into the local scene, and while Burger’s Priest is, arguably, largely responsible for catapulting the status of the lowly hamburger to rock star–level popularity, that rise has been helped in no small part by the likes of Holy Chuck, 5 Guys Burgers and Fries, Big Smoke Burger, The Burger Shoppe, Great Burger Kitchen, and the like. A few weeks ago, the Yonge/Bloor area was graced with the presence of Slab Burger, a new, cheap, back-to-basics style burger joint, and now it looks like the city will be getting a healthy dose of an Ottawa-born chain that’s been expanding throughout southern Ontario for the last decade.
In early May, The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro will open its first Toronto location at 888 Danforth, between Donlands and Pape. Marketing itself as a neighbourhood-style bistro that just happens to specialize in burgers, the restaurant chain has built its reputation over the past 10 years with an emphasis on variety that is largely unprecedented among the majority of burger restaurants in the Golden Horseshoe. The Works has over a dozen outlets spread throughout the province, each one offering a choice of six different types of patties (beef, chicken, turkey, veggie, Portobello mushroom and elk), three buns (white, whole wheat, and gluten-free), 70 different toppings (making for over 400 combinations), 50 flavours of milkshakes, fresh hand-cut fries and even a decent selection of salads. As an added bonus, each location is licensed to sell alcohol, with an emphasis on Canadian beers and even the occasional craft option. All burgers are 8 oz., hand-weighed and hand-packed, then cooked over an open flame until medium-well and sold for between $11 and $14. And despite the fact that there are upwards of 70 burger combos on the menu already, customers will be able to personalize their burger any way they want.
“We’re trying to do something that’s never been done in Toronto,” says Works president and owner Andy O’Brien, who, along with opening the Danforth location imminently, already has spots picked out for forthcoming restaurants in the Beach and Bloor West Village, and is in talks to open another five branches around the city after that. Don’t mention the words “burger saturation” to him, however: “I’ve lived in the States, in places like Dallas and Chicago, and from what I’ve seen there, Toronto is not even close to hitting burger saturation yet.”
Ahead of the opening of the Danforth location, The Works recently hosted a media event, where Toronto celebrities were invited to name their own burgers to be put on the menu. In attendance were eTalk’s Ben Mulroney, Joe Eppele and Mike Bradwell from the Toronto Argonauts, Stefan “Snake” Brogren from the original Degrassi cast, and everyone’s favourite prankster, Kenny Hotz, who named his burger (predictably) “The Kenny Burger—Spenny’s Burger has no meat.”