- The Burger
- The Atmosphere
People go through life searching for different things. You can spend endless years in school to prepare yourself for the perfect career; you can frequent the nightclub scene to look for the perfect mate; you can travel the seven seas to find the perfect sunset. Whatever the case, life is about a constant search for something better. Well, here at The Urban Craze, we can’t help you with any of these things. After all, we are just a bunch of people who like to eat and want to share the stories behind it all. We can help you in other ways though – you know… like help you in the search for the perfect food in and around the city. Provide our take on the art. Yes, the art of food.
1636 Queen Street East
Shant Mardirosian is the owner of The Burger’s Priest and he was awesome enough to host us at The Beaches’ location. We had the chance to sit down and hear his story, see him in action and feast on his famous burgers. Being raised in an Armenian-American family in Los Angeles, Shant grew up with a different kind of burger. When Shant made the decision to move to Toronto in 1984, he saw a void in our city for the “California/American” style burger. We asked him if he thought the selection in Toronto was “not good” and he replied, “There’s no good and bad per se, but rather it’s a taste preference based on category and style”. Shant noted, “In the same way that pizza is different in Rome than in Naples…it’s just how people made them. We are bringing that [American] style to Toronto.” The concept was simple – introduce the burgers from the cities of Los Angeles and New York to Canada. It all started at this Queen Street East location, where the goal was to sell 20 burgers a day to make a little and just break-even. Little did Shant know that his burger joint would not only breakeven, but erupt and soon take its rightful place as one of the best and most popular burger restaurants in the city.
Being that food-happy and curious team that we are, five of us from The Urban Craze marched over to try out Burger’s Priest…for the 99th time. It was interesting to see the behind-the-scenes and to watch how the restaurant set up before opening for business. Despite having an opening time of noon on Saturday, there were already people waiting outside the doors at 11:30AM. On numerous occasions while inside, Shant had to remind people that the store was still preparing for the day and they had to wait a few more minutes. As a customer, this made me want my burger even more. As a food blogger, this made me realize just how popular the Burger’s Priest was. The weather was unforgiving as the early November weather quickly hinted at an upcoming brutal winter, with brisk winds and almost-freezing temperatures. In summary, it was cold. And people were still lining up for a taste of the Burger’s Priest.
The name, Burger’s Priest, and its accompanying slogan, “Redeeming the burger one at a time”, both have religious references. These references trace back to Shant’s roots in Christianity and his education from Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto. Many will draw inferences to Christianity based on not only the name and slogan of Burger’s Priest, but also the legendary Secret Menu that has become widely popularized. Just to name a few – The Vatican, The Pope, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Noah’s Ark; these burger aliases all draw from stories from the Holy Bible. Shant’s objective is to cook a great burger that is worthy to every customer so that if God Himself walked in one day and ordered take-out, He would be pleased. It’s a lofty goal but the thousands of adoring fans who have tried Burger’s Priest will agree that Shant’s plan is well underway.
Coming in just as the store opened allowed the team to see just how fresh the ingredients were. The vegetables were washed and cut day-of, and the buns were stacked and ready to go. The burger patties, last but not least, were brought out on pans in rows of 5 by 8. The 40 patties are the heart and soul of what makes Burger’s Priest burgers so unique – a batch of custom blend freshly-ground premium beef. It’s a little different and a little fresher than the over-processed frozen beef that many fast-food joints are serving. Just a little fresher. That was sarcasm, FYI. Shant pointed out, “I’ve never sold a freshly ground patty that was more than 3 hours old.” These patties are juicy and packed with a savoury, rich beef taste. If you want to know what a cow tastes like, this is the closest you’ll get. I watched as the platter of uncooked beef balls was brought out onto the kitchen top, where they were seasoned with salt and pepper seconds before they hit the flat-top griddle. The smell of bacon, cheese and beef filled the small waiting area and I soon began fantasizing about that burger hitting my already salivating lips.
I finally had the chance to chow down my Double Cheeseburger as I watched my team member Michelle wolf down The Option. It is fun watching friends eat and get food all over themselves, all at the same time enjoying each bite of my own meal.
The popular burger joint has garnered a rather large fan base since its inception and Shant has been able to please his customers through the wide menu selection. However once in a while someone comes along who wants something else. An order that Burger’s Priest gets from time to time is a Low Priest, which is a single patty of the High Priest. A not-so-common order that Shant remembers vividly was a 10×10 – essentially 40oz of meat organized into 10 beef patties layered with 10 layers of cheese. This monster – sandwiched in between the 1970’s reminiscent buns – packs a punch as you can imagine! Everyone has their own preference for how their meal is prepared and Burger’s Priest has been very accommodating to customize and to keep each customer happy. I, along with Shant, for example like our burgers traditional. Pack on the lettuce, pickles and onions and we’re ready to go!
Burger’s Priest without a doubt has made a name for itself in Toronto. With its flagship on Queen East and its newest location in the North Toronto on Yonge, Shant has made our city an icon for a burger of its own. We got a hint that there will be a new location opening soon in the West end. With the East, North and West, Shant has truly created a burger trifecta! Without revealing too much, customers in the West end get ready for deliciousness coming your way! And to end this off, some wise words from Shant to his fans, “Relax and enjoy!”
We want to extend a huge THANK YOU to Shant and the BP Team for hosting us! It’s not everyday we get a burger cooked by the man himself
PS: Don’t bother coming in on Sunday. Burger’s Priest is closed for Church.
The Damage: $12 pp