Toronto’s gourmet Mac attack
By Jon Sufrin
Hoof Café's blood sausage McMuffin (Image: Cheol Joon Baek)
Iceberg lettuce, white sesame seed buns and Thousand Island dressing: these ingredients were once relegated to the annals of fast food. No longer. Across Toronto, serious restaurants are paying tribute to the tasty (but terrible) McDonald’s. Why? When it tastes this good, who cares? Below, four elevated takes on Mickey D’s.
Bloody good (pictured above)
At the newly resurrected Hoof Café (which serves brunch as a “permanent pop-up” out of Hoof Raw Bar), chef Amancio dos Santos does a take on the Egg McMuffin with a nose-to-tail twist (in true Hoof fashion). He fries an egg inside a mould, on a flat top, so that it retains the characteristic shape one would see in a McDonald’s sandwich. It’s joined with a patty of Spanish-style blood sausage (poached and seared) and an arugula salad dressed with mayo and grainy Dijon mustard. The vessel is a standard English muffin from the grocery store.
$6. Hoof Café at Hoof Raw Bar, 926 Dundas St. W., 647-346-9356
When chef Matthew Sullivan began playing around with recipes for a steak tartare at Leslieville’s Skin+Bones restaurant, his intention was to simply create an umami-heavy appetizer. But as he tasted the dish-in-progress, he noticed it had a similar flavour profile to a Big Mac, so he played it up. In its current form, the tangy tartare is half sirloin and half beef heart, finely chopped and mixed with shallot, garlic, cucumber, mustard, Tabasco and other spices. It’s accompanied by iceberg lettuce, Monforte Toscano cheese, fermented cucumbers and house-made milk-bread crostini.
$13. Skin+Bones, 980 Queen St. E., 416-524-5209
Size doesn’t matter
Queen and Bathurst’s 416 Snack Bar has never been afraid to take trashy food and elevate it. On Sundays, chef Rory McGouran serves up a miniature, delicious, two-bite version of the Big Mac. A patty made from blade steak — seasoned with a touch of salt and pepper — is seared on a flat top grill, then finished in the oven with a slice of medium cheddar from the Cheese Boutique. It goes into a house-made slider bun (made from enriched white flour, of course) along with iceberg lettuce, diced white onion and pickles. The kicker is a slather of store-bought Thousand Island dressing.
$4. 416 Snack Bar, 181 Bathurst St., 416-364-9320
Queen West’s newly opened Happy Child offers a menu that’s rampant with throwbacks to fast-food culture (including a mean Kentucky-fried Cornish hen and a very satisfying interpretation of the Whopper). For a unique take on the McChicken, owner-chef Fan Zhang uses sweetbreads in the place of poultry. He poaches them, dredges them with flour and deep-fries them. The sweetbreads are then placed on a white sesame seed bun from Silverstein’s Bakery, along with a lemony mayonnaise and some iceberg lettuce.
$8. Happy Child, 1168 Queen St. W., 647-748-1599