Gangster Burger, a takeout spot that opened up two weeks ago at Queen and Portland. Among its first customers was rap star Drake.">

First Look: Gangster Burger, a new indie hamburger joint on Queen West


Published:

What do you get when two guys from the tattoo industry with a can-do attitude — but zero experience in the food industry — decide to open a burger joint pretty much on a lark? You get Gangster Burger, a takeout spot that opened up two weeks ago at Queen and Portland. Among its first customers was rap star Drake.

“That was a bit of a mixed blessing,” says co-owner Lee Baxter, who also owns the tattoo and piercing shop FY Ink across the street. “We got a lot of attention, but we were just doing a soft opening. We had a bun issue, and we had it figured out by the fourth day, [but we got media attention] on the third day.”

The bun issue seems long behind them, and Baxter says business at Gangster Burger is doing well: the shop sells out of meat every day.

Baxter and FY Ink’s manager, William Nguyen, had long joked about opening their own burger place. Baxter used to eat at Ali Baba’s, the estaurant that previously occupied the space, and got to know the owner fairly well. So when he heard that Ali Baba’s owner wanted to sell, Baxter negotiated a down payment, dropped off the money, walked into his tattoo shop and told Nguyen, “Okay, you know that joke? We’re going to do it.”

While Baxter and Nguyen worked on the interior of the space, including setting up a gangster-themed collage of old photos and news articles on the wall, head chef Adrian Forte, who until recently worked at the ACC as a line cook, spent a month developing a burger menu.

Gangster’s most popular burger is the Dillinger ($7.39), a burger topped with caramelized onion, bacon, dill havarti and spicy house-made ketchup (which Gangster Burger appropriately calls “gangster goo.”)

Fries ($3.55) are cut in-house from Yukon Gold potatoes and seasoned with salt, chopped thyme and cracked pepper.

Gangster Burger offers five house-made sauce sauces to go with the sides, including “blue magic” (made with secret ingredients). Other, less mysterious sauces include garlic aioli and chipotle mayo.

Another popular burger is the Capone ($8), which comes with smoked provolone, roasted red pepper, caramelized red onions and crimini mushrooms sautéed with house-made marinara sauce.

Forte says all supplies come from local neighbourhood businesses. Buns, for example, are poppy seed ones from Silverstein’s Bakery. Burgers are cooked to order, by customer preference.

Baxter says they have gotten some flack for glamourizing gang culture — but he says people are misunderstanding the theme of the restaurant.

“We want to educate on the impact these guys made,” Baxter says. “We’re also showcasing the fictional aspect of gang culture.”

Baxter has already talked to the Toronto police about doing an anti-gun violence fundraiser, and the restaurant is considering heading out to less fortunate neighbourhoods around Queen West to give out burgers and to educate about gun violence.

Gangster Burger, 607 Queen Street West, 647-352-3375

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Follow us on Twitter @PostCity for more on what to eat, where to shop and what to do in Toronto.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

Lunch Pick: Venture off the menu at Salad King for the Islamic noodles

Lunch Pick: Venture off the menu at Salad King for the Islamic noodles

The Islamic noodles are surprisingly popular, given that they're not even on the menu at Salad King.
Posted 3 hours ago
Restaurant Review: Uptown Kwan does decent — but unexciting — dim sum

Restaurant Review: Uptown Kwan does decent — but unexciting — dim sum

This peak eating moment has made the good stuff less exciting. And the Kwan dim sum isn’t. Exciting. All the regulars are here and done pretty nicely.
Posted 2 days ago
What to Eat this Minute: This summer’s  perfect sundae

What to Eat this Minute: This summer’s perfect sundae

Patrons choose two flavours (such as ube, jackfruit, corn and cheese and more), which are joined by ube turon: a spring roll wrapper filled with ube halaya, which sees ube cooked down with condensed and coconut milks.
Posted 3 days ago
At the Bar: Reyna’s summer cocktail is meant for serious patio flirting

At the Bar: Reyna’s summer cocktail is meant for serious patio flirting

Served in a copper-coloured pineapple, this super-refreshing — not to mention handsome — drink is ideal for sharing during the dog days of summer.
Posted 6 days ago
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module