As Toronto chefs continue to do absolutely everything to tweak the once un-tweakable beef and bun recipe—grain-fed, sprouts-infused, gluten-free—many burger enthusiasts are gagging for tradition. Fortunately, there are still classic options to be found. Though some are harder to track down, the list below features some of the best—and longest-running—burger joints within the GTA, and (a little) beyond.
Apache Burger | 5236 Dundas St W
A west-end institution since 1969, this iconic Etobicoke spot flips out cheap meat, with unfussy, deep-fried accessories, and always ranks high on the city’s “best of…” lists. Although known far and wide for its menu, the setting—a retro nod to the shiny, neon-tinged nights of the 1970s—features prominently in television and film (Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay can be seen chowing down on Apache buns in the recent Oscar-winner Room).
Johnny’s Charcoal Broiled Hamburgers | 2595 Victoria Park, Scarborough
Tough to find, but difficult to forget: Johnny’s is a North Toronto institution. Like many others on the list, nostalgia is the main draw, given the original décor and paper-capped staff. What you may not know is that Mike Meyers—yes, that Mike Meyers—made this diner his home away from home in the 70s. It’s easy to see why.
Big M Burgers | 711 Krosno Blvd, Pickering
First opened in 1965, this joint—a road trip staple, located just off of the 401—continues the family-run tradition of serving up quality and quantity. Besides the usual fare, be sure to indulge in some shakes, Souvlaki, or the famous steak Kaiser.
Dangerous Dan’s Diner | 714 Queen St E
Everybody loves the double d’s- where the ͞burgers are bigger. This legendary Queen East hangout is as iconic as the Jilly’s that once wiggled from across the street, or the landmark Opera House just around the corner. Unbeatably cheap, satisfyingly good—the perfect greasy spoon for your morning after.
Webers | 8825 Highway 11 North, Orillia
The next time you’re heading up north (or to Casino Rama — no judgement), make the road trip count. This hideaway, a couple of hours outside the GTA, is THE landmark stop for cottagers looking to chow down on unfussy—and delicious—charbroiled meat.
Golden Star | 7123 Yonge St, Thornhill
Another diamond in the rough, this out of the way locale has been around since 1964, specializing in grilling and flipping for the North York masses. Complete with old school charm and a fully operational drive-thru, this is a great weekend hang.
The Burger Shack | 233 Eglinton Ave W
Homemade goodness for nearly 30 years, this midtown eatery is the ultimate destination for hand cut fries and flame-broiled patties. No frills or fancy artwork on the walls, stop in for classic fast food done right.
Sonny’s Foods | 21 Kennedy Rd N, Brampton
Not too far off the beaten path, in the bustling suburb of Brampton, lies a quirky time capsule of classic diner realness. Sonny’s- unofficially known to locals as “Sonny’s Drive-In”, is an old school counter with quality burgers, sides, and plenty of open air tables. It’s worth the drive to Brampton.
(Photo bye Webers)