Gale's Snack Bar
539 Eastern, at Carlaw.
The Vibe: rough ‘n' tumble retro greasy spoon on the wrong side of the tracks
The Clientele: cash-strapped seniors, John Travolta in Hairspray drag, motorcycle gangs, juvenile delinquents
The Burger: Even if you think of this 80-year-old diner's cheeseburger as a good cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwich that somehow managed to slip a 2-ounce beef patty of no particular distinction onto a bun from Weston Bakery down the road, it's still one of the best meal deals in town. Go ahead - order two! Big spenders will have enough left over to splurge on sides of frozen fries with appropriately canned gravy ($1.35), laudable vanilla ice cream milkshakes ($1.50) and slices of just-like-mom's house-made apple pie ($1.25) with filling straight out of the tin. As it should be.
The Damage: $1.35
Monday to Friday 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday noon to 5 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: five steps at door, booth and counter seating, tiny washroom on same floor.
66 Wellington W, at York, 416-777-1144, bymark.ca.
The Vibe: swellegant Bay Street bunker with lush patio at the foot of the modernist Mies van der Rohe-designed TD Tower
The Clientele: Bay Street power brokers, former prime ministers, TV cooking show hosts
The Burger: Now that short-lived M:Brgr and its laughable $100 burger - publicity stunt or what? - has slunk back to Montreal with its tail between its legs, Top Chef Canada's Mark McEwan's landmark burger reclaims its crown as Hogtown's most expensive. Here's what the burghers get with their burger: 8 hand-chopped ounces of medium-rare Prime USDA strip loin spiked with truffle oil on an Ace Bakery bun, garnished with intensely meaty king mushrooms and melted Brie de Meaux cheese and sided with a stack of tempura-battered onion rings, garlicky aioli and textbook frites. For the price of 21.21 cheeseburgers at Gale's, it's almost worth it.
The Damage: $35
Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 11 pm, dinner Saturday 5 to 11 pm, bar nightly to close. Closed Sunday. Licensed. Access: barrier-free.