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Owner/chef Shant Mardirosian builds the Tower of Babel. Double Double Burger (right). Photo by David Laurence
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Photo by David Laurence
BURGER'S PRIEST (1636 Queen East, at Coxwell, 647-346-0617, theburgerspriest.com) Complete meals for $15 per person, including tax, tip and a bottled water. Average main $8. Open Monday to Wednesday 11:30 am to 9:30 pm, Thursday and Friday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, Saturday noon to 10:30 pm. Closed Sunday, some holidays. No reservations. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: Barrier-free, no washrooms. Rating: NNNN
It's no secret that the Burger's Priest makes a hamburger of Biblical proportions, part New York City's Shake Shack, part California's fun, fun, fun In-n-Out. No, the mystery is what's in them.
"The beef, the buns, the cheese - I keep it blank across the board," says BP's Shant Mardirosian.
Unlike loquacious locavores who love to spill the beans, Toronto's newly anointed burger king stays schtum on whether the meat he grinds fresh every day originates in Canada, the U.S. or Argentina, let alone if it's organic or grass-fed. But that hasn't stopped his competitors from digging through his garbage to find out.
"They've tried bribing my delivery guys, so we now have our meat shipped in unmarked crates."
Seems like a lot of aggro over a quarter-pounder, right? Yes, until you're about a third of the way through the Priest's signature Double Double, when an epiphany occurs.
Cue choir. This is a Whopper like no other, two coarsely ground and loosely packed 4-ounce cooked-medium-to-order patties (though they're closer to 3 after the griddle) of the beefiest beef imaginable, gloriously glued together with a hosanna of melted processed cheddar. No pretentious multigrain sourdough bun to overpower this baby, but correctly absorbent WonderBread instead. Add bacon for a buck. Count me converted.
The vegetarian option is called - what else? - The Option (both $7.99) and appears to be a pair of deep-fried panko-crusted portobello mushroom caps bonded with more Velveeta. And then there's the Priest's not-so-secret secret menu.
Although it's not officially advertised, the confidential card can be found on the four-seat lunch counter's Facebook fan page. 'Course if you go to Secret Menu you get "It's still a secret." Go to Photos and all is revealed. You'll see the High Priest, a Big Mac clone built on a Double Double with an additional bun spread with faux Mickey D secret sauce. Watch how the Option becomes a Religious Hypocrite when paired with bacon and a Noah's Ark when layered with campfire chili and cheese (all $8.99).
Not enough cholesterol for ya? Replace the buns of a Double Double with grilled cheese sandwiches and get a Vatican City ($9.99). Squeeze the Option's deep-fried portobello into a Vatican and it becomes a Tower Of Babel ($14.99). Tell them you want your Double Double (with extra fried onions, $8.99) cooked Jarge-style (pronounced Jarz-sh) and they'll fry it in ballpark mustard. Sounds terri-ble, tastes terrific.
Can't get enough? Then be sure to go for a 6x6 - six beef patties and six slices of cheese on a bun ($14.35). Take that, Dangerous Dan's! And don't forget to ask for "smoke" if you want a deep-fried jalapeño pepper added to anything. Lettuce, tomato, chopped onion and mayo are free.
Only the Priest's Yukon Gold fries ($3.29) disappoint, one visit pale and anemic, the next almost burned.
"They're the bane of my existence," sighs Mardirosian. "It's the uneven sugar content in the potatoes."
Another curse is the perpetual lineup. Go at lunch or dinner and the queue can snake halfway to the Coxwell Loop. Why, on Saturdays alone the Priest shifts 1,000 burgers. Maybe it's time for a second, larger location to meet the demand?
"I want to make sure this one is up and running first," explains Mardirosian nonchalantly. "We get five or six requests for franchises a day."