THE YELLOW GRIFFIN (2202 Bloor West, at Runnymede, 416-763-3365) Open daily 11:30 am to 2 am.
Swansea, that affluent semi-retired burg that runs west from High Park to Bloor West Village, comes new to al fresco café society. Hogtown's last booze-free zone, it's only in the past five years that the area has embraced drinking in public, let alone on a patio in full view of the neighbours.
The Yellow Griffin is typical of Swansea, a small Guinness-slinging pub with a six-table curbside veranda where the biggest attractions are Thursday's poker night and Friday's 80s disco. But, like most local bars and restos, business has been down.
"First SARS, then the anti-smoking bylaw. We had to do something!" says the Griffin's Maria Lutkiewicz who, with her son Oliver , decided to think big and offer 1,470 variations of hamburgers, topping combos and side dishes.
That's six different patties - ground beef, lamb or turkey, chicken breast, pork escalope and Yves's veggie - 35 styles of fixin's from the Kung Fu ($8.85), with scallion, peanut and Kung Pao sauce, to the Skippy Dipper ($8.45), with crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam. Sides go seven ways: sweet potato and Belgian-style fries, breaded onion rings, two types of coleslaw, tart curried potato salad with bacon, apple and raisins, and superbly crisp waffled potato gaufrette.
Some burgers are just plain weird: the St. Peter's ($11.45) on chicken breast with fishy roe and a smashed shrimp - I think not. But others, like the Bollywood ($8.95), lamb with mango chutney and tandoori yogurt sauce, or the Cubana Libre ($10.25), pork with peameal bacon, Swiss cheese and gherkins (hold the hot dog mustard), are keepers.
More patty picks
The Drake (see listing, page 90) has one of the best burgers in town, patio or otherwise. Served with frites so crisp they make Jamie Kennedy's acclaimed spuds seem like limp noodles, the patty topped with oka 'n' caramelized onion and sandwiched between slices of Fred's brioche is so thick and jus-squirting that it requires a chopstick skewer to hold it together ($14). No less an authority than the Globe's Joanne Kates called the Pilot 's (see listing, page 99) namesake charbroiled 6-ouncer ($8.50) "the king of burgers. " Who knew they had Whoppers way back then? Things have certainly changed since the early 60s. Still others swear by Mark McEwan 's bombastic Bymark (see listing, page 95) burger, 8 ounces of hand-chopped USDA prime layered with foie gras, mango jam and mustard aíoli, a mere snip at $36.95.