Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Cornerstone: 4.2/5

The Cornerstone
Score: 4.1
Platter: $13

Papa Gorgeous
Score: 4.9
Platter: $12.5

You can expect great food and the best service at The Cornerstone. The sister to The Grove opened in the Papa George’s location at 93 Osborne Street in February and it’s a perfect fit with the Village vibe.

As a nod to the iconic former occupant, the first burger to go on the menu was the Papa Gorgeous. The self named Cornerstone Burger was added during Burger Week and for those in the know, you can also order the off-the-menu Grove Burger.

The Cornerstone is roomy and brightly lit, dominated by a large bar overlooked by the open kitchen. It’s an acoustically bright space and I'm sure Burger Club were the noisy ones when we were there for supper. Karen and I arrived about an hour early and they already had us comfortably setup on the River Ave wing of the L shaped restaurant. Geoff wrote “My first time in the building since it was Papa George's. I like how they opened up the inside, taking out the walls and putting in a multitude of large windows. The beer selection is expansive, but not very expensive which is a bonus.

Our waitress, Elodie - “Melodie without the M” – was fantastic. She was all smiles, quick with the drink orders and refills, and happy to answer questions about the restaurant. The Cornerstone received Burger Club's highest service rating: 4.9/5. Head Chef Norm Pastorin dropped by our table to say hello and see how The Cornerstone was doing. “I thought there’d be more of you …” Tonight we were a smaller group of ten. Norm told us about the locally sourced ingredients such as the soft fluffy buns from Stella’s and the bacon that’s smoked and seasoned at a local butcher. He likes it because it cooks to leathery perfection; so did we – the burger had a folded layer of bacon that made everyone happy.

Eric, the award winning bartender, told us about the beer machine made in Chicago, the only one in Canada, that chills and pours 20 different drafts. The self contained cooler keeps the whole keg at a perfect temperature which means no foamy waste as the barrel warms up. The lines are only 3 ft long so it’s quite easy to maintain and hook up the latest craft beer offering. Several of us opted for the Cornerstone Caesar with Sriracha – it was tasty and the second one was even better!

Most of us feasted on the Cornerstone Burger with bacon, cheddar cheese, and onions prepared 4 ways. Karen and I tried it during Burger Week; the main difference being the prototype patty was a blend of beef and bacon. We wanted to share it and our waitress offered to cut the stack in half and serve it on two plates for us. They each came with a shiny skewer to hold the compromised assembly together. There was no sharing today though, and we all devoured our own burger.

The patty was well seasoned and had a good grill crust. It was juicy – the kind of grease that makes a burger heavenly. When the patty's just about done, the cook piles on succulent sautéed onion and a heap of shredded cheddar cheese turning the grill into a delicious mess of love. Green onion, pickled red onion and aioli go on the bottom, and crispy fried onions and more aioli are on the top with the sandwich presented bun-open. It was a good sized patty and plenty to satisfy my hunger. When I had it in September, the sauce was very rich – today’s burger wasn't so rich and that was fine with me. Looking at the pictures afterwards, it looks like the dollops of sauce varied a bit.

Les waxed poetic “This was one of the best burgers ever - very juicy, spiced, tasty burger. My taste buds fairly sparkled when the rainbow of onions (4 kinds) hit the mouth. The in-house bacon was zesty & tall on taste creeping over the cheese.”

Brian added “The bun was perfectly sized for the patty, and the patty was nicely seasoned. This is a burger not disguised by an overabundance of toppings, and what toppings there were, were superb.  The star of the show was the aioli sauce that brought all of the flavors together making it an above average burger, in comfortable restaurant, at a great price.

Karen ordered the Papa Gorgeous and had this to say: “I ordered my Greek burger as-is. It was very nicely presented with a pile of feta on the burger patty. Leaf lettuce and marinated onions were on the top. Overall the taste was excellent; great Greek flavour came out from the feta. It became a lovely mess as things fell apart towards the end. Fries were excellent as was the Caesar.

I had tomato soup with a dollop of Crème Fraiche. I like saying dollop. It was a good sized serving and pleasant enough. I stole Karen’s fries and they were delicious – crispy perfection. Most everyone enjoyed the fries but Geoff commented “Fries were a bit soggy and not my favourite.” Not sure what happened there.

The Cornerstone Bar and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Maw's Eatery (closed): 4/5

Score: 3.9
Platter: $12

Charlie Sheen
Score: 4.0
Platter: $16

Burger Club spans a wide demographic with some of us remembering Maw’s as the Old, Old Spaghetti Factory and some more recently as Sound Republic. The bartender, Cody, said her dad used to win the limbo competition every week when it was Brandy’s. The restaurant at 111 Princess is named after the pioneering building – Maw’s Garage - built around the turn of the century. The other end of the original Maw’s Garage extends to King St. next to the King’s Head.

Maw's Eatery and Beer Hall, a.k.a. Maw’s Garage, has two personas. The eatery side offers a seating style for any mood. There are tall chairs in front of big, bright windows, short chairs and a high backed bench along one wall, and couches and coffee tables centered in front of the stage or tucked away in a cozy nook. You can also sit at the bar. It’s a high, roomy space with heavy wooden pallets suspended from the ceiling. An area for smaller performances is backed by curio cabinets with the stage defined by a rug and microphone stand. It’s a very welcoming, comfortable atmosphere. The beer hall was empty at lunch time today, but on weekends it’s a large music venue complete with a long bar and balcony overlooking the stage and hall. Between the two sides, there are shows every day.

When we arrived they didn't seem to have our reservation, but were very quick to set us up comfortably together. Our waitress, Amy, was fast and cheerful, happily answered all our questions and took a couple of group pictures. She was on top of our drinks and the food didn’t take long.

Meals were served on a variety of large plates and platters – some right out of Maw’s china cabinet. Except for Dani’s – she opted for no side and her sandwich came in a bowl. The burgers were a bit of an optical illusion – the tiny homemade brioche bun perched on top of the double Charlie Sheen made the assembly look small – but it wasn’t. The two patties were thick, juicy and flavourful - nobody left hungry.

My Charlie Sheen came with two perfectly cooked slices of bacon lolling off the side and way more burger than bun. I ate it like an ice-cream cone – nibbling my way around the patties before reaching the bun.

Those that tried eating it by picking it up with both hands and digging in found themselves juggling a handful of meat – the patty quickly fell apart with the bun containment overwhelmed. Russ said it best: “Like Sheen himself this burger was an exciting mess, when pressed it fell apart completely.”

Brian reviewed: “The burger arrived, stacked high with cheese, and bacon clearly visible.  Also immediately noticeable was the size of the bun, small compared to the beef patties jutting out in all directions.  The beef was seasoned well, though a little greasy, the bacon was cooked fresh and the cheese portion was generous.  The other condiments where almost invisible, and that was a great disappointment.  There was supposed to be a jalapeno relish, promising a little heat, that didn’t materialize.  Overall a good burger, but it was missing the promised heat, and a little pricy.”

Karen had the single cheeseburger and scribbled “The burger looked a little small, however proved to be just right in portion size. The patty was good quality beef, dense and finely ground. Simple ingredients were nice. Nothing in condiments distinguished it in flavour.”

The flavour of this stack was all about the beef patties. Esther ranted “Burger was good but menu said pickles and it was relish. They are not the same thing!” I couldn’t discern the jalapeño relish either and there seemed to be prepared mustard on mine. The leafy bed of spinach wasn’t mentioned on the menu. I don’t remember having spinach on a burger before and it worked quite well in flavour and grip.

Staying on theme, Stephanie tweeted on her rating slip “Eating the Charlie Sheen at Maws #winning”. Mike wrote “Burger-to-bun ratio was a bit off (too much meat). The taste of the burger and bacon was good. Couldn't detect any tiger's blood though!

Everyone enjoyed the crispy fries, the only gripe - they were too short to dip into the little jar of ketchup – we really are a critical bunch! Cary had the Sexy Fries – they looked spectacular with their pizza topping. He said they were “interesting.” Cary didn’t share so we have to take his word for it.

Karen and I opted for the tomato soup side – it was creamy, and thick enough to spread on toast - with a delicate, fresh tomato flavour. It came served in the bottom of a mostly empty soup cup that left me wanting more. The dollop of soup was a $1.77 add-on to my $16 Charlie Sheen burger. Karen wrote “I started with the tomato soup with crunchy croutons. It was very tasty and the crunch of the croutons complimented nicely.”

MAW'S Eatery & Bar on Urbanspoon