WINDSOR ARMS HOTEL
18 St. Thomas Street
One of the best burgers I have ever had was at a tiny small town corner diner called Keith’s in Fonthill Ontario. My parents would pile us into their 1979 Ford LTD and drive up the Escarpment into rural Niagara to see autumn in all its glory (keep in mind that this is during a time when we still had 4 distinct seasons and well before I spent my weekends drinking and playing video games). The drive would span most of an afternoon and we would stop occasionally for my mother to buy antique teapots or the kids to pick out Halloween pumpkins to carve. The trip would always end at the same corner in the same pitstop of a town for a burger some fries and a slice of lemon meringue pie. I was only 5 but the memories of that place and time stuck with me all these years and not because of some hokey Norman Rockwell bullshit like ‘those are the moments that shape you for years to come because my parents loved me and I got to spend valuable family time in the back seat of a car that if you had put a sail on it, the B52’s would have been right and yes it would have set sail.’ No, It was the burger that I crave and remember to this day and not the cheddar cheesy family moments. MMMMM cheddar cheese.
Fast-forward 25 years. Four overworked (Nick isn’t really overworked but for the sake of the story we’ll keep that a secret), hung over friends had a few hours to kill before rehearsals for their world tour began*. These four brave men decided to visit North Toronto (yes I use a lot of brackets and yes, to us, Bloor Street is North Toronto) and the palace that is the Windsor Arms Hotel. Describing this place as a palace is not much of an exaggeration. 4 million dollars worth of cars parked in front, wood paneling, fine flooring, high ceilings with gaudy chandeliers, deadly serious staff that come out of nowhere to help you within moments of entering and the general stench of high society. I once heard a story from a cousin that she was in the piano bar for afternoon tea and Robin Williams was getting bombed on tequila shots, took over the piano began belting out tunes and then when he was too trashed to play anymore decided to dance on the tables. Its hard pressed to believe that members of the Royal Family would be prone to public drunken outbursts on this level so I guess my palace analogy is out the window but my new point is that the staff let him do his thing. No polite interruption, no large security guards escorting him out. They just let him sing and dance and that’s just the kind of place that it is.
We sat down @ 2:15 which is a down time considering the kitchen closes at 3:00pm. There was a couple behind us meeting with a wedding coordinator planning their big day and four society chicks with perfect posture sitting at the bar sipping white wine, well overdressed for the time of day. We wore t-shirts and jeans and I had my sunglasses on. Ever seen the scene in Blues Brothers when Jake and Elwood go to the fancy pants restaurant to try to convince Mr. Fabulous that they need his horn back in the band**? Anyways, we sat down, ordered drinks, ordered burgers with cheese (either stilton, cheddar or swiss) and fries on the side.
At this point you’re thinking ‘this guy has written 750 words and hasn’t yet mentioned the burger and included 300 words of him rambling about his childhood, what’s the fucking point?’ Well here’s here it is. There is absolutely nothing similar between Keith’s in Fonthill Ontario and Prime at the Windsor Arms Hotel in North Toronto EXCEPT that they both have an exceptional burger. I’m not a fancy pants, I do however have a huge amount of respect for an uppity millionaires hangout that can take a simple staple of North American cuisine and treat as just that, a simple time honored traditional meal and not fuck with it like I know some douchebag uber-chef would. The bread was daily fresh, not heavy and not overly seeded. The cheese was generous enough to add rich flavor but not too much that it caused nasty grease to drip all over the place. The fixins’ were a full fresh very green leaf of Boston lettuce and a small round of thinly sliced red onion. Mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise were served on the side. The meat itself was almost too generous, measuring in the 15oz post cooked neighborhood. And god damn was it tasty. Fresh prime rib, ground into the densest and juiciest burger I have ever had the pleasure of destroying. At one point I had to stop and wipe the juices from my forearms because the burger had bled that far. Sweet heavenly beef!
Burger Rating: 9.2/10.0
The total for 4 people (4 burgers, 2 pints Stella, 2 glasses red wine, 2 Crown Royal, 2 bottles Evian water, tax and tip) = $184! Yeah I could get 59 McDonalds burgers and a large Coke for that price but I’d have to listen to some drunken cunts with fake tits talk about how hot they are while I’m in line and I just can’t deal with that shit. A $17 burger is a bit over the top but you gotta pay for quality.
- MARC MC CHEESE