Fast forward to a Saturday in October 2010. I drop off my son at a Birthday Party in the Beaches area of Toronto. Miraculously I have 2 hours entirely to myself! Please excuse the exclamation mark, but I was very excited. After doing a few typical dad / man errands, I had 40 minutes to spare, and I was hungry.
It was decision time. Do I go to Harvey’s across the street? Or do I try this interestingly-named Burger’s Priest? I was curious about how someone could be devout about burgers, and remembering my last Harvey’s experience, I chose wisely.
I opened the door, and it was small. It was even smaller because it was packed. In contrast to most claustrophobic situations, all the customers were happy. The people waiting for their burgers looked full of anticipation. The people eating their burgers at the small eat-in bar were ecstatic. The small team working there were not unhappy, but anyone could tell they were serious and professional about making burgers. I observed their ritual.
The manager wrote my name and order on a piece of paper and slid it across. Avoiding any potential Soup Nazi situation, I paid and stepped aside carefully. The next thing I noticed was the beef.
One of the assistants took a large tray out of the fridge. On that tray were about 20 of the most beautiful, pinkest, marbled balls of ground beef I’d ever seen. That’s right, they were not patties; they were perfectly formed, real, ridiculously fresh beef globes.
The cook placed 6 beef globes on the VERY hot cooktop. This was not a flame-grill shop; the burgers are cooked on a flat pan surface. Although initially worried about the lack of flames, I quickly understood the reasons. In quick succession, the cook used his spatula to push down the ground beef balls into perfect, equal size patties. It was so professional, and my confidence was soaring.
After about 20 seconds, my amazement continued. The cooking surface was so hot, that the bottom half of the patty was browning before my very eyes, like real-time time lapse photography. The colour contrast with the top of the patty, still so pink and marbled, was a sight to behold.
Then, at just the right moment, the cook flipped the half-cooked patties. His spatula could flip two patties at a time, conjuring images of Olympic-standard synchronized swimming. The colours evened out. I was salivating.
The cook placed the burgers in the lovely but straightforward soft buns, and the assistant asked me what I wanted on top. Instead of going really plain, I went classic plain, asking only for lettuce and a tomato slice. No ketchup, no sauce, no cheese.
I sat down and bit into the loveliest, juiciest, freshest tasting burger I’d ever had. I had to close my eyes; I was so in the throes of burger ecstasy. I savoured every bite, regretting only that I had chosen a single patty as opposed to their standard double patty burger.
A young woman stood nearby, observing the burger creation ritual as I had been doing only moments earlier. I heard her comments to her companion, as they echoed my impressions of the way they put their burgers together. As I slowly devoured the last morsels of my burger, I opened my eyes and she was looking at me. She smiled and said “Did you like that?”
I said “What do you think?”
“I can’t wait for mine!” There was definitely an exclamation mark.