66 Wellington St. W.
Tuesday March 16, 2010
It’s a beautiful spring evening. Thanks to Daylight Savings, the light is still golden and beautiful as I ride the Coxwell bus down to the subway station. I’m heading across town to meet my wife and her aunt and uncle at Bymark, home of the legendary $35 dollar hamburger.
I can see heads exploding all over the internet. “Thirty-five bucks?!? For a HAMBURGER? Is it some kinda Giant Hamburger? Is it served in a wheel barrow? Does it have a solid gold bun?” No, no and no. Bymark is a swanky joint where financial industry types go to throw money around and impress girls. But maybe—just maybe—this burger will be so good it’ll be worth the money.
At Pape Station a woman gets on the subway rockin’ a Post-Apocalyptic ‘Tank Girl’ style outfit (minus Ice-T as a Mutant Kangaroo). These are Post-Financial Meltdown times, but The Recession still lingers, and here I am going to buy a thirty-five dollar hamburger. I feel a twinge of Capitalistic Guilt. This is a decadent splurge, like Roman Emperors gorging in the banquet halls before staggering off to the vomitorium (which apparently never actually happened...) But it’s all for The Quest. I vowed to leave no burger unturned, from the ritziest restaurant to the lowest dive, so now I must brush the dirt from my trousers, drag a comb through my beard and head into The Financial District.
On King Street it’s strangely deserted. Most of the workers have packed up and left for the day, and the few that remain are tucked inside their offices, working late. Outside a bank I see two security guards rousting a hunched-over homeless woman. She is agitated and making sounds like an angry prehistoric bird. She needs help from dedicated mental health professionals, but in this case all she will get is a warning to move on.
Then I step inside the TD Center and begin to negotiate the labyrinth that hopefully will lead me not to a snarling Minotaur but to a tasty hamburger. After a few wrong turns I find Bymark, where my wife Emma and her Aunt Katie and Uncle John are waiting.
The Bymark dining room is gold and cozy. Very tasteful, very swanky. We’re in a basement so there are no windows, but the high ceilings cancel out the “you’re in a basement” effect. I sit down and a server materializes out of nowhere to present me with a choice of three different breads. I opt for the olive bread, which is hot and delicious.
“Olive Bread?” I hear you saying. “What the Hell, man? When are you getting to THE BURGER?” Oh, it’s coming, folks. You can’t rush these things. First we get our appetizers. In keeping with the decadent tone of the evening, we all order another Bymark house specialty, the Butter Braised Lobster Poutine. Oh yes. Crisp frites (that means “fries”, only more expensive) with chunks of lobster covered in béarnaise sauce (doesn’t “béarnaise” sound like something bears would spread on a sandwich?) and served in a lobster shell. Brothers and Sisters, it is HELLA GOOD.
Then we sit back, visit and wait for our mains. It takes a while but as I said, you can’t rush these things. And then… and then… it arrives.
A beautiful-looking burger, served on a toasted and buttered white bun, nestled next to a tower of onion rings on a white oval plate. THE FIRST BITE is buttery and rich. The brie cheese almost overwhelms the beef, but there is definitely some grilled beef flavor. This burger is big, rich and juicy. The onion rings are amazing. They’re tempura-crisp with flecks of oregano fried into the batter. Afterwards I feel like I should light up a cigar with a hundred dollar bill.
This is by far the most expensive hamburger I’ve ever had. It’s not so much a meal as it is an experience. I’m glad I was fortunate enough to experience it once, but it’s hard to imagine a return visit. Maybe if I stumble into some pirate treasure or win the lottery… who am I kidding? If that happened I would pull an Elvis and fly down to Dallas with my buddies to buy real Texas Hamburgers straight from the source. Still, that Texas-style burger might still be here in Toronto, sizzling away on an open grill, right around the corner. And so The Quest continues!