Friday March 18th, 2010
The Collegiate Lunch
1024 Gerrard St. E.
Sunrise, sunset. Winter turns to spring. Time for a pendulum swing away from hoity-toity Gourmet Burgers and back toward the straight-up burger of the lunch counter. I’m meeting my friend Saira (who has Burger Quested with me before) at The Collegiate Lunch. I was tipped off to this place by Chowhound while looking for information about The Great Burger Kitchen, which is where Saira and I were planning to go today but it’s not open yet. According to the grumblings on Chowhound, The Collegiate Lunch is a few doors away from The Great Burger Kitchen and makes a delicious (and cheap!) diner burger. The Great Burger Kitchen is going to throw off the Burger Equilibrium of the neighorhood! Horrors! Or maybe not. I’m betting that a classic diner and a high-end burger restaurant can peacefully co-exist in the same block. We shall see!
“The Collegiate Lunch” sounds like it should be full of 1950s style college students with blazers, buzz cuts, letterman’s jackets and pipes. Buddy Holly should be playing on the jukebox. Burly football players should be having eating contests (“If you eat 50 burgers, the 51st burger is FREE!”) and a girl named Molly with a ponytail, cardigan and a poodle skirt should be sharing a malt with a nervous fella named Chester. Sh-Boom (the whitewashed version by The Crew Cuts, not the original version by The Chords) should start playing on the jukebox as Chester and Molly fall in love.
This is not what happens. “Gosh, A.G.! You mean the doorway of The Collegiate Lunch isn’t a portal into a movie about the 1950s?” Nope. Maybe we’re all better off. After all, I’m not here for a sock hop, I’m here for the burgers.
The Collegiate Lunch is definitely old school. A row of maroon vinyl booths sit oppose a long lunch counter with vinyl stools. There are a few wooden tables and chairs at the back. Above the lunch counter is a staggering number of Minnie Mouse figurines. The woman who runs this place, I find out later, is named Minnie. A few old men in windbreakers and baseball caps sit socializing in the back booth.
Saira and her baby Amara arrive, ready to chow down. We both order the house special: a bacon cheeseburger. Saira goes all-out and gets a side of gravy for her fries. Then we kick back and wait while a steady stream of regulars come and go. Everyone seems to know everyone else. There’s lots of laughing, shaking hands, and hugging.
After a bit of a wait our food arrives. The burgers are served up on white oval plates with two strips of crisp bacon, grated cheddar cheese and a lightly toasted bun. Along with this I’ve opted for tomato, mustard and onion (hold the relish).
THE FIRST BITE: Meaty! Hot and Juicy. The beef is super tender. The aftertaste is bacon. It’s incredibly delicious: a definite step up from the usual frozen patties found all-to-often in diners these days. And it’s CHEAP! For the price of one Bymark burger I could get ten—count ‘em, ten—of these beauties. Delicious, cheap, friendly—The Collegiate Lunch makes me think the Sh-Boom lyrics were right on the money: “Life could be a dream.” A delicious burgery dream.