Have you noticed the gourmet burger trend in Toronto? It could almost be called a movement. Basically it’s a trend of making outstanding burgers readily available and has been pioneered by burger joints that promise unprocessed, real burgers that taste the way a burger should taste. One of the original establishments to lead the charge of burger brigade was Holy Chuck. They opened their first restaurant back in September of 2011 and have since opened two more locations. We spoke with the no-bull founder of Holy Chuck, Johnny Prassoulis, to find out what separates them from the herd.
So Johnny, what do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Watching other people eat my food and enjoy it. There’s no bigger pleasure than that.
What made you choose to specialize in gourmet burgers after coming up in high end restaurants?
I’ve always loved burgers. They’ve always been one of my favourite foods. And nobody — I shouldn’t say nobody — but almost nobody was doing them properly. Most commercially available burgers have been overcooked, processed and it’s been pretty much cr** for many, many years. And I think a burger is one of the most enjoyable things to eat. It’s also one of the most difficult things to make properly. And that’s why I did it.
So when you started, did you want to ensure your burgers were prepared following certain methods using certain ingredients?
I mean, for personal taste, yeah. I think burgers should be cooked no more than medium – at the most. But I think a good burger should have great flavour, nothing added to it, and be juicy. Definitely juicy. Because I think that’s one thing that lacks in most burgers, because burgers are over processed and there are so many additives, fillers… they’re frozen, not fresh. That whole juicy element and the flavour element has just gone out the window.
There is a lot of competition in the gourmet burger joint field these days. How do you separate yourself from the new brands that keep coming up?
Yeah, I’d definitely say that we were one of the pioneers in this whole burger trend, that’s for sure. I think one thing that we still do, that nobody else does, is we actually have our grinder right at the front and we grind our beef right in front of the customers pretty much hourly. So, it’s one thing to say that you have fresh beef, and it’s another thing for it to be seen.
Everything is homemade in our restaurant, pretty much — except for our onion rings. We do everything from scratch. And we still maintain the same quality and the same values as when we first started. I know a lot of places — they start of doing something, and then they get recognized and they kind of start changing things. Maybe doing things that are little bit more cost effective, which is not a bad thing but I think it’s a bad thing when it starts interfering with quality. So we’re pretty strict with how we serve our burgers and what goes on them, stuff like that. It’s what we’re proud of and we just don’t want to be like everyone else.
I know a lot of people get upset when they come in and they want to add certain things to certain burgers. Our Holy Duck Burger ($31.99), we don’t even allow it out of the restaurant. Because it will lose its… it will lose its taste. It’s foie gras. There are certain elements to that burger that have to be eaten right there, on the spot. I’ve gotten orders for like 30 foie gras burgers at one time, which is like a $900 order, but I turned it down because they wanted it to go.
Wow, that’s dedication! Is that the only burger on the menu that you can’t get ‘to go’?
Yes. The foie gras burger and the foie gras poutine and the foie gras pancakes are the only items that are not allowed ‘to go’.
Noted! Do you have a favourite burger on your menu?
My foie gras burger. Yeah.
What’s the most popular menu item or combo at Holy Chuck?
My Holy Chuck Burger ($10.49 with caramelized onions and bacon, please don’t ask for toppings) is right now my number one seller, at all three of my restaurants.
If you’re looking for a real burger, ground fresh right before your eyes, you owe it to yourself to give Holy Chuck a try. Taste the difference the uncompromising commitment to quality makes — just don’t ask for the foie gras burger ‘to go’!
Greenrock Property Management loves to help you connect with your community and all that it has to offer. There are Holy Chuck locations near two Greenrock Communities. Their original location is at 1451 Yonge Street, by Greenrock at Davisville Village (77 Davisville Avenue, 45 Balliol Street and 225 Davisville Avenue). The newest location is at 586 Yonge Street, right near Village Green (50 Alexander Street, 40 Alexander Street and 55 Maitland Street). There is also a third Holy Chuck location at 4421 Hwy 7 in Woodbridge. For more information on Greenrock Communities across Toronto, please visit our website.