Spice City: Designs on Desi Burgers
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Spice City: Designs on Desi Burgers

Spice City explores Toronto’s great hole-in-the-wall restaurants and strip-mall joints serving food from all corners of the world.

The staff at Desi Burger.

Curious about the “desi burger” signs I’d seen in Little India, I went to the Pakistani restaurant Desi Burger House on Gerrard near Coxwell. “White people like the beef burger,” said Desi Burger House’s Imran when I asked for a recommendation on what to try. “It’s like a hamburger.” “Um, what do Pakistani people order?” I asked.

Imran, who told me that God is the owner of Desi Burger House and he is just his servant, said he sells aloo burgers, made of potato, as well as an aloo and chicken version.
The term “desi burger” seems to be a fairly general term, as desi just means people from the Indian subcontinent. These burgers are known as “vada pav” in India. One or two other places in Little India serve another variant, called “bun kebab,” which is grilled kebab meat served on a bun.
I ordered the aloo chicken burger with egg ($3.99), which Imran’s coworker Imdiaz fried up on a small grill behind the counter. The tasty burger consists of a mashed potato patty with red onion, slathered with ketchup, mayo, and hot sauce and covered with scrambled egg.
This isn’t fine dining folks, and Imran bills this as a fast food alternative to the bustling Lahore Tikka House across the street. “You might spend $30 or $40 at Lahore Tikka House,” says Imran. “Here our food is $3 or $4.”

Desi Burger House’s aloo chicken burger with egg.

Next door, the Lahori Taste & Burger House serves up similar fare. Like Desi Burger House, it’s been here for around four years. I ordered the shami burger with with egg ($3.49). The result is a messy mix of yogurt, green chili sauce and masala spice mixture on a chick pea patty, which is quite enjoyable to eat.
Bombay Chowpatty, a nearby eclectic fast-food joint, serves up its own subcontinental burgers. This paneer burger (below) is a probably the best of the bunch: it’s a slab of fried potato served with white slices of Indian cheese and slathered with tamarind sauce and chick peas. Spice City Toronto will be back with more on Bombay Chowpatty in a future post.
Desi Burger House (Lahore Chaat & Desi Burger) is located at 1344 Gerrard Street East (416-466-9261); Lahori Taste & Burger House (Lahori Chaska & Paan House) at 1346 Gerrard (647-349-6530); and Bombay Chowpatty at 1386 Gerrard (416-405-8080).
Photos by Sarah Efron/Spice City.
Read more Spice City right here.