… In which BIA Administrator Sheliza Esmail eats a burger for breakfast.
It’s midmorning on Eglinton and I’m walking down the street heading east towards Burger Shack. John, the owner there, is expecting me for our chat. I have known John for almost a year now through working for the BIA. He’s known in the neighbourhood for being a very friendly and busy man. I often run into him when I am out in the BIA and he always takes a minute to say a cheerful hello. John is behind the counter when I get in, he greets me, and offers me a drink before we start chatting.
Eglinton Way BIA: So John, what’s your typical day like?
John: On a typical day, I open, do my count, and start the prep. We peel and cut our own potatoes every day. We marinate the chicken for our souvlaki. We cut the onions for the onion rings. My brother can cut lettuce and tomatoes like a machine. He’s been doing it for 30 years. Everything is fresh; our chicken is all white meat, zero fat, never frozen. Our burgers are all hand-made.
John points over the counter to his staff blanching the potatoes for the day. He then walks me around the counter and shows me the potato peeler and cutter. There are onion rings being prepped in the back and the staff is just as excited to share what they are preparing as John. They smile and laugh as I marvel at the potato prep happening.
Eglinton Way BIA: Everything happening here looks divine! How many years has Burger Shack been making food this way?
John: We’ve been in business 30… 31 years or so? I don’t know. We love what we do and that’s really what has kept the business going for so many years. When you put 100% love in your product everyday it lasts. Drake has been eating since he was six. Lynn Crawford comes by. And Mark McEwan has visited our kitchen.
Eglinton Way BIA: Drake! Of course, he grew up around here. So here’s the real question: do you prefer fries or onion rings?
John: Hmm. I like fries.
Eglinton Way BIA: You mentioned Mark McEwan earlier, who has a star on Food Network Canada – what culinary TV show do you watch most?
John: On The Food Network? I watch them all! ‘Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives’, ‘You Gotta Eat Here!’, and ‘Chopped’. I like watching National Geographic documentaries too. Not just food. I like the scenery and learning about nature.
Eglinton Way BIA: Other than the Burger Shack Signature Burger, what’s your favourite menu item?
John: The chicken souvlaki with a Greek salad! You could go to Greek Town and not find a souvlaki this good.
John and I are talking and I tell him I like burgers, but it’s early on Monday morning and maybe I’ll have one for lunch later. He puts a patty and bun on the grill, custom toppings, and he insists that I go all in and try the fries too. Don’t wait till lunch he says, eat it now. I do and it’s delicious.