Update: As of Thursday at 10:47 a.m., Ganzi Osteria is tweeting that wristbands are sold out.
Has Toronto hit peak burger? Not quite yet, it will seem on Thursday morning, when the inevitable line forms outside the surprise In-N-Out Burger pop-up in the city's east end.
In-N-Out's reputation goes far beyond its home state of California. The family-owned chain is known for popularizing the West Coast style of burger: a simple, spongy white bun, fresh beef cooked to order and, if you so choose, American yellow cheese. It's essentially the real thing landing in Toronto, where its influence will taste familiar to those who frequent the Burger's Priest, Holy Chuck or P&L Burger.
Running from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Ganzi Osteria (504 Jarvis St.), those lucky enough to score a wristband will be treated to three options: a hamburger ($3), a cheeseburger ($4) or a double-double (two slices of cheese, two patties, $6). And you can ask to apply a signature style to your order: protein style (lettuce replacing the bun) or animal style (the patties cooked in mustard).
Alert Twitter users seemed unsure of the low-key announcement on Wednesday morning: The restaurant, itself a low-key venue, posted a tweet with a lo-fi black-and-white advertisement for the event.
It turns out the rather soft notice of what will be a rabid lunch hour is how Brian Nakao, In-N-Out's manager of special foreign events, likes to operate.
Nakao, who has previously managed locations in Irvine and Santa Ana, Calif., and a small team have been hosting burger pop-ups around the world since December, 2011. Their goal seems ambiguous at best: In-N-Out would never open a branch in, say, New Zealand, but the company is aware of how widely its brand has travelled. Nakao says he often sees people who've vacationed in California and eaten In-N-Out, and they want their friends to try it, too. At the least, "[every country] eats burgers."
"This is like our 37th event, we've been to 26 different countries," he says, rhyming off locales like Peru, Chile, Russia, Ukraine, England, Spain, Australia and a fair swath of Southeast Asia. In-N-Out is also known for regular appearances at the Langley Good Times Cruise-In auto show in British Columbia.
Exclusivity (and the ability to keep fresh patties) seem to be the main reasons for speaking quietly. "We try and keep it low-key because we don't have a whole lot of burgers to sell."
Pop-ups have a way of leading to talk of expansion, but Torontonians shouldn't count on In-N-Out heading this way permanently: The chain is famous (or notorious, depending on where you live) for never freezing patties, and its slow expansion on the U.S. West Coast has been dependent on its production facilities in California and Texas.
For pop-ups, Nakao says produce is sourced locally. As for the beef, he prefers to remain cryptic about the company recipe, saying only that "we ship in what we can, and what we can't is sourced." (In terms of staff, cooks are hired locally for events.)
How busy will it get in Toronto? Based on past experience, Nakao has seen lines form as early as 9 a.m. With a limited number of wristbands, he expects them to be gone by the 11 a.m. start time.
Of course, those who are unable to secure an In-N-Out burger aren't without other options in downtown Toronto.