Suburban Girl Eats: From Big City Eats to Hometown Favourites

October 16, 2012

(Wo)Man vs. Food: The Works Burger

When it comes to burgers, there is nothing but love here. My next belt-busting adventure took me to The Works, a gourmet burger chain meets industrial cool with restaurants in Oakville, Ottawa, Guelph and along the Danforth.

My favourite touch was these cool salt and pepper shakers. 

With over 70 burgers, there is literally something for everybody and with a choice of beef, chicken, turkey, portbello, veggie or elk, you could actually go every day of the year and not have the same thing twice. Needless to say, read the menu before you go.

This place is all in the details. You burger is dished out in a metal baking pan and drinks are served in pyrex measuring cups- I somehow managed to guzzle down four cups of Diet Coke. Don't bother lecturing me on aspartame, healthy amigos. If you are feeling full-cal (c'mon, you're here already), try the 2001 Odyssey Shake: caramel, peanut butter, oreo cookie goodness. After all, dessert first never hurts. 

I anticipate my decision in the burger department will measure up to those I make in prep for my wedding day (should I somehow fall into matrimony.) In the end, I said "I do" to the Dead Ringer. Bbq brisket, smokey barbecue sauce, havarti and an onion ring- bring it!

And this is where the real (wo)man versus food battle began. I seriously contemplated my choice of poutine, and stared down upon the pound of meaty goodness. Would it be easier to get down if it was drenched in their beechhouse sauce, aka mayo of the gods? Could I pass off the meat sweats as an adorable glory of happiness? 

Excuse me while I unhinge my jaw...

The burger was juicy, despite contrary reports by haters Yelpers, and that single piece of lettuce made me feel a little less carnivore. As I rounded up to the second half of the behemoth, I realized I had hit that "wall" that Adam Richman does as he plows through a five-pound burger. It was evident, I was still in the little leagues. In an attempt to persevere, I continued before finally admitting defeat in the last three delicious bites. 

In shame, I went home, paid my sister to untie my shoes for me and located the closest stretchy pants in the house. #truth

October 3, 2012

Urban: La Carnita

A war is brewing in the city, and its all about tacos.  I'm an eater, not a fighter, but in this case I wasn't playing Sweden; so I headed down to La Carnita for some delicious tacos, a hip atmosphere and damn strong margaritas. 

La Carnita not only has a cool vibe- from chicken coop-inspired lighting fixtures to pumping hip hop- but a pretty rocking story too. Starting as a pop-up, those that braved the line could buy a limited-edition print for $10 of their signature meathead. The art was, of course, served up with a side of two tacos. Talk about sticking it to the health enforcement man. You can now find their brick and mortar on College and Palmerstone.

My American citizenship may get revoked saying this but, I pledge allegiance to the flag of La Carnita. In Cod We Trust is my motto and go-to taco, with no visit complete without a bite of your own, or stolen from your dining buddy. The chorizo is equally flavourful, but good luck getting it in your mouth and not all over the plate. Messy < delicious. 

Feeling more adventurous? I keep my eyes glued to Twitter for their specials, like the octopus tostado. Served room temperature, this baby is piled high with chunky guac, heirloom tomato salsa and chili oil, plus enough octupus to make my white-bread sister have a mild panic attack. (Needless to say, she stuck with the chicken tacos, only after being convinced that green cabbage wouldn't kill her. *Sassy eye roll*)

This is but only a cue to order another margarita. Hey, sometimes you've had that kind of week- and I certainly had between running Orientation for my university and a relationship status shake-up- and you thank the heavens that La Carnita knows how to make a strong one. Made with Tromba Tequila, it packs the right amount of punch without making you reach for lemon to wedge in your pucker. 

Save room for the sweet stuff. Churros can be hit or miss, but are always ordered as a vehicle for the cajeta (sweetened caramelized milk). You could drink it, if only it were socially acceptable. People rave about their paletas, like lime pie coated in graham crumbs. Again, messy < delicious. 

Staying true to their roots, with your receipt comes one of their prints, signed and numbered. If you got it, flaunt it. 

October 1, 2012

Suburban: Osmow's Grill

There are few things I love more than shawarma. My love affair with Osmow's Grill has outlasted my previous three relationships; now that is commitment.

In my little town of Streetsville (the village in the heart of the "city"- nice try Mississauga), there are few joints to choose from beyond your small town staples of Tim Hortons and pizza places. And in Streetsville there is no shortage of pizza- or budget nail salons, but that is beyond the point. My first rendez-vous with Osmow's was in high school, about the time when my crew became such regulars that our names alone stood in place of our orders. The Erin? Regular chicken shawarma, only lettuce, medium spice with extra garlic sauce. That, and a dessert of much needed breath mints.

Go expecting a line! Though the town may have only have 48,000 residents we evidently love our shawarma, because there is bound to be a line-up to the back door at lunch, dinner, or pretty much any time you are there. You can always call ahead to order 905 826-6021 before you trek down Thomas Street. City folks, listen up! They have opened a new location in the past weeks at 155 John Street, just off of Queen. (I'll spare you the GO ride)

Now while they do have more on the menu- with traditional dishes like fattouch salad, falafel and baklava- the shawarma is the star attraction at a $5 flat. The student special is under $7 and comes with fries and pop. Deliciously spiced meat carved off a spit, wrapped inside a pita and topped with a bevvy of veggies before hitting the grill- this dish is simple, yet flavourful. Careful with your spice level. Though you may feel a little white bread for not going full-fledged hot, those last few bites are an inferno stoked by a spice-loving demon. 

When I was there last, I spied with my little eye a wonder I could barely comprehend. Shawarma meat, sauce, more sauce and french fries. They called it a shawarma poutine. I called it love at first sight, all over again. 

September 28, 2012

Urban: Donut vs. Doughnut Part 2

The Doughnut

Gloryhole DoughnutsScoff all you want at the name, or at the fact that I brought my mother to Gloryhole- you are missing out if you haven't ventured down to this Parkdale establishment. If backdoor donuts aren't your thing, you just are a streetcar ride away from bliss.

Their blackboard features the rotating menu: from a traditional Cinnamon Sugar, classic Cookies and Cream to more kooky Bread and Butter, or morning appropriate Beer-flavoured doughnut (made with Kensington Brewing Co. beer-flavoured frosting). 

I got the king of doughtnuts- the Elvis with Marshmallow ($4.50). My affliction with bacon probably requires therapy at this point. Peanut butter frosting, banana chips and bacon topped with a homemade marshmallow: you don't need me to tell you how great it was. In the name of research, I also indulged in the pretzel topping, chocolate glazed doughnut ($3.50). After all, one needs to be well-rounded (in their doughnut selection, not their body shape...)

Elvis is in the building. Thank you, thank you very much. 

This may be urban legend, but rumour has it you can add bacon to any doughnut for only a dollar. With me as a customer, there may soon be a piggy shortage- sorry veggies!

Check out Part 1 of the Donut vs. Doughnut post here: 

September 26, 2012

Urban: Donut vs. Doughnut Part 1

The Donut

Dough by Rachelle. There is something whimsy and top-secret about getting a donut out of the back door of a restaurant. Then again, maybe I am an optimist, riding upon my unicorn to work at Queen and Bathurst. When I was downtown for the summer, smack dab on my route were donuts- aww shucks!

Every Thursday starting at 8 am, donuts were served up fresh from the back door of Beast Restaurant. Rachelle posts her flavours on the @doughtoronto Twitter account the night before, with flavours like maple bacon and apple fritters as consistent favourites. I have noshed on those delights, as well as strawberry basil and balsamic hazelnut creations, all before lunchtime.

If you are lucky enough, you'll be there on an Ultimate Maple Bacon day. (I am personally not sure when anything with bacon isn't ultimate, however.) With a maple topping and bacon-y goodness crumble a la the traditional donut, but then kicked up a notch, oozing with a maple curd. Puts a Timmy's Boston Cream to shame, and totally worth the $3 price tag.

Now, if you are a little more donut-crazed, Sam James Coffee Bar will now be serving up her sugary wonders on the weekend, according to the Grid.

September 24, 2012

Urban: Sausage Fest at WVRST

There is nothing better than a good sausage fest. Add a beer, and you're a god sent.

All joking (?) aside, I couldn't wait to try WVRST, so I brought my best girlfriend- Mom- along for the ride! This King West hot spot-meets-German beerhall is a great lunch spot just far enough from Union Station to make you feel a little less like a tourist. With eighteen different sausages, dirty duck fries and communal tables perfect for tuning into your neighbours' conversation, this vowel-less hangout isn't just a watering hole.

The menu is simple and the concept cool. Walk up to the sausage case to pick your porky (or chicken, game, or veggie) poison, pair it with one of the Ontario beers they are serving up, take a number and seat yourself.

We were feeling a little vanilla, and both opted for pork varieties, but next on my hit list is the bison, made with maple and blueberry. I got mine on a bun, with a choice of two toppings: sauerkraut, jalapenos, peppers and sauteed onions. With a healthy dousing of yellow ballpark mustard, we was set to dig in. Now onto the sidekick...

Dirty duck fries. After a small WTF, you can't help but drool a little over these babies. Duck fat frites smoothered in sauteed onions, peppers, jalapenos and their signature WVRST sauce, which is a tomato curry delight. This is the same stuff you can get with cut up sausage in their currywurst. 

*The* dirty duck fries. 

Get on your lederhosen, and get down to WVRST.

September 14, 2012

Urban: Pad Thai Throw Down

There is nothing I love more than carbs and loads of flavour; my love affair with pad thai seems only natural. With lacklustre food court fare as the only "Thai" option in suburbia, you can often find me digging into a small mountain of pad thai downtown after work or on the weekend.

Now, I am not one to pick favourites, but there are certainly some places in the restaurant "doghouse". Pitted against each other are two of my top places to carb-load on pad thai. Heck, if they can't get a staple like pad thai right, that's a darn shame!

Urban Thai
638 College Street

I certainly didn't expect good Thai food smack dab in the middle of Little Italy, but Urban Thai doesn't disappoint. The restaurant is small, yet finding a seat is typically easy. If you're stopping by with a large group, I would recommend a reservation as tables are limited. You can also grab Urban Thai's menu to go- they do a booming take-out business- or get delivery from Just-Eat

The Star Attraction
Curry chicken pad thai. It's a heavier, but more flavourful, version of the regular pad thai which you can get topped with chicken, shrimp, beef or vegetables. I am partial to Urban Thai's curry pad thai, which has robust flavours and is coated in a creamy sauce. Many other curry pad thai dishes I have tried have been dry and notoriously neon yellow from excessive use of powdery seasonings- ick! Bean sprouts, peanuts, green onion and herbs are all served on the side- feel free to mix-and-match to your taste. The portions here are huge, so get a doggie bag; the pad thai is even better day two. 

In Supporting Roles 
  • Calamari. Crispy coating, never chewy and served with a fish sauce-based dip. 
  • Sangria. White or red loaded with fruits for only $14 a pitcher. Student budget-friendly is always a plus in my books. 
  • Free ice cream. The free mango, green tea or red bean ice cream need not only be a staple of all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants, so save room! 

326 Adelaide Street W.

I am guilty. After Khao San Road opened last year, I attempted in vain to get a reservation before filing it away on my exhaustive "to go" list. After a pad thai horror story, my co-worker told me I was nuts for not opting for Khao San Road. I decided to buck up and cross it off the list finally, but not before enduring the wait. No, they don't do reservations anymore, but keep calm and nom on. 

The Star Attraction

Chef's Special Pad Thai. This stuff is the real deal. Perfectly coated noodles coated with their tamarind sauce that is sweet, sour and savoury. Loaded with scrambled egg, tofu and bean sprouts, then topped with peanuts and lime juice, this dish is the perfect meal. While Yelp is all abuzz about the Khao Soi, this is the dish that will keep me coming back. 

In Supporting Role

If I could get an "I Heart" (foodie-style) t-shirt, it would be for the Gra Bong squash fritters. Sweet from the squash, spicy from the red curry paste in the batter (very pakora-like) and crispy from the deep fryer- these babies are delicious. As if they weren't already awesome, they are served up with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce. You will need a bucketload of it. Six fritters come in an order, but sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do: sharing is for wussies. 

Image source. 

Khao San Road by the narrowest of margins and really it's because of those squash fritters that I still dream about, leaving shameful drool stains on my pillow. 
Now if only they had sangria...