Monthly Archives: August 2016

Do they know it’s Burger Week at all!?

Starting tomorrow, and for the next seven days, it’s officially Le Burger Week, which is a pretty big deal in Montreal—they’ve got all kinds of funky joints serving up specialty burgers for one week only. Ditto Quebec City, where they’ve covered the map in burgers, bro!

But here in Toronto, Le Burger Week isn’t really Le Big Deal. We’ve only got 15 local establishments taking part, and about half of them are Hero Burgers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—some of those Hero hamburgers look legit! But considering that The Big Smoke is so much bigger than these other cities, I find this lack of burgers disappointing. Even Winnipeg has got us beat, big-time!

What makes this so sad is that Burger Week used to be the most wonderful time of the year, back when it was run by The Grid and held at the end of May. It would always end with Burger Day, which was either at Wychwood Barns or Fort York, where I’d stuff so many sliders down my piehole I’d practically start mooing. But somebody decided this city wasn’t big enough for two Burger Weeks—and it doesn’t help that The Grid shut down in 2014. So now we’ve just got this one, son.

Of course, I don’t really need an excuse to eat burgers, so you can bet I’ll be shaking hands with beef, Les Claypool style, for the foreseeable future. Keep it locked over here as I eat about half of the Toronto burgers on offer over the next seven days…

Eating Las Vegas

So, I went to Vegas last weekend for a Blue Oyster Cult concert, and ended up spending so much money that I had to pawn the Camaro, bro! And no, I didn’t lose a fortune playing strip poker…I spent it all on food, son!

I did have some great eats, though. Here are some of the funky, hometown joints I hit up:

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So you know we’re starting this culinary adventure where all the magic happens, Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen + Bar. Guy’s kitchen in NYC was kinda crappy…but Vegas is his home away from home, so you know it’s gotta be good.

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We’re starting things off with the Vegas Fries, which are really more Buffalo fries than anything. These crispy spuds are drenched in hot sauce and smothered in blue cheese, and then you’ve got another shot of hot sauce to pour over top, along with some ranch dressing and shaved carrots, you know, for some calcium. Lemme tell ya, these spicy spuds will sure wake you up in the morning! I think I musta chugged 7 glasses of ice tea along with this…it’s even hotter than Guy’s Buffalo wing sauce!

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They call this sandwich the Mayor of Flavortown, and it’s sure got my vote. Thick slices of beefy pastrami piled on top of a well-done burger. Call your mommy, that’s a lotta pastrami! A bit of slaw and fried onion rings on top with fries on the side. And since it doesn’t come with the sandwich, I asked for a side order of Donkey Sauce:

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What the heck is donkey sauce? Well, it’s basically a paprika aioli–super thick with a little kick. I dipped it in fries, slathered some on pastrami and even dunked a bit of burger in it…but I probably wouldn’t put it on a flip flop.

Man, after eating all this I actually didn’t have room for dessert. I guess the pretzel potato chip cheesecake will hafta wait till next time…

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So we’re hanging out at Naked City Pizza, this funky little dive on Paradise, right by UNLV and across from every gay bar in town–including the one that was on Bar Rescue and the owner didn’t like it so he shut it down.

Now, I don’t think the name of this place has anything to do with nudity–one thing’s for sure, they’re serving up some righteous pies that are all dressed up and about to go straight down my pie hole!

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Now, they call this one The Stinger, and it’ll really leave a mark. This pie is packed with both beef and Buffalo-style chicken, along onions, hot peppers and jalapeños. They say it’s a Buffalo tradition, but I’ve never witnessed anything like this in Wide Right City!

Cuz yeah, the size you see here is their smallest. They actually call it the Wee size, and I don’t like to order anything with such a dainty name…but that’s definitely enough food for at least two people!

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Of course, you can’t have Buffalo cuisine without chicken, and while they do have wings on the menu, I like eating things I can dip into other things…so I went with the Buffalo chicken dip instead. This cheese is stuck together so tight, you gotta fight it with a fork and knife, and they give you enough garlic breads for three people. I probably wouldda filled up just on bread, if they didn’t bring out my pizza pie just two minutes later. And even then, I still had to take some back to my place…

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So, we’re hanging out at Pink Taco, this funky fresh Mexican joint at the Hard Rock Casino. This place is serving up every kind of Mexican food you can think of…and even a few that you can’t, like this Sonoran street dog.

Ok, let’s break it down. The dog is thick and juicy, you’ve got a nice crunch from the bacon. The jalapeño relish is sweet, not too spicy, and there’s a nice bite from the caramelized onions. Then on the side, you’ve got these crispy garlic fries, which go great with the plantain ketchup. This dish should be illegal it’s so good–one of the top five hot dogs I’ve ever had!

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Of course, it ain’t Vegas without the buffets. I was gonna go to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, but when I got there at 10 am, the lineup was already 90 minutes long. I wouldn’t line up that long for front-row Lynyrd Skynyrd tickets, son, so I headed across the street to the Flamingo for their Paradise Garden feast.

Man, this place has everything–a pizza station, fresh-sliced bacon and sausage, unlimited mimosas and bloody marys, even a salad bar, in case you’re into that. And at 25 bucks after tax, it’s half the price of those other guys.

flamingo_paradise_buffet (2)Plate 1: fried chicken, eggs Benny, pizza, pancakes, freshly sliced bacon

flamingo_paradise_buffet (4)Plate 2: Tacos, corn on the cob, country biscuit, fried rice, mac n cheese and a green bean that fell onto my plate by accident

flamingo_paradise_buffet (6)Plate 3: smoked salmon, fresh-cut sausage, scrambled eggs, nachos, mini burritos

Now, after this most scrumptious feast, I bet you’re asking “Could he possibly have room for dessert?” The answer, of course, is yes–but this piece of custardy chocolate cake oughtta do’er.

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This food court Chinese BBQ pork brings back childhood memories

So, most people don’t know this about me, but I was actually born in Etobicoke, before Ma and Pa packed everything into our chuckwagon and we saddled up and headed west to Cowtown. Now, I don’t remember too much about those days, but I do remember that we had this real-deal Chinese joint that was so legit, the menu was in Mandarin! (Can’t say I recall what it was called, though…)

Now, when I was a kid, my favourite Chinese food was called pua’a pua’a. It was this real-deal BBQ pork dish that was red around the edges, with a tangy sauce. Now I just found out that, apparently, that dish isn’t Chinese, but Hawaiian, which is like going on Ancestry.ca and learning you’re from a completely different place. That also might explain why we could never find it in Calgary…but just the other day, when I was going to the bank to get some Bolivian pesos, I came across it in the food court—at a Chinese stall, son!

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Reunited never felt so good! Apparently, the proper Chinese word for this dish is char siu, but I’m just gonna call it delicious from now on. The pork is cooked perfectly; you’ve got a nice tang from the bean curd, and the sauce is sweet, but not too sweet. All this and a whole pile of noodles for only 8 bucks, bro!!!

lbs gives you three choices of lobster…and a burger, to boot!

I dunno if you ever watch Restaurant: Impossible, this crazy Food Network show starring my main man Robert Irvine. Basically, Rob the Bod finds these little mop ‘n pop joints that are about to shut down, and gives ‘em an extreme makeover, sledgehammer style. And when it comes to the menu, he’s all about efficiency. Why make a multi-page menu when people don’t order half that stuff anyways? Stick to what you know, and do it really, really well, bro!

Now, I’m pretty sure that Bobby the Beef Puppet would be a big fan of lbs, this new lobster joint that just opened up on Yonge St a couple months back. This place only has four things on the menu: lobster dinner, lobster roll, lobster salad and…a 6 oz bacon & cheddar burger. One of these things is not like the others—although you can add lobster to your burger for an extra 16 bucks.

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Now, I bet you thought I’d go for the burger, and to be honest with you, I wasn’t so sure myself. But while I’ve had plenty of lobster poutine, some crazy lobster nachos and a couple legit lobster rolls in this city, I can’t even remember the last time I had a real-deal lobster dinner. And hey, everything—all four things—on the menu are the exact same price, so you can get a 1.5-pound lobster for just as much as a burger, bro!

They’ve also got all kinds of funky butters, including bacon butter—cuz, y’know, Bacon and Butter are the names of my two unborn children. It adds a nice smokiness to the claw meat, which are already pre-cracked to make it easy to eat. The fries were nice and salty, but the side salad was pretty meh. I couldda gone for a killer taco salad, or some mac ‘n cheese balls or something…

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And yes, I finished all this and still had room for a donut ice cream sandwich for dessert!

This CNE mega sandwich is like three Italian sandwiches piled on top of each other!

So, we’re hanging out at the Food Building at the CNE. Man, this place has everything: deep-fried meat loaf, pulled pork cinnamon rolls, cricket-protein bug dogs… I could probably just pitch a tent outside and sleep here for two weeks—and with all these funky fresh eats, I’d spend a lotta time sleeping, too!

Now, if there’s one thing I miss about The Big Slice, it’s the real-deal Italian sammies. Most people would go there for a ginormous slice of pizza at 4 in the morning, but I usually stuck to the sandwich. Of course, The Big Slice is no more, but now they’ve got a San Francesco sandwich shop a couple blocks away. And at the CNE, they’re serving up this massive meat creation that will make you hunch extra low and unhinge your jaw just to chow down… Check out this melody:

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So, what you’ve got here is breaded veal piled on top of crispy eggplant piled on top of crispy chicken, all straight from the fryer. You’ve got tomato sauce on both buns, some pesto mayo, provolone cheese, and French fries on the bottom. Oh, and they chuck a meatball on top, just because. Dude, this thing is so massive, I had to carry it under my arm like a football. I even stiff-armed Andre Durie on my way back to my table—which is weird, cuz I’m pretty sure he’s a slotback…

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I washed down this mega manwich with a nice, fresh glass of Beetlejuice from the Bug Bistro. This tasty smoothie mixes mealworms, mango and buttermilk for a rich, fruity taste and sprinkles some cocoa and cinnamon on top. I haven’t enjoyed dining on insects this much since I was going to the garden to eat worms with Alice Cooper back in the day, bro!

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Of course, you know me. After eating three sandwiches in one, I’ve still got room for dessert, son! So I scarfed down this tasty culinary creation from Philthy Philly’s: the philly steaklair. You’d think this would be nastier than a Scott Stevens elbow to Eric Lindros’ noggin, but actually, it’s magically delicious. You’ve got the fresh-glazed pastry, with melty chocolate on one side, a whole buncha whipped cream going all over the place…and then, right in the middle, a nice steaky centre. These two things totally shouldn’t work together, but they definitely do. Kinda like Lou Reed jamming with Metallica…or maybe not.

Chicken and brisket and ribs, oh my!

So, we’re hanging out at Carbon Bar, this funky post-industrial palace on Queen St East. This place is so fancy-schmancy, the maître D laughed at me when I showed up in my flip flops, my bling-bling and my AC/DC tee.  But hey, as my B.C. bros in Bison B.C. will tell you, These Are My Dress Clothes, dude!

Anyhoo, I came here for the Pit Master Platter, a jackpot-winning trifecta of pork ribs, beef brisket and buttermilk fried chicken. These are a few of my favourite things, bro. All that’s missing is pulled pork pizza and grilled cheese nachos…

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Now that is one round mound of deliciousness, son! The brisket is super tender, the ribs fall off the bone, and the chicken is nice ‘n crispy ‘n greasy…and completely boneless. But what really makes it is the cauliflower. Say what now?

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They call this dish KFC—as in Korean Fried Cauliflower. You’ve got a whole buncha crunchy caulis in a sweet, spicy sauce. And they definitely don’t shortchange ya, either!

On the other hand, the Pit Master Platter isn’t really that much bang for your buck. This plate is supposed to feed a family of four, but I’m pretty sure that me and Guy Fieri could polish it off, and still have room for dessert. And at 30 bucks a head, it makes for a pricy light snack in Flavourtown:

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(This is what you get when you divide it by four. #sadpanda #hungryhungryhippo)

This Hawaiian pie-an tastes better with bacon!

Now, one of my all-time favourite movies is this small-time Canadian flick called Waydowntown, which was made in my hometown, Calgary. There’s this one scene where my homeslice Fab Filippo is at the food court, and he asks for a slice of Hawaiian. The kid behind the counter says, “Uh, we don’t have Hawaiian,” so he’s like “OK, ham and pineapple.”

Now, if they had True True Pizza in Cowtown, our protagonist wouldn’t have this problem. This real-deal joint at Union Station is serving up a funky-fresh take on Hawaiian pizza—and they make it with bacon!

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They call this the Aloha Smoke, and it has me going all Hawaii Five-0, bro! It’s got crispy, smoky bacon, a nice kick from the pineapple salsa, some fresh cilantro and a little bit of parmesan on top, for that extra richness. They sell this thing down at the market for about 15 bucks—and yes, I scarfed down every single slice, and still had room for dessert!

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Five funky food pairings from the Roundhouse Craft Beer Fest

I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Old Style Pilsner. Or gimme six Bud Light Strawberry Daiquiris and the bill, bro. I won’t go outta my way to buy craft beer unless I’m stuck at some hipster dive bar on Ossington where I’ve never heard of anything on tap. Then maybe I’ll order a Steamwhistle, or something…

But when I heard that there was gonna be all kinds of funky food trucks at the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival, I knew I had to come check it out. It’s 20 bucks to get in, but then the drinks are super-cheap–they’ll fill up your cup for just two beer tokens:

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Now they don’t take craft beer tokens at the local food trucks, so you still gotta have some cash on hand. But with most culinary offerings selling for 10 bucks or less, I really can’t complain. So I started off by hitting up the FeasTO food truck. These cats are known for dumplings, but when I saw they were serving up some popcorn chicken, I knew they’d be kickin’ it up a notch:

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The chicken is crunchalicious, straight from the fryer, and they’ve got a nice sriracha mayo on top. I paired this with a Righteous Rockwell Pilsner, which is so underground, you can’t even Google it, bro! The beer had a nice, rich flavour, with even more bite than Saskatchewan’s national brew. It deserves to be called righteous, for sure!

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Now, I dunno about you, but whenever I see a sign for Bloomin’ Bacon, I always give them my money. This funky Hungarian food truck Chimney Stax makes this crusty, doughy, mass of goodness, then puts a buncha bacon on top. What could possibly be bad about that? And then you’ve got this Forgotten Lake Blueberry Ale beside it. This stuff’s super-strong–7.5 per cent, son! And it’s got a nice tartness from the blueberries, too. I’ve never had a purple beer before, but I gotta say, this shit’s super legit!

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Now, the last time I went to The Pie Commission, I had an outta-bounds beef ‘n beer pie. This time, I switched it up with some smokey steak ‘n cheese…and a side of beer. This pastry is equal parts flaky and steaky, with super-tender beef that just melts in your face. And you gotta have a dark beer with such a rich dish, so I went with Wellington’s Imperial Russian Stout, which tips the scales at 8 per cent. Just three beers in, and I’m already all tipsy like Jon Montgomery after winning a medal in Whistler… Oh, wait!

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So now I’m heading past Dobro Jesti, my favourite Slovenian food truck, when this guy says to me, “Hey buddy, do you want a garlic donut?” Do I want a garlic donut!? Dude, Garlic Donut is my middle name! After devouring his doughy offering, I immediately went and bought more. Can you believe they give you this many for just six bucks?

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These bite-sized garlic bites are outta bounds, bro! You’ve got a hot, puffy pastry, deep-fried to perfection, with enough garlicy goodness to make Guy Fieri cry. Paired with a Little Norway pale lager from Sawdust Brewing Co, which is crisp and refreshing, with just enough hops so you know you’re not drinking Coors Light. Werd to ya mora!

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Now, at this point I was getting pretty full, but when I saw the Koi Gourmet food truck serving up some real-deal Korean meals, you know I had to make room for bulgogi, son! This funkalicious sandwich is served open faced on a scallion pancake wrap, with pickled carrots, mango, daikon, cucumber and cilantro, sorta like an outta-bounds bahn mi. The best way to attack this monstrosity is to fold it up and shove it down like an oversized taco, all while chugging a refreshing Radicle Wheat Beer from Henderson Brewing Co. The citrusy flavours go nicely with the pickled veggies to make this a righteous Korean-German experience, kinda like Psy jamming with Kraftwerk. All that’s missing are the pistachios, bro!

Holy octopus balls, Batman!

Lately, Dundas Street has been turning Japanese. You’ve got ramen, izakaya, curry, sushi burritos, green tea ice cream…oh, and that overhyped cheesecake. Now, I loves me some sushi, and just about anything katsu, but when it comes to takoyaki, I’m all like that sounds wacky—until I put these balls in my mouth, bro:

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I know what you’re thinking—tacowhatty? This Japanese snacky is made from wheat flour, cooked in a pan, and stuffed with some good old Doc Oc; diced, minced octopi. You know this is heading straight down my piehole, so let’s break it down. You’ve got a buncha nice, hot balls, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with a good chew from our octofarian friends. Topped with spicy mayo and a sesame vinaigrette, green onions and Japanese chilis, all on a bed of purple rice, purple rice. I only want to see you lapping up some purple rice…

Now, this dish gets an F for funkaliciousness. And that’s the same grade I got in Home Ec, son!

If I had my little way, I’d eat chicken ‘n waffles every day…

Now, I’ve had my fair share of chicken ‘n waffles, son. There was the eeny, meenie, sour creamy edition at Evviva, down by the ballpark, and some real-deal, Bomb.com ones from deep in the heart of Texas. But when I found out there was this funky little joint a couple blocks from the St. Lawrence Market that only serves chicken ‘n waffles, then I knew it had to be legit. Man, this place isn’t just good, it’s clucking good, bro! That’s right, I said clucking:

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So we’re hanging out at Cluck Clucks on Princess Street, just off The Esplanade. This place actually has a basketball court in its backyard, so you can be all shooting some b-ball outside of the school, if ya smell what I’m cooking. You’ll probably need to go one-on-one with Bismack Biyombo after you’re done eating though, cuz this shit’s so bananas, and bananas are good!

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Now, this scrumptious chicken breast sandwich will have ya singing Cluck Yeah! like Tim McGraw in a baseball cap, bro! The chicken is super-tender and juicy, and they’re serving it up inside a jalapeno cheddar waffle with some coleslaw and dill mayo. The waffle is nice ‘n fluffy, just a little sweet, with a little bit of kick from the jalaps. And the fries are nice ‘n crispy, with a spicy seasoning. But hey, that’s just a light snack in Flavourtown…

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This chicken ‘n waffles is too legit to quit. The skin is crispy, the chicken falls apart like Henry Burris at halftime, and you’ve got more of that fluffy sweet waffle goodness, with maple syrup and Tabasco on top. I could eat six of these, and still have room for dessert!

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Now, this is just what the doctor ordered. This Asian-style chicken taco is so funky it doesn’t even have a name yet! (Actually, it’s not even on the menu, but I happen to know a guy in the fried chicken department…) You’ve got some tender chicken tenders served up taco style with a sweet, spicy dressing, some Asian-style greens, and crispy, fried tortilla strips on top—cuz you know it ain’t a party till you invite crispy fried tortilla strips. This dish is a mouthful and a half, bro, but you can bet I shoved it all down my piehole, cuz we don’t need no knife and fork in Flavourtown!

Man, it’s a good thing I don’t eat here everyday, cuz then I’d be like 456 pounds…