Bloor West Village Chicken Wing Challenge: Shakey’s vs. Bryden’s

Dude, you KNOW I love chicken wings–this is body by chicken wings, bro! And while I wish that every night was wing night, over in Bloor West Village, the night of the wings is Tuesday, when these two funky little craft beer joints are both serving up a pound of the good stuff for about eight bucks. Man, even Bill Gates’ haircuts cost more than that!!!

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So, we’re starting off at Shakey’s, this funky little hockey bar just a bit west of Runnymede. This is the place to go for Leafs fans in the neighbourhood, so it’s probably a good thing that I wasn’t wearing my Calgary Flames jersey after the Flames blew ’em away in the third period on Monday!!!

Now, this place is serving up all sorts of wings ranging from mild to suicide–or honey garlic, if you’re into that–but I went in a different direction with the dry-rub Cajun wings. These wings were hot in more ways than one–I had to wait for ’em to cool down before I could pick ’em up. And $8.50 also gets you a side of fries, although the ranch dressing is a dollar extra…

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Of course, if I’m eating wings you KNOW I’m not sipping on a vodka cranberry, bro! This here’s a West Coast Style IPA from Beau’s. It definitely tastes like an IPA, but the ones I’ve had in Seattle were a lot more bitter…which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

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Now, speaking of bitter beer, Bryden’s is actually owned by Great Lakes Brewery, which is known for its grapefruit-tasting pale ales. But when it comes to wings, we’re going for the sweetness with these Maple Jack bones. You get more maple than Jack Daniels here…but why drink Jack Daniels when you can drink beer?

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Going completely away from the IPAs, this Robust Porter from Cheshire Valley hits the spot with its cocoa Guinness-y goodness. I could probably pound a few more of these, but after all that blue cheese back there, I think I’d better not.

Now, when it comes to wings, I’d say that Shakey’s gives you more bang for your buck–‘specially if you like French fried potaters. But the rotating taps at Bryden’s impress me more. If I was in the neighbourhood on any day other than Tuesday, I would probably hit that place up first–definitely if the Leafs were playing!

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Authentic Mexican tacos ‘n tortas on St. Clair West

Normally, when I want Mexican food I head to Kensington Market — Seven Lives, El Trompo, Torteria San Cosme… It’s like a festival of funk in Flavourtown! But lately, I heard that up on St. Clair, right around Oakwood, there’s a couple funky joints serving up real-deal, authentic Mexican that’s too legit to quit — so you know I’ve gotta check this out!

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Itacate is this little family run taco joint inside an old butcher shop, where everything’s made fresh to order. This means you might hafta wait a bit to get yer grub… but their tacos, like this chorizo y papas, are well worth the wait, hermanos! You’ve got great big chunks of Mexican sausage, little pieces of potato, with some onions, cilantro and hot sauce from the condiment bar…dude, I could eat this for breakfast, lunch AND dinner!!!

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But the funkaliciousness don’t stop there — no way, Jose! They call this one Placero, and it’s a fiesta in mi boca! You’ve got freshly made pork rinds (chicharones) with avocado and cactus (nopal), and then they put these big ol’ strips of queso panela, a fresh, smooth Mexican cheese on top. Now, I’ve had some crazy tacos in my time, but this one is definitely right up there… But you KNOW we’ve still got room for more, bro!!!

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So, we’re headed just across the street to Tenoch Restaurant, this real-deal, authentic Mexican joint that’s just on the east side of Oakwood. Unlike Itacate, this place is more of a sit-down joint…and you’ll definitely wanna be sitting down to take on one of their signature tortas!

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Their Tenoch torta packs more meat between two buns than I think I’ve ever seen, son! You’ve got shredded chipotle pork, deep-fried milanesa steak, ham, pastrami, eggs and hot dogs — it’s like La T-Rex poutine of sandwiches! And while you KNOW I scarfed down every single last bite… I definitely didn’t have room for dessert!

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Seoul Shakers’ got my soul shakin’ with some funky Korean fusion!

So, we’re hanging out at Seoul Shakers, this funky little Bloordale Village dive where they’re mixing up Mexican, Korean and comfort food classics, like kimchi cheeseburgers and gojuchang tacos al pastor in an old dingy diner that’s so outta bounds, it’s got Tom Jones above the Wu Tang on the jukebox!

Now, you may NOT play the Travis Tritt right above the 2Pac here, but you CAN chow down on some sweet ‘n spicy soy-glazed deep-fried eggplant…so I guess that’s good enough???

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Now, I don’t always eat eggplant, but if you do it up like this, I would eat it every day. You’ve got sweetness, you’ve got spicy, you’ve got crispy and crunchy, with a side of bell peppers, scallions, and a little chili oil for that extra kick. Kick out the Korean jams, bro!!!!

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Now, these signature Seoul Shakers wings definitely kick the heat up a notch. You’ve got a crispy onion batter and a Thai-style chili/garlic/soy glaze, with some sesame seeds, hot peppers and cilantro. And it’s not just spicy hot–I almost burned my digits when I picked this one up!!!

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These Roast Kimchi Chopped Cheese sliders might be this joint’s signature dish, and it’s totally funkalicious. You’ve got a chopped ground beef patty topped with roast kimchi, lettuce, pickles, onions, cheese and special sauce. And they’re serving ’em up in two sizes: Biggie (four to an order) and Smalls (two per order). Man, can I do like a Big Pun and get seven of these????

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But the hip to the hop don’t stop there, bro! The hits keep coming with this cast-iron roasted Cornish hen served on Korean sweet rice porridge, with sides of pickles, onions and potatoes. And believe it or not, but this chicken’s so tender you can slice right through it with chopsticks — they won’t even give you a knife if you ask for one!

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Now, you might be sippin’ on soju and juice at a joint like this, but this is body by craft beer, bro, so I’m going straight for an ice cold Blood Light, an evil pale ale from my Satan-hailing homeboys at Blood Brothers Brewing. Dunno the IBUs on this one, but it’s definitely not too hoppy. Why make it a Bud Light when you can make it a Blood Light???

Who needs Bud Light Lime when you can have Iron City Light Mango???

Now, I’m not a big fan of Bud Light to begin with, but they’ve gotten a little silly silly with their flavours lately. I mean, you’ve got stuff like Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Raisin, Bud Light Cranappletini…OK, so I might have made the last one up. But one Pittsburgh brewery is going where even Bud Light doesn’t dare to go–we’re talking Iron City Light Mango, bro!

So here I am killin’ time at a Quaker Steak and Lube in the Pittsburgh airport, pounding Yuenglings and seasonal Sam Adams, when I spot this hot mess on the beer list. OK, so I’m tempted–how do you get mango into a light beer, anyways?

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Well, it turns out this beer doesn’t really taste like mango, or even a fruity milkshake IPA. Instead, it was more like flat orange pop. Still better than Molson Canadian though, bro!!!

This burger’s so baller, it might make you miss your connection…

Now, I gotta say, it had been a little while since I flew Air Canada outta Pearson to the States, up until last month. That dinky little lounge that was around the corner and down the stairs has now been fully renovated, all shiny and new, and it’s even got its own funky little burger joint — The Burger Federation!

Now, they ain’t serving up no Big Macs here, not even Five Guys. Instead, they’ve got burgers and sammies with local and international connections, like The Roncy, Chicken Schnitzel, or this one-way ticket to Flavourtown, the French Connection:

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OK, now let’s break it down. You’ve got not one, but two kinds of beef here–roast beef and Angus. Plus, there’s some creamy, melty chunks of brie, a super-secret “federation sauce,” and they even hide a couple Hickory Sticks in there, for that extra crunch…

Dude, this burger is so dope that I’d take a plane to Buffalo just so I could crush a couple more of these…as long as there’s some wings waiting when I land, bro!

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Dumping a dozen juicy soup dumplings straight down my piehole!!!

So, we’re hanging out at Juicy Dumpling, this funky little joint that just opened up in the Dragon City Mall, right in the heart of Chinatown. Now this place has got both kinds of soup dumplings: steamed AND fried, and at just $2.99 for a six-pack, you know I’m gonna do both, bro!!!

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We’re starting with the steamed soup dumplings, with a nice, tender wrapper hiding diced pork and soup broth. Now, most soup dumplings are so big that you can scoop some of the soup out, but man, I can just eat these ones in one bite!

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Now, I liked the steamed dumplings and all, but I think I gotta go with the fried. That crispy texture really kicks it up a notch! Plus, it’s not every day you can eat fried soup, dude!!!

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Now, this place is also serving up all sorts of side dishes, from Chickity China chicken wings to my personal favourite, deep-fried dough. (That is literally what it says on the menu board.) Dude, this is body by deep-fried dough, bro! It tastes like a churro without the sweetness, and three big sticks of it was only like $2.50… Shut the back door!!!

Back bacon portobello kangaroo burger @ W Burger Bar

Now, kangaroo is not something you see every day–especially up here in Canada. Although I’ve had a kangaroo sausage at Wvrst before, and some grilled kangaroo mac ‘n cheese a couple years back…but a kangaroo burger? That’s definitely kicking it up a notch!

So, we’re hanging out at W Burger Bar, this funky little joint that’s right next to Fran’s at Yonge and College. This place is all about the burgers, but it’s not just beef. They’ve got a lamb burger, chicken burger, turkey burger, bison burger, wild boar burger, elk burger…and oh yeah, a kangaroo burger, too:

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Not only are their burgers outta bounds, but they let you pick all your toppings, too! So, along with the standard lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles, I funked it up with some salsa, some tzatziki…and then I paid a couple bucks more for back bacon and portabello mushrooms. Dude, this is body by back bacon and portabello mushrooms!!!!

And I gotta say, this was one the top five burgers I’ve had this year. The patty was thick and juicy, the back bacon added a nice chew, you had the creaminess from the tzatziki, a little crunch from the onion… All that and a side of Greek fries, bro!

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Now, this side dish was a hot mess in Flavourtown. You’ve got these shoestring fries, which were salty enough already, and then you add feta, olives and Greek dressing!? Dude, I just about salted myself! But you know what they say, if it ain’t salty, it ain’t tasty…

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Of course, you KNOW those salty fries are gonna make me wanna chug about 57 beers, bro–like this Confederation Amber Ale from Flying Monkeys. Cuz you can’t have a kangaroo burger without some Flying Monkeys, amirite???