I went to Signs, and it opened up my eyes…

Let’s be honest bro, some of these restaurant trends are stupid and pointless. Dining in the dark? Korean food you hafta cook yourself? All-you-can-eat vegan buffet!? Ixnay on the Hombre, Jose! But Signs Restaurant serves a much greater purpose—and a mean chocolate cake for dessert.

This funky joint opened up at the corner of Yonge and Wellesley in 2014 (where I think it actually replaced a Korean BBQ joint), and it’s the first restaurant in Canada staffed entirely by deaf servers, bartenders, food runners and busboys. The hostess will lead you to your table in English, but from there, you’ll do more hand-talking than a Sunday dinner at the Jersey Shore, capiche?

Their Winterlicious menu offered up some delicious dishes for wicked-low prices, which you ordered in American Sign Language. Even their drink menu was in ASL—turns out the international sign for Steamwhistle is awfully similar to the Alberta Sign Language for “Honk your horn, trucker dude!”

signs_spring_rolls

I started off with the veggie spring rolls, which was the awesomest thing to order in sign language—kinda like a gopher coming out of its hole and rolling up a big fat doob. That said, the rolls weren’t really anything special…but the meal only got better from here.

signs_veal_chop (1)

Turns out, you can order a veal chop by making a chopping motion with your hands. This one was a perfect medium-rare, nice char marks, with some creamy mashed potatoes and slivered veggies on the side. I’m not used to eating veal without the parmesan, but man, I would take this veal chop over Sbarro any day of the week, and twice on Tuesdays!

signs_choc_cake (1)

And for desert, they’ve got this bomb chocolate cake. Rich, moist chunks of chocolately goodness, with a little chocolate drizzle and some berries on the side. I don’t always eat cake, but when I do…who am I kidding, this is body by chocolate cake, bro!

Honestly dude, chatting with the wait staff wasn’t all that tricky. Turns out the sign for “excellent” is two thumbs up, and I think the sign for “party time” is rocking out on air guitar. Our waitress didn’t get the reference, though. I guess she’s never watched Wayne’s World!

But hey, when it’s not Winterlicious, this place serves up the good stuff, like pork belly bahn mi, duck confit poutine and deep-friend mac ‘n cheese balls. Sign me up for sign-language classes Ah-nold, cuz I’ll be back!

These whitefish doughnuts make America great again!

America has been getting a bad rap lately. The Globe and Mail said “The food is amazing – but you shouldn’t eat here, ever.” Toronto Life said “the food is inflated to the extreme, both in size and price” while DineSafe added “Operator fail to ensure food is not contaminated/adulterated.” OK, I’m pretty sure they were just nitpicking on that one. But most Torontonians I know say they’d never give their money to Donald Trump, to which I say “Atlantic City, baby!”

Or Adelaide St W, as the case may be. Located at the top of the Toronto Trump Tower, this funky joint greets you with portraits of all the celebrities who ate there before they boycotted the place. But man, you’d hafta build a wall to keep me away! I’ve got two words for you: Whitefish. Doughuts.

whitefish_doughnuts

These flaky fish Timbits were lightly fried for a nice crunch and came swimming in a sea of tangy beet juice. My only complaint was that there’s only three to an order—I could eat about 30! But hey, that was only the first course…

meat_loaf (1)

Holy Bacon-Wrapped Meat Loaf, Batman! This yuge slab of beef/bacon paired up with some German-style cabbage for the perfect bite. I dunno guy, but I could eat this off the tailpipe of a ’67 Camaro and still have room for dessert!

cheddar_whiz (2)

They call this dish “Jasper Hill Cheddar Whiz.” It’s kinda like Cheez Whiz gone mousse. My only complaint was with the nutty cracker things. I coulda used some nachos, bro!

america_napkin

God Bless America Restaurant, and no place else!

POUTINE WEEK 2016: Holy fuck, that’s a lotta duck!

duck_confit_poutine (2)

They don’t call it haute poutine for nothing. This delicious dish from funky Queen St. E joint Prohibition Gastrohouse is topped with duck confit, duck crackling, duck gravy and the fries are deep fried in duck fat. If there was anymore duck in this dish, you’d hafta slam on the brakes and wait for it to cross the street!

OK, let’s break it down. The duck confit is cooked perfectly; great texture, nice chew. You get that added crunch from the crackling, and an extra kick from the duck gravy. Cheese curds are on point, even if they’re already melted by the time they hit the table. Hey, at $14.95, this is no poor man’s poutine—but what it might be lacking in size, it more than makes up for in flavour!

POUTINE WEEK 2016: It’s pulled pork o’clock somewhere

With every freakin’ diner, drive-in and dive in the city serving up pulled pork, it was just a matter of time before I had some pulled-pork poutine this week. But hey, if you’re gonna put pulled pork on poutine, you gotta do it right. I wouldn’t go for that processed crap you’d get at Harvey’s—gimme something served up by a pork ninja, like the ones at Wenona Craft Beer Lodge.

This funky Bloor St. joint was probably a Portuguese dive bar in its past life, but they’ve really made it nice and cozy, putting canoe paddles up on the wall, craft beers in the fridge, old-timey bluegrass on the stereo, Turner Classic Movies on TV…oh, and real-deal BBQ in the kitchen.

pulled_pork_poutine

Now, they call this a pulled-pork poutine, but it’s really a plateful of pork surrounded by some fries and cheese curds. The fries are super-thick, nicely seasoned, and the pork is super-tender. Nice tang from the pork gravy, but I gotta say, the curds just didn’t have that squeak, bro. That being said, I could totally pound this pork with a side of mac ‘n cheese and collard greens, and a couple pints of their tasty house ale on tap. Hey, if I’m still hungry after hitting up that vegan joint across the street, I know where I’ll be heading!

POUTINE WEEK 2016: Braise a little beef, braise a little beef, braise a little beef!

Man, I loves me some Trooper. Good Ol’ General Hand Grenade, Boys in the Bright White Sports Car, Raise a Little Hell… That band is off the charts, dude! (They haven’t had a hit single since 1991.) But while Trooper is no longer raising hell, the Tesla Café in Koreatown will braise a little beef and put it on top of fries for just 11 bucks:

braised_beef_poutine (2)

This dish is TheBomb.ca, bro! Fries are nice and crispy, beef is nice and tender, service is nice and friendly at this cozy neighbourhood joint. (They even put beer nuts out for noshing on the bar. Who does that anymore!?) The one thing I would say is that you don’t get a whole lotta cheese here. The curds are few and far between, and they just sorta melt into the beef. But man, as far as beef stew served on top of French fries goes, this one is right up there!

POUTINE WEEK 2016: Killer Korean BBQ, and I didn’t hafta cook it myself!

Remember like 10 years ago, when Korean BBQ joints were popping up all over the place? Man, you could never get me to eat at one of those joints, dude! I mean, why would I go to a restaurant if I gotta cook my own food? That would be like Rogers paying me to watch TV, instead of jacking up my cable bill! (Except, y’know, if Rogers actually did that, it would be a good thing.)

But the good thing is that at Poutineville, they’re serving up Korean-style BBQ beef on top of poutine—and the beef’s already cooked by the time it hits the plate:

korean_poutine (2)

Now, I was a little scared when I saw the sauce, especially after yesterday’s BBQ sauce incident. Fortunately, this sauce wasn’t spicy; instead, it had a nice, sweet, tangy taste that went great with the beef. The fries had a nice crispness, and while these curds were a lot smaller than the other funky joints I’ve been to this week, the texture was on point. But the beef is what makes it. Nicely seasoned, grilled to perfection. Dude, you could put this beef on a salad, and I’d still stuff my face full!

(As long as it’s macaroni salad. Or maybe a nice, crisp chicken-bacon caesar.)

POUTINE WEEK 2016: That bacon be takin’ dem blues away!

OK, so this one time, I was at this funky vegan joint, and I asked if they could put some bacon on my kale/quinoa salad. Those dudes looked at me like I was a zombie from Mars, bro. But c’mon man, everything’s better with bacon! Case in point: the bacon blues poutine at Let’s Be Frank.

bacon_blues (2)

This funky Chinatown joint is right next to the El Mocambo, which is supposed to be reopening sometime this year. And while it looks like a total dive bar, Frank’s got craft beers and vinyl records in ample supply. They were playing some funky southern rock from the 70’s when I got there, which kinda sounded like early Hank Jr.—y’know, back before he started hanging out with Guy Fieri’s homeboy Kid Rock.

And hey, I gotta give ‘em bonus points for presentation—that’s one fine-looking poutine. But while the bacon bits added a nice bite, I wasn’t a big fan of the spicy BBQ sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I would put that shit on some nice baby back ribs, but when it comes to poutine, spicy sauce does not compu-tine.

But hey, when they start doing shows at the ElMo again, I might stop in for a hot dog or something.