Monday, November 23, 2009

Relocation, Location and Food

Heya Food Savvy Hipsters!

Where the hell did 9 months go? I feel like I blinked and all of a sudden it's November! Well, here we are in the sunny Autumn of Toronto, and boy oh boy am I excited to get a writing about the places I've been eating!

One of Toronto's best known secrets is The Green Room, and I say best known secret because while most everyone knows about the place, I'm sure many can't remember where it bloody well is. Go knows I have to circle the area at least a few times before I remember exactly which alley it's tucked away in. Regardless of sobriety. The actuall address is 296 Brunswick, but for those who know it's in the alley around the corner from Future Bakery and Kula Yoga. Just head into the alley and look for the... sequin? Well, the sign.

The Green Room might have been a school house or a church at one point, at least the pews upstairs give you that worn "fear the wrath of god" feeling. This place isn't exactly clean, nothing matches, and at times it you will swear that the wait staff really did forget about you. Go outside of peak times if you want anything that resembles decent service, either this place is terribly understaffed or they seriously underpay them.

Highlights: they will leave you alone for hours on end regardless of how busy it is, and most everything on the menu is under $10. The beer is cheap and (so far) they have my favorite summer time patio. The patio is worth the visit really, it's a wonderful mis-matched oasis.

Order the nachos if you want a pool of greasy cheese with a few chips, the spring rolls if you want some greasy vegetables, and the samosas for a greasy carb snack. Everything has the same general flavor, and sometimes you can really only determine what you are eating by the sauce it's served with. The bread on the sandwiches is about an inch thick, and the curry looks as though it was made with yellow acrylic paint. Vegan options are available, however watch out on certain items as you can get differing answers from different staff.

The Pad Thai is the safest choice, and while it may vary on the amount of tofu/chicken/god I hope this is shrimp you get, it's the one thing they do well at The Green Room, and consistently tastes good. Weighing in at about $7, it's probably one of your safest bets.

All in all this is a great "I'm not sure if this is actually a date" place, and one of my favorites for catching up with friends (see cheap beer aforementioned). Worth the egg hunt to find it, but don't go trying to keep your diet.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Best Falafel in Downtown

I do expect people to argue with me for a title like that. So if you know of a better falafel, please tell me where and I will check it out.

As I am sure this blog will slowly reveal, I loooove "street meat". "Street Meat" being defined as 'a fast affordable meal that is often gotten on the go. Usually places at which "Street Meat" is purchased have very limited or no seating. "Street Meat" mostly consists of sandwich based fair: such as wraps or pitas'.

Where do I get the best falafel in downtown? Off Granville at Robson this tiny place called Babylon. The place is so small only three people can fit through the door at a time, and once you have your order you have to squeeze past to get back out the door. The place looks pretty clean, but like most small quick eat places, I am sure it only looks clean... You can tell this is a family run joint as while there are often 5 people behind the counter, no more that 2 will be working at anytime.
Don't expect friendly service, and you had better speak up and say what the hell you want on your falafel because if they make a mistake, they get bitchy. All the quirks aside, this falafel is worth waiting outside in the rain for it's just that good. All the toppings you could ask for from pickled beets to hot peppers and pickles, to sauces like garlic mayo, tahini and hot sauce. Ooooh Yeah! A regular falafel starts at about $4.80, with shawarma coming in at about $5.80. If you're feeling particularly hungry you can have the two together for about 7 bones. A bit more than what I prefer to pay for my Street Meat, but baby, this is so worth it. The pitas are huge, and easily weigh over a pound. It's a stop that is worth every penny.

Dissapointment With Every Turn

Decided to got check out an old Kits staple for brunch: Las Margaritas. (on West 4th and Yew?) I am sure this place has been around since the dawn of time, so I won't go into too much detail about the aesthetics.

They had Huevos Rancheros listed at a very reasonable $7.75. This dish is one of my all time favorites, and a word to the previously drunk, the best hang-over food evah.

Sadly, for some ungodly reason Las Margaritas chose to serve the dish traditional style vs. the more popular way of scrambling the eggs with salsa and tortillas, without a disclaimer on the menu. Oh my fucking god. It looked as though someone who had been drinking tequila all night managed to throw up AND take a shit on my plate. A puddle of what I hoped was re fried beans to the right of the plate, a pile of Spanish rice to the left, and what were supposed to be eggs coagulating on top of a corn tortilla. Sprinkled with a mystery brown substance that resembled something my dog would leave on the carpet if he left alone too long, these eggs were so runny they barely qualified as "sunny side up".


When the plate finally came back (it took so long my brunch date had finished their meal by the time it had arrived) the eggs were scrambled and COLD. All of the food was very bland, and I have to say I was very disappointed. For a restaurant that is supposed to have a good reputation, has apparently won awards and has been around so long, this meal was pitiful.

Two tamales down for the crappy cantina.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Choices on Davie and Richards.

If your social life cuts into your dinner/lunch prep time like mine does, sometimes you have to suck it up and buy lunch while you're at work. While sandwiches are fantastic it is possible to O.D. on them. Trust me, I have been there and it is FAR from pretty. So if you're feeling the need for some roughage, are a fussy eater, or one of those freaky people who follow that raw food diet crap (W.T.F.?!) a nice salad is a good way to go.

Choices has a reputable salad bar, and at $1.99/100 grams it is a bit below the price of it's competitors. Sectioned off into categories (carbs, protein, veggies, leaves etc.), with all options being vegan unless obviously otherwise (as I was told by a deli employee). The salad bar is quite clean and has an aptly placed sneeze guard to protect the well filled containers below. Short black tongs allow for apt control for hungry patrons to grasp the right amount on the first try.

I began with some spinach leaves, followed by those weird baby corn things that are ridiculously delicious. Why do they taste to freaking good?! Gah. Followed by two types of co slaw, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, kumut and wheat berry salads and these mushrooms. I think they were preserved? They looked like the Swamp Thing's left-over's but tasted amazing. Top with a couple of garlic stuffed green olives (for extra offensive breath with which to greet guests), a smattering of vegetables and Annie's Organic Shitaki and Sesame dressing. Yum.

I brought my own bowl because I hate using disposable containers, and my total came to $7.00. I could have lessened this amount by forgoing the dressing as I found the salads had enough juices of their own to coat the spinach. Also if you stay away from heavier items (such as eggs, tuna, wheat berry salads) you can keep your costs pretty low. If I am picky I can often keep it under $5, however all the options make it easy to splurge and over do it: I recommend looking at what is available before you begin grabbing stuff for your bowl.

So for those looking for the low carb option (you losers), this is the place to go. While eating out for lunch everyday can add up, Choices' Salad Bar makes a nice occasional treat.

I give the place one carrot stick up.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bean Around the World on Mainland

Found on one of Yaletown's more boutique ridden streets is a comfortably reliable Bean Around the World. There you can get a pastry, a sandwich or a latte, and while neither may be exceptional you can rely on the fact whatever you eat will be both good (to average) and decently priced. Not to mention you can expect a laid back quasi artsy chic environment that is easy to relax in.

I had to pop out to grab something for lunch today, so Bean was a logical choice for one who can't stand the more trendy places that Yaletown has to offer, and is morally opposed to paying $10 for a sandwich. There is no way I am paying that much unless the bread really WAS the body of Christ. Ha!

At a reasonably proceed $5.50 the Tandoori Chicken Wrap seemed the best choice as most everything else on the menu contained dairy in one way or another (they loose big points for having no vegan items on the menu whatsoever. Even the Samosas had egg in the pastry).
They had the grilling technique down pat, and I bit into a perfectly crispy wrap to a delightfully warm filling. Just the right amount of rice, and a decent amount of ground chicken. While I remain uncertain as to the vegetable content (I guess this could be a piece of carrot?), the chutney was lightly spiced and made a delicious sweet pairing. What kind of Tandoori the chef had been eating, god only knows and I think this wrap would have been more aptly named "Slightly Curried" or my personal favorite "Weakly Curried for White People Who Cry at the Sight of Hot Sauce". Heh.

The wrap is a fair size, and would satisfy the very hungry. I had about 1/3 left when I was finished, it made a nice snack later on.

A few muffin and chocolate loaf samples for desert and I was ready for work again.
This is decent stop for hungry shoppers, and I give the place one bunch of coriander up.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Banditas, Band-Awsome

Tucked away on Commercial at about 12th lies a nugget of a jewel that specializes in vegetarian Mexican food.

The decor is what it is: nothing fancy, all the tables and chairs barely go together yet marry with a inexpensive charm. The big black and white check tile floor combined with the large windows gives one the feeling they just stepped into the kitchen belonging to their best friend's parents. Comfortable, unassuming, and nothing to prove. Toss in a couple of bikes in the rafters and you have the makings of one hip joint.

Most dishes are reasonably priced ( I think the most expensive was about 14 or so), with vegan options for all except the egg dishes. The variety and spectrum of the dishes is such that one doesn't really notice their is no meat on the menu.

I ordered the Tortilla Soup for $7, $7.50 if you want some corn tortillas on the side ($8 as I had vegan cheese instead of feta). While this is an easy dish to make, it is just as easy to fuck it up: Banditas, you are on.

I was pleasantly greeted with a hearty sized bowl filled with a vibrant red soup. This stuff was so thick and hearty it could have almost been called a stew. You cuold tell from first slurp that fresh tomatos were lovingly smashed to make this dish: a nice change from the traditional chicken stock varieties. Full of flavor with the perfect amount of cilantro, this dish didn't even need hot sauce (And that means something coming from me!).
The home made corn tortillas were so soft and lovely I actually thought they were flour for a moment. Moist yet strong those puppies were well made and went down the hatch with a smile.

While this is not the kind of place for those that want to be catered to (after your first glass of water you help yourself from jugs to the side), this is a great place to spend some time and eat some good food for a fair price without someone trying to hurry you out the moment you finish eating. Most other patrons in the joint were seemed to be engrossed in their food and conversation.

All in all I give Banditas two bike gears up.