Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Parkdale Pizza on the Go!

You're at the corner of Queen and Lansdowne. Maybe you're waiting for a bus, or maybe you just went to the Sally Ann Thrift Store or Scotiabank. You're hungry, and have only $3.25 in your pocket.

I recommend 2-4-1 Pizza, located at 1468 Queen Street West (the entrance is on Lansdowne Avenue). You'll get two (2) fresh slices of greasy, cheesy pizza and a can of pop for only $3.25. Not bad for a quick fix.

Tasty Tastebuds suggests crossing the street instead, to Memo Pizza, located at 1407 Queen Street West, because they offer Dr. Pepper as a soda selection. The price is the same, and you'll still get two small slices plus a can of pop for your change, but I find the slices are not quite as fresh as 2-4-1, because the store is not as busy. So if you're willing to sacrifice your pizza freshness for a can of Dr. Pepper, then follow Tasty Tastebuds's lead.

Then there's Old Man Pizza, located around the corner at 223 Jameson Avenue. With arcade games, Old Man Pizza is actually more of a teen hangout spot than an establishment catering to elderly gentlemen (unlike their name suggests). Tasty Tastebuds simply refers to their pizza as "gross."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Rhino Bar & Grill: Please List Alternates When Ordering Beer

Touted by fellow Toronto bloggers as a university pub-style hangout for older-somethings who have never grown up, the Rhino Bar & Grill, located at 1249 Queen Street West, seemed instantly appealing. I remember drinking in university pubs! That was last week! Certainly, the prices are reminiscent of days gone by, with burgers and fries starting at $6.50. You then have a choice of many deluxe condiments -- I opted for the goat cheese for an extra $1.00.

I also tried to order one of their seasonal beers from the specials menu -- a choice of about ten -- but my first three selections were unavailable. Really? I have to go with my fourth choice? Shouldn't my beer be free at this point? Playing along nicely, I consulted their regular beer menu, boasting 225 varieties, for my fourth pick. This took a while. I was beginning to question whether this "bar" actually truly served "beer"at all. Finally, I was able to receive a bottle of "whatever darkest beer you have from Canada." It didn't matter anymore. Please just bring me a drink so that my food order can be placed.

Tasty Tastebuds, on the other hand, had a simple go of it by ordering the house Rhino brew, which was -- fortunately -- readily available on tap.

While I sipped on my fourth choice of beer, we took in the ambiance: dark, with discreet mood lighting provided by a few strings of Christmas lights, and top-40 rock hits from the 90s blasting through the speakers. The Rhino is also quite spacious, with pool tables at the back, and enough space in the front for medium-sized gatherings of friends for birthdays or other functions. There was indeed such a crowd gathered, about 10-12 partiers, which made the place seem quite lively for a Monday night.

Food arrives! The burger is good; patty homemade and incredibly juicy. The fries, however, were cold, and not at all freshly cut either. The burger's goat cheese did make my (sizeable) sandwich rich and dreamy, but the cold fries and lack of availability for my first three choices of beverage sure made this Rhino Bar & Grill dining experience less than spectacular.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Easy Restaurant

Easy Restaurant is a diner in Parkdale better known for its breakfast, located at Queen Street West and Roncesvalles. Captain Hunger and I ventured out the other day and partook in the free-range huevos divorciados, I also had a cup of coffee.

The place was busy but there were tables available so the wait was not long. The service was quick and my coffee mug refilled regularly while waiting for food to arrive and during the meal. The atmosphere is kind of a retro homage to the classic film Easy Rider. It has light brown, yellow and orange everywhere, and posters of the movie, and a few others of that period, on the walls throughout the dinner.

The breakfast itself was good. Two eggs sunny side up on top of a corn tortilla, served with a few slices of baguette, ancho jam, red and green salsa, guacamole, refried black beans and some hash browned potatoes. I really did enjoy the condiment spread but could feel that something was missing. Was it the coffee? No. My cup was just refilled, and the coffee was quite good. What was missing was, according to the menu, a side order with this meal. I'm talking about the ham, bacon or sausage option that is, in my mind, an essential part of any breakfast with eggs. Eggs without bacon is like eating bacon without eggs. They exist in unison completing and complementing one another. At $12.95 a plate one would expect a complete breakfast. Instead, I felt cheated as I looked up to the poster with two guys on motorcycles as the waitress handed us the bill. I felt like saying "I'm still hungry and I spent the better part of my grocery money on this meal" but I just smiled. After all, Captain Hunger was paying for the breakfast.

All said, Easy Restaurant is a great place to go if you have extra cash lying around and you want to impress some friends, relatives or whoever with a "fancy" breakfast in a "hip" setting.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Soups: Mexican Garlic and Butternut Squash

Brrr! It's cold out there! Stay in and warm up with nice hot cups of soup. Here are two cheap and choosy options to knock the cold right outta ya.

MEXICAN GARLIC SOUP is sweet, with a spicy garlic kick, and prepares in minutes. It is very light, with practically zero calories, so you may want to follow it up with mexican bean burritos or something heavy and hearty of the like. Some may worry that garlic soup isn't quite appropriate the evening before a hot date, but I says: who would want to date someone that doesn't love garlic? As for ingredients, I pick up my ancho chilis at House of Spice in Kensington Market, 190 Augusta Ave.

Ingredients: 1/4 c. olive oil, 1 head garlic coarsely chopped, some bread cut into chunks, 2 stemmed and seeded ancho chilies coarsely chopped, 4 medium tomatoes (or a can) coarsely chopped, 7 c. vegetable stock (or water), 3/4 tsp salt, 1/2 c. cream (optional)

Preparation: Heat the oil in skillet until smoking, add garlic, stir over med heat 1 min until lightly toasted, transfer garlic to soup pot. Fry chunks of bread in skillet until lightly browned on both sides, approx 1 min, then set aside. Place the chili peppers and tomatoes in the skillet and stir on med heat until wilted. Transfer to soup pot with the garlic. Add the stock (or water) and salt, bring to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes or until the garlic is soft. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the oil-fried garlic-infused bread and dollop of cream (optional) and fresh coriander (optional).

Note: For the bread, use whatever you have in store, or opt for tortilla, french baguette, or homemade white bread. Delish!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP is always a challenge because you first have to tackle the task of cutting and peeling the squash. I don't normally like to radiate my food in microwaves, so I either bake it for a while, which makes it easier to peel, or simply attack it with a big knife. However you choose to tackle the gourd, you want to end up with 1-2 inch chunks of peeled squash for this soup.

Ingredients: butternut squash cut into 1-2 inch peeled chunks, a carrot chopped, a leek chopped, yellow onion finely diced, 3 tbs butter or margarine, 4 c. chicken or vegetable stock (or water), coriander, cumin.

Directions: The first thing I did was prepare my stock by boiling a chicken carcass and bones (the bird meat I ate the night before). When boiling the chicken stock, be sure to periodically skim the scummy grease buildup off the top, then drain and discard the bones, reserving the stock. You can also use a vegetable broth or water. In this case, I also had some leftover mexican garlic soup, so I threw a bit of that into my stock as well for extra flavouring. To really begin, sautee onion in oil or butter until onion is limp, add everyting else, bring to a boil and let simmer until squash is tender. Attack soup with either a potato masher or hand blender for creamy texture. Many recipes I've read also add thick cream at this point, but I like to keep my butternut squash light, so that it can be followed up with something heavy or hearty like scalloped potatoes, steak and homemade pumpkin pie. That's what I had last night, plus beer. In a restaurant, this would have cost me upwards of $40 for sure!

Soup tip: I usually freeze some of my soups for days when I am too busy to cook or too broke to go out. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Taste from Guyana: Ali's Roti Shop

If there is one type of food to dominate Parkdale, it's the roti. Within a two-block radius of Queen and Lansdowne, there are nearly a dozen roti shops all serving variations of this traditional Indian bread, stuffed with vegetables, spices and meats.

Ali's West Indian Roti Shop, located at 1446 Queen Street West, prepares rotis as they are favoured in Guyana: soft and layered. I ordered a chicken roti, and accepted the offer of hot sauce. My take-out order came in a recyclable paper bag (cool points for not using styrofoam or tin foil) that I carried home to eat on a ceramic dinner plate with a metal fork and knife.

The dhalpuri roti bread was stuffed with split peas, cumin, garlic, pepper and chicken. With the hot sauce, it was quite spicy and delicious.

I was unable to finish my entire $7.50 (plus tax) order, and so stored nearly half of it in the fridge for a lunch snack to be enjoyed later. Cold, Ali's Roti was still delicious.

Next stops in the quest for the best roti in Parkdale: Roti Lady and Bacchus.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dale's Restaurant: Late-Night Burger Joint

Tasty Tastebuds and I went out last night to shoot some pool with a couple of friends (the bike courier and the commercial insurance saleswoman). We won three games to one. Duffy's Tavern on Bloor, near Lansdowne, was the perfect location for our quiet Saturday night hangout (still a wee bit hungover from a late-night birthday party the night before).

Pool cost only a loonie, and pitchers (choice of blond or red) $12.00. Sure, the pool tables were slightly warped, and the washrooms a little dive-like, but the place was perfect for not having to yell-at-the-top-of-your-lungs conversation. Occasionally, the whole place would scarily quake, as the nearby subway rumbled by. And the place was empty save for a few old guys at the bar. So perfect for a peaceful hangout on a hungover Saturday night.

On our way home, shortly after midnight, we stopped into Dale's Restaurant, located at 1285 Bloor Street West, for a burger. Between Tasty Tastebuds and I, we had only $7.50. Not much to feed two. Burgers at Dale's were only $3.00, so we had a budget enough for one each, plus tax, plus tip.

Dale's Restaurant is a late-night mom and pop shop, open until 1:00 am every night. They also sell alcohol, and that's what most (if not all) of the other patrons were there to consume. Old men sipping on beer in booths, watching infomercials on the TV on the wall in the corner. The washrooms were total dumps -- no toilet paper or soap -- but I'd still go back to try out a milkshake any day. I liked the sketchy, depressed atmosphere of the joint, and sensed that it's the kind of diner that's been around since before I was born. Tasty Tastebuds even gives their burger a generous five stars out of five rating (I give them a big zero on their washrooms downstairs).

Dale's burgers were big and flat, with a sesame seed bun and lots of mustard, a slice of tomato and fresh onion. A late-night treat to see us home, to bed, to sleep.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


This is the first installment of Freaking Out Over Dinner: A Guide to Eating in Toronto (and Elsewhere) brought to you by two fine and hungry folks living in Parkdale. This blog is dedicated to eating out and cooking at home, all for the love of food!

This lazy Sunday afternoon, Tasty Tasebuds and I, Captain Hunger, ventured outdoors for a breakfast brunch in our 'hood. First, we checked out Mitzi's Cafe, on Sorauren Avenue, but the place was packed, and several groups were already waiting in line ahead of us. So we decided to take a walk and see what other breakfast joints could be found around the corner.

We soon came upon the Stavros Family Restaurant, located at 1582 Queen Street West, where several diners could be seen poking at homefries and puddles of ketchup through the big street-front windows. I ordered a greek omelette, and Tasty Tastebuds, over easy eggs and sausages. The meals came with homefries, toast, and coffee or tea. The service was swift, and the portions were huge, but the food was nothing spectacular. The potatoes were fairly bland, the bread was store-bought, and my greek omelette saw no traces of tomato or green pepper. However, the price was right ($15 including tip fed us both for the entire afternoon) so if you're looking for a cheap, greasy and filling breakfast, then Stavros Family Restaurant is the place to go when Mitzi's Cafe seems too chic, busy or expensive.