15.8.14

Hogtown Smoke

http://www.hogtownsmoke.ca/

We went to Hogtown Smoke on Friday evening for a family get together. Our unique options around the area were somewhat limited. Our initial choice would have been a traditional pub, but all for the better – Hogtown Smoke turned out to be quite a delight! They asked that we call and hour ahead of time to save us a spot.

APPEARANCE
The smallish façade is not difficult to pass without noticing. Their hog illustration does not get as much attention as one would hope. There is no front patio, but two large windows open right out to create the second best thing for the folks crammed inside. It looked a bit tight to us walking in. Perhaps that was driven by the fun interior - metal buckets as lights, brick walls and plenty of colourful paintings for sale. We should note, people were not dressed as casual as we hoped. Either way.. the trick here is their marvelous back patio! The large semi-covered area feels like someone’s backyard (which it might have originally been actually). The narrow alleyway access increases the coziness of the whole experience. We spent quite a few minutes surveying the surroundings before even getting to the menus. The tall tables are made from unfinished wood with distinct grain on the sides. There are a few metal signs hanging on the barn-wood cladded walls. The bar was a few steps away and next to it, the holy grail of Hogtown Smoke, the huge smoker. Later, out waitress told us they keep it running all day.

NOSE
The menu itself had organs (we believe) in the background, stealing a bit too much attention from the text. A much more expressionistic hog illustration than the store-front sign, really added a good feel to it. There is a funny bit about hot wings eating competition (win – get a picture on the Wall of Fame, loose – pay $50 and be condemned to the Wall of Shame). The beer menu was considerably more epic. From a distance it looked like a stone tablet with large uneven writing detailing their craft beer offerings. Important to mention, there are only craft beers here – no Stella or Guinness to choose from.

SWIRL
We ordered a Pig Out Platter for 5-6. While the over $100 price initially deterred us, it turned out to be enough for our crowd of 6. A few extra sides were ordered as well, as the portions are tiny. We went for a couple of different coleslaws, a cornbread and a few baskets of fries. Surprisingly, our food arrived in under fifteen minutes. The meats came on a large wooden board, almost overflowing with goodness. The 4 meats we picked their pulled pork, wings, harder chicken and beef ribs All plates were made of aluminum, giving an additional authenticity boost to our experience.

PALATE
The first thing snatching people's attention was the rack of ribs. The meat was cooked perfectly to the point it slid sliding off the bones. We found that the chicken wings were also of a another grade compared to what one would normally find in a standard pub. The half chicken was not particularly interesting – simply well cooked meat, although a bit dry. Perhaps the brisket would have been a better choice. Last but not least - the pulled pork was amazing. All these meats came arranged on a unique wooden platter.

FINISH
Hogtown Smoke is definitely a place to visit with family or just friends looking for something slightly out of the ordinary. We compared this place with one of our favourite west end spots – Barque Smokehouse. Hogtown Smoke wins in terms of its patio and attention to detail, looses in terms of its sides (smoky popcorn and roasted corn were a big plus for us). Overall, Hogtown Smoke is one of the best places we visited in Toronto's east end so far.

PS: a family of raccoons decided to pay us a visit throughout the dinner. They found their way to the patio rafters above us and hanged around there for almost an hour, less than ten feet from us. Probably a testament to how attractive the smoked meat smell is…

Hogtown Smoke on Urbanspoon

8.8.14

Melt Grilled Cheese

http://www.meltgrilledcheese.com

What an awesome idea - a spot specializing in gilled cheese. As soon as my coworker recommended this tiny joint, we made plans to visit it. A great location too - right across the movie theatre.

SHORT & SWEET
An orange oval with a bold slab serif typeface, the branding is really not memorable and neither the rustic wood glued on the glass. However the food made up for any disappointments. There are quite a few options, including a poutine section and milkshakes!

PALATE
We got their Toronto Tuna and Godfather. For both we had the choice of whole grain or sourdough bread. We picked the latter. The lady put on all the dressings and started one of the 6 large panini grills. It did take a bit longer than we expected, but it was worth it. Our Toronto Tuna came with roasted peppers, mozzarella, cheddar and mayo. It was delicious. As for the Godfather, I did have to return it as we had the choice of grilled or crispy chicken. The poor lady must have forgotten which one we picked. I must note she was busy and overwhelmed. The Godfather was very italian - cheddar, mozzarella, prosciutto, chicken, herbed tomato, pesto and a hint of balsamic vinegar. The sour-dough intensified all the already strong flavors. Pass by at the end of the line - there is a wooden box of home-made sauces to try - Sweet & Spicy Thai, Horseradish Mustard and Roasted Garlic.
We really enjoyed our sandwiches in paper boxes on their few tiny wooden tables and chairs outside. Be prepared as this meal is heavy. Made us both very sleepy for our beach volleyball game after!

PS: oh and just in case you were wondering - there is a big sign saying NO WASHROOM (no exceptions). I guess they can get away with that being a tiny joint.

Melt Grilled Cheese on Urbanspoon

2.8.14

Tip & Sip Cafe

http://www.thetipandsipcafe.com/

SHORT & SWEET



A great owner-operated breakfast spot in an otherwise bland strip mall facing a new residential development.

We stopped by on our way to Awenda Provincial Park for a quick brunch for seven on a Saturday. There were no other visitors, so we enjoyed the exclusive attention of well-travelled and talkative owner Toni (Antonio). Of the interesting details we noticed there were postcards under the glass of the tables indicating where the café's visitors came from. Quite a spread actually, most of the world map was covered. Besides that, the interior was clean and functional with almost terrace-like chairs. There was also a patio area, but it seemed to isolated and surrounded by concrete. A good idea but missing the greenery.

Our breakfast was not particularly sophisticated - a classic Western Omelet and a Sweet Club Sandwich. As far as the Omelet went were the oversized ham chunks and generous portion size. It was not burned or undercooked - very enjoyable overall. The salad on the side came with poppy seed dressing and shaved almonds - quite fancy. The sweet club sandwich was filling and yummy. The owners did not shy on ingredients: chicken, bacon, tomatoes were plentiful.

Tip and Sip Cafe on Urbanspoon

26.7.14

Super Burger

http://www.restaurantica.com/on/shelburne/superburger/23501404/

On our way to Dufferin Country, Ontario for a weekend getaway, we stopped for a quick lunch in Shelburne. On the intersection of Highways 10th and 89th there are several options, but visually Super Burger was an obvious choice for an authentic mom-and-pop shop, especially with that remodeled vintage TTC streetcar serving as an additional seating area for the restaurant.

APPEARANCE
It is hard to miss the 1980s streetcar, nothing particularly memorable besides that. At least as far as the outside appearance goes. Things are a bit more interesting inside. There are lots of bright colors and kids everywhere creating an upbeat atmosphere. A hint of vintage is felt throughout with old fashioned signage and fixtures. Overall - a typical diner with a bit of a twist.

NOSE
A very enthusiastic young man greeted us at the cash register after we waited in line for five minutes or so. We would not say the place was packed to capacity for a Saturday lunch, but there was definitely a sizable crowd inside. We ended up ordering a traditional banquet burger to benchmark against and a chicken souvlaki on a pita as a healthier alternative. With five families ahead of us waiting for their orders, we found ourselves with a few more minutes to wonder around.

SWIRL
A clean, but dated washroom has a map of Ontario right next to the entrance. Considering the worn out spot where the Super Burger is located, we concluded that a lot of people stop here on their way elsewhere. Like a tourist attraction of sorts. A cursory glance at vehicles parked outside confirmed our feeling – appeared that most dining folks were not from the area.

PALATE
We found a spot inside the decommissioned TTC streetcar. The seats were actually pretty comfortable and reproductions of vintage 80s ads made us feel like on a trip back in time. One thing ma cheri realized about half way through - the souvlaki did not taste like chicken at all and had a jucy red spot inside. It appeared that our chicken souvlaki on pita got confused with a pork souvlaki on a bun. It was not well cooked and the meat was of relatively poor quality. It was too late to take it back and we were in a rush. Their Banquet Burger with home-made sauce was of a great quality though! The bacon pieces inside were thin, but full of flavor. It came with a slice of melted cheese and of course plenty of toppings. The meat cooked to remain juicy, but with no raw beef taste. We happily devoured it.

FINISH
As confirmed by hoards of people taking photos by the TTC streetcar, Super Burger is popular. We would suggest their burger, but not the souvlaki from what we tried. We also saw a young kid taking back the onion rings. Not exactly sure why, but might have been because they appeared very, very greasy.

PS: the TripAdvisor ratings are higher for the neighboring Champ Burger… We will give them a try next time. They seemed to have recently re-branded.

24.7.14

Sariwon Korean BBQ

https://plus.google.com/107482240786754742941/about?gl=ca&hl=en

We were recommended this restaurant years ago, as ma sœur and I asked an elderly Korean gentleman (owner of a variety store) for his opinion. After getting over the formality to recommend a business, he wrote this restaurant down for us almost with a sense of pride.

APPEARANCE
Ever since we have visited numerous times, never leaving without a good impression.
From the outside, Sariwon Korean BBQ has a large curved window wall with red awning spanning on the side. Around, plenty of large Korean characters adore the facade, standing out on this large concrete plaza. The actual logo is on the second floor and somewhat less noticeable from the ground level when standing next to the restaurant.

NOSE
Our great experience starts from the entrance, after going through the large double doors, all the staff briskly greets you with a smile. Then comes the custom interior which curves and circles in harmony.
We had made a reservation, as the place is always full, plus we wanted a BBQ table. We walked around the interior to our table - with a clean BBQ insert in the middle and a high exhaust vent over it, looking like a stylized lamp.

SWIRL
Their menu looks classic and conservative - with a heavy leather cover and their clean logo ( flame on a plate drawn forming from ink-like stokes). Inside they are not too impressive apart from the plenty of professional photos. Unfortunately though, those photos are not that easy to match up with the dishes. However they do have english translations of all their items - yes, the names in latin letter for those brave enough to pronounce and also a brief description. We ordered a few appetizers to start TempuRa (shrimp and veggies), ChapChae (korean vermicelli with beef and veggies) and a chicken cashew dish (chinese style) I cannot remember the exact name of. Our meat options were: YangYumKalBi (korean style beef ribs marinates in special sweet sauce), SaengKalBi (fresh beef ribs), and ZuMulLuk (beef marinated in special Korean sesame sauce). We also had to try their korean beer - Cass. It was light and easy-going.

PALATE
All the small side dishes made their way to our table quite fast, accompanied by our appetizers. We all really enjoyed the ChapChae - korean vermicelli dish, it was almost salad-like. It made us wander why we mainly come here for BBQ. We need to their their main dishes more often. We later on ordered a wonderful dish which had the word "chinese" in its name. Also a big hit - chicken, veggies, nuts, sweet & sour sauce - although it sounds like it, not heavy at all.
And, by the way, all tables have a bell, so there is no need to run around to catch a waiter. We learned that the hard way.

But lets focus on our main entertainment - the BBQ. We had our waitress start the grill and elegantly lay our meats down for us. she also brought us scissors which we realized we use only at the end when the meat is cooked (not to remove any lovely juices). She also put a mushroom every time with the meat, I think that was to help gage how cooked the meat is. What makes this place unique is that everyone get a bowl of rice, two dipping sauces (a salty sesame one and a dark BBQ one) as well as lettuce leafs. Once the meat is cooked you dip it in one of the sauces and then wrap it in a lettuce leaf filled with rice and some side dish. It is delicious and healthy! The first time around we came here they had to teach us how it is done. 
Meat-wise, we started off with the fresh SaengKalBi. To be honest it was a bit too tight for me to enjoy chewing. Next the marinated ribs (YangYumKalBi) came thinly sliced with the bone at the very end - they were tender and delicious. Lastly the ZuMulLuk was also marinated and lovely. Makes my mouth water just recalling the experience.
I should note that our waitress was around to help us when the meat was ready too, at least for the first few plates.

FINISH
This time we realized that the space is rather large and there is a second floor which we have not ever gone up to visit yet. We also got worried near the end of our visit that they were closing down, however a few couples walked in and were welcomed warmly, so we relaxed.
It will be a hard trade with the delicious BBQ meats, but when we are back next time we really need to try more of their dishes. 

Sariwon Korean BBQ Restuarant on Urbanspoon