“It’s my birthday month.”

Birthday FreebiesContrary to what others might say about me, I don’t really like being the centre of attention, and as such, I don’t really like throwing a birthday party for myself. If I do have a big party (which I have for the past couple of years), it’s because I want all my friends to have fun. That being said, I use my birthday as an excuse to get anything I want, and I celebrate all month long.

This year, I spent my birthday walking around downtown Toronto to collect all my birthday freebies that different companies offer! Starbucks gives you a big fancy birthday drink, Menchies gives you a free froyo cup (up to $5) and as most girls know, Sephora gives you different birthday gifts every year. Yes, all of these perks come with memberships, but they’re all free to sign up, so why not!

A couple other places that give you free things are Tuckers Marketplace and Wok of Fame (free buffet dinner), Booster Juice (free drink coupon), Pickle Barrel (app/dessert with purchase of entree), What-a-Bagel (free 6 bagels with purchase of 6 bagels), and Spoonful (1/2 price buffet dinner). There are a bunch on this list that I found online.

Lou Dawgs

Lou Dawg’s – 589 King St W., Toronto

So I woke up on the noon of my 24th birthday with a hankering for BBQ. I had been having flashbacks to our outing that had included the Lancaster Smokehouse in Kitchener, so I headed out to the closest place to the condo, Lou Dawg’s BBQ. I’ve seen a few Lou Dawgs around, and the Belly Monsters informed me that they weren’t bad. I had a breakfast birthday beer followed by their two meat platter — pulled pork and brisket — which came with two sides — coleslaw and baked beans, my weakness. I also ordered a cheesy jalapeno cornbread, because really, who can say no to that combination? The platter ($14.99) is a great value and it comes with a bun sliced in half for you to make sandwiches if that’s what your heart desires.

Now, I don’t know why I broke my rule of never ordering pulled pork at a restaurant. It is always disappointing and this one was no different. It tasted like what I can make in my slow cooker. I put it in the bread with my coleslaw, which made it marginally better.

The brisket was a little better. Soft, delicious, but sitting in a pool of grease and fat smothered in barbecue sauce. However, when you drain the fattiness at the bottom from the meat, it is actually quite delicious. They also serve the bbq with two different sauces on the side. The hot sauce is not so hot.

The cornbread was a muffin with pieces of japaleno in it. It was really yummy but disappointingly dry. The cheese on top was crispy and chewy and delicious. I did love the coleslaw and baked beans though. The beans were smokey and perfectly sweet. The coleslaw was the right about of tangy and crunchy. The sides were definitely the highlight of the whole lot, along with the funny and upbeat bartender/waiter.

boston pizza

Boston Pizza – 2915 Eglinton Ave W., Mississauga

Yes, I do not only eat at independent restaurants. We actually eat at chain restaurants quite often when we’re trying to please everyone and just need a quick bite. This night was just some wings and desserts. These Caesars were probably the worst Caesar I’ve ever had. The bacon was bleh. There was too much vodka, and not enough tomato flavour, or any other flavour really.

The big round thing in the middle is what they call a “Doughcano.” It’s their chocolate explosion cake wrapped in pizza dough, baked, then topped with whipped cream. It was chewy, with thick fudge in the middle, and oh man. It was perfect. Chewy, sugary, and a huge hit of chocolate if that’s what you’re craving. my only complaint is that the cheesecake tasted and felt more like marshmallows than cheesecake.

The panookie on the right is always a good bet. A giant chocolate chip cookie that’s pan-fried, then topped with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate and caramel sauce. A nice dose of sugar. The edges are crispy and the inside is chewy.

d hot shoppe

D Hot Shoppe – 4155 Fairview St, Burlington

D Hot Shoppe is a Caribbean/West Indian restaurant that has been recommended to me over and over again by both Dave (@1goatroti) and Justin (@the_Jmoney). On the left is a goat roti drenched in medium gravy and on the right is a doubles, which is a deep fried dough traditionally stuffed with curried chickpeas. They put chutney in it and I asked them to put chicken in it too. They do not look appetizing to someone who’s never had them before but DANG. So good. I’d go eat here twice a week if I were nearby. If you can handle spice, I would still recommend getting the medium. I thought I was soo strong and ordered the hot level the first time I ate at D’s and I regretted it for a few days as it burned through my digestive tract. It was still delicious though.

French ToastPhoenix Chinese Restaurant – 4040 Creditview Rd, Mississauga

A pretty normal Chinese restaurant where you can get your noodles and rice and sweet and sour pork. That beast up there is what they called French toast with peanut butter. It is a pretty dense, sweet bread with peanut butter spread in the middle, deep fried, and then you smother it in more butter and maple syrup. It is deadly. It is delicious.

St Louis

St. Louis Bar & Grill – 6485 Mississauga Rd, Mississauga

My friend Audrey has been obsessed with Caesars lately, and rightly so. They’re delicious. I love it when my caesar comes with a pickled bean. Yum yum.

The burger was quite good, but I just needed a second to rave about these sweet potato fries. Ultra yummy with just the right about of crispiness and potatoeyness still in the middle. They even serve it with a spicy mayo — perfect.

MilestonesMilestones – 10 Dundas St. E. (Yonge & Dundas), Toronto

The Tuesday Peach Bellini special at Milestones is great! It’s like a slushie made of Tim Horton’s peach drink, but not as disgustingly sweet. Then it’s topped with a flavoured vodka, and apparently an animal of the deer variety. The boys were feeling too manly to order one for themselves even though they really really wanted one.

The white chocolate cheesecake is BEYOND. Just beyond beyond. Soft, sweet, decadent, light, with some coffee underneath, whipped cream at the top. Smooth. Take-me-home-to-yo-momma delicious. Tuck-me-into-a-bed-of-rose-pedals-and-make-love-to-me delicious.

Couple Photo

And lastly, the dude that made my birthday outings possible by spoiling me.

I hope all your birthday wishes come true around the world! If they don’t, make them happen.

 

 

 

 

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Banh Mi Boys

Banh Mi Boys, the place I’ve oft heard about but never been to. On par with Burrito Boyz and Smoke’s Poutinerie for after-clubbing eats. BMB is situated on Queen West, just west of Spadina and I finally convinced boyfriend to go there for dinner. This proved to be the best decision I could ever make. Having known myself for 22 years now, I should have known walking in, that we would pretty much “accidentally” order everything on the menu.

We started off with two Banh Mi, the restaurant’s namesake. For those who don’t know, an original Banh Mi (which means bread or sandwich in Vietnamese) is a kind of Vietnamese sandwich served on a crusty baguette, has various unidentifiable meats and pâtés in it, topped with pickled radish, pickled carrots, cilantro, and chili peppers if you’re feeling feisty. We got duck confit, and pork belly, and just having one each would have filled us up enough without all the other things we bought. These were really good. Warm and meaty, it’s a nice mix of western and eastern cuisines. I liked them alright, but I think I prefer my original banh mi to these (which you can buy for $2.50 up the street) but that’s okay because they offer some other great things on the menu.

This is the beef cheek steamed bao. I love beef cheek because it is always so soft and moist, and this one had a great smokey flavour to it. Topped with cucumber, cilantro, and pickled radish and carrots, it’s stuffed in a steamed bao pocket. In Chinese, it’s called a “siopao” and in Vietnamese, a “banh bao”. It’s a white steamed bun that’s like a bread, but spongy, airy, and slightly sweet.

We move onto the tacos and I am a sucker for coleslaw. We ordered a squid taco and a kalbi beef taco and it came with all the fixings of a banh mi with the addition of the coleslaw and kimchi. Kalbi beef is a korean style short rib beef. It’s got a sweet flavour which contrasts well with the tanginess of the coleslaw and pickled carrots. Very yummy, very messy to eat. The three types of sandwiches are pretty much the same in fillings, but you can change up how you want it served: as a banh mi, a taco, or a steamed bao.

I saved you the best for last though, because this is what the people really come for:

Kimchi fries.

The perfect french fries topped with perfect pulled pork and perfect kimchi, as well as mayo and a bunch of green onions makes this dish, well, perfect. It’s like a poutine on steroids. The crispy fries compliment the soft, sweet pulled pork compliment the crunchy tangy spicy kimchi that makes this something you must try when you visit Toronto. You won’t find it anywhere else in Toronto, and any imitations  are just that. Imitations. Cause nothing comes close to the perfection of this dish.