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.

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Burrito Brothers!

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This place has been wildly popular since it opened a few weeks ago in downtown Brantford. I drove all the way to 38 Dalhousie because I cannot turn down a burrito. Downtown Toronto, you can get a good burrito at almost any corner, but they’ve been sparse since I moved further out west to Hamilton. I was ready for my fix. This place isn’t a chain, which is awesome, and every single ingredient is made fresh at the store, especially their amazing sauces.

This is is huge and thick and amazing. I, of course, piled on as many toppings and sauces as possible. This wrap is filled with so much yumminess and definitely fills you up. And, they do the thing that separates a great burrito from a wrap stuffed with edible things, they grill the outside of the burrito. That is the one thing that will determine if I like a burrito or not. The grill slightly crisps the outside and makes sure the whole thing doesn’t it fall apart. It is a necessity!!

They have so many fillings to choose from. Pork, pulled beef, chicken, and sweet potato. Wait, what? Sweet potato? YES, SWEET POTATO. And the sweet potato is SO good. I am a bonafide meat eater, and even I would get a sweet potato burrito. It’s hearty, the flavour is not too sweet, and has just the right amount of spice. The sweet potato is a must try. They also have a bunch of different salsas to choose from: pico de gallo, roasted tomato homestyle salsa, coleslaw, corn and bean. They even make their own queso fresca.

They make their own cheese.

I had to highlight that because that fact in itself is amazing. I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of their sauces but they have crazy things like lime sour cream, special “burrito sauce,” and a range of hot sauces, one of them is actually CRAZY hot, and I am good at eating spicy food.

They also do tacos. They also do fish tacos. This one I made for myself, topping it with the things that I wanted (aka everything). The fish is soft, but the batter is right crispy. They make the fish to order so it is never soggy!

These are the fish tacos proper, which is topped with all the things that they recommend on a fish taco. These ones have coleslaw, onions, cilantro, lime sour cream, and queso fresca. One of them has the suicide hot sauce. Bullets were sweat that day.

They also do bomb nachos! Topped with meat and any other topping you could put on the burritos and tacos. The best part, after they put the cheese on it, they bake it in the oven to get all that wonderful melty cheese.

Melty cheese makes the world go round.

It’s statements like these that make me think I should write a book. I could be the new Deepak Chopra. “Look inside yourself, for you cannot change the world without faith in you. Inside of you, before anything, you should find the melty cheese, and with this power, the world is yours.” I’m a damn natural.

I didn’t get a chance to try their new burrito because it just came out today and only available for the month of October, but it’s a turkey burrito, with cranberry sauce and other things. I really need to go back this month to try it out because it looks so good. For all those who don’t want to cook, you can just bring your family into Burrito Brothers, and they can be your family too. HA.

I filmed my last visit to BB, and it’s part of my new vlog series on youtube! Unfortunately, my channel isn’t under the username Judskii but I’m looking for a way to right that wrong! My BB visit starts at 7:44.

Good night, and sweet burritos to all!

Grand Electric

There’s something I need to admit to all of you out there.

I love tacos. I really do. It all started way back when I didn’t know any better and I would beg to go to Taco Bell at any time of the day. Mind you, this was back when I didn’t know how to drive, didn’t know how to get anywhere, and relied on older family members to cater to my intense pregnant-like cravings. What do you want to eat? Insta-answer: Tacos. Nothing but.

Getting a little older, I learned of the magic of Old El Paso taco seasoning and ground beef. So there I was, high school student and little brother, mixing up beef and powder, white flour tortillas, poorly cut lettuce and pre-shredded cheese. I was more than satisfied. I was happy.

Then comes college, the first time I was ever really constantly out of my house. I spent my days and most of my nights downtown Montreal going to school, doing homework, and eating and drinking with friends. The first time I hit up bars and restaurants, for no special reason other than we were tired and hungry and too far from home. Places like Mesa 14 opened up a whole new world of Mexican cuisine. The Three Amigos were my three amigos. Tacos that were prepared fresh and hot to my liking, with no pre-shredded cheese or canned salsa. Surely, this cannot get better. And then we went on vacation.

We actually went to Mexico. The land of chili, lime, and cilantro. Sure we were on a resort with the standard buffet fare, but then we ventured to the village markets, off resort property. I’ve been to Mexico twice now, and both times, the best food is off the resort. Sure, you’re risking food poisoning and germs that your body isn’t used to. But, let me tell you, it is all worth it.

And now where do we stand? My love affair with this wonderful beacon of hand-sized heaven. We stand, my friends, with the gourmet. The daring. The trendy. We stand among great chefs that do more than ground beef and seasonings. More than just your plain and packaged flour tortillas. We stand with pork belly, jalapenos, fancy things like “aioli”, with individual tacos that cost more than a meal at McDonalds.

On a chilly Friday night, we stand in front of Grand Electric Bar.

1330 Queen Street West, Toronto

 

I don’t know how to describe this place with any words other than super hip. The first time we tried to go, we made the mistake of getting hungry before deciding on the restaurant. The wait was to be 1.5 hours. This time, even though we arrived about 15 minutes after opening, the wait time was the same. I hear you have to line up before they open to actually sit at 6pm. The restaurant is decorated in vintage wood with the menus and specials written up on chalkboard. The whole place had a rustic western feel to it, like I was in a smoky saloon that had Jay Z performing all night. In addiction to the lovely warm feeling of the place, loud rap and hip hop was playing all night. The ambiance was amazing.

We sat at the bar, which was great because there was a lot of room for our dishes.

Tip: There are hooks underneath where you can put your coats/purses.

We ordered some drinks, bourbon and tequila and they were mighty strong. So, a warning, if you aren’t used to not-girly drinks that don’t taste like sugar.

Guacamole and chips with a large slice of pig fat in the middle. The guac and salsa were pretty standard, nothing crazy, but delicious all the same. They had sprinkled some sort of salty cayenne seasoning on the chips which really enhanced the flavours of the dish together. I took a bite of the pig fat because I had never tasted it before, and well, it was pig fat. Really delicious but too rich and oily for me to be eating the whole thing.

Tuna ceviche on a fried tortilla covered in cilantro, radish, onions, and jalapeno aioli. This is raw tuna so don’t order if you’re squeamish about raw fish. This dish was nice and Saney went crazy all over it.

“The tuna ceviche is booooommmbbbb. It’s sooooo good.” – Verbatim

The tacos!!! They were a little small but it was to be expected. However, their size is not at all proportionate to the flavour they pack. Each one was super decadent and flavourful. You can’t help but savour every bite. From the top going clockwise, we’ve got: Fish taco, pig tail, beef cheek, and pork belly. The fish tacos were topped with some slaw, chives, onions, radish, and if I recall correctly, mayo. The beef cheek had a guacamole and fresh jalapeno (not pickled!) topping and the pork belly had a cilantro and steamed pineapple topping. Everything was tender to a fault. Juicy. Extravagant. A delight. And definitely gone too fast. I was very excited to try to pig tail and it was unlike anything I’d ever had before. Almost a cross between foie gras for texture and crispy BBQ pork. The beef cheek was almost like pulled pork, but a great deal more delicate. Extremely juicy. The pineapple on the pork belly gave this taco a whole other dimension. It enhanced the smoky flavour and gave it a nice tang.

Oh what I would do to eat here again. I definitely need to eat here again.

Next up was the fried chicken that had a fancy name. It was probably Pollo Frito. Let me begin by saying that this photo does not at all do this dish justice. The chicken wings were piled high, topped with a mixture cilantro, chili peppers, jalapeno, and cooked lime, and then drenched in this sweet, sticky, spicy, garlicky sauce. It was heaven. There was no effort to share, it was eat as much as you can before it’s all gone. The chicken was crispy and tender. Drenched, but maintained it’s exterior texture. It was like magic. The spice was subtle but definitely there. It wasn’t overpowering to the point where you want to stick a fire extinguisher in your mouth, but it was enough to satisfy. Everything tasted fresh and the flavours married each other so well. Best chicken wings ever.

I want this in my mouth right now please okay thanks.

If I could, I would eat here all the time. I would brave the mildly cold Toronto winters, the stinky summers, the terrifying nights. I would do it all for Grand Electric. (It’s legal to marry a restaurant, right?)

Food Truck Toronto

These past few weeks have been something of a mission for me. I was walking home one day when, lo and behold, there was a big white truck sitting in a parking lot. There were quite a few people lining up in front of said truck and … getting food? What sorcery is this? Looks like I stumbled upon a fabled food truck. I’ve heard so much about them, but always in other cities. Places like San Diego and Los Angeles. I had never seen one in real life before, yet here it was. Naturally, I got in line and from that first bite and conversation, I was hooked. Cue adventure time.

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Food Cabbie // @FoodCabbie // Facebook

Food Cabbie has been around for about 5 months now, with the chef (a very nice man!) coming from California and bringing with him American cuisine with a touch of Mexican flair. They have different sandwich specials each day, each sounding taster and tastier than the last. I can’t believe that I’ve been living a block away, yes, ONE block, and I had never seen this place until last week. Of course, to make amends, I visited them twice last week and will probably go tomorrow too. That philly cheese steak is looking extra tempting. Food Cabbie is parked on Queen St. E between Shuter and Dalhousie from Monday-Friday 11-5!

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Lunchtime rush!


The Ortega Cheeseburger // $6.50

Pico de gallo (my weakness), sour cream, lettuce, and secret burger sauce. The description alone is what intrigued me, I mean, who has ever put sour cream on a burger? Worth a shot. The burger was nice and juicy, basically leaking into my mouth (this is a good thing, people!). It was nice, tart, and fresh with the bun lightly toasted but soft. Filled me up quite nicely, too!

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The Carne Asada Burrito // $6

Smoky grilled steak with refried beans and tomatos. It’s like they channelled my soul when creating this menu. I’m a sucker for refried beans. And steak. And burrito. A proper burrito where they grill the outside as well! I can’t say how many places I’ve been to where the tortilla is just flimsy and doughy, completely ruins the whole integrity of my meal. But this, this was amazing. Enjoy my gross photo of a half eaten burrito and cry if you haven’t had a Food Cabbie burrito! Yum. :)

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Caplansky’s Deli Truck // @CaplanskyTruck // Website

Right next-door to the Food Cabbie is where Thunderin’ Thelma is parked. Yes, the truck’s name is Thunderin’ Thelma, named after the owner’s Nana, which I think means grandmother. Caplansky’s Deli was featured in Toronto Life’s April 2012 issue along with Food Cabbie and 8 other GTA-serving mobile eateries. As the chalk-based menu suggests, their items change up every so often with items such as the Brisket and Smoked Meat being staple.

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Look at this picture of their coleslaw. I love coleslaw.

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When you see something called Maple Beef-Bacon Donuts, you don’t just walk away. You look the man in the window in the eyes, nut up, and order these strange little creatures. At about a dollar each, depending on how many you buy, you can’t really go wrong. Unless you have blood suger problems, in which case you do what you do. The outside was nice and crispy while the inside was a bit doughy. It does give you a satisfying bite though. These balls were dense and bacon-y and sweet, dripping in a thick maple syrup. It reminded me of something like baklava and that really sweet syrupy indian dessert. Different, strange, not bad. Definitely couldn’t eat more to 3 by myself.

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BBQ Brisket Sandwich // $7

Let’s talk about this amazing sandwich for a second. Or five. Or forever. First of all, onion bun. AMAZING. Secondly, the brisket was nice and soft. Savoury and smokey. Not too sweet as some BBQ sandwiches tend to be. So much meat on one sandwich that it’s incredibly satisfying. What sets this sandwich apart from others for me? The super crunchy and crispy deep fried onions sitting there between the meat and the bun. Such a nice contrast between the softness of the bun and the meatiness of the brisket. So so so yummy. An incredibly dangerous sandwich. Guaranteed if you try this you’ll be coming back for more and more and more.

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With my appetite whet by these two food trucks, when I heard about the FoodTruckEats pop-up in Liberty Village, I just had to be there. It rained mighty hard in the morning but after my meeting, I trekked out the with my umbrella, and my hole-y flats, and my hungry hungry belly. 3 food trucks were featured that day for three hours between 11AM and 2PM: Caplansky’s Deli, Blue Donkey Streatery, and

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El Gastronomo Vagabundo // @ElGastronomo // Website

Unfortunately, my meeting ran late so I only had time to stand in line for one truck, and I’m so glad I chose this one. Although Blue Donkey is supposed to be mind-blowing, El Gastronomo’s feature was something I just couldn’t turn down. There were tons of people standing in line and waiting for food, and the air was electric. Or it might have just been me, but the rain had temporarily let up, food smells are wafting up in the air, the excitement was building up. I. Was. PUMPED. BRING IT ON.

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Biltong Belly Tacos // 2 for $8

Twice-cooked “Biltong” pork belly, jalapeno aioli, pickled daikon on corn tortillas. Is your belly crying yet? Because it should be. These things were amazing. I don’t think the above photo does it much justice because in my eyes, it looked like this. I’m pretty sure I heard an angelic choir singing somewhere. I was just going to take it on the streetcar and eat it, but no, I was too excited. Who cares if I was late for work, this was clearly more important, and it was so worth it. I sprinkled lime juice along the tacos and dug in. The pork, oh gosh the pork. Crispy. Tender. Not fatty like other servings of pork belly. Seasoned with this mysterious biltong pixie dust. I’m pretty sure I looked insane as I sat down by myself snarfing these down with a weird smile on my face. But then it was gone. How did these two tacos go by so fast? I don’t know. It was simultaneously the best moment of my life as well as the worst. Gone so fast. I was so tempted to go grab another one, but we all know where that leads us. Sitting curbside, constantly refreshing twitter, clutching onto the food truck’s bumper begging for more, draining our bank accounts, “Will dance for El Gastronomo.” Right, guys? Heh… heh..

Seriously. Amazing.

Definitely not my last food truck experience. These last few weeks have been amazing, and it’s just the beginning. I plan to try every last one of the GTA food trucks.

From what I glean, there is a bit of struggle in the city of Toronto whereby food trucks are not allowed to operate on pay-to-pay parking lots for more than 10 minutes to sell food even if they’ve bought all the necessary permits, and adhere to regulations that are even more strict than restaurants. So! Go and sign this petition so that Toronto can have more of this wonderful food, all the time! :)

THE PETITION