REVIEW: Off The Hook

One of the things my daughter misses most about gluten-free dining is going out for battered fish & chips. We’re lucky enough to live close to Duckworths on the Danforth, where we’ve had many a delious hailbut or haddock meal together en famille.

So when I told her that I’d found a restaurant not too far away that offered her Holy Grail of fish, let’s just say she was wicked excited to check it out!

Off the Hook is a funky casual joint on Broadway, just south of Danforth, with purple & chalkboard walls, plus one side is fully mirrored to help widen the narrow space.

**************************
Off the Hook
749 Broadview Ave, Toronto
(416) 465-4356

http://www.offthehookfishandchips.com

REVIEW: No Bull Burgers

No Bull Burgers on Kingston Rd & Bingham Ave, close to Victoria Park Ave.When craving a good burger recently, I opted to take the family out to try a local joint called No Bull Burgers out for a few reasons.

First, when looking up their menu ahead of time I noticed they offer gluten-free buns (for a $1.25 surcharge) — this meant our GF daughter could enjoy a burger along with the rest of us. Two, they use locally-sourced organic extra lean ground beef with no additives, preservatives or fillers, and I’m happy to pay a small premium for that as well. Third, they looked to be only a 5 minute drive away on Kingston Rd close to Victoria Park ave, an area we never seem to venture out to for some reason! Let’s give it a shot :)

The restaurant is a small but cheerful little space that seemed to do a brisk business of both the eat-in & pick up variety on a Monday evening. My son and I chose the standard quarter pound burgers and added bacon (your choice of peameal or strip) plus toppings of our choice.

Gluten-free buns available Oh yes, let’s talk toppings for a second before I forget. How nice to find such a bit of variety that move beyond the standard lettuce/tomato/ketchup/onion you usually see. Chiptotle mayo, tzatziki, cucumbers, salsa, pineapple (I won’t judge you), sautéed mushrooms or onions and more — the only additional costs were for either guacamole or an egg ($1) or grilled cheese buns (2.95).

Serena ordered the GF bun, and the counter staff was conscientious enough to check if it was okay to run the bun through the toaster. For those who are celiac and can’t risk cross-contamination with gluten, this can be a very big deal — I appreciated her asking!

Specialty burger, the Redneck

Brent always needs to go for something a little different, so he went for the Redneck signature burger: quarter pounder, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, beer battered peameal bacon rolled in chips topped with lettuce, tomato and whiskey BBQ sauce. Okay then!

Add a couple of soft drink, one side order of yukon gold fresh cut fries and a pulled pork poutine and we were in business. We were served about 5 minutes later and no one had the single complain about their food… unless it was to say they were too full to finish everything. The french fries were lightly salted, perfectly crisp and generously sized (could easily feed two).

The poutine was ridiculously delicious but honestly was almost too big for us, even when split 3 ways! The cheese curds were fresh and perfectly squeaky, gravy was rich and flavourful and the pulled pork topping was nicely tender without being overpowering.

Pulled Pork poutine A few additional remarks off the top of my head: they also offer a quinoa & veggie burger and vegetarian gravy for the fries/poutine, there’s free Wi-fi, Kawartha Dairy ice cream milk shakes, and they participate in the Vicinity rewards program. the counter staff were friendly and automatically adjusted my order to combine items into combos to help save me some money without my noticing it. Oh yes, and if you’re in downtown Toronto, they also have a location on Parliament St!

Next time (oh yes, there WILL be a next time) I’m excited to try the smoked beef brisket and their homemade potato chips available in cajun, parmesan and sea salt. Yum!  Until then….

*************************************************************************************************

No Bull Burgers
1019 Kingston Road, Toronto, ON M4E 3T9
416-698-8131
www.nobullburgers.ca

REVIEW: Pho Metro Asian Cuisine

Shiny happy people hungryWhen we wandered down Lawrence Ave East just past Warden, we found ourselves stopping at an unassuming little Vietnamese restaurant tucked away in a nondescript Scarborough plaza. This was the perfect casual store-front joint to come in out from the cold, where a good smattering of families, couples and singles were already happily slurping up their phō soup and sharing noodle dishes.

Have a seat: your table has most everything you’ll need already set up for you! There’s a pen & order chit to mark down your food and beverage selections, chopsticks, napkins and soup spoons, plus of course Sriracha and a variety of condiments. Chicken pho with extrasBetween the three of us we ordered both small chicken and beef brisket phō bowls as well as an appetizer to split of rice paper rolls with pork, vermicelli and veggies. Green tea was brought almost immediately by our server without any additional cost.

The soups came out quickly and were just about perfect, a lovely marriage of clear broth, meat and rice noodles. They were accompanied by a generous side plate of bean spouts, lime wedges, long coriander and basil leaves to add to our soups as desired.

beef brisket phoI was grateful that the server who took our order recommended I not stick to the skirt flank I’d originally marked down; she opined I might find it “chewy” and to order the brisket instead. Glad to have followed her advice, because the beef was tender and flavourful. I’d read ahead of time that the soup servings ran large and that was indeed the case. I’m glad I didn’t go for medium or large, because those bowls were BIG! Then again, for the small price difference we could have just brought the leftovers home, so I’ll be smart and keep that in mind for the next time.

rice wrapsOur large size order of rice rolls came next, and they were very filling. Unlike deep fried spring rolls, these are cold and filled with juicy BBQd pork, vegetables and vermicelli noodles with a peanut dipping sauce. My gluten-sensitive daughter was thrilled to try something different and consequently claimed all the leftovers to bring to school for lunch the next day. If pork isn’t your thing, they’re also available with chicken, beef or a shrimp/pork combo.

Granted, we came here specifically for the phō that evening but you’ll find a large variety of dishes available on the menu, plenty of noodle and rice dishes, soups, stir fries, the ubiquitous Pad Thai that shows up in all oriental restaurants and even chow mein if that’s your thing.

For drinks, you’ll find the usual pop, tea, wine & beer but they also offer more interesting selections such as bubble teas, numerous smoothies such as jackfruit, red bean and avocado, and fruit juices like fresh passion fruit, lime and even Pennywort. I’m not sure if i should be scared or impressed! :)

FYI, if you live even further east than Scarborough, they also have a location in Ajax.

*************************************************************************************************
Pho Metro Asian Cuisine
2057 Lawrence Ave E
416-750-8898 (dine-in and take-out available)
www.phometro.com

Lazy Daisy Café and Happy #15!

lazy

The Daisy Burrito and Ultimate Sandwich – please click on image to enlarge

There’s an adorable little café you’ll find at Coxwell and Gerrard St, one that so many of my fellow East-end buddies rave about.

The Lazy Daisy Café offers delicious goodies made from scratch, a commitment to using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, drug and hormone-free meats — the kind of ethos you like to have in your neighbourhood eateries.

For whatever reason, the first time we managed to head over was Halloween morning, and coincidentally our 15th wedding anniversary.  (Yes yes, we’re those freaks who married on Halloween and have never regretted it for an instance!)

We had decided on playing hooky for the day to enjoy it together, and opted to drive there for a quick breakfast sammie and good coffee before beginning our adventure.

It’s a lovely, bright and cheerful place, with friendly counter-staff and a nice mix of clients ranging from couples like us, singles with laptops and caffeine plus a few knots of moms & tots.

I enjoyed a latté with the Daisy’s Burrito ~ Scrambled free range egg, chorizo sausage, avocado, organic salsa & Monterey Jack cheese served warm in an authentic Mexican tortilla. Brent opted to pair his coffee with The Ultimate ~ Mennonite sausage, free range egg, cheddar & Wellesly farm apple butter layered on a St. John’s organic whole wheat english muffin.

We had a hard time deciding whose breakfast was best – that’s how yummy they both were. We also snagged some gluten-free pastries that we knew would appeal to Serena for later in the day. Her declaration of “Ohhhh myyyyy goooooddddd” after shoving in her mouth said goodies was all the recommendation I needed!

One of those treats was their Black Bean Brownie which I’d nibbled on surreptitiously, so I can honestly concur.

As an FYI to those who do follow a gluten-free diet, the Lazy Daisy is proud to serve a variety of GF options, including sandwiches, several desserts as well as their soup of the day is “often made with the gluten-conscious in mind as well!”

From what I understand, the café has all kind of events going on from comedy nights, spoken word open mics and even game nights.  For more info, be sure to check out their Upcoming Events page and their Lazy Nights page.  I admit to being quite impressed by their commitment to family-friendly events and a kid-friendly menu, and I know that if our monsters were younger it would be very much the kind of local establishment we’d want to build community in.

We might not have stayed long that morning but will definitely be back! And for fun, here’s a shot of us with the anniversary cake our family surprised us with later that weekend. Happy Anniversary to us indeed!

*************************************************************************************************

Lazy Daisy Café
1515 Gerrard St. East
647 341 4070
http://www.lazydaisyscafe.ca/