Location: 3401 Dufferin Street, North York (inside Yorkdale Mall)
Since I’ve already established that the restaurant at the Restoration Hardware in Yorkdale is better than it has any right to be (I was shocked at how decent the burger was), it shouldn’t be a surprise that the grilled cheese is quite tasty.
It’s a classic, no-frills grilled cheese. This is a dish that a lot of places feel the need to gussy up, with toppings and condiments aplenty. But grilled cheese is perfect on its own; all you need is good quality bread, cheese, and a whole bunch of butter. No ornamentation is necessary.
And that’s exactly what the RH Courtyard Cafe gives you: the cheddar cheese is sharp and gooey, and the bread has the perfect amount of substance, with a crispy exterior and a soft interior.
It’s also ridiculously buttery, as it should be; if you can hold a grilled cheese sandwich without your hands instantly becoming slippery with grease, then you need to throw it right in the garbage. It’s worthless.
But then there’s the price. It’s 19 bucks. As good as it is (and it’s quite good), it’s still just a grilled cheese sandwich, which might be the easiest (and cheapest) thing in the world to make. So it’s hard to justify spending that much on it.
Location: 44 Queen Street, Niagara on the Lake
Cows has been a Niagara on the Lake institution since 1983, so they’re obviously doing something right. Though in this case, I think the thing they did right was picking a location that’s right in the middle of the main road in a very touristy town. Because the actual ice cream isn’t that great.
It’s relatively rich and creamy, so it’s certainly very, very far from the worst ice cream I’ve ever had. But the flavour was a pretty big shrug.
I got the Wowie Cowie, which is “vanilla ice cream, English toffee marble, chocolate flakes & moo crunch.”
The vanilla ice cream doesn’t taste like anything but generic sweetness. There’s nothing there. Plain ice cream can be amazing — the sweet cream at Ed’s, which doesn’t even have vanilla bean to fall back on, manages to pack in an impressive amount of flavour and depth. Meanwhile, this tasted like sweet nothing.
The “English toffee marble” was even worse, and there’s a lot of it rippled in there. It didn’t have any of the rich caramel flavour you’d expect from English toffee; it was just thick and sweet, like plain corn syrup.
As for the other elements, the chocolate was fine, and the moo crunch didn’t even seem to be there (I’m not sure what it was supposed to be, but I didn’t notice anything but the caramel and the chocolate).
Location: 122 Queen Street, Niagara on the Lake
The perfect pizza crust should be lightly crispy on the outside, with a soft, slightly chewy interior. Well, the Treadwell Bakery in Niagara on the Lake definitely has the “chewy” thing covered. They’ve got it covered hard.
On this particular day, they had a couple of types of slices available; the one topped with salami, prosciutto, roasted red pepper, and goat cheese caught my eye.
The flavours were actually pretty solid; the sweet peppers did a great job of balancing out the salty meats and cheese, and the slice had a garlicky, herby flavour that worked quite well. It could have used a bit more moisture, but the quality of the ingredients was good; it was a tasty slice of ‘suh.
Then there was the crust. Calling it chewy doesn’t quite communicate the enormity of what was going on here. It was downright rubbery; I was having a hard time even biting into it. When I say that it was a jaw workout, I’m not exaggerating to make a point. My jaw was literally sore by the time I finished the slice. It was nuts.
I still actually kind of enjoyed it, which tells you how good it was otherwise. But man, that crust. What the hell happened there??
Location: 96 Laird Drive, Toronto
Everyone loves fish and chips, don’t they? It’s one of those universally appealing meals that’s hard to truly hate. I mean, it’s a big old plate of deep fried goodness.
But it’s surprisingly difficult to find a place that does it really well (without a plane ticket to the UK, at least). It’s such a simple dish, but sometimes the simplest meals are the toughest to pull off. It’s just fish and batter; if your technique isn’t perfect, there’s nowhere to hide.
I got the haddock and chips from Olde York, and while it was certainly tasty, there were a couple of things holding it back from being much better than okay.
A lot of fish and chips joints tend drop the ball with the batter itself; so many places over-apply it, resulting in a thick and crunchy shell that overwhelms the fish. And while Olde York isn’t the worst offender in this regard, the batter was definitely too substantial.
It’s also easy to overcook the fish, and alas, that was an issue here as well. It wasn’t too blatant, but it was dryer than it should have been.
I don’t want to make this a complain-a-thon, because I actually did enjoy it… but the fries could have been crispier and the tartar sauce was way too sweet.
But that’s the thing about fish and chips: even when it’s not perfect, it’s still so satisfying.
Location: 8360 Kennedy Road, Markham (inside New Kennedy Square Food Court)
Every other ice cream joint in the city now serves Hong Kong-style waffles. It’s a combo that came out of nowhere and absolutely exploded. And while I don’t think that Wooffles & Cream were the first to do it in the GTA (pretty sure Bang Bang got there first), they certainly helped popularize it.
It’s still great. They have a few different flavours of waffle that you can try; I went with the sticky toffee pudding, which is a standard waffle filled with sweet cakey chunks of the aforementioned dessert.
The waffle itself was as delicious as ever, with a nice crispy exterior and a creamy interior. The bits of sticky toffee pudding were quite tasty, though they were dryer than you’d like, and not quite as sticky and sweet as you might hope from that particular dessert.
There were also a few chewy mochi bits interspersed throughout, which were an interesting addition.
The ice cream itself (I got vanilla — earl gray was also an option) was nothing special, but the quality is decent and it’s certainly an addictive combo with the waffle.