Location: 206C Queen Street South, Streetsville
It’s always a good sign when a bakery puts one of their pastries in a paper bag and it becomes translucent with buttery goodness. If the paper bag looks pristine? Sorry, that pastry probably sucks. I don’t make the rules.
Though they have an assortment of sweet and savoury pastries, the specialty at Kate’s Town Talk Bakery is clearly the butter tart, which you can get with pecans, raisins, raspberry Nutella, or on its own.
I got the pecan variety, and oh man, it’s good. The sign outside says that the butter tarts here “rival the best you’ve ever tasted,” and you know what? They’re not wrong. I wish the filling were a bit gooier, but other than that it’s basically butter tart perfection: the crust is perfectly flaky, the filling has a great toffee-like flavour, and it’s got those great crispy caramelized edges that are pretty much irresistible.
I’m not sure that it’s the best best butter tart that I’ve ever had, but it’s right up there, that’s for sure.
Tacos at King’s Tacos
The most interesting thing about the tacos at Kings Tacos might just be the way they serve them — an order comes with a very generous platter of meat (in this case the King’s Special, which comes with pork, beef, chorizo, onion, bacon, and cheese) and tortillas on the side, and you build it yourself. It’s interesting, and it’s a great value, because that pile of meat is not kidding around. That’s not to mention the very generous bowl of free (and tasty!) tortilla chips and sauces that comes with the meal. It’s not just a good value, however: it’s quite tasty, too.
Cinnamon Bun at Bakerbots Baking
I’ve heard the cinnamon bun at Bakerbots referred to as one of the best in the city, and yeah, that sounds about right. It’s absolutely fantastic, with a slightly crispy exterior and a gooey (but not overly gooey and sweet, like a Cinnabon) interior. The pastry itself is top-notch, with a nice chewy texture and a flavour that ensures that the cinnamon bun isn’t just one-note sweet. Is it the best in the city? It could be!
Jokbal at Hanyang Jokbal
I mean, look at that glorious pile of pork. Do you even need me to say anything? Jokbal is a Korean dish featuring braised pig trotters; I tried the half and half, which is half jokbal and half bossam (pork belly, if I recall correctly). You eat it wrapped in lettuce with some of the tasty sides and condiments on the table, and yeah. It’s delicious. Again: look at it.
Location: 859 College Street, Toronto
I’m sorry to have to inform you, but this is one of those “stop whatever you’re doing right now and visit this bakery” moments, so whatever you’re doing right now — even if it’s important — stop it immediately. Get in your car, or get on public transit, and head over to Barbershop Patisserie. It’s the real deal.
I’ve been there a few times now, and everything is fantastic. Apparently their most popular pastry is the lemon bichon, which is kind of like a kouign-amann — it features a flaky, croissant-like laminated pastry and an exterior layer of crispy sugar, which has a deep, dark caramelized flavour. But it’s also filled with a generous amount of creamy, tart lemon curd, which contrasts perfectly with the sweet exterior. It’s not the most photogenic dessert ever, but man it’s amazing. It’s probably one of the best pastries I’ve ever had.
The chocolate chip cookie isn’t quite as mind-blowing as the lemon bichon (what is?), but it’s a top-notch cookie, with a great contrast between its crispy exterior and chewy interior, and a very generous amount of above average chocolate. The light sprinkling of salt on top helps to balance things out.
I also tried the wild blueberry custard tart, and hey, guess what? It’s delicious. It features a great balance between the creamy custard and the sweet blueberries, and of course that buttery pastry is outstanding.
But why are you still reading this? You should be on your way already.
Location: 31 Main Street North, Markham
There are a whole bunch of really good bakeries doing fancy French desserts in the GTA, so if you want to stand out, you’d better be really good.
Cho-Kwok-Lat stands out.
They have two display counters; one with tasty looking croissants, and the other with fancy cakes. I wanted to eat everything in both displays immediately. The woman behind the counter said that the chocolate rum almond croissant is their most popular, so I figured that was probably a good choice.
It’s immediately clear why it’s so popular. It’s basically like an almond croissant and a pain au chocolate had a baby, and it’s just the absolute best. The combination of the tasty almond paste and the great quality chocolate is so good, and the croissant itself is buttery, flaky, and perfect. I was worried that it might taste overly boozy, but if “rum” weren’t in its name, I don’t think I would have known it was there.
The woman behind the counter heated it up for me, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen with a croissant like this before, but which is clearly the way to go. The croissant was just barely warm, but it had been heated up enough to really emphasize the pasty’s exterior crisp-factor, and to make the chocolate nice and gooey. Good stuff.
Location: 621 Saint Clair Avenue West, Toronto
I was thinking recently about how much I miss the Prairie Girl Bakery, which served the best cupcakes in town for years, and then became a tragic victim of the pandemic. A quick googling revealed that the owner has subsequently opened a new place which, as you might surmise from its name, specializes in sticky buns.
I’m not sure why it’s not getting more hype, because it’s seriously, seriously good.
They serve a stellar sticky bun. It’s sweet, saucy, and perfectly moist. The pastry itself is ultra-fluffy and delightful, and the cinnamon/caramel flavour is right where you want it to be.
I just checked their website and apparently the default version has pecans, which I either didn’t see or they didn’t have when I visited. Clearly, I’m going to have to go back, because it seems pretty clear that pecans would enhance this thing.
I also tried the version topped with cream cheese frosting, which was very good, though I have to admit that I preferred the plain. The frosting was tasty, but the sticky bun was already so incredibly delicious on its own that the cream cheese kind of just got in the way.
Seriously though, pecans?? I need to go back ASAP.