Ketchup Ice Cream (and More!) at The Ex

Ketchup ice cream at The Ex
Location
210 Princes’ Boulevard, Toronto
Websitehttps://theex.com/

The Ex!  It’s back!  And clearly I’m not the only person excited about this, because despite going in the middle of the week after work, the place was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it.  Clearly, there’s a lot of pent-up demand for sketchy rides, junky food, and stores selling random knick-knacks.

Of course, I was there for the food, and yes, I tried the ketchup ice cream.

The Ex

Two dollar spaghetti from Primo Spaghetti

This place has been around forever, though this was my first time actually trying it.  It’s pretty much exactly what you’d think a two dollar serving of spaghetti at a carnival would be: the sauce tasted like the cheapest stuff you can buy at the supermarket, and the spaghetti was overcooked mush.

The Ex

Deep fried perogies from The Perogy Chef

This is another place that’s been around forever; I’ve tried this one before and I knew it would be good, and indeed it was.  The perogies are tender, tasty, and slightly crispy on their exterior, and they’re doused in an oily sauce and a bunch of sweet caramelized onions.  The sour cream on the side adds a nice creamy zing that rounds things out quite well.  It’s a tasty snack.

The Ex

Flamin’ Hot Chicken Sandwich from Fried Chicken Sandwiches

This place promises a chicken sandwich that’s tossed in chipotle mayo and coated in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.  Alas, the Cheetos (or Cheeto crumbs, more accurately) are just mounded on top, which isn’t quite as fun from an appearance or a taste perspective.  The whole thing is fine — it’s not the best fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever had, and it’s not the worst — but it barely has any Flamin’ Hot taste or texture.

The Ex

Viet Burrito from Pho 88

This is less of a burrito and more of an overstuffed fresh roll, but it’s still pretty tasty; it’s crammed with noodles, various veggies, chicken, and a whole spring roll, and it’s wrapped in rice paper.  It would have been nice if the peanut sauce were in the wrap instead of on the side (it’s a bit dry), but otherwise this was pretty good.  It’s basically like a Vietnamese vermicelli noodle bowl, but crammed into a handheld package.

The Ex

Fried cheese curds from the Midway

I wasn’t expecting it, but this might have been the best thing I ate at the Ex this year.  The curds are gooey and tasty, and the super satisfying crispy exterior doesn’t overwhelm.  It’s basically like a mozzarella stick, but better.  There’s not much more to say about this one.  It’s fried cheese.  It’s great.

The Ex

Ketchup ice cream from the Midway

Of course I tried the ketchup ice cream.  How could I not?  They also serve mustard ice cream; I was hoping to get both in a twist, but alas, that wasn’t an option.  I suppose I could have ordered one of each, but one of these things costs twelve bucks and I wasn’t about to spend over twenty dollars on novelty ice cream.  Anyway, it wasn’t bad!  Would I eat it again?  Absolutely not, but considering how disgusting this could have been, the fact that it’s actually pretty okay is kind of a miracle.  It has an unmistakable but (and this is key) not overwhelming ketchup flavour, which combines surprisingly well with the ice cream.  The ketchup flavour is present enough that you know exactly what you’re eating, but subtle enough to let the sweet ice cream be the star of the show.  It’s not gross!

Quick Bites: Amanecer Salvadoreño Restaurant, Frenchie’s Doughnuts, 3 Mariachis Mexican Restaurant

Amanecer Salvadoreño Restaurant
Papusas and a combination plate at Amanecer Salvadoreño Restaurant

This is a fantastic hidden gem in north Etobicoke.  I heard that the papusas are the thing to order here, and yeah, they’re top-notch.  But the rest of the menu is no slouch; I also tried the combination plate that came with steak, shrimp, and plantain, and everything was very, very good.

Frenchie's Doughnuts
Blueberry cheesecake doughnut at Frenchie’s Doughnuts

Frenchie’s has a fun gimmick that makes them feel delightfully distinct from a run-of-the-mill doughnut shop: they fry their doughnuts fresh and then top them to order (you can either pick from one of their pre-topped selections, or customize your own toppings). I went with the blueberry cheesecake, and the highlight was the doughnut itself; it’s cakey and still warm when you get it, like a full-sized version of Tiny Tom’s.

3 Mariachis Mexican Restaurant
The Mariachi Platter at 3 Mariachis Mexican Restaurant

That beast of a plate is the Mariachi Platter, which comes with a chicken enchilada, two chorizo tacos, a shredded beef burrito, Mexican rice, guacamole, beans, pico de gallo, and a zippy green sauce.  As the menu says, “why have one when you can have it all?”  Why indeed.  I shared this, obviously — I’m not Andre the Giant — and pretty much everything was quite tasty, particularly the burrito, which was crammed with tender, tasty beef.  The taco was a bit dry, but aside from that it was a delicious (and huge) plate of food.

Old School Burritos at Burrito Gordito

Burrito GorditoLocation: 120 Peter Street, Toronto
Website: http://www.burritogordito.ca/

It’s hard to imagine this now, but there was a time in Toronto when you couldn’t find a shop selling baby-sized burritos on every other block.  But of course, Burrito Boyz opened on Peter Street in 2003 and basically launched a city-wide obsession.

After a split between the owners, that spot became Burrito Banditos, and now it’s Burrito Gordito.  I have no idea if either of the original Burrito Boyz boys are involved here, but the menu is pretty much the same.

Burrito Gordito

I ordered the steak burrito, which was always my favourite back in the original Burrito Boyz days, and yeah, it’s still good.  I don’t know if it’s quite as tasty as I remember it being way back in the early aughts, but then how can you possibly compete with warm and fuzzy memories from well over a decade ago?

Burrito Gordito

The quality of the steak itself is quite good, and there’s a generous amount of it.  It’s nice and tender but still has a satisfying chew, and it has a mild but enjoyable beefy flavour.

As for the rest of it, it’s as crammed with rice, beans, and sauces as you’re expecting, with a nice variety of zippy flavours.  I ordered it spicy and it was barely hot at all (I remember it being legitimately fiery back in the Burrito Boyz days), but aside from that it’s quite satisfying.

Burrito Gordito

It’s also nicely toasted on the outside — they even roll it over to toast it on its sides, which is a nice touch.

Nine Layer Burrito at Fresh

FreshLocation: 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Website: https://freshplantpowered.com/

Fresh, a chain that specializes in vegan eats, is fine.  I recently had their “burger” and thought it was fine (though it obviously bore no resemblance to an actual hamburger).  I just tried the Nine Layer Burrito, and yeah — it’s fine.

It’s definitely crammed with a lot of stuff: “mushroom & artichoke chorizo, marinated black beans, pico de gallo, cashew queso, jalapeno crema, avocado, shredded lettuce, brown rice, pickled jalapenos.”

Fresh

It’s…  fine.  It’s not as good as a burrito from any decent burrito place, but if you find yourself at Fresh, I’m sure you could do worse.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff in there, and it tastes like there’s a whole bunch of stuff in there.  It doesn’t have a ton of cohesion, but it’s tasty enough for what it is.

I was kinda curious about the  faux “chorizo”, but of course, it’s hard to pick out any one element with all of the flavours that are going on here.  So I tried some on its own; it basically just tastes like funky pureed mushrooms, with absolutely no resemblance to chorizo.

Fresh

The only element of the burrito I found overtly unappealing was the whole wheat tortilla.  I like whole wheat bread as much as the next guy, but it’s just wrong on a burrito.  It calls attention to itself and tastes off.

I also tried the salad with house vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette seemed like it might have been okay, but it was applied so sparingly you could barely taste it.  The “salad” basically tasted like undressed greens.

(Mostly) Tasty Eats at The Ex

The ExLocation: 210 Princes’ Boulevard, Toronto
Website: https://theex.com/

Though I haven’t been in a couple of years, I enjoy going to the Ex.  I mean, they have an enormous building dedicated entirely to food, not to mention vendor after vendor selling junky carnival food, so of course I enjoy it.

I didn’t get to try quite as much as I would have liked (this stuff was all extremely heavy), but I sampled a few things.

The Ex

The Big Chief from Porkies Sandwich Co.

This place specializes in porchetta and pork belly, and serves a sandwich that’s crammed with both of them.  The two meats are topped with caramelized onions, arugula, provolone, salsa verde, and chipotle mayo.  It’s not bad — the two types of pork are a bit bland and textureless (they’re super tender, but there are zero crispy bits or crackling), but they’re still porky and satisfying.  The cheese was unmelted and basically added nothing to the sandwich, but the onions and the sauces are tasty and do a good job of cutting through the extreme richness of the belly and the porchetta.  I will say, however, that this might have been the greasiest sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life.  Grease was leaking everywhere.

The Ex

Scorpion Burrito from Burrito Co.

Though Burrito Co. advertises this as “Canada’s hottest burrito,” that’s a dubious claim; the burrito itself is barely spicy at all.  It does, however, come with a tiny dropper filled with a legitimately fiery hot sauce.  This stuff isn’t kidding around, though I wish they had added it right into the burrito, because having to reapply it every couple of mouthfuls was a bit of a pain.  As for the burrito itself, it was fine, I guess?  It was decent enough, but nothing about it particularly stands out (other than the comically absurd $19.25 price tag).

The Ex

Pickle Pizza from Rick’s Pizza

This is the only thing I tried that was outside of the food building.  The slice is basically exploding with pickle flavour; it’s topped with pickle slices, and features dill ranch instead of tomato sauce.  It’s a novelty food and it tastes like a novelty food, but it’s actually kind of satisfying.  The pickles are nice and zingy, and the pizza itself is decent.  I don’t know that I’d want to eat this all the time — but isn’t that the whole point of carnival food?  If it’s something you’d want to eat on a regular basis, it’s probably not doing its job.