Satisfying Grilled Cheese at the RH Courtyard Cafe

RH Courtyard CafeLocation: 3401 Dufferin Street, North York (inside Yorkdale Mall)
Websitehttps://www.restorationhardware.com/content/category.jsp?context=TorontoCafe

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.

RH Courtyard Cafe

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.

Amazing Roast Beef at Woodfire Sandwich Co.

Woodfire Sandwich Co.Location: 3797 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://www.woodfiresandwich.com/

You can’t go wrong with a really good sandwich.  And the folks at Woodfire Sandwich Co. certainly seem to know their stuff.

In particular, the First Date — a roast beef sandwich with crispy onions, arugula, gorgonzola, sauteed mushrooms, and mayo — was something special.

Woodfire Sandwich Co.

The sandwich is crammed with an absolutely absurd amount of rare roast beef; this would be overwhelming with lesser quality beef, but here it’s amazing.  The meat is perfectly tender, with a really satisfying beefy flavour that’s only amplified by the fact that they serve it cold.

Woodfire Sandwich Co.

Beef and mushrooms are best friends, so I don’t need to tell you that this combination was great.  The cheese and the mayo add a nice amount of creaminess, and the peppery arugula does a great job of keeping the sandwich’s richer flavours in check.

It’s served in a sesame seed roll that perfectly straddles the line between lightness and heft; it makes its presence known and holds up well to the onslaught of beef and mushrooms, but it never overwhelms.  It’s a great roll for a great sandwich.

Woodfire Sandwich Co.

I also tried the fried chicken sandwich, which was less great (or more accurately: not great at all).  It was fine, but nothing about it stands out.    The exterior didn’t really have the crisp factor that you’re looking for in a great fried chicken sandwich, and the seasoning was ho-hum.  Plus, the chicken itself (white meat, sadly) was slightly overcooked and a bit dry.  It was a perfectly acceptable sandwich, but nothing about it stood out like the amazing roast beef.

Super Deluxe Hot Dogs at Kung Fu Dawg

Kung Fu DawgLocation: 19 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://kungfudawg.com/

Remember when street vendor hot dogs were everywhere in the city?  There was a time when you couldn’t walk more than a block or two without running into one.  I’m not sure exactly why they mostly went away, though I’m assuming it has something to do with the explosion of cheap eats around the city over the last decade or so, not to mention the general foodie-ification of the GTA.

But there are still a handful of old school vendors around the city — or if you’re looking for something made with a bit more care, there’s Kung Fu Dawg on Ossington.

They actually make their own hot dogs and put them in a natural casing, which gives you a snappier bite than a traditional dog.  The pickles and many of the condiments are homemade as well, so clearly, this is something a bit more special than your typical street meat.

Kung Fu Dawg

I ordered the namesake Kung Fu Dawg, which is piled high with fennel slaw, pickles, onions, jalapenos, corn relish, spicy mayo, crispy onions, chili, and cheese.

There’s no easy way to eat this.  I tried to pick it up out of the cardboard box it’s served in, but it was so big and unwieldy I couldn’t get a grip on it.  Eventually, I had to just embrace the mess and dive in.

It’s really good, and an absolute cornucopia of tastes and textures.  It’s pretty much got all the flavours: it’s salty, savoury, sweet, vinegary, and a little bit spicy.  It’s crispy, it’s crunchy, it’s meaty — it’s everything at once.

Kung Fu Dawg

I liked it a lot, but I think there might have been a little bit too much going on.  They make their own hot dogs, but there’s so much stuff piled on top of it that you can barely taste it. It may as well have been Oscar Mayer.

Of course, the whole thing is super delicious, so it’s hard to complain too much — but next time, I think I’ll order something a bit more plain so I can see what the actual hot dog tastes like.

Oh, and I also tried the fries; like the hot dog, they were way above average.

Aussie BBQ & Egg Burger at McDonald’s

Aussie BBQ & Egg Burger at McDonald'sLocation5310 Dixie Road, Mississauga
Websitehttps://www.mcdonalds.ca

Well, here it is — Australia, the last stop on McDonald’s World Taste Tour (though there’s also the Mexican breakfast wrap, which I guess I should try at some point).

McDonald’s describes the Aussie BBQ & Egg Burger as coming topped with “a fresh cracked egg, crispy beet chips, processed cheese, leaf lettuce and a smoky BBQ sauce on a brioche-style bun.”

Aussie BBQ & Egg Burger at McDonald's

I’m not even going to bother complaining about the burger patty itself.  It’s not good — but then it’s McDonald’s, so no one should be surprised by this.  I will say that I really wish they’d use the thinner patties from the regular hamburger and the Big Mac on all of their burgers.  When it comes to the beef at McDonald’s, less is more.

But then no beef patty could have saved this burger — it’s easily the worst of the World Taste Tour.  It’s mostly pretty good: an egg is always welcome on a burger, the beet chips and the lettuce add a satisfying crunch, and the gooey cheese helps bring it all together.  But the smoky BBQ sauce (which is mayo-based, unlike a standard BBQ sauce) completely ruins it.  It’s the absolute worst.  It’s cloyingly, aggressively sweet, with no smokiness at all.  It’s just awful.

Aussie BBQ & Egg Burger at McDonald's

BBQ sauce tends to be quite sweet, but with a vinegary bite to help balance things out.  No such balance here; just in-your-face sweetness.

The burger kind of reminded me of the trifle Rachel made on Friends, but in reverse.  It’s got a bunch of tasty burger ingredients… and a sugary-sweet sauce that would be more at home on a slice of cake or a scoop of ice cream.  It’s one of those things that’s so bad, you have to wonder if anyone even tasted it before they added it to the menu.

Italian Pesto Chicken Sandwich at McDonald’s

McDonald'sLocation: 5310 Dixie Road, Mississauga
Websitehttps://www.mcdonalds.ca

Next stop on the World Taste Tour: Italy, with the Italian Pesto Chicken Sandwich.  This is a McChicken patty topped with a pesto aioli sauce, shaved parmesan, arugula, and tomato.  It’s served on a “toasted focaccia bun sprinkled with rosemary.”

It’s actually not bad.  It’s definitely a lot better than the Chinese Szechuan Burger, and probably about on the same level as the French Creme Brulee McFlurry.

Like with the Szechuan Burger, the biggest issue here is with the meat itself.

McDonald's

The chicken patty is what it is.  It’s spongy, salty, ultra-processed, and has about as much resemblance to an actual piece of chicken as a Hyundai has to a Ferrari.  They’re in the same general ballpark, but they’re really not the same thing.

It’s junk, but then anyone walking through the doors of a McDonald’s knows exactly what they’re going to get.  Again: it is what it is.  It’s fine.

And everything else was pretty good.  The pesto aioli sauce has a surprisingly vibrant pesto flavour, and the shaved parmesan isn’t bad at all.  Parmesan, pesto, and peppery arugula are a boffo combination, and McDonald’s doesn’t mess it up.  The whole thing is aggressively salty, but other than that it tastes pretty good.

There wasn’t much rosemary flavour from the bun, but it was fresh, hearty, and a little bit chewy.  It suited the sandwich nicely.