Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy’s


Wendy’s is probably my favourite fast food burger joint (it’s neck-and-neck with A&W).  But of course, being the best fast food burger chain isn’t exactly a tall mountain to climb.  That’s why I was so shocked at how much I enjoyed the Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy’s.

It’s topped with mushrooms, bacon, aioli, fried onion tanglers, and Asiago cheese.  It’s easily the best fast food hamburger I’ve had in a long, long time.

It’s still a fast food burger, so the patty itself wasn’t particularly great — but it wasn’t too dry and it didn’t have any off flavours.  For a big fast food chain, that’s about as good as it gets.

Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy's

Burgers from a place like this tend to be more about the toppings than the burger itself, and that’s where this one really stood out.  The Gouda was pleasantly sharp and creamy, the aioli was tasty, and the bacon was substantial enough to not get lost among the other flavours.

I’m normally not a huge fan of mushrooms on a burger, but these were well cooked and suited the burger well.  But what really put this over the top were the fried onion tanglers.  I assumed these were going to be the typical crispy fried onions that come out of a bag, but they were actually little onion rings that had clearly been freshly made. They were great.

Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy's

At first I was thinking that the price was a bit much — it’s about $7.50 with tax for the burger alone — but then I ate it, and yeah.  It’s worth the money.  It was good.  Not just good for fast food, but good, period.

I should note that the Wendy’s I went to was staffed entirely by adults who seemed to know what they were doing.  It was obvious that all of the components were relatively fresh, and it was assembled with care.  But it could have just as easily been thrown together by a bored teenager, so as is always the case with fast food, your mileage may vary.


Sausage Perfection at Wvrst

WvrstLocation: 609 King Street West, Toronto

I tried Wvrst once, around when it first opened.  It was good, but nothing about it really jumped out at me, so I never felt particularly compelled to go back.

Well, I just found myself back there, and clearly I was wrong about the place, because the sausage I ate was probably one of the best that I’ve ever had.


They have an intimidatingly long list of sausages on their menu.  I got the Kaas: “pork/beef/parrano cheese/light smoke.”  You can either get it on a bun or as currywurst.  I went with a bun, and had it topped with sauteed onions and jalapenos.


Oh man, that sausage.  The texture was absolutely perfect.  To me, the meat in a sausage needs to retain some of its essential meatiness; it shouldn’t have been ground into oblivion.  It should still be sausagey, of course, but the texture should be more rustic than a hot dog.  Wvrst absolutely nails this.

And the flavour was great: meaty and smoky, not overly salty, and with surprisingly generous pockets of gooey, melty cheese.  I was actually pretty blown away by how good it was.


I got the duck fat fries on the side, and they were just as good.  You could pick from a bunch of dipping sauces; I went with the Wvrst sauce (rule of thumb: if something on the menu is named after the restaurant, you should probably be ordering that thing).  It was tangy and delicious, and complimented the fries perfectly.

Consistent Mediocrity at Panera Bread

Panera Bread
Location: 197 North Queen Street, Etobicoke

I continue to be baffled by the success of Panera Bread.  It’s really expensive, consistently mediocre, and always busy.  I don’t get it.

The bread’s not bad, I’ll give it that.  I’ve had a few sandwiches here, and the bread is always the highlight.

Panera Bread

I got the “Pick 2,” which means you can pick two smaller things and pay a lot for it.  I got a small sandwich and a little bowl of chili, and it came up to a bit over 14 bucks, and just get the hell out of here with that.  This should cost about half of that for the quality of food they’re serving.

Specifically, I got the Fontiga  Chicken Panini, and the Turkey Chili.

Panera Bread

They were both fine.  The sandwich had a mild smoky flavour — I guess either the cheese or the chicken was smoked — but was otherwise the sandwich equivalent of white noise.  It’s neither good nor bad; it’s just kind of there.

The chili was fine, but it was about on the level as a can of soup from the supermarket.  A nicer can — maybe one that costs a buck fifty instead of a buck — but a can nonetheless.

And of course, as usual, the place was packed.  Why?  I guess it’s better than the literal garbage that they call sandwiches at Tim Hortons, but still: why is this place so popular?


Location: 1900 The Queensway, Etobicoke

I’ve been to Scaddabush a few times now, and it continually surprises me.  Not that it’s anything particularly special, but they serve consistently good food; for a casual chain restaurant in Canada, that’s a minor miracle.

Granted, it’s easy to look good when your competition is dreck like Boston Pizza and East Side Mario’s, but we are where we are.  The bar for a casual chain restaurant is low.

Scaddabush on the Queensway

And so Scaddabush, which is very keen to boast that they make their pasta and mozzarella in-house, is comparatively pretty amazing.

The fresh mozzarella is pleasantly toothsome, and with a bit of the sun-dried tomato spread on the side, quite tasty.

Scaddabush on the Queensway

The roasted fennel and sausage fettuccine was one of the better pasta dishes I’ve had in a while, with a really nice interplay between the hearty sausage, the spicy pop of the sliced hot peppers, and the crispiness of the seasoned breadcrumbs.

Alas, the meal ended on a sour note — the zeppoli tasted stale, with a sodden exterior and an unpleasantly sponge-like interior.  The chocolate hazelnut sauce was fine, but was mostly just bland sweetness; there wasn’t much of a chocolate or hazelnut flavour.

Scaddabush on the Queensway

Panera Bread

Panera Bread - Pesto Sacchettini
Location: 197 North Queen Street, Etobicoke

One thing I like about Panera Bread is that its Canadian and American menus seem to be pretty consistent.  A lot of times there’ll be an interesting item introduced on the menu at a fast food joint, only for it never to materialize here in Canada (like KFC’s boneless chicken, McDonald’s Egg White Delight McMuffin, or Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos, among many others).

Panera Bread, on the other hand, seems to actually let Canadians try its new menu items, which is nice.

The latest thing at Panera is pasta.  They’ve got Tortellini Alfredo, Pesto Sacchettini, and Rustic Penne Bolognese.   I went with the Sacchettini, which is described as a “purse-like pasta filled with six cheeses.” Pesto?  Six different cheeses?  Sign me up.

There’s a choice between small and large, and though the small initially seems comically undersized, it’s actually fairly heavy and a good amount for lunch.

It’s not bad.  It is, as advertised, quite cheesy, and the generous amount of pesto clinging to each Sacchettini gives it a good amount of flavour.

It was, however, unevenly hot in the way that only food that has been quickly microwaved gets.  It’s also pretty much the opposite of al dente, with pasta that is disconcertingly close to Chef Boyardee in the texture department.

It comes with either a soup or a salad.  I got the Classic Salad, which is dressed with a passable balsamic vinaigrette.  It complimented the pasta fairly well; the occasional bite of the vinegary salad helped to cut the richness of the oily, cheesy pasta (and the pasta is definitely not kidding around with the oiliness — when I finished, there was a pretty substantial pool of oil at the bottom of the bowl).

It’s not bad, but at the price I don’t know how heartily I can recommend it.  I got it with a lemonade to drink, and it came up to almost 15 bucks, which is kind of absurd for the caliber of food you’re getting.

Panera Bread - Pesto Sacchettini Panera Bread - Pesto Sacchettini Panera Bread - Pesto Sacchettini