Location: 283 Rushton Road, Toronto
You wouldn’t be blamed for getting kinda bored of gelato in Toronto. You seemingly can’t walk more than a few blocks without coming across a gelato shop in the city. A lot of it is quite good, but after a while, it all starts to feel samey.
Enter: Bar Ape, which mixes things up by selling their gelato in soft serve form. Of course, this means that they can only serve two flavours at a time (though chocolate-covered gelato bars are available in a variety of combinations), but it’s a worthwhile trade-off for something that’s so delightfully unique.
On this particular visit the two flavours were chocolate sorbet and fresh mint. I got the twist, which comes with both.
Sorbet is generally made without dairy, so I was concerned that it would be icy or thin, but it was rich and creamy, with a really nice dark chocolate flavour.
The fresh mint was even better; unlike 99 percent of mint ice creams, which are made with mint flavouring, this was clearly made with actual fresh mint leaves. This gave it an interesting herby flavour that really made it stand out. The combination between it and the chocolate was a home run.
The only real downside? The wooden spoons. They’re becoming more and more common in the city, and I feel bad for criticizing them — they’re obviously more environmentally-friendly than plastic — but the rough texture and mild woody flavour makes them an off-putting implement for eating ice cream. Plastic (or metal) or GTFO.
Location: 477 Queen Street West, Toronto
I guess those stupid overpriced macarons from Ladurée in Yorkdale have ruined other ones for me. Because I just ate a couple from Butter Avenue, and they were pretty good, but I couldn’t help but compare them to Ladurée — and they came up short.
I tried the pistachio and the raspberry white chocolate, and there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with either. The pistachio had a really enjoyable nutty flavour, and the raspberry white chocolate featured a delicious raspberry jam centre surrounded by creamy white chocolate. They were both quite tasty.
But the flavours just couldn’t compare to what they were serving at Ladurée, and the texture was overly dense and chewy, in stark contrast to the almost ethereal lightness of Ladurée’s version.
They were three bucks each, which is certainly less than the almost four that they’re charging at Ladurée, but not exactly cheap. If you’re already spending three bucks on a tiny macaron, you may as well spend the extra dollar and get the superior version.
Location: 1640 Bayview Avenue, Toronto
I’m not sure why, but there are way more gelato shops in the GTA than regular ice cream. I’m pulling this number right out of my you-know-where, but I’d guess there’s something like four gelato places for every one ice cream shop.
So when you’re talking about the best gelato in the city, there’s quite a bit of competition. But Hollywood Gelato is certainly a strong contender for that list.
On a recent visit, I got Rocky Rocher (chocolate hazelnut) and Sicilian Pistachio. The texture was phenomenal. It’s slightly stretchy and richly creamy; you’re not going to do much better in the texture department without a plane ticket to Italy.
The flavour, however, wasn’t quite up to snuff on this particular visit. It was still very good, but the flavour on the Rocky Rocher was a bit muted, and the pistachio was slightly too strong (I think someone was a bit heavy-handed with the pistachio flavouring in this particular batch). There was also a vaguely unpleasant aftertaste that lingered on my palate for a while after I was done.
(I think I’m coming off more negative here than I should — don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious. It just wasn’t quite as delicious as it usually is.)
On another visit, I got a couple of the wackier, Easter-inspired varieties: Creme Egg and Kinder Surprise. Surprisingly enough, they were a lot better than the more traditional flavours I had on my previous visit. The Kinder Surprise, in particular, really nailed the milky, chocolatey flavour of that particularly treat.
Location: 150 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Prairie Girl Bakery might just serve my favourite cupcakes in the city. There are some other contenders (the Cupcake Shoppe comes to mind), but Prairie Girl is right up there.
I like that they actually have three different sizes — standard, mini, and cutie. The mini size is absolutely perfect if you’ve just had a big meal and you want something sweet that isn’t going to make you feel completely sick. It’s still a couple of decent bites’ worth of cupcake, so it’s enough to satisfy, but not so much to make you question the way you’re living your life.
On this particular visit I got the banana peanut butter, which features peanut butter frosting with banana cake. Not surprisingly, it was great — the cake basically tasted like a lighter, fluffier banana bread. It had a really distinct banana flavour that worked perfectly with the very creamy peanut butter frosting.
The whole thing was sweet, but with enough of a balance to not be a complete sugar overload. It’s good stuff.
Location: 6170 Bathurst Street, Toronto
Generally speaking, I think McFlurries are a waste of time. I mean, they’re just a poor man’s Blizzard, right? If I’m craving a blended ice cream treat, why get an imitation when I can have the original?
It turns out I might be wrong about this, because I just had the Butterscotch Blondie McFlurry, and it was easily better than any Blizzard I’ve had in recent memory.
It had a really rich caramel flavour from the abundant butterscotch, and the sizable blondie chunks were chewy, tasty, and satisfying. It’s super sweet, obviously, but there was enough going on here that it didn’t feel one-note.
The ice cream was a little too melty, but aside from that? Shockingly good.