Location: 855 The Queensway, Etobicoke
This probably won’t come as much of a surprise: it turns out that the ice cream at Baskin Robbins isn’t very good. I haven’t been there in several years, but I remember it being decent enough.
Either I’ve become pickier in the meantime, or it’s become worse. Probably a bit of both.
I tried the current flavour of the month, Cookies ‘n Cake: “Cake flavored ice cream, cookie pieces, and a chocolate cake batter flavored ribbon.”
The quality of the ice cream itself was pretty bad; it was slightly better than really bottom-of-the-barrel stuff like Chapman’s, but that’s really not saying much. The texture was thin and unsatisfying.
The flavour was even worse. I’ve eaten a lot of cake in my lifetime, and none of it even remotely tasted like the ice cream here. I’m normally fine with artificial, cake-flavoured junk food, but this stuff was just vile. I’m having a hard time even figuring out how to describe the flavour — it was acrid and unpleasant and weird.
The cookie chunks were good, at least — they were Oreo pieces, so no surprise there. But the “chocolate cake batter flavored ribbon” basically just tasted like a sweeter, less chocolatey version of Nesquik chocoalte syrup. It wasn’t offensive like the ice cream, but it wasn’t particularly good, either.
Location: 5308 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke
I’ve actually already written about Kebab 49, so I’m going to keep this post brief. That was a couple of years ago, and the place is still chugging along, serving some of the best doner in the city.
Yes: Kebab 49 is still great. On this particular visit I got the durum wrap with lamb and veal (durum is a Turkish flatbread; Kebab 49 makes it in-house in their wood-burning oven, and it’s chewy and fresh and amazing).
The lamb and veal doner is outstanding. A lot of shawarama/doner tends to be a bit dry, but not here — there’s just enough fat mixed in to keep things from drying out. It’s perfectly seasoned, and the distinctive lamby flavour really shines through.
But the best part are all the crispy bits from where the rotating stack of meat has come into contact with the fire. This is how you know you’re dealing with a place that knows what’s what. Way too many restaurants start carving too soon, and you end up with sad, soggy meat. Not Kebab 49. You can’t really tell from the photo, but there were delicious crispy bits interspersed throughout the entire wrap. It was glorious.
Location: 3797 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Etobicoke
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 25 The West Mall, Etobicoke (inside Sherway Gardens)
I mentioned recently that I like Sweet Jesus, but that it looks better than it tastes. Well, I think that the abysmal soft serve at Kiss the Tiramisu and Loukomania Cafe have completely readjusted the way that I evaluate soft serve. They were a very visceral reminder that bad soft serve can be really bad.
Suddenly, Sweet Jesus is looking pretty good. Because I just went to their location in Sherway Gardens, and I quite enjoyed it.
I got the Oh Hungry, which is similar to the flavour I got last time — vanilla ice cream, caramel and peanut butter sauces, peanuts, chocolate chips, and a chocolate drizzle.
It was shockingly delicious. All of the sauces, nuts, and chocolate went really well together (true to its name, it tasted similar to an Oh Henry bar), and there seemed to be a better ratio of toppings to ice cream. Plus, the vanilla ice cream was rich and creamy. It still didn’t have much of a flavour beyond a general sweetness, but it wasn’t overly cloying and the texture was on point.
I don’t know if the quality has gone up or if my expectations have gone down, but either way, it was good stuff.
Location: 630 The Queensway, Etobicoke
If you’re looking for soft serve ice cream in Toronto, you can’t go wrong with Tom’s. It’s been a summertime institution since 1969 and, shockingly enough, still sells some of the best soft serve in the city.
In a city where so many old-school restaurants skate by on nostalgia alone (I’m thinking of vintage burger joints like Johnny’s and Apache), I tend to approach years-old restaurants with a healthy dose of skepticism. Toronto’s food scene has improved astronomically over the decades, and a place like Johnny’s (which routinely used to top “best burger in the city” lists despite serving awful pre-fab junk) is a palpable reminder of how far we’ve come.
Tom’s Dairy Freeze, however, is a delightful exception to this rule; the soft serve here is top-shelf stuff.
On this particular visit I went simple with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate dip. The dip is nothing special, but the ice cream is phenomenal. It’s rich, creamy, and has a really satisfying vanilla flavour. Anyone who wants to sell soft serve in the city should be forced to come here and take notes.