A Solid Wrap at Charcoal Biryani

Charcoal Biryani
: 111 Richmond Street West, Toronto (inside the Assembly Chef’s Hall)
Website: https://www.charcoalbiryani.ca/

I recently found myself in the Assembly Chef’s Hall, and I figured I’d check out whichever vendor was the busiest.  This was — by far — Charcoal Biryani, though that might be because they seemed to be a bit frazzled; it took about forty minutes (!!) between getting in line and getting my food, which seems to defeat the whole point of an ostensibly grab-and-go concept like this.

Charcoal Biryani

Still, it was pretty tasty.  They serve biryani, along with a variety of kebabs that you can either get as a wrap or in a meal with rice.  I was planning on getting the original kebab wrap, but this was sold out, so I went with the chicken tikka wrap instead.

Charcoal Biryani

I wish the chicken were dark meat instead of vaguely dry breast, but otherwise I quite enjoyed this.  As the name of the restaurant implies, they cook the chicken over charcoal, which gives it a delightfully smoky flavour.  Otherwise it’s pretty by-the-numbers, but that pronounced flavour from the grill really elevates it.

Charcoal Biryani

I also got an order of fries that I forgot to photograph, which the menu advertised as two dollars but which the apologetic woman behind the counter explained is actually six.  Inflation, I guess??  Anyway, just picture McDonald’s fries (but worse) with a sprinkling of sumac on top.  This would have been worth the advertised two dollars, but six might be a bit much.

An Upscale McRib at Aloette

: 171 East Liberty Street, Unit 127A, Toronto
Website: https://aloetterestaurant.com/

Aloette has recently added a few new things to their menu, including a McRib-esque rib sandwich, and yeah, obviously I’ve gotta try that.

The Ribette Sandwich, as per the menu: “Slow cooked pork ribs, coleslaw, pickles, pickled onions, BBQ sauce.”

Okay fine, it’s actually not much like a McRib, which features a ground pork patty and is only tangentially related to ribs.  This one contains actual ribs (but with the bones conveniently removed), and it’s extremely tasty.


It’s not smoky at all, which is too bad, but it’s porky and tender, and features some nicely crispy/charred bits from the grill.  It’s slathered in a deliciously sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, and topped with pickles and pickled onions, which do a great job of adding some crunch and cutting through the richness of the fatty pork.

It also comes with a little tub of zingy coleslaw that you’re supposed to add to the sandwich yourself; BBQ sandwich + coleslaw is always a great combo, and yeah, it works quite well here.


It’s served on a fluffy, lightly chewy bun that holds up nicely to the saucy sandwich.  It’s great.

I also tried the fries, which are crispy, fluffy, and perfectly cooked.  Good stuff.

Quick Bites: Sarpa Restaurant, Burger Drops, El Pocho Antojitos Bar

Sarpa Restaurant
Franco Fries at Sarpa Restaurant

This place probably deserves more than a quick bite review, but it’s one of the many restaurants I visited while this blog was on hiatus, and this seems like it’s better than nothing.  I tried a few things here, and everything was quite good, but the highlight was clearly the Franco Fries: “hand cut fries, parmesan cheese, truffle-honey essence.”  This seems like an odd thing to order at an upscale Italian restaurant, but trust me — you need these fries in your life.  The fries themselves are perfectly cooked, with a crispy exterior and creamy interior, but it’s that truffle-honey essence that really makes these things sing.  I’m normally not crazy about anything with truffle oil (most truffle oils have never seen an actual truffle in their life), but this didn’t have that flavour at all; it was garlicky, a little bit sweet, and thoroughly addictive.

Burger Drops
Burger and a chicken sandwich from Burger Drops

I tried a couple of things at Burger Drops.  The first was the original burger, which features “griddled sweet onion, American cheese, house pickles, Drop sauce, toasted potato roll.”  It’s a solid burger — the patty has a nice crust, a decent beefy flavour, and the toppings suit it well.  It’s a bit on the dry side and nothing about it really jumped out at me, but it’s a tasty burger.  If I had been reviewing it for my burger blog, I’d give it a solid three out of four.  The other thing I tried was the chicken sandwich, which is odd, but tasty.  The odd thing about it: it’s not a traditional fried chicken sandwich.  Instead, it’s basically a gourmet McChicken, right down to the reconstituted chicken patty.  It’s a fun novelty and a big step above its fast food inspiration, but I’m not sure that I’d ever elect to eat this over a standard fried chicken sandwich.

El Pocho Antojitos Bar
Chilaquiles at El Pocho Antojitos Bar

Chilaquiles is one of those dishes that really deserves to be a bigger deal.  It’s such a simple dish: it’s just tortilla chips tossed in a zingy sauce.  At El Pocho Antojitos Bar, it’s also topped with crema (I think?  It’s been a while), cheese, and a fried egg.  The sauce thoroughly coats the chips, softening them a bit, though they do still retain a bit of their crunch.  It’s a thoroughly satisfying dish.

Decent Fried Chicken at Dave’s Hot Chicken

Dave's Hot ChickenLocation: 2066 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.daveshotchicken.com/

Dave’s Hot Chicken is an American fried chicken chain with a couple of locations in the city, and one more on the way.  It’s easy to be cynical about the explosion of fried chicken restaurants in the city (Nashville hot chicken in particular), but aside from the fact that now is not exactly an easy time to be a restauranteur, fried chicken is delicious.  Nashville hot chicken is delicious.  So sure, why not?

Dave's Hot Chicken

The menu here consists pretty much entirely of fried chicken tenders that you can either get on their own, or in a sandwich.  You can pick from seven levels of spiciness ranging from “no spice” to “reaper.”

I went with the sandwich and got it hot, which was milder than you’d expect — it has a noticeable kick, but it’s not exactly going to get anyone too hot and bothered.  If you have any kind of tolerance for heat, extra hot or even reaper is probably a better choice.

Dave's Hot Chicken

Otherwise, it was pretty tasty — the white meat is a bit on the dry side, but it’s really well seasoned and quite tasty, with an exterior that’s noticeably crispy, but not overwhelming.  It’s topped with a zingy special sauce, pickles, and coleslaw, which all do a great job of cutting through the richness of the sandwich.

It comes with crinkle-cut fries that are battered and seasoned; I’m normally not crazy about battered fries, but these were pretty good (I think it’s mostly that tasty seasoning, which would probably make anything taste good).

Dave's Hot Chicken

As far as fried chicken in the GTA goes, this isn’t on the level of local joints like Chica’s or PG Clucks, but for a chain it’s not bad at all.

Mediocre Fried Chicken and Poutine at Rudy

RudyLocation: 619 College Street, Toronto
Website: http://www.rudyresto.com/

I love Rudy.  I’m on record calling their burger the best in the city.  So it pains me to say this, but the meal I just had there was not great.

To be fair, I didn’t have a burger; going to a burger joint and not ordering the burger is probably not the smartest thing in the world.

Instead, I got the fried chicken sandwich and the poutine.  Neither was particularly great.


The chicken sandwich is dubbed the Valentino: “Fried Chicken Sandwich, Coleslaw, Valentino Sauce, Mild Hot Sauce.”  I’ve had this before and found it to be quite tasty, so maybe they were just having an off day?

The biggest issue is the chicken itself; it was dry, overcooked, and incredibly salty.

The first few bites were outright bad, but then I noticed that the two sauces were actually in little plastic containers on the side rather than on the sandwich.  I’m not sure why they did it that way (I certainly didn’t ask for that), but once I applied them both to the chicken, things improved considerably.  The tasty ranch / hot sauce combo helped to smooth over a lot of the chicken’s faults.


As for the soft squishy bun that works so well on the burger — sadly, it has a hard time holding up to the more substantial chicken sandwich.

I also tried the poutine, which Toronto Life recently called the best in the city.  It was fine?  I guess?  The gravy was overabundant and bland, the curds were stale (no squeak to be found), and the whole thing wasn’t hot enough to even vaguely melt the cheese.  It certainly wasn’t unpleasant to eat, but it’s a far cry from the best in the city.

I should note that someone else got the burger and said it was as delicious as ever, so unsurprisingly, the burger is the thing to order at the burger joint.  Who would have guessed!