Quick Bites: Tom’s Dairy Freeze, Bang Bang, Rudy

Sundae from Tom's Dairy Freeze
Caramel Sundae at Tom’s Dairy Freeze

Hey, gotta take advantage of Tom’s while they’re around (they’re closed all winter).  On this particular visit I got a twist with hot caramel sauce, and yeah it’s as tasty as ever.

Bang Bang
Cherry Milkjam at Bang Bang

I’ve found Bang Bang to be a bit hit-or-miss lately, but when they’re good, they’re still really good.  This particular flavour is actually a “twist” of sorts — it combines cherry ice cream with dulce de leche, and yeah that’s a great combo.  The cherry is a bit sour on its own, but mixing it with the sweet richness of the dulce de leche tempers its tartness and is thoroughly delicious.

Rudy
Fried Chicken Sandwich at Rudy

I’ve already written about the fried chicken sandwich at Rudy (A.K.A. the Valentino), so I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but it’s still nothing particularly special.  It wasn’t overcooked this time, so it had that going for it, but it was almost aggressively middling.  If I you had told me it was a fried chicken sandwich from a fast food chain like Wendy’s or A&W, I would have believed you.  And Rudy’s is expanding quite a bit; I guess they’re becoming a fast food chain themselves, so… it is what it is. [shrug]

Szechuan x Nashville Hot Sandwich at Chen Chen’s Nashville Hot Chicken

Chen Chen’s Nashville Hot ChickenLocation1184 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.chenchenshotchicken.com/

I recently tried the Nashville hot chicken sandwich at Chen Chen’s and found it to be a quality fried chicken sandwich that was spicy, but otherwise a bit on the bland side.

Well, clearly the Szechuan x Nashville sandwich is the way to go, because it’s thoroughly tasty — no seasoning issues here.  And the fried chicken itself was just as good as last time, with a nicely crunchy exterior and a juicy interior.

I will say, however, that I’m not really sure what the sandwich does to deserve the “Szechuan” moniker; aside from a mild sweetness, it doesn’t taste all that different from standard Nashville hot chicken.  I didn’t notice any numbing heat or any spicing that screams “Szechuan,” but hey — tasty is tasty.  I enjoyed the sandwich.  I’m not going to complain.

Chen Chen’s Nashville Hot Chicken

I also tried the sweet chili cauliflower, which the menu describes as “Fried Cauliflower tossed in sweet chili garlic sauce, topped with toasted sesame seeds, and green onions.”  It’s really good — the sauce is sweet and a little bit spicy, and the cauliflower is crunchy on the outside and perfectly cooked on the inside (it’s tender but still has some bite — it’s not mushy at all).

Jalapeno Popper Fried Chicken Sandwich from Chica’s Chicken

Chica's ChickenLocation2853 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.chicaschicken.net/

I’ve written about Chica’s Chicken many, many times on this blog.  I’ve mentioned that I think they serve the best fried chicken in the city, and that’s still probably true — even if I wasn’t crazy about this particular sandwich.

The Jalapeno Popper Sando, as per their menu: “boneless fried chicken topped with chipotle aioli and pickled jalapeños, served on a toasted brioche bun.”

The fried chicken is as delicious as ever; it’s the perfect combo of crispy (but not overbearing) exterior and juicy interior.  It’s so damn good.

Chica's Chicken

I’m not quite as sold on the rest of the sandwich, however.  It’s that chipotle aioli.  It’s sweet.  I like the sweet/salty combo as much as the next guy, but holy moly the level of intense sugariness here is a bit intense.  It overpowers the other flavours of the sandwich.  I find the Sweet Heat sandwich at Chica’s to be a bit on the sweet side, and this one is even sweeter, somehow.  Between the sweet sauce and the sweet brioche bun, the flavour is extremely one note.

It also tastes absolutely nothing like a jalapeno popper, which is odd.  The whole point of a jalepeno popper is the contrast between the tangy cream cheese and the spicy bite of the jalapeno, and I don’t think there was any cream cheese here??  Or if there was, I couldn’t taste it over the aggressive sweetness.

Also, I don’t think I’ve ever had a jalapeno popper that was even remotely sweet.  Am I the weird one, or is Chica’s?

Oh well.  Everything else on the menu is so good that I don’t particularly care, but this is still an odd misstep from an otherwise great restaurant.

Great Fried Chicken and Pie at Aloette

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

Aloette was forced to become a take-out joint last year (for obvious reasons) and I guess that’s worked out for them, because they’re leaning into it; their second location, in Liberty Village, is take-out only, with a selection that mostly consists of fried chicken, burgers, and a handful of salads.

Aloette

I ordered the fried chicken sandwich, which is simply topped with aioli and pickles.  It’s a top-notch sandwich; the chicken is satisfyingly crunchy and very nicely seasoned, with what seemed like an Asian-inspired flavour that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but that I thoroughly enjoyed.  The zingy pickles and creamy aioli complement it well, and the bun is nice and fluffy, with just enough heft to hold up to the substantial piece of fried chicken.

Aloette

The chicken itself is ever-so-slightly on the dry side, and the crunchy exterior is maybe slightly too aggressive (it actually cut the roof of my mouth), but those are both minor complaints.

Aloette

They have a couple of tempting sundaes for dessert, but I couldn’t resist the lemon meringue pie; it’s a mainstay on Instagram, but is definitely more than just a pretty face.  It’s luxuriously rich and creamy, and has a perfect tart/sweet balance.  My biggest problem here is the crust: it’s mostly decent enough, but then you get to the big hunk at the end and it’s thick and gummy and, eaten on its own, kinda unpleasant.

Tasty Sandwiches at Chen Chen’s Nashville Hot Chicken

Chen Chen's Nashville Hot ChickenLocation: 1184 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.chenchenshotchicken.com/

It’s hard to eat a Nashville hot chicken sandwich in the GTA without comparing it to Chica’s Chicken, a place that serves what might just be some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

No, the sandwich from Chen Chen’s isn’t on that level, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it; it’s quite tasty.

Chen Chen's Nashville Hot Chicken

You can choose from five spice levels: Southern (which they describe as “no heat”), mild, medium, hot, or poultrygeist (which they describe as “extra HOT!!”). I went with hot, which is very spicy but not face-meltingly so.

The chicken is tender thigh meat — always a good thing — and the exterior is satisfyingly crunchy. My biggest issue here is that it’s a bit bland; outside of the cayenne-infused heat, the chicken doesn’t have a ton of flavour. It’s underseasoned.

The sandwich is topped with zingy pickles, coleslaw, and aioli, which all does a pretty decent job of bringing the sandwich some flavour. But the chicken’s blandness does mar an otherwise above average sandwich.