Location: 1475 The Queensway, Etobicoke
Hot tip: Ikea serves chicken meatballs now, and you should absolutely, positively never order them. You’re welcome.
They’re actually quite similar to the standard beef meatballs, which are junk — but tasty junk. I wouldn’t want to eat them on a regular basis, but they’re not bad for what they are.
The chicken meatballs, on the other hand, are not tasty junk. The flavour is basically fine; they taste a lot like the beef meatballs, but saltier and with a vague chicken-like flavour.
But the texture is horrific. Remember those rubber Super Balls that would bounce and bounce and bounce? I’m pretty sure these meatballs have most of the same properties. They were so rubbery and horrible that I couldn’t even cut through them with a fork.
On the plus side, I also had a slice of the chocolate caramel cake, and it’s surprisingly great. It’s certainly not gourmet — it actually reminds me a lot of the brownies they used to serve in my high school’s cafeteria, but with the addition of caramel — but it’s rich and sweet and satisfying. I think the next time I find myself in Ikea, I might just skip straight to the dessert.
Location: 6643 Transit Road, Buffalo, NY
When I was a kid, my family and I used to go to Florida every summer. We’d always drive there, and a stop at the Cracker Barrel was a must. It’s not exactly gourmet, but if you’re craving greasy southern comfort food, it nicely fits the bill.
Their current special is something called Southern Bowls; I went with the Sausage, Grits Cakes n’ Green Tomato Gravy Bowl, which I couldn’t resist. I mean, read this description from their menu and tell me you don’t immediately want to eat it:
Enjoy a fresh take on Southern flavors with two deep-fried stone ground pimento cheese grits cakes and our Sweet Pepper n’ Red Skin Hash topped with sausage patties, two scrambled eggs, and shredded Colby cheese all smothered in our green tomato gravy with a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
And it’s pretty much exactly what you’d think it would be from that description. None of the individual components stand out as being particularly great, but they all kind of meld together into one cheesy, creamy, delicious mess. In particular, the zingy green tomato gravy does a great job of adding a pop of vibrant flavour, and cutting through the richness of the eggs and the cheese and the grits.
Location: 4261 Highway 7, Unionville
Is eggs benedict still eggs benedict if you don’t include the hollandaise sauce? Traditionally, that dish consists of an english muffin topped with meat (usually ham or bacon), a poached egg, and hollandaise.
That’s four things; the hollandaise is 25 percent of the dish. How far can you change something until it’s no longer that thing? Is it still spaghetti and meatballs if you replace the tomato sauce with alfredo? Probably not!
Which is to say that I just ordered the Smash Benedict from Smash Kitchen, and they replaced the hollandaise with gravy. To be fair, they also have a traditional eggs benedict on the menu, so that does kinda give them license to mess around with it in their other offerings.
The problem is, I missed the hollandaise. This particular benedict featured an english muffin topped with pulled pork, cheese, the standard poached egg, and the aforementioned gravy. The pulled pork was tossed in a very vinegary barbecue sauce that, while tasty, absolutely dominated the dish.
A heaping serving of creamy hollandaise might have helped to cut the vinegary sharpness of the pork, but the gravy was completely lost. It may as well have not even been there. I had to eat most of this with some hash browns to help mellow out that strong barbecue sauce flavour.
Still, it certainly wasn’t bad, and the crispy fried hash browns were a very tasty accompaniment. But if I came back, I’d probably just stick with the classic benedict (there was also a crab cake benedict that looked tasty, and yes — that one had hollandaise on it).