Location: 1138 Victoria Street North, Kitchener
McDonald’s recently came out with a couple of “new” (I’m pretty sure both have been on the menu before) items called McTasters: the Thai Sweet Chili Chicken Sandwich, and the Mexican Chipotle Burger.
I tried the Mexican Chipotle Burger, and it was surprisingly decent. It’s definitely one of the better new things I’ve tried at McDonald’s recently.
The burger comes with “chipotle aioli sauce, crispy tortilla strips and a juicy beef patty, all on a toasted sesame and paprika ciabatta bun.”
It’s tasty. The chipotle aioli sauce basically tastes like the dressing you’ll find on any number of Southwest salads, only with a mild spicy kick. The crunchy tortilla strips add a nice bit of texture, and the cheese (which is unmentioned on the menu for some reason) ties it all together.
The bun is interesting, too — it’s chewier and more dense than the typical McDonald’s bun, but it works.
It helps that the beef is the classic small McDonald’s patty, and not the Angus or the Quarter Pounder patty that they use in most of their limited-time items. When it comes to the beef at McDonald’s, less is more; the slim old-school patty is the perfect size.
Location: 923 Queen Street West, Toronto
Though Grand Electric doesn’t get nearly the amount of buzz that it did when it first opened, it’s still chugging along. In fact, they’ve just recently opened a new location a bit further east on Queen (though it’s still on the west end of the city).
When I visited the original location a few years ago, they had some pretty out-there stuff on the menu, like a scrapple taco and pig head fries.
The menu here is much less ambitious than that — there’s nothing beyond the usual suspects (chicken, fried fish, etc.).
It might not be particularly exciting, but if the two tacos I tried were anything to go by, they still know exactly what they’re doing.
The first one I tried was the shrimp taco, which consists of a few generously-sized pieces of fried shrimp topped with a zesty sauce, lettuce, onion, and cilantro.
The shrimp is nicely seasoned and perfectly cooked, with a crunchy exterior that doesn’t overwhelm. The sauce basically tastes like a variation on shrimp sauce, and the other components add a good amount of freshness. It’s a solid taco.
Up next was the Carne Asada, which features steak topped with cilantro, chopped onions, and a couple of salsas. This was even better than the shrimp; the steak was super tender and very nicely marinated, with a nice vibrant flavour that never overwhelms its beefiness. And the salsas compliment it perfectly.
Location: 615 College Street, Toronto
Hotmess was selling tacos at the recent Taste of Little Italy festival; having heard nothing but good things about their Tex-Mex grub, tying it out was a no-brainer.
They were doing beef, chicken, and corn tacos; I went with beef. It was quite good.
It’s very simple: spiced beef, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, and cheddar cheese served in a hard shell tortilla.
It’s basically Taco Bell if Taco Bell were really, really good.
The beef was nicely spiced, and unlike Taco Bell, it actually has the taste and texture of beef. How about that! The lettuce and tomato are fresh and crunchy, and the cheese adds a nice salty bite.
The shell is probably the highlight, oddly enough. It’s obviously freshly fried, and it’s glorious — the level of crunch is profound. It’s ridiculously satisfying.
Location: 181 Baldwin Street, Toronto
I recently mentioned that the sandwich at Egg Bae was fine, but that it was a bit one-note; the flavours and textures were all monotonous, and it was kinda boring to eat.
The Conchinita torta from San Cosme is the exact opposite of that. It’s an almost absurdly well-balanced sandwich.
It was my first time back there since it opened; it was very good then, and it’s even better now. The torta I just had was dangerously close to sandwich perfection.
The sandwich comes with pulled pork, refried beans, habanero onions, and fried plantains.
It’s ridiculously good. All the elements work together in such perfect harmony. There’s the tangy pork (which is super tender, but still has some texture) and the creamy beans, which balance perfectly with the mild sweetness of the plantain. The pickled onions add crunch, and their vinegary bite helps to cut the richness from the pork and beans.
Then there’s the crispiness from the fried plantains, not to mention the amazing bread, which is lightly crispy on its exterior and delightfully fluffy inside.
It’s kind of absurd how good the sandwich is. The contrasting flavours and textures are like a perfectly orchestrated symphony.
And it’s made even better with the house-made pickled jalapenos they have on the counter. These things are so good, with an assertive crunch, a vinegary bite, and a mild spiciness. You assume the sandwich can’t get better than it already is, then you add a few of those, and yeah — somehow it gets even more delicious.
Location: 3220 Yonge Street, Toronto
Maiz is a new-ish Latin joint on Yonge street with a variety of tacos, burritos, and arepas on their menu.
I tried an arepa and quite enjoyed it, but the menu is clearly hit-and-miss. I went with a group of four; two of us got arepas and enjoyed them mightily. The other two got a burrito and a veggie bowl and found them to be mediocre at best.
So who knows! I can’t remember the last time I went to a restaurant where the group was so sharply divided, but the only thing I tried was the arepa, and it was quite tasty.
Specifically, I tried the adobo arepa, which features a whole bunch of braised pork crammed into a toasty arepa (which is a thick corn flatbread traditionally served in Columbia and Venezuela) and topped with pineapple.
The pork was delicious; it had a zippy flavour from the adobo marinade and a very mild kick.
The texture was great –it was shredded, but not too finely, with a nice mix of lean and fatty pieces. And it had obviously been crisped up on a griddle, with crispy pieces throughout.
The pineapple chunks were a bit too large, and the arepa itself wasn’t as fresh as I would have liked, but all in all it was a tasty dish.