The Plant-Based, Beyond Meat P.L.T. at McDonald’s

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald'sLocation: 980 Dundas Street, Woodstock
Website: https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca.html

What have I been up to today?  Oh, you know, not much, just driving 120 kilometres to try a veggie burger at McDonald’s.  That’s 120 kilometres one way, so 240 kilometres total, or about three hours of driving.

You know, a totally rational, normal way to spend a Monday.  Not crazy at all.

Yes, in case you haven’t heard, McDonald’s recently embraced the inevitable and announced that they’re going to be joining the increasingly crowded fake meat game.

They’ve teamed up with Beyond Meat, probably the most famous purveyor of veggie burgers that (supposedly) taste like the real deal, and they’re testing them out at 28 locations in and around London, Ontario.

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald's

The faux-burger is called the P.L.T. (Plant, Lettuce and Tomato), and they describe it on their website as “a juicy, plant-based patty made with Beyond Meat® and served on a sesame seed bun with tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions, mayo-style sauce, ketchup, mustard, and a slice of processed cheddar cheese.”

It’s… fine, I guess?  It’s a Beyond Meat burger through and through, so if you’ve had one of those, then you know what to expect.  The McDonald’s publicity machine is claiming that they’ve been working with Beyond Meat to create a custom patty that matches the flavour of their standard burgers, and maybe that’s true.  But if it is, I certainly couldn’t tell.

The advance buzz — that this tastes just like a regular McDonald’s burger — is absolutely, positively not the case.  It’s basically fine for what it is, but unless it’s been many, many years since you’ve had a burger at the Golden Arches, you’re not going to be fooled.

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald's

The biggest issues are the taste and the texture (so… everything, basically).  The flavour is vaguely meat-like, but it also tastes off and lacks anything even remotely resembling beefiness.  It’s not gross, but it kind of falls into the uncanny valley of hamburgers.

The texture is about the same — close, but not quite there.  It vaguely approximates an actual hamburger, but again, it’s off; it’s a bit too soft and mushy.

I recently had the Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons; this is going to sound completely insane, but that one was better.  In this particular case, Tim Hortons’ incompetence worked in their favour — the patty had obviously been cooked in advance and kept warm, which dried it out a bit and helped to reduce the off-putting squishy texture.

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald's

Everything else about the burger was fine — the many condiments were all McDonald’s standbys, and they were all tasty enough.

Honestly, it could have used more toppings.  The patty was still the dominant flavour, and in this case that’s definitely not a good thing.  The version at Tim Hortons was more successful in covering up the flavour of the patty with a welcome deluge of assertive condiments.

Is this worth a three hour drive?  For a maniac like me who’s eaten at McDonald’s all over the world, maybe?  For everyone else, absolutely not.  It’s fine for what it is, but when Tim friggin’ Hortons is beating you at your own game, you know you’re in trouble.

A Decent Sandwich at Flock

FlockLocation: 97 Harbord Street, Toronto
Website: https://flockonharbord.com/

The first time I had the pulled rotisserie chicken sandwich from Flock, I wasn’t a fan.  It had obviously been assembled in advance and put in the fridge, and it was clammy, with a uniformly soft texture.  None of the flavours popped.  It wasn’t great.

Flock

But Toronto Life recently called it one of the 25 best sandwiches in the city, so I figured I’d give it another shot.

It’s still not the best sandwich ever, but it’s tasty enough.  From their menu: “Ace Bakery Bun, Avocado Spread, Crisp Romaine & Horseradish/Beet/Apple Slaw & Crispy Onion”

Flock

This time the sandwich was clearly made to order, which helped a lot.  The chicken was warm, fresh, and tasty, and there’s a pretty generous amount of it.   The sweet slaw adds a welcoming hit of zinginess, and the avocado is nice and creamy.

I’m a little bit baffled that it wound up on a list of the best sandwiches in the city, but it certainly isn’t bad.  It just doesn’t stand out in any particular way.

Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

Bong Lua Vietnamese RestaurantLocation: 2572 Birchmount Road, Scarborough
Website: None

Bun Rieu — a Vietnamese crab noodle soup — is one of those dishes that’s everything at once.  It’s alternately sweet, salty, savoury, meaty, fishy, and sour.  It’s quite rich, but vibrant enough that it never feels overly heavy.

Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

The version at Bong Lua isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s quite tasty.  The broth lacks the rich complexity of the best versions of this dish, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

There’s a great interplay between the sweet acidity of the tomatoes and the fishy funk from the crab.  That’s not the mention the chewy rice noodles, which suit the dish perfectly.  It’s a solid bowl of soup.

Halibut House Fish & Chips

Halibut House Fish and ChipsLocation: 2814 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Etobicoke
Website: https://www.halibuthouse.ca/

Halibut House is a fish and chips chain with over 20 locations around the GTA, though I didn’t even know it existed until very recently.

I don’t think it’s going to blow anyone’s mind, but if you’re looking for a tasty plate of fish and chips, you could do a lot worse.

Halibut House Fish and Chips

It’s also a decent deal.  You can get a half plate for about eleven bucks, which comes with a piece of halibut (of course), fries, and coleslaw.  The fish is on the smaller side, but the pile of fries is generous enough that it’s pretty much guaranteed to fill you up.

Halibut House Fish and Chips

The fish itself is a bit overcooked (it was quite dry), but the flavour was nice, and the batter was just right.  A lot of places tend to overwhelm the fish with a thick, overly-crunchy coating, but the batter here was nice and crispy while still allowing the fish to be the star of the show.

Halibut House Fish and Chips

The fries are the highlight.  They’re crispy, creamy, and very tasty.  The coleslaw is a bit bland, but it’s fine, and the tartar sauce is creamy and zesty (if a bit overly oniony).  It’s a solid plate of fish and chips.

A Simple (but Delicious) Sandwich at Mattachioni

MattachioniLocation: 1617 Dupont Street, Toronto
Website: http://www.mattachioni.com/

If it weren’t for Toronto Life’s list of the best sandwiches in the city, there’s no way I would have ordered the mortadella sandwich at Mattachioni.  Aside from the fact that the pizzas looked very, very good, the mortadella sandwich is quite bare bones — it’s just mortadella and fresh mozzarella on tomato focaccia bread.

Mattachioni

But of course, sometimes the simplest things are the best.  If you’re dealing with really good quality ingredients, less is more.

The contrast between the tender, salty mortadella and the creamy mozzarella works really well (fresh mozzarella has a radically different texture than the rubbery shrink-wrapped balls at the supermarket — it’s soft, creamy, and luxurious).

Mattachioni

The fluffy, slightly chewy focaccia is quite good too, though I wish it had a bit more texture (it was soft throughout).  It was also soaked through with olive oil; it gives the sandwich a nice greasy heft, though it might have been a little bit too much of a good thing.

Still, it’s a very tasty sandwich.  I don’t think I’d put it on my list of the best in the city, but I don’t begrudge anyone for putting it on theirs.

Mattachioni

I also got to try a little bit of the Margherita pizza, which was absolutely outstanding (I didn’t take a picture of that one, sadly, so you’ll just have to take my word that it looked and tasted amazing).

Mattachioni

They have both custard and dulce de leche bomboloni for dessert (a.k.a. Italian doughnuts).  I tried both, and while they were tasty, they definitely weren’t on the level of the sandwich or the pizza.  They were a little bit too dense, with a slightly oily flavour.