Delicious Fried Chicken at Union Chicken

Union ChickenLocation: 25 The West Mall, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://unionchicken.com/

The common refrain is that you should give a restaurant at least a few weeks before you pass judgment on it.  It often takes a little while for the kitchen to work out all the kinks.

Union Chicken is a perfect example of this.  Last year, I went there within a couple of weeks of its opening; it was absolutely, positively awful.  I tried a few things and they were all horrifically bad.

Union Chicken

In the meantime, I’ve heard basically nothing but good things, so I figured it was probably about time to give it another shot.  And it was night and day.  Everything was really, really good.

The Buffalo and blue cheese fried chicken sandwich was delicious.  It’s got everything you’re looking for in a fried chicken sandwich: that amazing exterior crunch, a juicy piece of chicken (the fact that it’s thigh instead of breast helps mightily in this regard), and a zingy sauce that makes it all sing.

Union Chicken

There’s something about the magical interplay between vinegary Buffalo sauce and creamy blue cheese dressing that just works, and Union Chicken only elevates that — the blue cheese dressing on the sandwich is seriously tasty, with a mild garlicky bite that sets it apart.

I had the baked beans on the side, and they were also well above average.  Sometimes baked beans can be a bit of a sweet overload, but these had a nice vinegary punch to round things out, and a decent amount of spice.  The texture was a bit soupy, but they were otherwise top-shelf beans.

That sandwich, though.  I was honestly surprised at how good it was.  It definitely belongs on a list of the best fried chicken in the city.

The Porchetta at Porchetta & Co.: Still Great

Porchetta & Co.Location: 545 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://porchettaco.com/

Though I’m a big fan of the porchetta sandwich at Porchetta & Co., my tendency is to get tempted by the various fried chicken sandwich specials.  It’s been ages since I’ve had the good old plain porchetta sandwich.

Porchetta & Co.

I was afraid it might have gone downhill.  It’s an outstanding sandwich, but many successful restaurants have a hard time maintaining consistency over the years, and eventually become a victim of their own success.  This is especially true once expansion becomes a factor.

Well, I’m happy to say that this doesn’t seem to be an issue here.  The porchetta sandwich: still outstanding.

Porchetta & Co.

I didn’t see any crackling when I opened it up, which concerned me.  But I guess it was all hiding under the meat, because there was a pretty good amount.  (I could have used more, but then it’s basically impossible to get enough crackling.  I could have an all-crackling sandwich, and I’d still be like “that was pretty good, but it needed more crackling.”)

I also thought the sandwich looked a little lean on first inspection, but again, it was all hiding in there; the meat was super tender, with a perfect amount of tasty fat interspersed throughout.

Porchetta & Co.

It’s a seriously, seriously great sandwich.  The crispy, fluffy bun is as perfect as ever, and the pork itself is still top-notch.  The spicing is subtle compared to some porchetta, but there’s more than enough for it to pack some serious flavour.  That’s not to mention that the milder seasoning allows the natural flavour of the pork to really shine through.

Porchetta & Co.

You can get all kinds of toppings, if you want — in fact, the “House Special” is topped with parmesan, truffle sauce, mustard, and hot sauce.   And certainly, it’s not un-tasty.  But all that stuff is superfluous, and worse, it just gets in the way of the amazing pork.  The porchetta is so tender, porky, and herby; obscuring it with additional sauces and flavours just seems like a shame.

Veal Sandwich Greatness at Uno Mustachio

Uno MustachioLocation: 95 Front Street East (inside the St. Lawrence Market)
Websitehttp://www.unomustachio.com/

I’m not sure exactly how long I’ve been eating sandwiches at Uno Mustachio, but it’s been at least a couple of decades, if not longer.

Actually, “sandwiches” isn’t right.  Sandwich.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one thing to order at Uno Mustachio: the veal and eggplant sandwich.  The other sandwiches and pastas they have on the menu might be delicious; I’ll never know.  I don’t go there nearly often enough to mess around.  Veal and eggplant for life.

Uno Mustachio

It’s a simple enough sandwich: a fried veal cutlet, a couple of slices of fried eggplant, sauteed onions, peppers, and mushrooms, a generous ladle of tomato sauce, and some hot peppers if you feel like kicking it up a few notches.  It’s all served on a crusty roll that does a great job of holding up to the very messy sandwich without falling apart.

It’s as delicious now as the day I started going there.

You can get fried veal sandwiches all over the city, but (and maybe this is my nostalgia talking), Uno Mustachio is the king.  All of the components are so well prepared, and they all compliment each other so well.

Uno Mustachio

The simple but rich tomato sauce is great, and — this is key — they apply it to the top and bottom of the sandwich instead of dunking the fried components right in.  This allows the sandwich to be nice and saucy, but prevents the crispy fried bits from sogging up.

The creamy eggplant compliments the meaty veal perfectly, and the whole thing feels so well balanced despite how hefty and messy it is.  It’s easily one of the best sandwiches in the city.

Sandwich Perfection at Tortería San Cosme

Tortería San CosmeLocation: 181 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.sancosme.ca/

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.

Tortería San Cosme

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.

Tortería San Cosme

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.

Tortería San Cosme

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.

Outstanding (if untraditional) Philly Cheesesteaks at Illstyl3 Sammies

Illstyl3 SammiesLocation: 300 Richmond Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/Illstyl3-Sammies-227723081025310/

I’ve mentioned before that it’s surprisingly difficult to find a classic Philly cheesesteak in the city (i.e. just steak, onions, and Cheese Wiz or provolone on a roll).

But if every cheesesteak could be as delicious as what they’re serving at Illstyl3 Sammies, then classic shmassic.  Because it’s far from traditional, but exceptionally delicious.

Illstyl3 Sammies

And it’s classic enough.  The steak, the onions, and the gooey provolone are all perfect.  In particular, the steak is exactly as it should be — it’s super tender, and has enough of a beefy taste to assert itself even among the very assertive flavours of the sandwich.

Specifically, they liberally season the beef with some kind of spice blend (the fennel stands out the most, but there’s definitely a lot going on here), and they add in hot peppers along with the onions. They also top the sandwich with a zesty house-made hot sauce that adds a ton of flavour and a very mild spiciness.

Illstyl3 Sammies

The taste is very far from a classic cheesesteak, but it’s got the three things you’re hoping for: it’s beefy, cheesy, and delicious.

My only real complaint is that the roll was a bit on the dry side, but other than that this was a top-shelf sammich.