Location: 1706 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
Papa John’s seems to be slowly but surely expanding around Toronto; I guess they must be doing okay, because they opened their first location a few years ago, and they’re still opening new ones.
I have fond memories of eating Papa John’s during my childhood trips to Florida, so I guess there’s always going to be a nostalgia-fueled spot in my heart for the place. Because the pizza from Papa John’s was pretty bad, but I still kind of enjoyed it.
The crust is tasteless and vaguely gummy, the cheese is rubbery, and the toppings are mostly what you’d expect (except for the sausage — I can’t even sugar-coat that one, the sausage is flat-out gross). But there’s still something inexplicably appealing about it. It’s junk, and yet you find yourself compelled to take another slice.
There’s that old saying about how even when pizza is bad, it’s still pretty good. That’s Papa John’s in a nutshell: it’s bad, but… it’s also kinda good?
This definitely also applies to the dipping sauce, which is basically just a tiny tub of garlic-powder-flavoured grease. I enjoyed it in the same way that I enjoyed the pizza: with a furrowed brow and a not-insubstantial hit to my self-respect.
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: 609 King Street West, Toronto
I tried Wvrst once, around when it first opened. It was good, but nothing about it really jumped out at me, so I never felt particularly compelled to go back.
Well, I just found myself back there, and clearly I was wrong about the place, because the sausage I ate was probably one of the best that I’ve ever had.
They have an intimidatingly long list of sausages on their menu. I got the Kaas: “pork/beef/parrano cheese/light smoke.” You can either get it on a bun or as currywurst. I went with a bun, and had it topped with sauteed onions and jalapenos.
Oh man, that sausage. The texture was absolutely perfect. To me, the meat in a sausage needs to retain some of its essential meatiness; it shouldn’t have been ground into oblivion. It should still be sausagey, of course, but the texture should be more rustic than a hot dog. Wvrst absolutely nails this.
And the flavour was great: meaty and smoky, not overly salty, and with surprisingly generous pockets of gooey, melty cheese. I was actually pretty blown away by how good it was.
I got the duck fat fries on the side, and they were just as good. You could pick from a bunch of dipping sauces; I went with the Wvrst sauce (rule of thumb: if something on the menu is named after the restaurant, you should probably be ordering that thing). It was tangy and delicious, and complimented the fries perfectly.
Location: Check their Twitter
The Canuck Pizza Truck is one of the more eye-catching food trucks out there — it’s a 1946 Chevy Stovebolt, and it features a real, no-foolin’ wood-burning pizza oven. At first I thought that they had perhaps made a gas or electric oven look like a wood-burning one — but nope, you can peek inside and see the logs burning, so it’s the real deal.
They have a few different options, but I went with the Meat-za, which comes topped with bacon, sausage, and pepperoni. They sell by the slice for six bucks (which is a quarter of a pizza) or the whole pie for $23.
The pizza basically tastes like a cross between the Neapolitan style you find at places like Queen Margherita Pizza and Pizzeria Libretto and the cheesier, more traditionally North American style found at pizza joints everywhere.
It’s good. The cheese, sauce, and toppings are all pretty solid, and the wood-burning oven gives the crust a satisfyingly crispy/chewy texture that you can only get from an oven that hot. It’s not exactly the best pizza I’ve ever had, but if I find myself in the vicinity of this truck again, I’ll probably get another slice.
When I went, they were a bit disorganized (putting it mildly) and didn’t seem to have a much of a system for taking and delivering orders; it was a mess, but given that they’re a fairly new truck, I’ll cut them some slack on that.
Location: 817 Kipling Avenue, Etobicoke
La Tortelleria is apparently a chain, though I hadn’t heard of it until I drove by today looking for a place to eat.
It’s an interesting place, with a small seating area, some Mexican groceries against the wall, and a voluminous area behind the register where they make their own tortillas, among other things. I’m assuming they have some kind of wholesale operation, because the large, squeaky conveyor belt was pumping out fresh tortillas the whole time I was there.
There were a few interesting looking things on the menu, which was posted on a board above the register, but the Los Campechanos caught my eye. It’s described as “grilled steak and chorizo tacos topped with onions and fresh cilantro.”
After a wait of about ten minutes, they were ready to go. Wrapped in a double layer of fresh, tasty corn tortillas, these were pretty good, if nothing I’d go too nuts over. The steak was a bit on the tough side, but the chorizo was quite good. It was a bit bland, but the very spicy fresh salsa they had out definitely took care of that problem.
It came with a side of creamy guacamole that complimented the tacos fairly well. The best thing about that? The crunchy, fried tortilla bowl that you can eat like a big nacho when you’re done. Good stuff.