Location: 2853 Dundas Street West, Toronto
I’ve written about Chica’s Chicken many, many times on this blog. I’ve mentioned that I think they serve the best fried chicken in the city, and that’s still probably true — even if I wasn’t crazy about this particular sandwich.
The Jalapeno Popper Sando, as per their menu: “boneless fried chicken topped with chipotle aioli and pickled jalapeños, served on a toasted brioche bun.”
The fried chicken is as delicious as ever; it’s the perfect combo of crispy (but not overbearing) exterior and juicy interior. It’s so damn good.
I’m not quite as sold on the rest of the sandwich, however. It’s that chipotle aioli. It’s sweet. I like the sweet/salty combo as much as the next guy, but holy moly the level of intense sugariness here is a bit intense. It overpowers the other flavours of the sandwich. I find the Sweet Heat sandwich at Chica’s to be a bit on the sweet side, and this one is even sweeter, somehow. Between the sweet sauce and the sweet brioche bun, the flavour is extremely one note.
It also tastes absolutely nothing like a jalapeno popper, which is odd. The whole point of a jalepeno popper is the contrast between the tangy cream cheese and the spicy bite of the jalapeno, and I don’t think there was any cream cheese here?? Or if there was, I couldn’t taste it over the aggressive sweetness.
Also, I don’t think I’ve ever had a jalapeno popper that was even remotely sweet. Am I the weird one, or is Chica’s?
Oh well. Everything else on the menu is so good that I don’t particularly care, but this is still an odd misstep from an otherwise great restaurant.
Location: 2066 Yonge Street, Toronto
Dave’s Hot Chicken is an American fried chicken chain with a couple of locations in the city, and one more on the way. It’s easy to be cynical about the explosion of fried chicken restaurants in the city (Nashville hot chicken in particular), but aside from the fact that now is not exactly an easy time to be a restauranteur, fried chicken is delicious. Nashville hot chicken is delicious. So sure, why not?
The menu here consists pretty much entirely of fried chicken tenders that you can either get on their own, or in a sandwich. You can pick from seven levels of spiciness ranging from “no spice” to “reaper.”
I went with the sandwich and got it hot, which was milder than you’d expect — it has a noticeable kick, but it’s not exactly going to get anyone too hot and bothered. If you have any kind of tolerance for heat, extra hot or even reaper is probably a better choice.
Otherwise, it was pretty tasty — the white meat is a bit on the dry side, but it’s really well seasoned and quite tasty, with an exterior that’s noticeably crispy, but not overwhelming. It’s topped with a zingy special sauce, pickles, and coleslaw, which all do a great job of cutting through the richness of the sandwich.
It comes with crinkle-cut fries that are battered and seasoned; I’m normally not crazy about battered fries, but these were pretty good (I think it’s mostly that tasty seasoning, which would probably make anything taste good).
As far as fried chicken in the GTA goes, this isn’t on the level of local joints like Chica’s or PG Clucks, but for a chain it’s not bad at all.
Location: Stackt Market (28 Bathurst Street, Toronto)
Momofuku Noodle Bar is currently doing a pop-up at Stackt Market; it’s outdoors and the menu is limited, but it was my first time eating at a restaurant with a waitress and the whole rigmarole since last March (which, coincidentally enough, was also at the Noodle Bar).
I had the Chilled Spicy Noodles, which the menu describes as “ramen noodles, black bean sauce, sichuan beef, candy cashew.”
My delight at being back at a restaurant (or in a restaurant-ish setting, at least) might be colouring my opinion here, but man it was good.
It’s an explosion of flavour — it’s salty, it’s savoury, it’s meaty, it’s sweet — but everything complements each other so well. And that black bean sauce is a taste bonanza; it’s basically like a really great hoisin sauce, but with pops of intense flavour from the beans themselves (I don’t know what they do to the beans to get them to taste almost cheese-like, but it’s magical).
It’s served cold, which only intensifies the flavour, and the chewy ramen noodles are the perfect vehicle to bring it all together. It’s a tasty dish.
Location: 2853 Dundas Street West, Toronto
I’ve written about Chica’s many times on this blog, so I’ll make this brief.
Most importantly: yes, their fried chicken is just as good as ever. And the restaurant was packed (the other times I’ve visited it’s been half full at best), so I think the word is finally getting out that Chica’s is doing something amazing.
The sweet heat has been an occasional special up to this point, but they’ve recently added it onto the regular menu. It is predictably delicious.
It’s maybe borderline too sweet, but it’s balanced out quite well by the vinegary bite of the pickled jalapenos. It’s probably my least favourite thing on the menu, but that says more about the deliciousness of everything on offer here than it does about this particular sandwich. It’s still incredibly good.
It’s the fried chicken itself. It’s magical. The contrast between the perfectly crunchy exterior and the juicy interior is the stuff dreams are made of. If you like fried chicken and you haven’t tried Chica’s yet, you’re living your life wrong.
Location: 162 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
The last time I tried Bobbie Sue’s Mac + Cheese, I had the carbonara — it was absolutely delicious, but not exactly a traditional bowl of mac and cheese. I figured I should probably try the real deal.
So I went back and tried the jalapeno and bacon, which is a classic mac and cheese with pickled jalapenos and cubes of bacon (which I’m pretty sure is the pancetta from the carbonara) mixed in. This was a special, so it may or may not be on the menu when you visit.
It’s delicious. The mac and cheese is abundantly rich and cheesey, with perfectly al dente pasta and a nice crispy top from the oven. The meaty bacon and zippy jalapenos compliment it perfectly.
Bonus: the service was great. I picked up my mac and cheese from the counter and then immediately dropped it on the sidewalk (and the plate landed face down, because of course it did). The woman behind the counter witnessed this and quickly made me a new one free of charge, which was very much appreciated.