Location: 120 Peter Street, Toronto
It’s hard to imagine this now, but there was a time in Toronto when you couldn’t find a shop selling baby-sized burritos on every other block. But of course, Burrito Boyz opened on Peter Street in 2003 and basically launched a city-wide obsession.
After a split between the owners, that spot became Burrito Banditos, and now it’s Burrito Gordito. I have no idea if either of the original Burrito Boyz boys are involved here, but the menu is pretty much the same.
I ordered the steak burrito, which was always my favourite back in the original Burrito Boyz days, and yeah, it’s still good. I don’t know if it’s quite as tasty as I remember it being way back in the early aughts, but then how can you possibly compete with warm and fuzzy memories from well over a decade ago?
The quality of the steak itself is quite good, and there’s a generous amount of it. It’s nice and tender but still has a satisfying chew, and it has a mild but enjoyable beefy flavour.
As for the rest of it, it’s as crammed with rice, beans, and sauces as you’re expecting, with a nice variety of zippy flavours. I ordered it spicy and it was barely hot at all (I remember it being legitimately fiery back in the Burrito Boyz days), but aside from that it’s quite satisfying.
It’s also nicely toasted on the outside — they even roll it over to toast it on its sides, which is a nice touch.
Location: 505 University Avenue, Toronto
Nobs’ is a street vendor with a really interesting setup; it looks like a hot dog cart, but you won’t find a dog or a sausage on the menu. Instead, they serve a variety of meaty sandwiches (and mushroom for the vegetarians) that are cooked sous vide and finished on the grill. Ideally, this means that the meat will be perfectly cooked, with a nice smoky crust from the fire.
And yeah, that’s what happened.
I ordered the AAA Canadian Blade Steak Sandwich, which comes topped with greens, chimichurri, mayo, and pickled onions.
The steak was perfectly tender, with a good amount of exterior texture from the grill. The rest of the sandwich is quite tasty, too, with the vibrant, garlicky chimichurri matching well with the creamy mayo.
The bread is also great — it’s fresh, with a nice crispy exterior, and enough heft to hold up to the very substantial sandwich.
But the flavours are overwhelming. In particular, the garlic in the chimichurri packs an absolute wallop. It’s intense. It’s delicious, mind you, but it’s basically all you can taste. The beef is mostly just there for texture; the flavour is completely annihilated.
The whole thing is really good; I just wish I could have tasted more of the steak (or any of the steak).
Location: 5 Coady Avenue, Toronto
There are a lot of ways that a steak sandwich can go wrong, but when it’s good, it’s really good.
Completo, a tiny little take-out spot on the east end that describes itself as serving “Latin fresh fast food,” has a steak sandwich that’s very, very good.
The steak sandwich is dubbed the classic churrassco. Pork or chorizo are options, but trust me, you want that steak. It’s topped with diced tomato, avocado, mayo, roasted red pepper sauce, and hot sauce.
It’s one of those sandwiches where everything is just right. I don’t think there’s a single thing that I’d change.
The steak is outstanding. You could put it on two slices of plain Wonder Bread and it’d still be an amazing sandwich. It’s tender, it has a nice crust from the griddle, and a very satisfying beefy flavour.
The other stuff is just the icing on the cake. The mayo and avocado add a nice creamy heft, though it’s the spicy/sweet combo of the hot sauce and the roasted red peppers that really makes the sandwich sing. You have the choice between mild, medium, and hot; I went with hot, and yeah, it’s hot. But the spice works so well with the sandwich’s other flavours. And of course, the fresh bun suits the sandwich perfectly. It’s pretty amazing.
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: 300 Richmond Street West, Toronto
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.
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.
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.