Hello! I am RY! I will be invading this blog every now and then with my own food updates of things I eat around Toronto. It won't be too often though since blogger is a pain in the butt to use whenever I'm using a picture.
I will be using a different rating system from JL's. It might be generic and overdone, but I like the star systems that websites like Amazon have popularized. So here's how I'll rate things:
= Bring a napkin to spit out your food in.
= If you have no other options or your friends force you to go, you'll survive.
= Pretty good stuff. Not bad for lunch if you're in the area.
= Blowing your day's paycheque here on food is a great investment (for your tongue and your stomach)!
= It's so good that if you tell me you dislike the food here, I will either eat all of your food for you or force it down your mouth until you realize how good it is! (most likely the latter)
ZERO = If I had the time to do so, I would stand outside this restaurant's door and literally kick people out who are trying to get in because this place sucks so much.
Aaaand.... without further ado (because this is late coming in already), here's a run-through of my CNE food adventures!
Ahh, the CNE food building. I have mixed feelings of this place. It's open only two weeks of the year, but it's one of those places where you can get almost any kind of food you want: Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Mediterranean, Italian - the list goes on. They have places that cater to vegetarians, foods certified as halal, and gluten-free foods. Almost all of them are overpriced though (with the exception of the cheap hot dog and spaghetti places), but this is during a carnival event, so that's expected.
One thing they have every year is the Coca-Cola stand in the middle of the food building. This year, they've brought the Coca-Cola freestyle machines into the Ex. It's $6 for a large plastic cup and straw. The machine has hundreds of flavours, and the attendant will let you try a bunch of flavours before settling on one, so go crazy with it (but be mindful of any lineups).
I came here with a friend to meet some other friends, and we all came to the CNE mainly to eat food. But since most of the others were late or lost on the grounds, I went around the food building with my one other friend to try as many things as we could.
We were hungry, and good friends don't let friends wait for them when they're hungry - or so I figured - so we just dove right in and ordered what we could.
1. Far East Tacos
I had read about this place in foodie newspapers prior to coming here. It's a brand new restaurant this year at the CNE and it has garnered attention for bringing a new fusion craze to Toronto: Korean Tacos.
Located at one of the corners of the food building, the line up at this place was fairly long. I came here at roughly 6:30 pm on a Thursday and I still had to wait twenty minutes to order food. A lot of the popular restaurants here have similar wait times. For this place, the wait was justified.
This place serves tacos and "baos" with Korean meat fillings. You can order them either as two tacos, two baos, or one taco and one bao. I don't remember the prices for everything, but the baos cost a bit more. I ordered two tacos, which came out to $8.50 after tax.
(Side Note: I love it when the after-tax prices are nice numbers like that. There's nothing more annoying than getting a bunch of pennies, nickles, and dimes back in change, so I give this place bonus brownie points just for that).
For fillings, there was a choice between fish, spicy pork, kalbi short-rib beef, and bulgogi beef. I opted for the kalbi and bulgogi. The fish looked like regular deep-fried fish and I've had the spicy pork on a bao before at another restaurant (and it's good, by the way. I'm sure it's good here too).
They have a variety of toppings to choose for the tacos as well. I think here, I agreed to lettuce, cheese, cucumbers, kimchi, mayo, and a bit of spicy sauce. There might have been more, but you can tell the server what you want on it. This part of the ordering cycle is what made the line ups so long since they did six of them at a time and each person had different things they wanted on their tacos.
Since I was sharing with a friend, I only ate one of the tacos, chosen at random. I'm not even sure which one it was since they're both beef, but I think it was bulgogi since the beef looked a bit more shredded.
Personally, I loved mine. Soft shell taco with Korean beef on the inside and a fair amount of toppings on top made it a nice treat. Expensive for what it was, but still good. My friend liked his just as much, even though he wasn't too keen on eating it at first.
They had options for sides too. Kimchi Fries and some dumplings were on the menu. Dumplings could be had in 4s or 10s. I'd personally have gone with more tacos, but there were other restaurants to try out.
I'm thinking I should have saved this place for last though, as the other ones weren't as good in comparison.
2. Bouchard's Poutinery
This place... I honestly didn't want to have any of it, but my friend was keen on getting some poutine.
Captain obvious wants me to tell you that the picture below is of a single egg. Sunnyside up. That gives you an idea of how small the box is. It's not very deep either.
I think this one was called the Canadian or something. Cheese curds, an egg, and three strips of bacon with some so-so quality fries. Since poutine is all about the fries, this was a disappointment. The fries were a "meh" at best. They should have been fried longer. The egg wasn't memorable. The bacon was a bit greasy, but it's bacon, so that's expected. Greasy though it was, it was the only redeeming part of this meal.
I should probably say that in my experience, poutine tends to be a disappointment for me. If you're an avid lover of the cheese-gravy-fries combo, you might like it. I doubt it though since the fries weren't that good, but different strokes for different folks, as the saying goes.
The main reason why my friend wanted to try this place was because it was right next to Far East Tacos, and he wanted to split up to cover more ground. The line up here was long too, but not as long as Far East Tacos.
3. Epic Burger
I don't remember what this place had, but my friend's food bucket list included some southern soul food. Chicken with waffles was on his food radar. He says I can blame it on NBA players for promoting it so much that he wanted to try it.
This looks small. And it kind of is. But it's nice for sharing with others if you're on a food sampling mission.
I'll tell you right now that my friend loved this. If he were writing this review, he would give it a 5/5. He said it was a sensory overload of different flavours in his mouth and he enjoyed it loads. My opinion was a bit different though.
So here we have some waffles with syrup, sprinkled with sugar and topped off with salty fried chicken strips.
By itself, the waffle is okay. I would eat it for breakfast on its own with maple syrup or maybe with ice cream. It's good for what it is.
The chicken is good too. Not amazing, but you wouldn't be dissatisfied with it if it came with some rice or in between two slabs of bread.
But together? It's a weird Frankenstein mish-mash of a meal. I don't think I'm much of a fan of combining overly sweet things with savory, salty foods. Think about what it'd be like to eat chips with chocolate syrup, or bacon dunked in strawberry-flavoured syrup, and you'll have an idea of what this is probably like. If those kinds of foods are your thing, or if you've ever had the Krispy Kreme Burger and liked it, you'll love this too.
But me? One bite was enough. Luckily my friend gobbled it down.
Rating: ½ (two stars if eaten together, three stars individually)
Pulled pork on a bun. That sums this place up.
They have three main options here: OG'D (pulled pork on a ciabatta bun), STACK'D (pulled pork on a German pretzel bun), and JACK'D (pulled pork layered between three velvet pancakes). Also available is FRY'D, some french fries topped with pulled pork.
I went with the Plain-Jane OG'D. Pancakes with pulled pork would be like waffles and chicken, so even though it was eye-catching, I avoided that. I also had some disappointing poutine earlier, so I didn't get any of the fries here (though they probably would have been better. I like pulled pork on fries).
Their sandwiches come with some coleslaw and beans. Nice little extras, but I didn't eat them. I guess one could have added them to the sandwich or something, but I ate my OG'D as is.
What can I say? It's just pulled pork on a bun with barbeque sauce. It wasn't particularly amazing or cringe-worthy, but it's still better than the poutine and the chicken and waffles I had earlier. I think pulled pork is pretty good, but there are other options here too.
5. Colossal Onion
I had high expectations for this place. I did a search for what these things looked like on Google, and it looked massive. It looked like deep fried deliciousness too. I figured it'd be like onion rings, and I like onion rings, so I bought this thing even though it was $10 (tax included).
Everyone says this is a sharing dish, and I agree. There's just so much of it there that if you were to consume it yourself, you'll feel like crap walking around the Ex grounds for the rest of the day. I split this beast with five others (six of us in total).
It's oily. But I'll bet you could tell how artery-clogging it was from just that single onion strand facing the camera.
If you're looking to attract attention at the Ex though, and you suck at playing those nearly-impossible-to-win games that give you the ginormous prizes, you'll still attract attention with this. Just sitting outside of the food building on a bench, or even wandering inside the food building, you'll get people staring at your plate of golden, deep-fried onion. But what they don't know that you will know after eating this is that this seemingly delicious-looking plate actually doesn't taste that good.
You'd think it's as good as an onion ring, but it's not. Unfortunately, this wasn't cooked long enough. The onion tasted too raw near the bottom of the bloom. The dip helped (I'm not sure what it is, but it made the onions taste better), but it still wasn't as enjoyable as it could have been.
I think they sell other stuff here too, but their main dish is this colossal onion. It might be colossal in size, but it's diminutive in taste.
That wraps up my CNE food adventure this year. It came a bit late, but maybe it'll help someone next year. And if you've tried any of the foods listed here, let me know what you thought of them!