The following article was written by Erika G. Simon on her fantastic blog at http://carryonkitchen.com/the-best-of-restaurantacular-2014/. Be sure to check it out for other great articles covering food and drink, travel, and gaming.
Mount Pleasant Village, between Eglinton and Davisville Avenues, has long been the home of some of the city’s best restaurants. With its proximity to neighbourhoods like The Bridle Path, the area has developed into a home for upscale eats, but the competition of midtown Toronto means restaurants in the area are frequently changing, and those that remain are fighting to stay on-trend. So when Mount Pleasant Village started Restaurantacular featuring food from restaurants in the area for $2, $4, or $6, I couldn’t wait to see what they had cooking.
Some of the highlights I enjoyed the most were:
Granite Brewery – The family-operated pub that has taken over the Eglinton and Mount Pleasant corner for over 20 years, had three options to choose from: 4 wings with Granite BBQ sauce ($2), BBQ beef ribs, smoked in-house with Stout Drunken BBQ Sauce ($4), or chicken curry ($6). The ribs were meaty and tender with a sweet sauce that had a bit of a bite to it, and made for a great walk-and-eat appetizer at the start of the evening.
Pimenton – A highly-acclaimed Spanish and Mediterranean restaurant, they had set up a stand outside with a car tire-sized pan of freshly made paella ($6), a Spanish rice dish, and empanadas of spinach & mushrooms, beef, or cheese, bacon & prunes ($4) freshly baked out of the oven. Pimenton’s paella was some of the the best I’ve had in the city, only second to my Peruvian aunt who brings a dish of it for Christmas every year (I’d say it’s a tie, but I risk being uninvited to future family events).
The Longest Yard – A neighbourhood favourite, this hotspot has a little take-out window from their kitchens where they were selling homemade chili layered with Monterey jack and cheddar, sour cream, scallions, jalapenos, chopped lettuce and corn tortillas ($4). The portion was smaller than I’d had hoped, but I was happily surprised with the amount of punch packed into its small package.
Sobey’s – There’s only so much you can walk and eat before you need to quench your thirst along the way. For this, there was a stand in front of the Sobey’s storefront selling $2 bottles of Boylan soda pop – Ginger Ale, Crème, and Black Cherry flavours. These are specialty drinks all made with cane sugar instead of the usual high fructose corn syrup-filled drinks you’ll find at the convenience store. The flavour is strong and pure, packaged in a glass vintage-like bottle that stayed cold for the rest of the event.
Bread & Butter – A sign out front claims “The Best Schnitzel in Town!”, so when I saw they were participating in Restaurantacular offering a Schnitzel sandwich ($6), I had to finally give it a try. The portion was huge, and they didn’t mind stuffing it full of lettuce, peppers, and pickles. The schnitzel itself was good, but it really could have done without the microwaving that takes place right in front of the counter – Gordon Ramsay would shake his head disapprovingly at the sight.
Marigold Restaurant – Hands down the best value of the night was found at the Marigold Indian Bistro, where they had two large samosas for $2, tikka masala fries for $2, and tandoori chicken with rice. A line started forming in front of their stand pretty much as soon as they got started, but they were able to hand out food fairly quickly and kept getting refills from the kitchen. The portions were shockingly large, filled up in a typical takeout Styrofoam container. With their specialty hot sauce, the spicy tikka masala fries were my favourite of the night. They really showed how Restaurantacular should be done.
The Flaky Tart – Pie shots ($3 each, or 2 for $5). For dessert, this quaint bakery with two wide-smiling bakers passed over to me a pie in a shot glass, after choosing between Ontario strawberry, rhubarb and gingersnap, chocolate cream, and coconut cream. If I hadn’t been so full from the rest of theRestaurantacular foods, I would’ve had several more ‘shots’, and some more to-go. Each spoonful was like you were really eating a freshly baked pie, with tart rhubarb combining perfectly with the sweetness of fresh Ontario strawberries and pieces of dough throughout. Served in an adorable shot glass and with an eco-friendly wooden spoon, I’d highly recommend they add this item as part of their regular menu, and… I’ll be back.
Lollicakes – To take home with me, Lollicakes bakery was offering six miniature chocolate and vanilla cupcakes ($4). I’m not usually a huge fan of cupcakes, or cake in general, but their minis were super moist, with rich chocolate, and a not-too-sweet frosting.
Overall, the way you can casually walk from Eglinton to Davisville with your different food in hand made it a really nice food event. The restaurants that had stands outside were the most inviting, and I’d encourage those participating who only had eat-in options to translate them into take-out options next year. Approachable prices make it a fun date night activity – you can walk, talk, and eat, for less than you’d spend sitting in a restaurant.
*All images are copyright 2014 Erika G. Simon.