[dropcap]T[/dropcap]oronto is known for many things: the CN Tower, the Blue Jays, Drake. While Toronto is a world-class city, it is not known as a purveyor of world-class cuisine. There are a few gems, but many of Toronto’s spots are pretty average. I scoped out some of the most popular — and overrated — places with a friend, and gave them a much-needed honest review.
106 John Street
Just a short walk from St. Andrew station, Sweet Jesus is home to some of the most photogenic ice creams in Toronto. As mediocre as my experience was, I could not help but jump on the bandwagon and post an Instagram picture of my s’mores cone, which is precisely why this place has gotten such a flurry of attention over the past couple months.
Because the cones are so large, my friend and I debated sharing one but finally decided to each get our own — this was a mistake. Although smaller plain or dipped soft-serve cones were available for a cheaper price, I wanted one of the fancy ones that I kept seeing online. They only came in one giant size though and it was $7.35 with tax — a preposterous price in hindsight.
The quality of the ice cream was nothing special, and the cones were regular wafer cones. I did not even find my toppings to be that amazing. Halfway through her ice cream, my friend announced, “It’s so much. I cannot eat any more.”
She proceeded to throw her cone away. When she returned from the garbage can, she said, “There are so many half-finished ice creams tossed out in there, just like mine. That is such a waste.” Eventually, I gave up as well and threw out my last few bites.
While I would consider returning if smaller sizes were made available, I definitely did not find the price of the large cone to be worth it. As my friend put it: “Dairy Queen is better.”
147 Dundas Street West
I love matcha and, judging by the popularity of this new Toronto matcha café and bakery, so do a lot of people. The line, reminiscent of the one at Sweet Jesus, was out the door. Several other similarities to the Instagram-famous ice cream parlour were striking: the highly photogenic quality of the desserts and the slightly ludicrous price of soft-serve ice cream.
When I went, Tsujiri was cash-only, which I had not known in advance. This limited me to a total of about five dollars, ruling out pretty much the entire menu. Additionally, half of their desserts were unavailable that day anyway, including the famous Tsujiri sundaes. Borrowing a couple dollars from my friend, I finally settled on a matcha soft-serve ice cream cone, which only came in one size and cost $6.50 with tax.
Service was slow, but the ice cream was good enough. The matcha flavour was delicious and unique — and it came in a waffle cone! If I were not a poor student, I would definitely be open to returning, though there are places that have far better ice cream in Toronto.
Bang Bang Icecream
93A Ossington Avenue
I arrived just a few minutes before the 1:00 pm weekday opening and was the first one in line. However, I took my time looking at the menu and quickly lost my spot as the place filled to capacity by 1:02 pm. Having menus handed out in line would have significantly reduced the very long wait times.
That being said, the ice cream sandwiches here are among the best desserts I’ve ever had in Toronto. There are so many creative flavours of ice cream — London Fog is my favourite — although there is, understandably, a strict limit on how many samples you are allowed to try.
A half-sandwich was definitely enough for me and cost only $5.10 with tax. Unlike the last two dessert places, this one was entirely worth the hype.
El Furniture Warehouse
410 Bloor Street West
Famous for their $4.95 food menu, El Furniture’s prices are comparable to those of food trucks. While their food is quite plain, I have never once left the restaurant thinking that it was not worth it. After tax and tip, the meal still only comes to about $7.
One big selling point of this place for me was the variety of options. There are many types of salads, wraps, sandwiches, and more, so everyone can find something of appeal. Although some dishes are better than others — I was not a fan of the pasta, but enjoyed the burgers — they were all satisfying enough for such a good deal. I found that one order was usually enough to fill me up, but several of my companions had to order more.
The design of the place is a simple dive bar, which works for many people, but is not my scene. For me, the atmosphere is the principal deterrent. Even at midday, the lighting is so dark that I can barely read the menu, and the music so loud that it is hard to chat. While some may love this setting and the crowds, this is usually enough to make me choose another place to sit down.
The Burger’s Priest
463 Queen Street West
The Burger’s Priest California Classic was the best burger I have ever had in my life. Every part stood out: the grilled bun, the juicy beef, the delicious sauce. Although there were far fewer creative burger options in comparison to The Works, the quality was high enough to make up for it.
When considering how small the portion sizes were, this was also one of the most expensive burgers I have ever bought. A single California Classic was $8.00 with tax, but it was not enough to fill me up; a double was $11.30.
My vegetarian friend, was not nearly as enthused as I was: “I had no option except the ‘The Option’ (pun intended). Instead of a meat patty, The Option featured a deep-fried breaded cheese and portobello mushroom. Though it was delicious enough, the serving felt meagre and the flavour did not stand out. I left feeling neither satiated nor satisfied.”