Tag Archives: restaurant

Ritz Restaurant

23 Oct

Ritz restaurant, Toronto

I normally resent when someone tells me, “you should eat at so-and-so! You’ll love it!” But, for some reason, a sign that declares  “You love our t-bone steak”!, yet there isn’t a t-bone anywhere to be found on their menu, makes me squee. Welcome to the Ritz, East York’s hidden gem. It’s a time warp of sorts; Ritz is a legitimate 1960s diner, with wood panelled walls, vinyl multi-coloured bar stools and table-side juke boxes.  Just like the sign promoting the t-bone, the jukeboxes are relics from an era long gone.

Ritz restaurant, Toronto

You can’t not love the Ritz. There’s one person who runs the front of the house, and when I say “run”, I mean that she’s literally at a near-run pace, flitting from the bar to the cash to the kitchen and back serving tables.  She does it all with kindness and a huge smile on her face.

Filipino breakfast/lunch menu, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

The menu has two parts to it. You have your typical North American diner food, including BLTs, club house and steak sandwiches. We saw the club house, which seems to be a long-forgotten sandwich in these parts, and I think I’ll be introducing one to my belly in a future visit.  You can also get a Canadian breakfast, which includes three eggs, home fries and bacon (“regular or crispy?”, you’ll be asked).  But what we came for were their Filipino breakfast and lunch offerings. You don’t expect a restaurant called the Ritz, located just a stone’s throw from Greektown, to be dishing out Filipino morning fare.

Adobo chicken and pork ribs, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

We decided to get the Adobo pork ribs and chicken and to get the Filipino breakfast.  The chicken and ribs came smothered in adobo sauce and with a side of rice and a cafeteria-like corner of steamed vegetables. I dug into the hot, breaded cutlet of chicken and enjoyed the savoury gravy and slight spice it had. The ribs were cooked tenderly and were still bone in. It was a delicious hot mess and the ultimate Sunday morning hangover food.

Filipino breakfast special with Filipino sausage, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

Robin ordered Filipino sausage as her breakfast meat, which is a sweet, bright pink sausage of lord-who-knows-what-meat-it-is. But it doesn’t matter. It was tasty as sausage sin, and was sitting on a mound of over-easy eggs and rice.

Leche flan, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

Robin was still hungry after her $4.95 breakfast (you read that correctly), so she ordered a Filipino dessert. We were brought a leche flan, which was a yummy condensed milk custard cake that we polished off in minutes.

This quirky little throw-back restaurant feels more like it belongs on an American backroad than in Toronto…except for it serving Filipino food.  Whether its for their decor or their food, there’s no way you can’t find some love for the Ritz. Unless, of course, you showed up for the t-bone steak.

Ritz Restaurant
310 Donlands Ave


Grand Electric

26 Nov

Colin Tooke's Grand Electric restaurant in Parkdale in Toronto Ontario

A perfect summary of the Toronto restaurant scene came via a Tweet that said, more or less, that if one wants to start a successful Toronto restaurant, one should get a job as a dishwasher at the Black Hoof, then quit and open a place of their own.  Its funny because, well, its true; just note the success of the (dearly departed) Hoof Cafe and the buzz behind Grant van Gameren taking over at Enoteca Sociale.  So the Twittersphere lit up with excitement after it was reported that former Hoof chef de cuisine Colin Tooke opened a new restaurant.  We were given a name (Grand Electric), we found a non-descriptive website and a Twitter account that gained almost 500 followers in 3 days without tweeting anything of substance. No soft opening, no real promotion, no real signeage on the restaurant: nothing but word of mouth (or in this case, finger) to lure people in.

I couldn’t help but buy into the buzz. Their website said that Grand Electric is about “Mexican food, craft beer, brown liquor and loud music.” Seriously, say no more. So with Robin otherwise engaged for the evening, I made plans to meet up for an early bird dinner (Europeans would scoff at our 6 PM meet-up time) with Stella (Food Junkie Chronicles) and Gizelle.  The decor is relatively bare bones, with a beautiful wooden bar to display the lovely libations-to-be to thirsty patrons. Being a lover of good beer, my eyes immediately scanned over the drink list.

The bar at Colin Tooke's new restaurant, Grand Electric

Drink List

Any Toronto restaurant or bar that has not one but two Dieu du Ciel offerings on taps is immediately in my good books. Bottle-wise, I was happy to see Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale and BC’s excellent Red Racer available alongside hipster-friendly Labatt 50.  Since I was dedicated to drinking beer with dinner, I didn’t read over the hard alcohol list, which apparently is chock full of delicious bourbons and other liver-blowing spirits. They also make two signature cocktails: The Michelada is a mix between a shandy and a Caesar featuring Tecate (a Mexican beer), and the Grand Electric Sour is similar to a traditional unblended margarita. Both are very refreshing and reminiscent of summer.

Stella and Giselle decided that we’d order the entire menu. Keep in mind that the combined weight of these two women equals one me.  We started off with the Guacamole and Chips.

Guacamole and chips.

The corn chips were made in house and were quite nice, with a fresh crispness to them.  In the middle of the guacamole was a light chicharron which had the consistency of a firm shrimp chip. The guacamole was very simple with a healthy amount of fresh cilantro; a nice way to start our meal.

Beef and Chicken Tacos

Pork and Chicken Tacos

Tacos at Colin Tooke's new restaurant Grand Electric

Next came our tacos. We started with the beef cheek tacos, which were well executed. The beef cheek was delicate and perfectly fatty and had great flavour.  Fresh cilantro and green onion were carefully sprinkled on top of the tacos. I put a few dabs of the moderately-spicy salsa verde in it to kick it up a few notches.  We then moved onto the spicy arbol chicken taco.  I think that they should have changed its name to “DAMN spicy arbol chicken taco.”  It was delicious, but there was some serious heat coming from those tacos. The spice took away from the savoury flavour of the chicken and I personally think that a little less heat would have allowed us to taste the flavour of the meat and not just spice.  The third taco was pork belly al pastor and this was the taco show stopper.  There was a nice citrus kick to it and its pairing with the peach salsa  made me want more.  The next time I return, I’d gladly order 3 pork belly tacos.

Ensalata Electrico

The ensalata electrico arrived next. The salad part was quite simple – it tasted like Ranch dressing with a bit of a kick to it.  The salad’s simplicity is what I’ve come to expect when I eat Mexican, so I can’t say I was overly disappointed.  The treat, though, was the meat croquette that was served with the salad. A crunchy exterior yielded a delicious meaty interior that coated a cheese core.  Crunch plus meat plus cheesy goo equals a happy me.

Pollo Frito

Keeping up with tradition, I passed on all things fishy (the fish tacos and the ceviche, which was served on a crispy taco). Our next arrival was the pollo frito, or fried chicken. It tasted like a hybrid between honey garlic chicken wings and Chinese-style crispy chicken. For $14, it was a nice dish to share. Flavour-wise, it was probably the least impressive of the dishes. It was good but it was missing something to make it memorable.

Pozole Rojo

Finally, we received our pozole rojo, which is a hearty soup traditionally make from pork shoulder. This was my show stopper.  It had tender bits of pork, slivers of fresh avocado and an accompanying bottle of hot sauce clearly stolen from Hades himself. I put a dab in my soup and it was more than enough to give it a tasty thermal heat. A squirt from one of the fresh lime wedges completed me and my deepest desires for a flavourful soup.  West-enders now have a legitimate alternative to Golden Turtle to beat the winter blahs.

Key Lime Pie

We somehow found room for dessert and, since churros weren’t available, we ordered key lime vasa to share.  Whipped cream, lime, lime zest and a graham cracker-esque crust.  Need I say more? A nice cool down to a spiced up evening.

We all thought it was a great place to come to for great drinks and great food.  Grand Electric isn’t a fine dining or hot date restaurant, but it’s exactly as advertised: good Mexican food, good booze and loud music.  Black Hoof, you should be proud of your offspring; Not only was the food great, but Grand Electric had Hoof-like waits (2 hours, we heard) on its first weekend of service!

Grand Electric
1330 Queen St. W
Toronto, Ontario

Grand Electric on Urbanspoon

Blog and photos by Richard.

Goody’s Diner

31 Aug

Up until a few years ago, Toronto’s nickname could have been Toronto the Good (But Our Burgers are Really, Really Awful).  We were a city that had Harveys voted in as one of our top burgers. Yikes.

But things changed with restaurants like Stockyards and Burgers Priest offering their homage to American griddled burgers, and suddenly, Toronto’s burger scene isn’t nearly as dreary as it used to be.  One style of burger that we were missing is a dirty, 6 napkin, crazy topping burger that you see on the Food Network that disgusts you and makes you salivate at the same time.  Enter: Goody’s Diner.

Goody’s opened up 9 months ago with little fanfare. Thanks to one Chowhound post and Toronto’s hunger for a great burger, Goody’s became the east end’s not-so-secret secret diner.  There’s no way you would stumble on the restaurant; its located 2 blocks southwest of Warden and Eglinton next to, of all places, one of Toronto’s jails. So who said location is everything?

The interior is quite bare bones, but its clean and simple and a non-cheesy throwback to the ’50’s style diner. But walk towards the far end of the kitchen counter and you’ll feast your eyes on burger nirvana:

THIS is their non-menu burger menu. Call your server over, ask them what’s in each behemoth burger, try not to drool all over the table as he describes each burger, and narrow down your choices to what you want.  I didn’t bother reading anything on the menu or considering their specials (although their bacon cheeseburger soup and fried chicken specials sounded artery-hardeningly awesome!). I was there for a burger and nothing else could distract me.  I ended up choosing the Highwayman and Robin picked the Rhinelander. “Can we get our burgers medium done?” I asked. “No problem,” was the reply. Sigh! True love awaited!

The Highwayman is composed of these ingredients, starting from the bottom of the burger: bun, zucchini corn relish, 8 ounce burger patty, cheddar cheese, onion rings stuffed with homemade pastrami, Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, a fried egg, Swiss AND Havarti cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, garlic mayo and a bun. All in one burger.  Times like this I wish that I was born with a bigger mouth.

This burger was incredible. It was nowhere nearly as sloppy or greasy as what one would think. The burger, more or less, stayed together for the 7 minutes it took me to put this big boy away.  The patty itself was very juicy.  I was too enamoured to look for the tell-tale pinkness of a medium burger, but it did have the pleasant mouthfeel and flavour of a patty that wasn’t griddled past its prime. Each bite yielded juicy mouthfuls of tender burger.  The patty’s flavours were simple, showcasing the all-meat no-filler flavours.  The pastrami didn’t have the spicy heat that I like my pastrami to have, but it was a great home-made meat.  The ingredients worked well together and the burger was bloody brilliant.

The Rhinelander burger is made up of: pretzel bun, zucchini and corn relish, 8 ounce burger patty, peameal bacon, carmelized onions, pommery beer mustard, Jalapeno havarti cheese, lettuce, onion, chipotle mayo, bun and coarse salt and cracked black pepper on top of the bun.  The smaller pretzel bun is a great choice, since it’s flatter than other buns. It had a nice salt element to it and it supported the burger and condiments well.  I think the pictures and the ingredient list speaks for the deliciousness of the burger.  We ate the burgers 5 hours ago and the desire to have another one RIGHT NOW is fantastically overwhelming.

Burgers come with a side and a soft drink in a throwback glass bottle.  I chose the sweet potato fries and they were pretty good. After eating the burger, though, the fries were just an aside.

My two complaints about Goody’s: their hours are a pain (Monday to Friday, closed after 7 PM and closed on weekends) and it will take multiple visits for us to try all of their burgers. Fortunately, our will is strong, our cholesterol count is admirably low and Goody’s: your burgers are damn good.

Goody’s Diner
17-33 Manville Rd, Toronto ON M1L 4J7

Goody's Diner on Urbanspoon

Blog post by Richard, food photos by Robin, menuboard photo by Richard

All of the photos in this post were taken with the Tamron AF 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 VC, which I reviewed for PHOTONews. See my review on the PHOTONews blog here.