As much as I love cooking there’s a lot of food I haven’t learned to make or master. I am also the type of person who likes to venture out and try new food and restaurants. Over the years me and friends have visited numerous restaurants around The Greater Toronto Area and Durham Region and have experienced a vast variety of different flavours and dishes.
Here’s a list of my 10 favourite restaurants and recommendations:
Moxies: White Chocolate Brownie
The first time I tried the white chocolate, it was my 20th birthday and I had just finished dinner. Unbeknownst to me, on your birthday they provide a complementary piece of their specialty, the white chocolate brownie. The best way to describe this dessert is a white chocolate soft, moist brownie with chocolate chunks and comes served with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. It was delicious; the burst of flavours along with the toppings was a great flavour combination. Since then, I have never had any other brownie that compares and have gone back many times and have shared this dessert with my girlfriends on nights out to eat. There are multiple Moxie locations so check out their website for the location nearest you.
Pickle Barrel: Meat Platter; includes Ribs, Wings and Fries
I love platters because you get a little bit of everything and are able to sample dishes on a smaller scale. Unfortunately, Pickle Barrel no longer has this on their menu but when they did I was going at least twice a month. The ribs were always well cooked and well-seasoned with just the right amount of barbecue sauce. The wings were always plump, juicy and crispy even when covered in sauce. The best part was it came with fries and coleslaw which made it a complete and fulling meal. This is a great meal to share or to split into two smaller separate meals.
Island Foods: Doubles
Growing up in a Jamaican household, curry and roti are not foreign to me at all. However my high school best friend, broadened by horizons when she introduced me to doubles. After my first bite I was hooked but I wasn’t able to find a really good restaurant that sold them, until my aunt introduced me to Island Foods at Bathurst and King St in Toronto. They are known to have some of the best and most flavourful rotis ever but to me their doubles are the true star on the menu. Doubles are a sandwich made with two baras (flat, fried bread) filled with channa (curried chick peas) and I love mine with pepper sauce. Try one today and thank me later.
The Keg: Steak
I have heard about The Keg for many years but the opportunity to dine there didn’t present itself until April of 2016. Now I had heard many things both good and bad but I wanted to reserve judgement for myself. The ambiance was wonderful and they have a lot of different dining options. I had the 8 oz. steak well-done, Brussel sprouts, shrimp kabob and a loaded baked potato. The Brussel sprouts weren’t my favourite as the bacon wasn’t crispy and the sprouts were undercooked, however the potato and shrimps were cooked perfectly and well-seasoned.
The star on my plate however, was the steak. I like my steak well done and without HP Sauce, as I was waiting for my order I was bracing myself for either my steak to be undercooked or overcooked which has happened to me at every restaurant I have been too. The joke was on me as I was pleasantly surprised to get my steak done perfectly, it was cooked all the way thru yet it was still nice and tender and juicy. I will for sure be going back the next time I have a craving for a nice juicy steak.
Buffalo Wild Wing: Mango Habanero Wings
Growing up in my house as a child, there was always scotch bonnet pepper sauce in the cupboard. I love it on corned beef and rice or in a nice hot bowl of soup but eating it on chicken wings is not something that has ever appealed to me. My aunt had told me about a new wing place called Buffalo Wild Wings, not to be confused with Wild Wings. Opening the menu I was like a kid in a candy store they were just so many options between dry rubs and sauces. Feeling a little daring I ordered the mango habanero wings, I wanted something a bit spicy but also sweet. Now I always seem to forget that scotch bonnet pepper and habanero pepper are cousins so I should have known better than to order these. The first bite was great but every bit after that was painful, it burned. I mean it burned my tongue, my gums, my throat I even felt it burning my insides it was hot but it was delicious and done perfectly. Now that I am aware of the heat level I am no longer surprised when I order them and I now remember that scotch bonnet and habanero peppers are close cousins.
I had heard about this amazing Italian restaurant, Marcello’s from my mother as the restaurant is on the main level of the building that she works in. I love Italian food, the pastas, sauces, desserts and meats are just divine and made with passion and love. I have only visited Marcello’s once but it was a time I will not forget. Now this is a bit of an expensive place but it is worth it, the ambiance and lighting is done wonderfully, it provides a nice and intimate setting. I went for a former friend’s birthday dinner and I was surprised by the options and flavour combinations, this was not your typical “Italian” restaurant, I was getting authentic Italian food. I ordered the ravioli and I was expecting to get the normal square pasta but I received four nice triangular pieces of ravioli on my plate. At first I was confused but then I tried a bite, the flavours just exploded in my mouth and I even did a little dance in my seat. This experience has inspired me to one day take a food tour all over Italy, thank you Marcello’s.
Jack Astor: Nachos
Over the years I’ve had nachos from many different restaurants and tried many recipes on my own but one of the best nachos I’ve ever had was from Jack Astor. For a very reasonable price, you get a huge platter of nachos topped with tomatoes, olives, peppers, jalapenos and lots of cheese. For a small additional price you can add meat such as fajita diced chicken or ground beef and guacamole. My personal favorite to have is the fajita chicken, which comes out hot, and just a bit spicy. I have a personal addiction to sour cream and they definitely provide as much sour cream as you would like and their salsa is flavourful and a great match for the nachos. There are a lot of Jack Astor restaurants all over so check online for the location nearest you.
Hot House: All-you-can-eat Menu
I found out about this restaurant while working in the Yonge and King area downtown in 2014. Walking by the restaurant you have the opportunity to take a look at the menu right outside and I was glad to see they had many different options and menus depending on the day of the week. What really caught my eye was the fact that they have all-you-can-eat dinner on Wednesday evenings. My mother and I went one evening after work as a mother and daughter dinner time, walking into the restaurant the ambiance is the first thing that you notice with low lights, large windows and low jazz music playing. The buffet is set up into small stations such as cold salads, pasta bar, beef carving station and a lovely dessert table. The quality of food was delightful and the options for dessert left me feeling like a kid in a candy store. Hot Hose has a brunch I cannot wait to try as I have heard they have amazing mimosa and I am all things champagne.
East Side Mario’s: Black & White Ravioli
Growing up as a child I saw many ads for East Side Mario’s but I never saw one in my neighborhood so I just kind of put it out of my mind until I was told where I could find a restaurant. Located near Finch and Dufferin in Toronto, I had the chance to enjoy and experience this place for the first time. Their house salad was great and the fact that they offer free refills was perfect for me. When I looked at the menu there were just so many options I wasn’t sure what to have but being a huge fan of ravioli that is what I went for. I have had spinach ravioli and plain ravioli but this was actually black and white, which was a pleasant and delicious surprise. The filling was cheese which I can never complain about and just a basic tomato sauce topped with a lot of cheese. I would recommend this restaurant to any pasta lover!!!
Red Lobster: Biscuits, Pina Colada
Rounding out my top ten would have to be Red Lobster. This restaurant holds a special place in my heart as I remember going here with my friends in high school and I even having my 18th birthday dinner here. I always have a blast and usually go back to the same restaurant. Before the age of 19, my favorite part of going to Red Lobster was eating their hot cheddar biscuits and the Seaside Shrimp Trio for dinner. But once I was able to have a Pina Colada I became obsessed. I have had maybe two homemade Pina Coladas and the last place I had expected to find one a delicious blended drink was Red Lobster but they surprised me. Now every time I dine here I have the Pina Colada and if I am in the mood I make it the Lotta Colada which is twice as big as the normal drink. Be careful or the brain freeze and enjoy.
What are your favourite restaurants and recommendations???