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Lunch at the Trump: Not Even Neil Diamond Would Come to This America

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I have fond memories of my grandparents and blame them for some of my suspicious musical preferences.  Beside the rusty orange la-z-boy was an eight track player which sat atop a faux leather stand which housed a mix of country and adult contemporary music.  I particular, I remember Neil Diamond.  Even today, at the age of 74, Neil remains a stud in the music world. As a high school student, he would write poems for his male classmates so they could pass along to the ladies in an effort to seal the deal. He was a pre-med student at New York University and excelled at fencing.  He has be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and some of his music remains among the most recognizable over the past 3 generations.  I challenge you to go to any bar, wedding, Red Sox game etc. and not see a drunk crowd of anybody over the age of 25 not belt out the belt out the chorus of “Sweet Caroline” when cued.  He also wrote “I’m a Believer” which any Shrek or Monkees fan would recognize instantly. In this context,  I was reminded of Neil as a result of his epic song America in which he sings of an immigrant’s triumphant arrival to the U.S. with such lyrics as “Everywhere around the world, they’re coming to America,ev’ry time that flag’s unfurled, they’re coming to America”.

America recently replaced Stock at the Trump hotel and is a surprising partnership between two of Toronto’s biggest hospitality groups: Charles Khabouth’s Ink entertainment and restaurant juggernauts Oliver and Bonacini.  As a result, one would expect lavish surroundings and trendy menu choices.  I went for lunch as part of a meeting recently and ordered off the menu.  There is a mix of items including soups, salads and pastas as well as daily specials ranging from lobster rolls to seared tuna.  I fought the temptation to grab a mid meeting nap on the velvet banquette complete with comfy  decorative pillows and ordered the wild and tame mushroom soup ($14) and america’s caesar salad ($16).  I was appalled.  The soup, described on the menu as “enough said” should have said “four mushroom pieces floating in a flimsy broth with no substance” or “mild and lame”.  At least the Caesar salad had a more accurate description which simply stated “creamy roasted garlic dressing”.  There was A LOT  of dressing and the only other component other than the red romaine was a few “croutons” which were nothing more than a dried version of the same jalapeno corn bread that was in the basket on the table. In addition,  I spoke to a few colleagues after and they were equally unimpressed.  The tuna special was sleepy and the shrimp and squid tagliolini had the too long under the  heat lamp look to it.  One of my table mates asked for some Parmesan (I didn’t blame him) which seemed a bit insulting to the waitstaff. Other than that, although the service was pretty good, it was rather slow and inconsistent which was a far cry  from  the service I received in other areas of the Trump throughout the week.

Wild and Tame Mushroom Soup $14

Wild and Tame Mushroom Soup $14

America Caesar Salad $16

America Caesar Salad $16

My Take

Although it was in a different context, I enjoyed Stock when it was open.  I was expecting that if anything, America would elevate at 31st floor of the Trump hotel to a new level.  Instead, it seems to quality of the food has been comprised. Perhaps the dinner experience is better but I would have expected  more from a $30 lunch.  It was surprisingly more stagnant than it was stuffy and I left with a bad taste in my mouth…literally.   In the end, Neil Diamond’s America is much better than Trump’s…and I like his hair better too.

America Restaurant - Trump International Hotel and Tower Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sweet Jesus: Stupid Conservatives and Singing Brewer and Shipley to Deal with Food Paparazzi and Grade School Art Projects

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When it comes to the latest trends in the food world, dessert is never left out.  In fact, it seems to turn over more quickly than vegetables like kale and cauliflower.  In the past few years alone, for example, we have seen the peak and trough of cupcakes and donuts.  With the emergence of any of these trends, you can count on three things; a flurry of such shop openings on every street corner, a simultaneous spike in prices and people lining up to hop on the bandwagon.

The newest dessert trend is ice cream.  Despite the fact it doesn’t travel really well, people are flocking to dairy bars across the city looking for the latest spin on the simple treat.  The latest to throw their cone in the vat is Sweet Jesus. Located at King and John, this small space offers coffee and churros all day (I tried these as well and must say both the coffee and  churros with cajeta was more than acceptable)  and at noon the ice cream insanity begins.  The crowd arrives and cramps into the small space while snapping pictures like they are stalking celebrities on the red carpet at the Bell Lightbox around the corner.  I guess one cannot have too many photos of coffee bags and neon signs.

Americano ($3) and Churros ($4)

Americano ($3) and Churros ($4)

In order to calm my nerves in the midst of selfie sticks and indecisive foodies, I started humming  Brewer and Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line” in my head. This 1971 song cracked the top 10 in the US and Canada and was deemed a gospel song by Lawrence Welk despite the fact vice-president at the time Spiro Agnew called the duo subversive to the youth of America in another example of classic conservative naivety, stupidity and confusion. Regardless…it has a nice melody so I went to my happy place signing “It’s a joke that I am in line at Sweet Jesus” over and over again in my head amidst the chaos.

The menu is pretty simple.  There are 4 kinds of soft serve available (marshmallow, vanilla, chocolate and raspberry lemonade) available for $3.75 in which you can have dipped for a dollar.  There are also a dozen or so jacked-up, fancy cones for $6.  You can also get a $4 Mexican popsicle if so inclined.   I went with the lemon coconut cream pie which is exactly like it sounds.  You order, give your name, pay (cash, debit or credit) and wait in the mob until your name is called. Each cone (the base being the old school cones you would get at any parlour) is carefully constructed like a school art project using squirt bottles (eg. for the lemon curd) and plastic containers (eg. for the coconut). In other cases, marshmallows are hand placed on the ice cream tower like Christmas decorations on a tree.  It’s horribly inefficient and time consuming but I suppose it rumbles up the same internal thrill as watching Giuseppe make you a table side Caesar salad at a outdated  Italian joint.  The product itself was acceptable but far from mind-blowing and six bucks is way too much despite the American-like  portion size.  The soft serve itself was more icy than creamy and the toppings became monotonous quickly.

Lemon Coconut Cream Pie Cone ($6)

Lemon Coconut Cream Pie Cone ($6)

My Take

I don’t know why I partake in standing in line for food.  I think it’s an attempt to try and understand the psyche of a foodie.  I would love to do a brain scan to assess the part of the brain that glows red while one is standing in line waiting for the latest trend.  I have never been a lover of crowds.  Sweaty bars and mosh pits make me cringe as much as selfie sticks.  I suppose if there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as a result it would be worth it but I couldn’t say that somebody’s B minus art project fits into that category.  In the end, Sweet Jesus was not worth the hassle.  The line was long, the setup was inefficient and the product wasn’t mind-blowing.  The staff were nice though and I commend them for continuing to smile while the food paparazzi  made ordering ice cream seem like a Drake sighting.  For now, I’ll leave the soft serve to Costco and the art to my grade school son.

Sweet Jesus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Carnita: Hanging with Abercrombie Smurfs While Seeking Solice From Seniors and Evil Wizards

I’ve had La Carnita on my list for a while but the dinner only hours and location has made it a bit difficult so I was happy to hear that a location opened at the more convenient intersection of King and John and that it was actually open for lunch. I made my way over shortly after not realizing it had just opened the Saturday before.

The layout is quite impressive.  The two-floor trendy and nicely decorated interior offers a bar area on both levels and abundant seating.  Unlike other snack bars, there is a good amount of breathing room so those with varied degrees of claustrophobia or agoraphobia can rest a little easier.  I was quickly seated at the bar and handed a menu.  Normally there is a good draft selection but since the place had just opened the taps were not working properly so I ordered the “Who shot ya?” cocktail instead. At this point I had no idea that this was the La Carnita signature cocktail which was developed by a bartender at the original location and has survived the test of time.  A twist on a bourbon sour, it was a simple offering with great contrasting flavours including a stinging ginger and a sweet/sour pomegranate syrup.

Who Shot ya? Signature cocktail

Who Shot ya? Signature cocktail

I should back up a little and let you know that this story was told to me by what I assumed was either the manager or owner of La Carnita. What I found fascinating was the fact he had a hipster look despite the fact he had to be older than 30 and lacked complete self-absorption.  Although I have equated hipsters to zombies in the past, this got me thinking that maybe they are more like smurfs, especially if we consider the fact that the majority would be either Vanity, Greedy or the tattooed Hefty. If so, I had just found Papa. He directed the staff (many of which I swear I’ve seen on the side of an Abercrombie bag) with kind authority much the same way Papa Smurf would with his clueless blue minions whenever their rather sterile environment was threatened with things like cats, birds or other natural predators.

The menu is taqueria style with a few apps thrown in.  The also feature a special of the day which was a chorizo/kale empanada.  I was all over it and I added a carnita and crispy cotija taco to the mix as well.  From a visual, taste and texture perspective they were all brilliant.  Punches of heat, sweet, crunchy and chewy were present in every bite and I was tempted to scoop up every morsel that fell into the tin tray. For example, the crispy cheese with the cauliflower and pinto beans garnished with a bit of pickled carrot was tastebud blowing and the pork confit in the carnita was melt in your mouth.  Not quite satisfied, I had to try the special taco of the day;chicken fried steak. The thought of stuffing this ridiculous southern delicacy into a taco shell was very appealing to me and it paid off.  The outside was crispy, and the inside was tender and still a bit pink. Once again, the accompaniments were a perfect balance of all things good…kind of like a good shot of Smurfberry juice while building a catapault. Other than forgetting the empananda the first time around,  the rest of the food was served within what seemed seconds after I ordered.

My Take

Despite the one service hiccup and the volatile beer taps, La Carnita was a slam dunk. The days of the stagnancy of King street eateries may be coming to an end.  No longer are the only choices those which require an invitation from a disgruntled maitre d’ standing on the sidewalk waving a 15 year old pre-theatre menu in your face.  Instead, La Carnita offers a welcoming environment with great booze, a cool modern vibe and terrific food served fast and fresh. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about hanging with seniors ordering off the modified menu before “Kinky Boots” and you’ll be good as gold if Gargamel ever shows up.

La Carnita Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What if Jeff Foxworthy was a Hipster instead of a Redneck?

I went to school at the University of Guelph which meant I got to know a lot of agriculture students, many of which are self-proclaimed rednecks. I also grew up in Sudbury.  As a result, I could relate when Jeff Foxworthy burst onto the scene in the early nineties with his signature “You Might Be a Redneck” franchise. To this date, I still laugh at them. The latest one I heard was “If you have just been interviewed about the tornado for the fifth time…you might be a redneck.”  I appreciate his humour in the sense that, like Jerry Seinfeld, he can make fun of the boring antics of Caucasians through astute observation.

This got me thinking what would happen if Jeff were a hipster.  I think he would have a field day with the antics of this outrageous urban subculture. There are definite differences between rednecks and hipsters. For example, ask both what PBR means and one would reference professional  bull riding while the other would ask for a beer.  I’m not pretending for a second that I’m some hilarious comedian but I do eat out a lot and have been immersed in this culture long enough to make some general observations.  So here is my attempt at “you might be a hipster”:

  1. If you read your tattoos to kill time on the subway…you might be a hipster.
  2. If your wardrobe is less diverse than Fred Flintstone’s…you might be a hipster.
  3. If at least one of your T-shirts has a picture of Fred Flintstone…you might be a hipster.
  4. If your happy hour starts at 10 pm…you might be a hipster.
  5. If your pre-set iPhone alarm contains nothing with the letters “am” in it…you might be a hipster.
  6. If your meaning of gelling with someone is comparing the product in your slick backs…you might be a hipster.
  7. If your primarily using your Bachelor of Arts to sculpt your mustache…you might be a hipster.
  8. If you live above where you eat…you might be a hipster.
  9. If you know the difference between crudo and carpaccio but not the difference between walk and don’t walk…you might be a hipster.
  10. If you can identify Nicaragua, Columbia and Kenya in a cup but not on a map…you might be a hipster.
  11. If you have “ubered” yourself for a ride home…you might be a hipster.
  12. If your definition of a car payment is $10 to a food truck…you might be a hipster.
  13. If you wait longer for a taco than you do a medical procedure…you might be a hipster.
  14. If you think “gimmie the skinny” means taking off your tie…you might be a hipster.
  15. If you need to register your beard with animal control on an annual basis…you might be a hipster.

I have no plans to quit my job and join the Plaid Collar Tour anytime soon but hey…it helps ease the pain.

Bang Bang Ice Cream: The New Hipster Apocolypse Serving Up Soft Porn Instead of Soft Serve

As I’ve stated before, the hipster movement is a bit like the Walking Dead.  At first you’d see the odd zombie roaming around and next you know you have an apocalypse on your hands. Part of this mass transformation has meant the expansion of  foodstuffs which have undergone hipster domination.  It started with coffee shops and quickly progressed to tacos and burgers.  They have laid claim to kale and cauiflower.  I think what I find most disturbing, however, is their latest attempt at beatnik tyranny; ice cream.  No, the centrefold of the Toronto Life a few months did not show Norm Kelly and Drake in a Yonge 6 Gods gangster embrace but instead summarized a number of ice cream cones available across the city.  It was at this point I knew that  the hipster infection had spread into the medium of one of any person’s fondest childhood memories. The ritual of popping down to a parlour with the fam and watching a disgruntled 16 year old serve my mom tiger tail for the 15th time (I swear she was only person in Sudbury who ate it) while I stood indecisive until a got a good kick in the arse was in jeopardy. I should have seen it coming. It does, after all, involve long lines and serving food out a crawl space which are both predictors of a hipster breeding ground.  It also allows for a more justified use of the cash only policy and certainly would never require a reservation.  Plus, you also don’t have open in the mornings.

I was in the Ossington area and decided to pop in to Bang Bang. It was a Wednesday night around 7:30 pm so the line wasn’t too bad.  Predictably, it looked like a garage.  The line swung around to a counter housing 4 or 5 types of cookies which seemed to be the most popular vessel for the twenty or so flavours of ice cream which were displayed on shelves in a David’s tea store. Against the far wall is a iron which feverishly works to pump out thin Hong Kong waffles which are subsequently folded into cones and stuffed with ice cream.

I wasn’t surprised to see an array of clientele waiting.  In particular, a hipster dad had his hipster kids with him.  Since the line moves at a snail’s pace despite their “one sample only” policy, they have a screen on the wall projecting some sort of video.  In this case, it was some cartoon I didn’t recognize but I thought it would keep the kids occupied for the long haul through the ice cream line. It looked pretty benign until things got heated.  For whatever reason a woman was suddenly naked in the middle of a forest and was greeted by a near naked and very built man.  Soon, enough, he had his large hands nicely positioned on her rather voluptuous ass and soft core animated sex followed.  Daddy hipster was shocked and quickly put his hands over the eyes of his baby hipsters and looked around feverishly hoping that he didn’t have friends or families in the vicinity to witness such an atrocity.  I was going to joke with him and  tell him that it was part of the Ontario government’s new sex ed curriculum but I figure that might resulted in a good shin kick or having my hair pulled really hard.

Soft Porn Instead of Soft Serve

Soft Porn Instead of Soft Serve

There are many choices including scoops (even an adult snack size for those who normally go for the kiddy cone), the aforementioned cookie sandwiches and Hong Kong waffles as well as macaron sandwiches and ice cream puffs.    When I finally got to the front of the line, I decided on banana ice cream in the waffle cone for $8.  I was told that because of the Hong Kong I could have 2 flavours instead of one so I also ordered Froot Loop as well. Since they are “made to order” there was some wait time involved.  It reminded me of the countless number of Hampton Inn buffets I’ve been to in which the wait for the waffle iron could go into the early afternoon.  It didn’t help when the guy behind the counter looked like he was having more trouble with the waffle iron than I would  trying to assemble an IKEA desk.  I finally got the cone and the waffle was still warm which was a nice contrast to the ice cream.  I’ve made banana ice cream at home and Bang Bang’s was almost the same.  It had a rich custard base and the bananas were quite ripe tasting.  There’s that magic moment when you first combine froot loops and milk.  Not only is the milk still super cold but the flavours of the cereal haven’t yet combined meaning you get two distinct tastes before they become uniform.  The ice cream recreated that magic moment.  Despite the warm waffle, the ice cream did not melt at too rapid rate and it wasn’t overly messy but there was no way I could finish it all.

Hong Kong Waffle with Banana and Froot Loop Ice Cream

Hong Kong Waffle with Banana and Froot Loop Ice Cream

My Take

Bang Bang Ice cream adds hipster to the old ice cream parlor.  Instead of a “Hi!” from Bill behind the counter at the family owned ice cream joint, you get to stand in line in a garage for a long time, watch porn and surround yourself with hipster angst not often associated with this classic summer dessert.  At least they take credit cards. In the end, if you can get over the slow service and prefer soft porn over soft serve (I was wondering why they called it Bang Bang) then drop on by. Good thing they have takeout pints because you might wanna leave the kids at home.

Bang Bang Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Good Son: Macaulay Culkin Nightmares and Memories of Norman Rockwell

I have keen to go to the Good Son since it opened.  It’s on the fringes of the Ossington strip which means by geographical location they are mandated to incorporate some of the hipster doctrine into their existence ( in other words “embracing the local Queen street culture” as stated on their website). Good Son is a project of Vittorio Colacitti who gained national attention for his appearance on Top Chef Canada 4. His also has a biography page which, designed a bit like a dating site, outlines his many culinary achievements as well as telling us he is a rooster according to the Chinese Zodiac.

The restaurant’s  website presents Good Son as a surrogate for an old time family experience.  The landing page depicts three generations of a family sitting around the table for dinner which brings back my own family members for very different reasons. Since my family resembles the Lamberts from Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections” more than the Cleavers, I think my mom disguised this dysfunction by hanging Norman Rockwell pictures all over the wall to create the illusion that we all sat down and ate mashed potatoes together.  Mr. Rockwell was a 20th century American painter who best described his own art by saying “without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed”.  Quite often this involved very normal families in very normal situations which was a far cry from my life.  The closest I got to a Rockwell painting were the shards of glass in the back of my neck after a sibling spat.  My sister narrowly missed hitting me in the head with a stuffed animal and smashing the glass in the frame of  “The Doctor and the Doll” painting instead. I don’t think he ever painted that.

Norman Rockwell's Doctor and the Doll

Norman Rockwell’s Doctor and the Doll

The name of the restaurant itself also stirs up a few memories. Macaulay Culkin took the world by storm as the cute kid in “Home Alone”. He further stole the hearts of America by starring in the tearjerker “My Girl” followed by a Home Alone sequel.  Things went downhill from there. Perhaps in a effort to expand his acting range, he teamed up with Elijah Wood (who at the age of 12 had the same impish look as he does now) in “The Good Son”, a so called psychological thriller which currently sits at 24% on rotten tomatoes.  Culkin plays a disturbed child who some would argue was a foreshadowing of some of his woes to come.  Wood, on the other hand, went on to fight spiders, orcs and other middle earth creatures to great fanfare in Lord of the Rings. In the end, I couldn’t help thinking that the creepy looking kid at the table on the Good Son’s homepage would eventually take the Macaulay versus Wood path and would likely ponder a “skating accident” as a fate for some loved ones a couple of years down the road.

good son

Life Before Hobbits and Michael Jackson

Despite this irrational fear of the website, I was keen to go because of  the fanfare over the food and drink menu.  I got to experience the latter at a Lucky Rice event I attended a few weeks before.  I remember the well dressed bartenders slinging gin filled concoctions garnished with things like pickled dragon fruit and other foodie furbelows.  I took a seat at the bar and scanned the cocktail menu.  I have no idea who Tony is but I went with “That Thing for Tony” which featured gin, citrus fruit, Campari and some fresh basil. My issue is always the fact that a gin and fruit drink shows up looking like something Mary Poppins would make.  This drink didn’t have the umbrella but did rock the orange slice which served as a  vessel to hold up the straw and combined with the pink was a bit of a kick in the nuts. Nonetheless, gin and campari is always a great combination and a whole lot of fresh basil added a garden vibrancy.

Have you met Tony?

That Thing for Tony $13

I started with the sweet pea tortellini ($18) and it didn’t disappoint.  The pasta was as tender as the peas themselves  and stuffed with a tasty filling which paid homage to this great summer legume.  The tortellini sat atop a sauce laced with citrus and butter flavours and was finished with some grated cheese. At first the portion size looked a little dainty but it was deceptively filling.  Overall, it was a smart and suave dish which honoured  fresh and available ingredients.

Pea Tortilllini $18

Pea Tortellini $18

At this point I needed another drink and since they take as much pride in their bar program as they do their food, I challenged the barkeep to do some alcoholic improv.  He gladly accepted the challenge and began the alchemy.  After a pinch of this and a dash of that he tasted, adjusted and presented his take on a basil smash while profusely apologizing for the brownish appearance but he promised it would taste good.  I wasn’t at all offended and in my head quickly named the drink “Look at my Divot” to reflect the fact it looked like busted up sod after a pathetic attempt with my five iron.  That said, it was a little more manly than drinking through a straw wedged in an orange slice.

“Basil Smash” or “Look at that Divot” $14

For the main, the barkeep suggested the bulgogi short ribs served with kim chee fried rice and a quail egg ($18).  Unlike the smallish pasta portion, this dish was huge. Although the ribs were a little tough, they were flavourful. The rice was equally tasty but a little greasy.  I loved the chucks of kimchi (or kim chee).  The quail egg was cooked perfectly..I just wish there was more of it.  Both the hot and the garlic sauce smeared on the plate were fantastic and removed any monotony of repeated bites of meat and rice. I also liked the abundance of the scallions on the dish from both a taste and appearance perspective.   All in all, a very satisfying (and large) dish in which I could only finish about a third.

Bulgogi Short Ribs $18

Bulgogi Short Ribs $18

My Take

The Good Son succeeds in offering high quality food and drink in a fashionable environment.  Given the creepy family on landing page,  horror movie buffs may fear that many of the plates hanging on the wall may become projectiles in a poltergeist rage.  In fact, I credit the web designers  whose family dinner masterly predicted the movie “The Visit” in which old people finally become the homicidal leads as opposed to the first victims in most other horror movies (just ask Mrs. Deagle in the Gremlins).  It is welcoming with a partially open kitchen and a very visible prep area.  As described on the site, the Good Son’s menu is “a reflection of the melting pot of cultures that has gentrified the Queen West neighbourhood in Toronto”. I agree….I had a little Korean, a little Italian and a little hipster.  One of the questions I always ask myself after a dining experience is “Would I come back?”.  I think this place has one of the most intriguing menus in the city and I felt I only scratched the surface meaning I’d definitely come back in a second to try something like the steak tartare (which I have heard is incredible), jerk shrimp or the burger. In the end, it’s much better than a Macaulay Culkin movie and  as inviting as a Norman Rockwell painting not to mention it’s oddly dreamy that Vittorio’s Chinese astrological sign is compatible with an ox.

The Good Son Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Best Six in the Six: Americano (I’m Runnin’ through the Six for some Joe and how Norm Kelly has changed the game)

When you have a teenage daughter you are often are exposed to terminology you have no business knowing and/or using in a conversation, especially when she is a Drake fan.  Like the majority of girls in this age range, she bounces around humming the gospel according to Aubrey while I pull up my khakis and ask why she’s obsessed with a guy named after a duck.  The battle continues in the car.  The Sirius radio is constantly switched between classic rock channels and those which spout the slang of modern day teen angst.  Long gone are the days where Meatloaf recalled the difficulty “seeing  paradise by the dashboard lights” when he 17 (and barely dressed..scary thought).  Instead, Drake reminisces about the hardships of working as a night manager at Shopper’s Drug Mart and his inability to throw a strike while bowling in  “Started from the Bottom”.  

While meatloaf became an advocate for…well..meatloaf, Drake has been crowned the hip-hop ambassador for the City of Toronto. His high profile association with the Raptors and the more infamous OVO festival has opened the doors for old white guys to weigh on things.  City councillor Norm Kelly, once known primarily for trying to harness the bronco actions of Rob Ford, is now a spokesperson and liaison between those with street cred (yes, I can use that term because of Mr. Kelly) and those who are just try to understand current pop culture.  His twitter feed is approaching 132 K followers, many of which are in the 15-25 year old demographic.  His last tweet (at least the last one I read while writing this) was a Tupac quote.

Thanks to Norm, I finally feel comfortable paying homage to Toronto’s dining scene through verse.  Never mind a top 5 or 10 list; it only seems fitting that a top 6 in the 6 list is most appropriate.  This is the first of series of a top 6 lists which identify great food and drink in Toronto.  I’m merely scratching the surface.  These lists are by no means comprehensive but are based on my travels through Toronto and the identification of places that are aight and worth dropping into.  I’ll start with my go-to drink at any coffee shop; the Amerciano. So, let’s travel through the Six for so joes…..

6. Dineen- 140 Yonge Street

Location, location, location..

For students and wall street vocations.

Good people watching when they meet,

with a decor that is quite boutique

And an Americano that is quite unique.

Why I think it’s aight: Unique tasting Amerciano and great people watching in an area saturated with Starbucks.

Dineen's Americano

Dineen’s Americano

5. Big Guy’s Little Coffee Shop– 2861 Lakeshore Blvd West

The sequel didn’t survive

but the original continues to thrive

offering a hipsterless vibe,

he may look like Notorious BIG

but he sure was nice to me.

Why I think it’s aight: Cozy coffeehouse outside of hipster ground zero with great service

Big Guy's Americano and Latte

Big Guy’s Americano and Latte

4.  Te Aro- 983 Queen Street East

Located on the Queen street strip

These guys really know their shit

they have classes where you get taught

to drink coffee at the perfect spot.

and they have a right to be boasters

they are afterall..pilot coffee roasters.

Why I think  it’s aight: Extremely knowledgeable, offer tastings and appreciate the science and complexity of roasting.  Coffee source for many other shops.

3. Red Rocket– 1364 Danforth Road

The coffee selection is absolutely sick,

although it’s name sounds like

Addictive treats and a friendly staff

You won’t leave here at half mast.

Why I think it’s aight: Crazy coffee concoctions and an extremely welcoming environment.

2. Jimmy’s Coffee- 84 Gerrard Street West (plus other locations)

With homage to Carter, Hendrix, Fallon and Page

Jimmy’s coffee is all rage

But there’s one Jimmy they’ve overlooked

Drake’s Degrassi name: Jimmy Brooks.

Why I think it’s aight: One of the best Americanos in Toronto in a fun and upbeat environment.

Jimmy's Americano and Iced Coffee

Jimmy’s Americano and Iced Coffee

  1. Mercury Espresso Bar- 915 Queen St. E

Whether Mercury, Venus, Earth or Mars,

One of the inner planet’s finest coffee bars.

On earth’s Queen street is where it’s furled,

with an Americano that’s out of this world.

But like space the  thing that I fear

is it’s lack of atmosphere.

Why I think it’s aight: Best Americano I have had in Toronto despite the fact it doesn’t have the same vibe as some of the others.

My Take

As I said, this list is by no means comprehensive as I haven’t ventured into most of the coffee shops in the city.  That said, I think these establishments offer a good product and overall experience.  I suppose I’m obliged to update it should I find a better joint. In the meantime, I have a number of go-to choices throughout the city and look forward to trying more as I travel through the six for my joes.


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