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.

Review: Toronto: Food Truck: Hogtown Smoke

Reminiscent of Big Foot or Rob Ford jogging, food trucks are a rather elusive sighting in Toronto. Bound by by-laws which do not allow more trucks to attain  permanent residency in the downtown core, they are forced to travel like Nomads making it a bit of a feat to find one that is open on any given day. Check out http://torontofoodtrucks.ca/ for information about food trucks in Toronto.

As I approached the corner of Front and Sherbourne in search of Hogtown Smoke, I caught a whiff of the smoked meat about a block away. I happened to be second in line so I was able to sample some of the brisket right out of the smoker before I even ordered.   Although it took a while to get rolling after a minor gas malfunction (which I appreciated because it allowed me to stare at the small menu like an idiot for 15 minutes without  a clue what I was going to order)., the window opened and I was greeted by the friendly staff members. Specials included a kimchi grilled cheese and side ribs in addition to the traditional pulled pork, poutine, brisket, po’ boy sandwiches and kicked up grilled cheese.  I opted for the ribs, brisket and poutine to get a taste for a bit of everything. The staff  joked with the building crowd,  apologizing for the delays and asking everybody their names.

Must

St. Louis Side Ribs ($10)

New to the truck, I was a little leery since side ribs are not as forgiving as back ribs and are easy to mess up.  They came through by fulfilling  the holy trinity of rib triumph; crunchy bark (although a bit salty), a deep pink smoke ring and fall off the bone tenderness.  They were supposed to be  served with  baked beans and slaw but in the lunacy of opening I did not get the slaw so I can’t comment.  The beans were very saucy, had  great texture and bubbly flavours driven by the unmistakable sassifrassness of root beer. Imagine a baked bean flavoured Jelly Belly jelly bean and you’ve got the taste.

St. Louis Side Ribs with Root Beer Beans

2 lb Pulled Pork Poutine ($10)

This alliterative aliment almost achieves all acclaimed attributes (of a good poutine). Poutine has its own holy trinity characterized by fabulous fries, great gravy and cheese curds.  Hogtown almost reached divinity.  The fries were a good size, taste and texture (which is tough since poutine fries get really mushy, really fast).  The pulled pork got bonus points.  It had a huge, juicy pork flavour and good seasoning. My one criticism was the  final execution because the curds didn’t melt under the gravy. A small thing, but a traditional poutinist may pou-pou it.

2 lb Pulled Pork Poutine

Patron Jalapeno Mango Sauce

Use the Patron Jalapeno Mango sauce in anyway you can.  It’s fantastic and can best be described as Big Mac sauce on steroids. I would go as far as baking up six High Liner fish sticks and bring them in a zip lock bag  just so I could taste this sauce over and over again.

Maybe

Brisket ($10)

The brisket sandwich was sliced thin, piled fairly high and served on a good size swirly rye-type bun.  At the recommendation of the staff,  I topped it with the spicy barbeque sauce and horseradish aioli.  The meat was busting with flavour with minimal grit but it was a bit dry. The sauces helped to moisten it up a bit,  making  it  quite a good  sandwich.

Beef Brisket Sandwich

Mundane

Not much other than the early service disruption and the fact they forget my slaw!

My Take

Hopefully food trucks are here to stay because they provide limitless variety and creative license.  Hogtown smoke didn’t disappoint, offering traditional smoke house flavours with modern twists. The ribs approached divinity. The poutine may have reached sainthood.  Like many trucks, the biggest issue is execution and speed of service.  These are good guys with a good  attitude and a good concept.  I’d endure minor traffic and a small crowd to come back. Hell, I might even start going  to church again.

Hogtown Smoke on Urbanspoon