Saturday, December 2, 2017

Some thoughts on the great breaded chicken sandwich, Toronto

Nowhere else in the world have I visited where the slab of breaded chicken or veal sits soaked in marinara on a round crusty bun. Usually hot or sweet peppers accompanies, with additional options of mushrooms, cheese, and onions. I have tried as many of these sandwiches as possible in the city, but more of them keep cropping up. Here is the latest batch, with some additional thoughts on their origins and varieties:

Pictured above is a chicken sandwich from Bitundo's, located in Little Italy, Toronto, on a side street near the Monarch Tavern. I got mushrooms and cheese as my extras, and ate it on a frosty night in mere seconds. Lots of walk in pick ups for pizza were happening, which is pretty good business considering it sits directly across from another pizza + sandwich joint, San Francesco's. And while Bitundo's is more modest in appearance, their breaded meat offering was far more appetizing than the disaster I once had at SF's. While pizza seems be their big business, I do wonder if the breaded meat sandwich's popularity has anything to do with the large Portuguese population in downtown Toronto? Italian parm sandwiches are one thing, which feels more Italian-American, but nowhere else have I eaten more breaded meat sandwiches than I did in Lisbon. While Portuguese fried meat on bread sandwiches are not so saucy, this may be where one country's comfort food overlaps with another to form the perfect sandwich combination. A perfect meal on the first cold winter's day, this sandwich, which I find quite specific to Toronto, remains a treasure.

Next, I finally tried something other than their pizza pie one sunny afternoon at Mare Pizzeria in Kensington Market for what would be the heaviest sandwich by far. I needed two hands to carry the bottom of the poor paper plate across a very short distance. If there was a weigh-in, this guy would undoubtedly win, and yet, it was not my favorite. The chicken was a bit too over fried for my liking, more grizzled than juicy, and sauce to bread proportions were off, giving away to the dreaded sog effect. I still ate every morsel on my soiled paper plate, and remained full for many, many hours afterwards (in fact, I am still full), but looking forward, I would try their meatball.

For a change of pace, I tried the chicken sandwich at The Whole Plate on Roncesvalles, which is and was the same people as the Polish-owned Super Kolbasa, so all the same pierogies and pickle soups are all just a few blocks south at the WP. One new feature at WP is their focus on prepared meals, and trying their chicken sandwich, I was really pleasantly surprised by the slaw combination they added. A fresh crisp and crunchy cream slaw on top of one of their juicy chicken filets was real tasty, and while they don't really have a sit in option, I can't wait until it's picnic season again to grab a couple of these for a stroll to High Park. 

assorted breakfast sanwiches, Toronto

Before catching a late AM train, I popped into one of the massive underground and overground foodcourts beneath the financial district for a bite to eat. Pumpernickel's may have been located on one of the second-floor food courts, if I am recalling correctly, as the place I initially tried going to wasn't ready for lunch orders. All in all, this was not a bad spinach omelette bagel. The bagel was just good enough to be edible, but nothing amazing, but the omelette was really hot and not too greasy and I felt quite full afterwards, which is harder to do than you'd think.

Nothing like a bit of a cheese string to tug at the heart strings. Nothing fancy here, but consistent and tastes of care, I grabbed this hot egg and bacon sandwich from Sidebar on Spadina, just south of Camden, or Richmond, a real hole in the wall that most people never notice as it's also a few steps down from pedestrian level. Everything is always prepared fresh, but it's never overly seasoned and has been assembled by a pro, which I can't say for many of the breakfast sandwich places in the area. They also have a case of salads and pre cut veggies if you need a hit of vitamins, and their lunch time maki rolls and miso soup are also worthwhile.

homemade tuna melt

assorted, Mamie Clafoutis, Montreal

I forgot about going to Clafuti's in Outremont on a couple of occasions this past summer when I was staying nearby for a few days. Their upstairs space with free wi-fi is nice when it's not too busy, but I was quite disappointed by these sandwich offerings, especially considering how expensive they were. A smoked salmon offering on a brioche bun was skimpy on the fish, and a bit dry on the bun. And this sad pressed ham and cheese croissant was not worth any of my time.

Considering a new bakery opened up a few doors down with much better sandwiches and service, and dare I say, a far superior croissant, I bid adieu, Clafoutis.

Fish sandwich, Brazil Bakery, Toronto

This tasty crispy fish sandwich tastes just like the fish entree from other Portuguese bbq restaurants nearby, where the fish tastes like a greasy cloud of hope. Unlike conventional breaded fish sandwiches out there that tastes frozen or flimsy, this fish sandwich is sturdy af, so much so that I mistook this photo originally for a chicken sandwich snap. Dining in for a change at the Brazil Bakery, where I have raved over their grab and go sandwiches more than once, and been confused about whether I was eating chicken or fish more than once, their dine-in area may not be the warmest atmosphere, but I'd brave the freezing cold aluminum chairs and hostile stares from the regs any day for this bite again.

Serrano's, my way, Montreal

There's really no way to have photographed and salvaged this sandwich from Serrano's. The last time I posted about this sandwich, I was dreaming of smashing a few of their creamy, fluffy potatoes inside the sandwich, and here the dream is.

I will only get the sandwich this way from here on it. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

La Grotta del Formaggio, Vancouver

The last time I visited Vancouver, I made sure to include a stop into La Grotta del Formaggio, an Italian grocery store on Commercial drive that does this monster sandwiches. It's hard to find a good sandwich in that town, but this place kept me satiated, which is no easy task.

Pictured above is a mountain of capicola with roasted red peppers, eggplant, red onion, and provolone on whole wheat.

Expect long line-ups, but that time is best used to think about which meat and cheese and toppings you want. Do you really want a whole focaccia, or just half? (I got a whole loaf). I was happy to see they even offer whole wheat focaccia bread that is as tasty and fluffy as white bread, as it's a slightly healthier option, because it's still Vancouver.

Reuben's or bust, Montreal

Man I love Reuben's in Montreal. From top to bottom we have the beef melt, the classic reubens, and the beef dip.  Surprisingly, I love the beef dip the most, as that jus is killer!

Real classic steakhouse mood with all your favorite heart attack dishes, their sandwiches are hardly an afterthought to the bevy of entrees. In fact, I would say their sandwiches are the real stars.

What I love most about the beef dip is how juicy the baguette already feels even before you dip it. This is a fine dip sandwich, which is hard to do. So many disappointments have been experienced before this one, which is perhaps why it's so elevated here. The reuben is A+, but in a town that does smoked meat every which way, I don't remember it as distinctly better or worse. The melt I will probably not get again, as I was just curious, but I'd rather take the dip any day. Mmm Mmm Reuben's!