Undiscovered downtown take-out gems?
Hey Hounds, I always hear the same old names for best take-out downtown. Maybe it's that great places downtown get discovered so quickly that there's nothing "new" anymore.
But I've got to believe there are still some undiscovered gems.
Anybody have don't-miss candidates?
I worked in the Queen/Spadina area for a short while about two years ago and my favorite lunch discovery was this strange place called New York Sub or New York Subway on Queen West (east of Bathurst, near Portland if I'm not mistaken, north side of the street beside a variety store with a gazillion flowers in front of it -- how's that for directions?).
I believe they actually might have made subs, but everyone was there for these burrito-esque wrap things with a variety of fillings. There was a spinach one that I always meant to try but I'd end up with the big chicken satay burrito instead. They were big, delicious and I think around $6 so totally within my lunch budget. My mouth is watering at the thought of it.
It was all very street-food meets fusion and so good I'm sad I don't work down there anymore and can't get my hands on one.
I wonder why I immediately assumed Chinese food when I saw this post! I guess I'm a sinophile at heart!
I am a PhD candidate at UofT and did both my previous degrees here, so I have some years of experience with downtown take-away.
A short and to the point list of others not mentioned above:
Falafel: 'Akram's' in Kensington on Balwin. The Shwarma is good too. I like both better than from 'Al Ghazale' beside the Bloor Cinema -- but, that will prompt a debate.
Pizza: 'Massimo's' on College just west of Spadina.
Bahn Mi: 'Nguyen Huong' just north od Dundas on Spadina. Its beside the less good 'Che Cali' Bahn Mi and near 'Fruits & Fruits' the most interstingly name fruit stand in the city. I like them better than Rose Cafe over in the Gerrard area too.
Yummy BBQ in the hideous Crossways Mall at Dundas West and Bloor (across the street from Dundas West subway). Nice Korean meat dishes, soups, dumplings etc. My favourite is 'Spicy Rice Cakes' - tubular rice noodles (imagine non-hollow penne) served with vegetables and the meat of your choice.
They have another location at Bloor and Bathurst but I can't speak to its quality.
Camros - just south of Yonge/Bloor on Hayden. This place is getting more attention lately, but prob still hidden gem to most. Persian organic vegetarian eco-friendly cuisine - great food, lovely owners, great atmosphere. Have combos of 1, 2, 3 items available at fair prices.
There's a little place that specializes in lunchtime takeout at Bay & Gerrard called Something 2 Talk About. They have many wraps and sandwiches, along with salads and burgers too. Seating for probably ten people, so the vast majority take their orders to go. I'm not sure if it's open in the evening, but my guess is that it isn't.
---- The other place I'll write up is a little fast food stand in the food court at McCaul and Queen. It is really good for what it is. The flat noodles are as good as anywhere (I really do mean that), the shanghai noodles are not 'shanghai noodles' (no beef, no veg, no soy, no sesame), but, they are fresh, firm and well seasoned (spice, salt, reduced broth -- nothing else) and the chow mein is nice chow mein (good under black bean chicken). That said, the black bean sauce on the chicken is way better than most anywhere else I've had downtown (I have had better in the burbs). The BBQ pork is worthy of a try too -- less fatty than traditional but, to my mind, as good as Hong Fat at Huron and Dundas. The Ping Gai (Lemongrass chicken) is only OK.
Other stuff might be bad. The pepper beef is not to my taste, the wonton soup is bad and I haven't tried the rest. The Ma-Po Dofu looks nice (never had it though).
I am just assuming that since you asked for "hidden" gems you know about Swatow and Peter's Chung King.
Does downtwon mean Spadina/Chinatown? If not, then I have a place on Pape north of the Danforth to mention. Its called Number One Chinese and its just a take-out and delivery place. But, it has some real hidden gems on its menu (amid some dreary muck I'll admit).
Their Hot and Sour soup is the best non-seafood Hotu and Sour Soup I've ever had -- crisp bamboo shoots (i.e. fresh not canned), crunchy/firm wood ear (i.e. not dried), tasty nicely spiced broth. Excellent. Their Won Ton soup is delicious as well -- nice BBq pork and not overcooked bok choy in a nice broth.
Their pot-stickers (pan-seared dumplings on their menu) are excellent too. Nice and gingery with lovely dumpling skins. Made to order (so a bit of wait -- but, well worth it).
Their Buddha's Delight is good too with fresh fried tofu and well seasoned veggies (and that nice firm wood ear as in the soup).
The rest of the menu is what you'd expect from a local chinese take-away. Good not great. The noodles are well done. The black bean is OK. The Lemon chicken had a nice lemony sauce. Other stuff is tried at your own risk. Beef with Broccoli is not good.
But, if you order a menu of: soup, dumplings, shanghai noodles, lemon chicken and buddha's delight, you'll be very happy indeed.