Florida Restaurant Pape Ave.?
- fruglescot Mar 11, 2008 12:09 AM
ROUND AND ROUND SHE GOES.................................................
I have been told that "The Florida Restaurant" on Pape Ave. is owned by a Macedonian man whio often Bar B Ques a whole lamb at the side of his restaurant. It's an insiders place for those in the neighbourhood to gather. Couild this be true?.
PLEASE, tell us all you know about the place.
I've never been, but its been there forever and I can confirm I've seen the lamb roast in the past.
I've never eaten there myself but I know someone who considers this their favourite place in town. I think the reason he likes it so much is that it's a whole lot of baa for your buck (or moo, as you like). I can't vouch for quality but I can for quantity, if that matters. Now that I'm reasonably sure it wouldn't kill me, I am curious to find out if it actually tastes good...
I've driven past Florida Shishkabob (aka Burger Masters) at least twice a day for decades. It looks like a dive and we've never been tempted to go in. Then, one day, I noticed a guy at the back of the patio carrying what looked like a lamb. I investigated, and it's true.
There is a glassed-in charcoal BBQ outside. I was told that they've barbecued at least one whole lamb over charcoal every day but Mondays for sixteen years. They've certainly never promoted this! We went back that evening to check it out.
We need to keep things in perspective. This is quintessential peasant food with no frills. The place isn't another Danforth tourist trap. It's the real thing, and there's some good and some bad. They aren't trying to impress anyone.
I'd say they are Greek (not Macedonian). The place IS a dive, but it is clean. The patio is pleasant, but it was too chilly to sit outside. The interior is, well, unusual. The owner's very large hunting trophies are prominently displayed above your head. If this would bother you, you'd better sit outside in season. However, the patio might be quite smoky given the primary clientele.
It was busy, though not packed, on a Friday night. Though I believe the overall clientele may be mixed, all of the other customers at the time were Greek men of a certain age. Greek news from Athens showed on several TV sets. We didn't hear any English spoken.
The server was friendly and efficient and the service was very good. Note that the menus on the tables reveal nothing. The BBQ lamb isn't mentioned on the menus, on a sign, or anyplace else. If you don't know about it, you don't get it. When we ordered it, she seemed surprised.
We ordered two portions. She told us to have just one. She was right. The lamb is $22 an order and one plate left us stuffed. While we finished everything, this plate and one mezze could probably feed three people with normal appetites.
Garlic toast and salad arrived immediately. The bread was lightly garlicked and grilled, not greasy, tasty but somewhat tough (neither crisply toasted nor soft). The salad was a large bowl, very fresh, with better than average tomatoes for May, lots of onions and olives, peppers, and a non-salty feta. Although there was a small amount of lettuce, it resembled a horiatiki salad more than a typical Toronto "Greek salad". It was oiled and vinegared, but didn't taste of any garlic or herbal additions.
The large lamb portion seemed to come from the leg. Like all Greek meats, it was cooked way beyond what we consider optimum, but it was good and we'd have it again. I'd rate it below Omonia's lamb in their early years, but better than what Omonia served before they dropped the dish. There was a good crust and it tasted of the charcoal. My personal preference would be meat more redolent of garlic, rosemary, oregano, lemon, and olive oil. This was very plain, but good enough for something that's not easy to find.
When I go back, I'll try for a juicier portion from the shoulder or rib area. What you get is the luck of the draw, but there's no harm in asking :-) We spritzed the meat with lemon juice and ate with fingers, but l'd get some tzatziki next time and, possibly, some pita.
The sides were the standard Toronto Greek accompaniments: huge mounds of rice and roast potatoes. The rice was soupy and the potatoes soft and wet. These were disappointing, but edible nonetheless.
We noticed them hand forming thick burgers and cooking these over live charcoal. Given that they're Greek, anything but well done is not a likely option (even though they are made in house). However, they looked very good. Fries, if you care, are frozen from a bag.
The same guy cooks and does the cash. We were pleased to see that he did wash his hands in between.
In the grand pantheon of Toronto restaurants, Florida is only about a 6 out of 10. But you won't find daily BBQ lamb all over town. I've got to check out Kings Park next - another place I've never thought of trying. I'll report if applicable.
My wife and I would get a pork and lamb dinner to go when you use to live in the area, which would do us for dinner and maybe 2 lunches! The food is not grande cuisine, but none the less it is tasty. The meat is well done, but not dried out. I’ve spoken with the owner a few times about trying to not cook all the meat well done. His response is that is the way to BBQ/rotisserie a whole animal, unsure if he will or can change.
In the summer when the patio is open they generally rotisserie a whole lamb and pig Thursday thru Sunday, and usually just a pig Monday thru Wednesday. With the patio closed they normally rotisserie a pig every day. On the odd occasion during off patio season they do a lamb, but not very often.
The inside is in need of some work, I believe the walls and ceilings are covered with tobacco smoke from the past. However the service is quick, fast and friendly; the wait staff is quite busy serving food and alcohol. They have an open kitchen, so you can see how your food is prepared.
My wife and I have never had anything but the rotisserie pig and lamb. Though sitting at the counter enjoying a very quick beer while I wait for my take out, I would have to say that the lamb chops look good, and you can have them cooked to your liking.
Since moving from the area we miss Florida Restaurant. We also miss the pizza from the Italian place across the street.
As a general rule, Greeks don't eat meat that isn't well done. My wife once lived there, and she's said that even medium cooked meat seemed to be considered an abomination. However, the lamb was not dried out.
Pizza place across the street, La Grotta, is very good (not just the pizza). Many entrées there are 2 for 1 early in the week.