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Jul 12, 2008 09:44 AM

Best and Worst Chowhound Tips: Act II

It's just about a year ago that I asked this board's members to step up and list the best and worst tips they've discovered on Chowhound. The query got a lot of response, though not as much the all-popular What Is the Best Pizza/Hamburger/Fish and Chips/ Falafel? kind of threads invariably trigger. Still, there was enough response to encourage me to ask once again: what is the best and worst tips you've found on this board within the past year or so. I do this for a selfish reason: the answers afford me a distillation of which joints around town may be worth chasing down, and which not to bother about (given the price of gas).

I'll start the festivities by offering my choices. Noting that I've yet to make my way to the much-praised Caplansky's for a pastrami sandwich, I'll pick the Maple Yip as the best tip I've found here within the past year. This board is especially strong on Chinese resto critiques, with some ace noshers who seem to know their Asian cuisine, and this modest Cantonese seafood house - initially tipped by the ubiquitous Charles Yu, if I recall - is a winner in every respect. I've been there at least a dozen times, having different dishes at almost every sitting, and have never been disappointed (pretty good for a Chinese resto, where chefs can change from one week to the next). The place is in deepest Scarborough, in an all-Asian mall at the corner on Sheppard and Midland, but I've never minded the 20-minute drive from my hutch in deepest York Mills. There may be better, more sophisticated Cantonese joints around, but not at these easy-to-take prices. Minimal English spoken - indeed, I don't think I've ever seen another Occidental face in there (aside from those at my table) - but you'll manage somehow to make yourself understood. Pay attention to Mai, whose English is good enough and who seems to run the place, when she suggests dishes normally outside your comfort level that you might want to try. Clear, fresh, straightforward flavors. Thanks, Charles (or whoever tipped me to this one).

As for my worst Chowhound tip, well, astoundingly, unlike last year I didn't have one this year. And here's why: experience these past couple of years has taught me who those posters are who seem most articulate, perceptive and - more to the point - whose tastes and palates seem to coincide with mine. I've also learned to be wary to those whose palates - in my view - could still use a little seasoning (though I'd never dismiss them out of hand because maybe they've seasoned without my noticing). And I'm also always on the alert for the occasional review on this board that seems suspiciously halleluia-like in the glories it imposes on some newly-opened resto in need of immediate puffery. Beware the glowing review that comes out of left field, of which there've been a couple I suspect in the past month or so. Judging by the responses they triggered, a few others have noticed them, too.

So: which are your best and worst Chowhound tips over the past year? And it'd be herlpful if you could give us a sentence or two explaining your choices, the better to allow the rest of us to decide whether your picks might be worth persuing - or ignoring.

Go, team!

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  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. lol, you couldn't wait the full year! Here's your previous best & worst tips for everyone's reference -

      It got quite a few responses and I know what you mean by learning and getting familiar about which posts are more in line with one's own taste and also about spotting those that are just shills . I think there may have been a misinterpretation of your tone or intent with the arrogant remark.

      Anyway, in the past year, these are the places I’be been to prompted to visit by tips on this board that I’ve been glad about and would return to:

      Gallery Grill – good food, lovely setting, gracious but unpretentious service

      Quattro Ragazze – lived within walking distance of this gem for 10 years and never thought to try it (especially under its former incarnation as Europe Planet) until I read comments on this board – delicious homestyle Italian food, a great neighbourhood spot

      Jamie Kennedy Gardiner – excellent food and I loved the airy minimalist room with great view

      Diana’s Seafood Delight fish market – another gem I had no clue about until discovered on this board. A great selection of all kinds of really fresh (and frozen) fish and seafood, with friendly helpful staff, also on hand seafood-appropriate condiments, sauces, lemons, etc, you might need to go along with your menu, as well as a while-you-wait fish-cleaning counter.

      Weezie’s – charming place with delicious food, good value

      Melanie’s Bistro – another neighbourhood spot, just opened early this year and great new addition to the area, yummy butter chicken and a good brunch spot

      Sweet Indulgence cafe and bakery – tasty cakes and pastries

      The made-on-premise chicken pot pie at the Redway Loblaw’s, for $9 you get a huge tasty pie with nice crust

      Vivetha Bistro – another nice neighbourhood spot with good solid food off the beaten track on the eastern end of the Beach

      Le Paradis – relaxing unpretentious ambience and good bistro fare (loved the dijon chicken


      354 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1K9, CA

      2485 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4E1H9, CA

      Diana's Seafood
      2101 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M1R, CA

      Quattro 4 Ragazze
      1792 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C1H8, CANADA

      Le Paradis
      166 Bedford Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2K9, CA

      Gallery Grill
      7 Hart House Cir, Toronto, ON M5S, CA

      Jamie Kennedy Gardiner
      111 Queens Park, Toronto, ON M5S, CA

      Melanie's Bistro
      1870 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C1J4, CA

      Sweet Indulgence
      1040 Coxwell Ave, Toronto, ON M4C, CA

      6 Replies
      1. re: JamieK

        My best find this year was Batifole. We were looking for a restaurant in the East End when my wife and I were attending Cirque du Soleil last summer on Cherry Street. Lunch at T and T followed by Batifole for dinner made for a very special day. Although east China town is a strange location for a French restaurant, we really enjoyed this restaurant. Thanks to the Ch'ers who recommended it.

        1. re: JamieK

          Jamie, you make some great and much appreciated contributions to CH but dude the Loblaws (Redway) chicken pot pie is not one of them.

          I bought one with the full knowledge that I was likely in for serious disappointment and I was.

          Firstly, chicken pot pie does not have a bottom crust, it should have something on top, preferably puff pastry or biscuit dough. Secondly, it should have a little bit of veg. uniformly chopped, not green beans, tumbled carrots, celery chunks and broccoli all of which give off too much water. Thirdly, chicken should be a visual and gustatory feature, in this case I doubt there was 150 grams of meat in this 1 kilo pie.

          The Loblaws Chicken Pot Pie doesn't come anywhere close to the one from Summerhill Market which I consider it OK.

          1. re: garlicandwingnut

            I agree on all your points. I don't even try to compare the Loblaws pie to Summerhill's, they are not even in the same category.

            I should have qualified my comment to say the Loblaws pie is good value for what I need. I can't afford to buy a $16 pie every week. But for $9, I can feed an adult and two hungry teenagers and it's tasty enough. When the teens aren't around, half a pie feeds two adults and there are leftovers for another day.
            So, to me, that was a good Chowhound tip.

            1. re: JamieK

              I am supporting JamieK’s citation of Loblaws’ chicken pot pie. At $9.99 you’re likely not getting the best pot pie on the market but you are getting a fairly good one. I thought it was a pretty tasty pie, well-made, and for the price let me tell you – you could do a lot worse. I’m not sure about these chicken pot pie requirements that you list, garlicandwingnut. I think if it’s tasty and prepared properly who cares what variations it incorporates. Personally, I prefer a bottom crust, to simply crust on top. I get mine at Loblaws at Bathurst/St. Clair. Never had it from the Redway location (wherever that is). For me, at $9.99, it’s a perfectly serviceable pie, and a good find.

              1. re: magic

                It's actually $8.99, at least at Redway (which is west off Millwood Rd, south of the Leaside area)

                1. re: JamieK

                  Yes, my mistake, $8.99. Even better.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. Best tip(s): Duo of Michi Cafe and Aoyama for Japanese cuisine, especially sushi

            Worst tip: Senator Diner - made me appreciate the nearby Sunset Grill.

            1. My favourite food finds this year, which I knew about thanks to CH were:

              Samba Grill: delicious Tanzanian food. especially love the curry. I prefer to take out when I'm going to eat here though. It's convenient that my house is 5 min away.

              Gio Rana's - simply good Italian food.

              Marvellous Edibles - I never would have known about this delicious lunch/brunch place without CH

              Worst - I have to say Jawny Bakers. It might be a good neighbourhood place for honourable reasons, but the food is chain-like to me, not Chow-like. I don't mean this as any disrespect to the people who recommended it, but it just wasn't for me, and I have received lots of good tips from the people that recommended it as well.

              10 Replies
              1. re: pescatarian

                You're right about Jawny Bakers, in that it's foodservice style all the way. However, much of their food is actually very tasty. It's a handy place to know about when you are in the area and need a broad menu of reasonably priced, edible food. I'm surprised it was your pick as worst of the year. But I agree it isn't a chowfind.

                1. re: embee

                  I understand what you are saying and we weren't looking for anything particularly special that day, but we didn't find any of the three meals we were served tasty when were there. It was awhile ago, but basically, I remember overdressed salads and dry omelettes that seemed to come from a premade egg mixture, rather than freshly cracked eggs. Honestly, it was a bad meal. The service, while friendly, was very sloppy, and for a quick meal (we were in a hurry), we were waiting a very long time for the food (even the waitress was apologizing.
                  I understand that people like it for various reasons for quick, reasonable food in the area, I just had a bad experience there and I wouldn't bother going back. There's a lot of other options, within a quick 5/10 min drive.
                  I guess if this was my worst of the year, that's a good thing, as I've had some great food this year.

                2. re: pescatarian

                  Somebody actually recommended Jawny Bakers? What a mistake.

                  1. re: NovoCuisine

                    Probably Jawny Baker himself...the place is nothing special and neither is the food. It's okay if you want an average burger and fries at an average price in an average sports bar, otherwise take a pass

                    1. re: Finnegan

                      No, there is nothing special about Jawny Bakers. I was just surprised that pescatarian picked it as her worst of the year. I avoided it for years, and still don't seek it out, but I don't find it awful either. If I'm with a group of unadventurous eaters and in the area, which happens a few times a year, it's a good place to know about. If I'm looking for great chow, I wouldn't go there. I've found the intensity of the reactions to this place kind of interesting.

                      There's now an alternative in the neighbourhood for this type of crowd, the newly revived Hollingers, but Jawny Bakers has a wider ranging menu.

                      1. re: embee

                        At least now I know not to try Hollingers ;-)

                        Like I've said, it wasn't a big deal. I guess I'm just used to getting really good tips on here and it wasn't, that's what qualifies it as the worst for the year.
                        I was definitely looking for something quick and cheap that day, it just wasn't a good meal is all, and I often find quick and cheap meals that are much tastier.
                        I've heard it's a good place to stop in for a drink or two if you're in the area and I could see that, but if I want an lunch/brunch type meal on the fly, it's just not for me.

                        1. re: pescatarian

                          Actually, Hollinger's Philadelphia cheese steak sandwich (though it has nothing to do with Philadelphia) is quite good. Lynn Crawford loved it on RM. Ditto the various chicken sandwich concoctions at Jawny. Best on Coxwell is Sweet Indulgences (plain but good takeout sandwiches on homemade bread and very good pastries). Ritz on Donlands has some adventurous choices and good milkshakes and Simba Grill is interesting. Still, best in the neighbourhood is - well - out of the neighbourhood :-(

                          1. re: embee

                            I've had a couple things at Sweet Indulgences. It is a nice neighbourhood joint (although I think I could make it better, lol).
                            I think that's what's needed in those few blocks north of O'Connor on Donlands where Fresh From the Farm is located. A great coffee shop. Not Starbuck's. More like Pret a Manger. Or like this great place called Cabin Coffee I found in Halifax. The area is lacking in good coffee joints. I go to that bakery across from Fresh From the Farm to pick up some cold cuts, etc. sometimes (they have great greek feta) and they make cappaccino, but it's nothing special.

                        2. re: embee

                          I don't have an intense dislike of the place, I just think it's pretty bland chain-type food (think Kelsey's, Boston Pizza, et al) for too pretty a penny. It used to be a casual place to drop in for a low cost/low expectation bite and a cold beer, but since the reno the prices have gone up, the quality of food has stayed the pretty much the same - that is to say, unimpressive - and it just feels like some kind of Milestone's-y place now... and if you've been to Milestone's you know that isn't a good thing.

                          I'll admit, I hit it up with my parents - my mother is the pickiest of eaters, and wants to eat her chicken fingers and fries in a clean atmosphere; I am resigned to the fact that I will never experience a Chow-worthy meal while dining with her, and just appreciate if wherever we eat has cold beer - but I would never give the place a recommendation here. Unless you're eating with my mother, of course.

                          1. re: NovoCuisine

                            Context is everything. I think I suggested it once when someone was looking for a business lunch in the Warden/'StClair area and another time when someone needed to take someone else for a steak lunch within the framework of a one-hour lunch within 10 minutes of O'Connor & Coxwell. It was never recommended on its food alone or its chowworthiness. Sometimes good enough is good enough.