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.
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
2101 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M1R, CA
Quattro 4 Ragazze
1792 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C1H8, CANADA
166 Bedford Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2K9, CA
7 Hart House Cir, Toronto, ON M5S, CA
Jamie Kennedy Gardiner
111 Queens Park, Toronto, ON M5S, CA
1870 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C1J4, CA
1040 Coxwell Ave, Toronto, ON M4C, CA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :-(
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.
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.
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.
Caplansky's is definitely the top of my list. It's really the highlight of more than my year. Looking back over other things I've posted about in the past 12 months or so, the Banh Mi at Ba Le and 639 in Woodstock are the things that stick out as great finds I'd never have made without looking here.
As for bad tips, I guess I've been lucky. Or maybe too cautious in waiting until a clear consensus has been formed before going somewhere. Or maybe I'm just thankful to find something - anything - to break up the dull and expected things you find at a lot of run-of-the-mill joints around town. Even if it's not a revelation, at least it's not a chicken ceasar!
Oh, and The Fish Store. Really happy to have discovered The Fish Store. Again, it's not going to set the culinary world on fire, but it's well-made food that's honest and satisfying.
The best ones would have to be Sushi Marche, T&T and Allens on the Danforth.
Sushi Marche has become a constant treat. So good and I find some of the flavour combinations are really very good. The salmon sushi with the lime on it.. mmmmm
T&T on Cherry street has now become a staple in our diet. Such a handy spot to just grab and go. I am sadly now addicted to the sesame balls with the red bean paste.
Allens... well because it is Allens. I have now learned the error in my ways and am a full convert to the medium burger!
Worst. Really can't think of one. I do know what Juno means about the fishers. You learn to look at how many posts people have done when you see people suddenly waxing poetic about a new spot. but after a while they get pretty easy to spot :)
Pho Mi Asia was a good tip in a wasteland of restaurants at Keele and 401; they are busy, but service is very quick. The huge bowls of Pho can have a lot of spaghetti-like noodles, so I ask them go easy on the starch.
Aoyama is now my goto Japanese place, if I can get in when they are not too busy.
Breadhouse was recommended as the best rye in the burbs, but they have pizza and much more, always fresh at reasonable prices.
Malt 'n Salt and Chick 'n Joy are good take out places in Scarboro and Pickering, although I often ask them to fry my fish or chicken lightly.
Jasper's was an over rated bum steer from a year ago, resting on its haunches, serving grossly overcooked fish.
2766 Victoria Park Ave, Toronto, ON M2J4A8, CA
1483 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L1E2, CA
893 Bayly St, Pickering, ON L1W, CA
Jasper Fish & Chips
1794 Liverpool Rd, Pickering, ON L1V4G7, CA
Pho Mi Asia
1008 Wilson Ave, Toronto, ON M3K1G6, CA
Malt N Salt
750 Oklahoma Dr, Pickering, ON L1W3G9, CA
Chick N Joy Restaurant
705 Kingston Rd, Pickering, ON L1V, CA
Vietnamese food. Particularly banh mi and pho
I had never heard of such things until I got on this board. I had heard so many people talk about pho that I just had to try it. So now Mrs. Sippi and I just love it. We have other stuff off the menu at a Viet place but pho is almost always on our table.
Yongeman turned me on to banh mi. He sent me to Rose Cafe on Broadview for my first one and it was a revelation. I'm a sandwich lover so that's right in my wheel house.
Best chowhound tip this year: Zen sushi. We've only been once because it's very far out of our way but the fish was excellent and we loved the atmosphere.
Worst: lobster 4-ways at O Mei. The seasonings on 2 of the 4 dishes were exactly the same. The lobster in one of the dishes was so undercooked that it was raw and inedible. The presentation was sloppy. They also pushed the largest lobster even though it was too much for us, and it cost a fortune. I took friends up on the raves from chowhound and was somewhat embarrassed to have done so.
Best for me this year was SOMA at Queen & Broadview...Previous complaints from others indicated very noisy etc....not the case for us because we went early (6:30)...The food was good if not excellent..well presented & explained, service was beyond great (well, there was only one other Table besides us!) Parking was easy. Lots of choices on the Menu..a lovely meal with excellent service and not too pricey..will certainly return!
Not a hint on this board (lately anyway) but food at "People's Foods" (Dupont and St. George) continues to be DREADFUL, not many places on Dupont to have 'diner..sitting -down' meal BUT will not give it another try..3 strikes and out for us....
EarlyDrive, which O-Mei did you go to? There's apparently 2 of them. I had it twice over a span of a few months, once with my family, and again with some friends from HK. Both groups thoroughly enjoyed every dish. My parents even tried to have something similar in Vancouver with a king crab served 4 ways and found it didn't measure up to O-Mei. Perhaps you hit them on a bad night. I do agree with you that they tend to push the bigger crustaceans on you though.
As for this thread, my best find for the year is Yummy's market on Dufferin... great cabbage rolls and perogies!
Worst was Czehoski's for a quick lunch (sat in the front bar area). Had a burger/fries/beer and wife had some pasta dish. The worst $50 I've ever spent.
Are you complaining about the Hwy7 O-Mei or the Steeles west one? I've tried the Hwy#7 Lobster 4 ways at least half a dozen times. All four dishes are totally distinct! Steamed claws with minced garlic, ginger and scallions, Deep fried head with pepper and spiced salt, Stirred fry tails with Maggi sauce and onion and Lobster brain fried rice or braised noodle. All my guests, be it from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan or Japan all rave about the preparation.! Therefore your 'same seasoning ' for 2 dishes and the undercooked one really puzzles me?!
Definitely important for weighing recommendations is aligning your taste with other CHers. For example, one of my worst recommendations here was to L'Unita. I really did not enjoy it at all but my taste is more veg/seafood-oriented (and for various reasons, I couldn't handle seafood the day I went) so I didn't have a good eating experience. But for those who enjoy meat more, this may be a great place to eat.
Among my fave recommendations from CH are mainly the falafel places: Red & White and Tov Li. I also enjoyed Tasty (Chinese) a great deal and Big, Fat Burrito. And I adore Flaky Tart!
- Fressen for vegetarian that doesn't taste like wet cardboard
- Tap Phong for great quality kitchen knive's at rock bottom prices
- Pulled pork burrito at Big Fat Burrito
- Bamiyan Kabob House: Great afghani kabobs and fresh breads..mmmmm
- Recipe for grapefruit bitters: Wasted a 1/2 bottle of good vodka making it
Best for this year include Bistro Camino, Caplansky's, Szechuan Legend, Weezie's, Sakawaya (pre-ownership change, RIP).
No real "worsts" as I have learned whose voices I respect on here - this place has been invaluable for me both here in Toronto and abroad when I travel. I wish the obvious shills would abandon their attempts to spam the board, but I trust that almost everyone is wise to their game.
Well, thanks to all for, once again, doing my where-to-eat-out homework for me. Despite the minor squabbles and other digressions on this thread - entertainingly par for the course on this board - I've been able to put together a small lists of joints worth trying - and those it's probably wise to stay away from (at least till the smoke clears). Pho Mi Asia? I'm always game for a good pho spot so long as it's not too far away, and that one isn't. Soma? Next time I'm in darkest Leslieville, I'll give it a shot and remember to go early for dinner. Caplansky's eventually - I was at the competing Centre Street Deli the other day and it was quite average (fair sandwich, lousy fries, bland cole slaw, acceptable pickle. Good service, though). Assorted other places mentioned on this thread have been added to my to-do list.
I'll remember to stay away from the O-Mei on Steeles, and opt for the O-Mei on Highway 7 if I'm hankering for lobster four ways. The only way to decide which faction knows chicken pot pie best is to pick it up myself at my local Loblaw's, I suppose. I've been getting mine at Pusateri's at the usual fierce price. I'm depressed to hear that Senator Diner has fallen upon evil times - it was a terrific little joint when Bob Sniderman took it over more than 20 years ago. As for Jawny Bakers, which I'd never heard of before, well, that'll have to be on the bubble with me, till I can sort out the competing opinions. This little list you've all prepared for me should keep me going till the early fall at least.
Oh, yeah, a final thank you to whoever it is on this board who greets what seems like a crass, blatant plug for a new resto from a hitherto-unknown source with that wonderful, drippingly-ironic phrase, "Welcome to Chowhound". Keep up the delightful police work. Innocents like myself need to be protected from such murky missives.
I'm off now to Pho Mi Asia.
I'm not on a mission to bring down Jawny Bakers.. but do not go there! lol there is no reason to go to that place and nothing to sort out, unless one is in the area for other reasons and with a picky (read: bland) eater.. which I believe was the criteria that brought this damned resto up as a suggestion in the first place.
If you are hankerin' for a really good chicken pot pie, the one at Summerhill Market is far superior to anything else I've tried. Not dissing the Loblaw's version, as I haven't tried it. But if you don't mind shelling out a bit more dough (which clearly you don't, since you're buying yours at Pusateri's!), the Summerhill Market version is worth it.
And Cajun Corner fried shrimp and catfish to order for yummy sandwiches, at rock bottom prices, when they were a hole in the wall on Queen St. I guess they overestimated their ability to run a "real" restaurant. And the Queen St store is now an eyesore. That's really too bad. They were a great asset down here in Leslieville.
Best tip of the year and likely to sustain that title for all time: The bifana sandwich at the St Lawrence Market Churrasco. I can't tell you how many times that's saved me from starvation and the over-purchasing of groceries. Hey if you have to be there early to get the good stuff, are ya really gonna make brekkie first? Thank you NovoCuisine.
Worst tip: I've occasionally been bored, but luckily not experienced a truly bad meal since joining the Hounds. Thanks all.
My wife and I never eat out aside from picking up fish n chips to have at home. (My wife has mobility issues) I've no worst tips to share but what I get out of Chowhound is all sorts of ideas to try here at home and all sorts of little tips that make things easier, tastier, and just better.
The best tips I got from here:
1. Memphis Style BBQ in Woodbridge -- I admit, it's not as good as Camp 31 but with the price of gas these days, nice to not have to drive all the way to Paris and nice not to be stuck with Ripoff Rotary Ribfest prices.
2. Burb's Bistro -- being in Pickering it was refreshing to see this place replace a tired old sports bar (something we have too much of out here in Durham). After some positive reviews here we've been numerous times and have always enjoyed it.
Worst tip I got here: Duff's wings -- So many of you worship this place like it's the world's greatest. I was in Buffalo and went to the original location. Biggest disappointment ever. Sorry, the sauce needs butter to cut down the acid and the heat, not more vinegar (and "mild" does not mean "2 small drops of sauce per wing" which is what they served my wife who can't stand heat -- what a ripoff). I felt sick after eating just half my order. Never again. Anchor Bar still wins.