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Seriously gross lunch at Pickle Barrel Y&E

Just back from an appalling lunch at the Y&E Pickle Barrel.

Had a chichen and hummus wrap which was billed as one of their healthy choices. It came with a salad which looked like an amalgam of those bagged salads. Some of the greenery had started to break down and was black. Accompanying lunch was a skewer of melon (water, honeydew and musk) all three pieces were seriously past it and inedible.

The wrap had been grilled which gave it this odd, burnt cardboard texture.

I've been to the PB at Sherway and had similar experience (why go back you say?).

Rock bottom.

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  1. Am I supposed to be shocked by this. The 20 page menu should have been the giveaway.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mlukan

      this is a valid point.

      sent an email to head office voicing my displeasure

      1. re: Vern Ryerse

        Well, let us know if you hear anything. I, too, had a similarly disappointing meal at that PB a couple of years ago and got nothing in reply to my e-mail. Not even a coupon that would have ended up in the garbage anyway.

      2. re: mlukan

        Don't even get me started. I feel the same way about Spring Rolls. What are you supposed to order when there are literally a hundred different options, and NO specials?? And then your order arrives 10 minutes after you've placed it. Yuck, it creeps me out! I just have a deep distrust for places that try to cater to everyone, and usually end up doing everything badly with ingredients that are past their prime.

        1. re: mlukan

          Not the smell of rancid oil coming from their exhaust outside?

          1. re: eller

            Pretty much everything about this place is anti chow.

        2. I enjoy the Butternut Squash soup and the Pickerel Fillet. Nothing special but solid.

          1. Pickle Barrel is just gross. I have fond memories as a child going there with the family and being so excited to break into that warm pumpernickle round loaf they would give you. Slathered in real butter, it was better than the actual meal. Even then, I recall our meal was usually a deli sandwich of some sort with coleslaw and pickle. Too bad. They changed a great thing and made it mediocre. Which is equally why I'm not excited for Rose Reisman's 'Glow' to move into the new Don Mills Shops.

            1 Reply
            1. re: FoodyGirly

              I have to agree with FoodyGirly. I also have fond memories of PB ,a stellar deli operated by Jerry Weisblatt ( Jerry is the father of Mel of Mel's deli & son of Fat Art ). I used to go for their breaded chicken wings ( no longer on the menu ) and their beef knish with gravy ( Knish by Nortown foods ) no longer on the menu and their really good house made corned beef sandwich ( now way less than mediocre ) It is too bad that they really don't give a damn any more. I will never go back!

            2. I've had a problem with them since I went into that location and asked for a tuna wrap, but with no mayo. The waiter informed me the wraps were pre-made the day before so I couldn't get my request filled (ummm ew...tuna wrap already made the day before?)

              4 Replies
              1. re: canadianbeaver

                Premade is bad enough, but the day before!?!?!?

                Customer: "This wrap tastes stale"

                Waiter: "I don't know how that could be sir, they were fresh when we made them!"


                1. re: canadianbeaver

                  Blech!! That is seriously gross.... With that kind of an attitude, is it really realistic to expect that the wait staff can control what comes out of the kitchen (in reference to my comments above) -- I suspect that the servers probably have to deal with/accept these practicesin order to take home their paycheques.

                  1. re: canadianbeaver

                    Swiss chalet I just found out makes their chicken wrap earlier in the day and they just reheat them...unless u ask for one without bacon,then they will make you a fresh one.
                    I found this out when I asked for the club wrap reg order and got one without bacon,I called and was told they are premade,exept for no bacon orders.

                    So at swiss chalet don't waste your money on "white meat" sandwiches.
                    Thankfull we have no PB here!

                    sounds awful.

                    1. re: MiriamOttawa

                      Ugh just the mention of Swiss Chalet makes me shudder....I went to one of their Hamilton locations......once.

                      Got a 1/2 rib dinner for takeout, it was the grossest pile of gristle and fat ever, and the rice was hard like it had spent a few hours under a heat lamp. I jumped back into the car after checking out my meal to return it and they were closed, got on the PC to find a way to complain, could not find any contact info on their parent companies website.

                      Will not be back....it may just be that one location but it really turned me off them.

                  2. much to my chagrin, some girlfriends of mine often pick the barrel for our weeknight get-togethers, as many in our group are cautiously mainstream diners and we know we will never have to wait for a seat or for service. WELL. at our last meal at the Yonge/Dundas location, the food i had was okay,but the service was DEPLORABLE. it wasn't busy at all, and our server took 15 minutes to bring drinks and then to take our order. after ordering a greek tilapia with salad, a grilled cheese with side of gravy, mozzarella sticks and greek salad which were requested to be brought together and a chicken stir-fry, we waited over an hour for our main dishes to appear. my friends had already polished off their "yards" of beer, and i was done my 9 oz glass of white. we finally grabbed the attention of another waiter, not our own, who commented about our server, "yeah, she's a bit slow...". the manager eventually brought the mozza sticks, but my friend had wanted everything in her meal all together! no one askedto refil our drinks. finally, our meals came - my friend's grilled cheese lacking its side of gravy, cold, and burnt. my fish was actually fine, but i've had it be less-than-stellar in the past. at the end of the night it took us another 30 minutes to pay our bill, and i hunted down the manager to ask if there was something she could do. they comped us 30% off our mains but for me it was too little too late. i just wish i could convince my friends that for $15 fish/meat mains and $8 salads there are so so many better places....

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: LemonLauren

                      I sent an email complaint to PB and the Mgr from the YE location emailed me back offering me a coupon for a free entre.

                      The humourous part is that in the course of responding to me, he appended an email complaint from another customer whose daughter was served raw chicken fingers. Seems PB agreed to comp the chicken fingers, but they charged this guy $1.99 for the french fries that went with her uncooked chicken. Classic!

                      Now that is how to make someone feel appreciated.

                    2. Our office is supposed to have a lunch gathering there this Friday! can someone please recommend something that's in the same price range in that area. thanks

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Teep

                        Ah the Barrel....a former student of mine who quite frankly i would not hire to feed my cat was hired as a cook....say no more..

                        1. re: Teep

                          My wife works at Y&E, I can ask her for some suitable alternatives. How many people would it be for, roughly? There are a few Italian places on Yonge just north of Eglinton, such as Grano. There is also a decent dim sum place on the west side. I think there are also mid-eastern and Indian restaurants in the area.

                          1. re: foodyDudey

                            Just 7. I think there's a popular Italian place at Yonge and Roehampton?

                            1. re: Teep

                              My wife responded and said Grazie would be her choice, and you should call now and make a reservation if you want to eat there. She didn't even mention any other restaurants.

                            2. re: foodyDudey

                              Grano's actually south of Eglinton, but Grazie is on Yonge just south of Broadway. It would definitely be a better choice than the Pickle Barrel. For a more generic chain-ish choice, you'd be way better off at the Duke of Kent than the PB, IMHO (they have an upstairs area that would be suitable for a group -- not sure if they take reservation). Also, haven't yet been, but there's a new "gastropub" called Dizzy's on that strip which might be a good choice.

                              1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                The Duke of Kent - that place is in the basement level right near a library, correct? It looks very grungy inside. That's the first thing that I remember about it. I don't think the food was very good either.

                                Yes I was thinking of Grazie. I knew it was an Italian place that started with Gr.... and had 2 syllables

                                1. re: foodyDudey

                                  Nope, it's not the place in the basement of the library -- I think it closed a while ago (and I never went when it was open). It's above-ground (2 floors), on the south-east corner of Yonge and Roehampton.

                                  The Duke of Kent is one of the Duke chain of pubs (eg. including several others downtown). It's a very ordinary chain pub which, in my experience, makes better-than-average (though by no means life-altering) pub food. Their downstairs (which is depicted on the web site) is your standard faux-English pub with lots of wood. The upstairs is still pubby, but a bit more updated and probably more condusive to a largeish group. I've never found it to be grungy.


                                  In the past, I also would have recommended the Rose and Crown for a pub meal, but I've only been once since they re-opened and wasn't terribly impressed with my meal. Not sure what others' experiences have been.

                                  Not that you necessarily want to go to a pub, but they're often safe (and affordable) options for a group excursion.

                                2. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                  A friend from the Y/E area speaks VERY highly of Grazie.

                                  1. re: Davedigger

                                    Grazie everyone! (that's Italian for Thank You too, how appropriate!)

                            3. Their wraps are particularily bad. You know they are bad cause when we ask them to change an item, they told us they are premade so they can't make any substitutions! Yuck.

                              Anyways, I just stick to basic stuff whenever I go to PB and they can't screw it up, it won't be the best, but they won't screw it up. Steak and Eggs, and Fish and Chips.

                              1. What I don't understand is why Rose Reisman would affiliate herself with it? We went to the one in Markville Mall on the weekend and, yes, the HUGE menu is a dead give away to crap - they can't possibly do ALL of that well. At Markville, not only is the food awful but the service was terrible... and all the tables around us had similar complaints. One guy even got up to get a refill of his coffee at the worker station himself, after unsuccessfully trying to flag a waiter down five times... it was kind of funny... mostly pathetic.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: kawarthagirl

                                  Because kind of owns Pickle Barrel. Well, her husband does but she's pretty deep in it as consulting on everything and being back for her new restaurant Glow with the same funding. Not quite sure why it looks like they're always trying to hide this fact, but I suspect it has something to do with spreading yourself too thin.

                                  1. re: FoodyGirly

                                    The weird thing is that the location at YE is pretty busy.

                                    While there arent any super stellar places around here, there are a whole wack that are way better and within walking distance.

                                    I dont get how it stays in business when the food is so bad,

                                    1. re: Vern Ryerse

                                      You're so right, I can't explain it. I'm not joking that I would rather go to a McDonald's than Pickle Barrel again. I just find that as chains go, they are one of the worst in both food and service. The only way to vote is to not go otherwise they keep getting rewarded by the mediocrity.

                                      1. re: FoodyGirly

                                        I think it's hard for hounds to understand that many people are happy and pleased with mediocrity. Most of my family back west think of going out to crappy chains as a treat and tend to stay away from small businesses. I dont know if it is years of manipulation from the commercial media ,addiction to processed convenience foods, or just plain laziness. What is bland to me is flavorful to them, what is dry to me is nicely cooked to them. I would be willing to bet that to some, the Pickel Barrel is their favorite restaurant in Toronto. To each his own I guess.

                                        1. re: mlukan

                                          mlukan, I really think that some people just don't taste the difference. Surprising as it sounds, as long as the food is reasonably hot and the presentation looks nice, that's all that matters. And I think part of that is that many people are really bad cooks, themselves, so that if they go out to PB, it's still a big step up from what they can do...

                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                            I would never choose to eat at PB, and I've had my share of horror stories. The food, though, has never really been "seriously gross." It's bland, generic, lowest common denominator food. I don't go very often (the last time I was dragged there was probably over a year ago), but it never seemed to be absolutely disgusting.

                                            I order a sandwich, and it's a sandwich. It's not revelatory or wonderful; it's the equivalent of sticking some grocery store deli meat on bread. It's not hard to screw up a sandwich, and, to be honest, I've had more trouble with the service than the sandwiches. Would I order a salad there? I don't think so. A steak? Some sort of salmon dish? Thai food? No. Why bother?

                                            Sure, it can be really bad, but for a sandwich, it's not disgusting. It's just nothing special, and probably a waste of money for something worse than what I could make at home for 1/10th the cost. I've had far worse meals at non-chain restaurants around the GTA. Given the choice of eating at PB or Alizé, for example, I'd prefer to take my chances on a PB salad. Blech.

                                            1. re: tjr

                                              Alize or PB's.....stay home.....

                                            2. re: Full tummy

                                              Good point. I guess it's a matter of standards, and when you don't do your own cooking, have respect for ingredients, and just plain enjoy everything about food, finding good tasting food becomes a lot easier. You made a good call because all the people in my family hate cooking and don't take pride in making amazing meals.

                                          1. re: FoodyGirly

                                            Is that the film studio Sam Reisman?

                                    2. Pb appeals to everyone in the same way that the #1 movie this weekend isn't necessarily the best out there and the biggest song on the charts right now is about the worst song you've ever heard.

                                      But, if you're planning an office party right now, and you've got some people who are cheap, others who are vegetarian, others who aren't too adventurous and some who consider a place like Pickle Barrel to be fine dining. Where do you go?

                                      A place like Pickle Barrel will always be busy cause dad can have a steak, mom a pasta and they have a kids menu as well. You can bring your dad who wants a burger and your mom who doesn't want to spend too much.

                                      This isn't a place for the typical Chouhound type person. That should be obvious.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: thrillhouse

                                        agreed. too bad we have to be friends with them!

                                      2. I thought I posted kind of a warning, not so long ago : Cold fries with thick corned beef slices (though I asked for shaved ones) and I had to wait 20 minutes for that. And the bill was enough to give me indigestion... The waitress apologized but that did not help me any.

                                        1. Have we not learned our lesson from previous misadventures into this hellhole disguised as a deli - wanna be. I ignored the warnings by fellow CHers and paid the price. please ,if you have not entered yet , consider yourself lucky. turn around ,find another .your tastebuds will thank you. quality of the food is below par, the cleanliness is terrible and dont get me started about service.wait staff rank amatures. management very surly. dont know which is worse. i too sent head office notice of my bad experience at the Promenade branch. My wife and I vow never to set foot in that HOLE again. Toronto has way too many better places to dine than waste our time there. I have talked to several friends and have had similar experience. We will avoid the picklebarrel like the PLAGUE

                                          1. Unfortunately I just went to the location at Markville mall and was a little disgusted when the waitress we had for what ever reason leaned across are food to put sugar packets on are table and put her arm right in my food. I would not have made an issue of it had she not touched my food.

                                            What I did find even more disgusting was the fact that when I asked to speak to the manager regarding this above-mentioned issues. I figured I would mention to him at this time the disgusting state that this restaurant is in, The seats are stained like they have never been cleaned the light fixtures are covered in dust, floors are a mess. I never even mention any of this because when I first mentioned the situation with the server, I was treated like a criminal. He seamed to treat me as if I was trying to steal from him, not that I was an upset customer. With over 20 years in a customer service line of work, I was in total shock. For him to treat me this way, without even a simple sorry. This would have made the whole experience a little more positive one from a customer service point of view. I had them cancel the rest of my order because I was not going to eat here and they brought me my bill for the full order which I refused to pay but did pay for what we had gotten are drinks mussels and calamari with extra arm.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: JEHILL

                                              Welcome to Chowhound!

                                              How was the food? I've never heard of anyone going to the Pickle Barrel for mussels and calamari before. But I checked, there they are on the online menu, at an almost unheard of low price of $7.99 for an order of mussels. Most midrange restaurants have to charge $11-$16 for an order of mussels, if they want to break even. ($11.50 at Grazie just up the street from the Y & E PB)

                                              You get what you pay for, folks. Pay PB prices, and you get PB atmosphere, service and food.

                                              1. re: phoenikia

                                                Did not know that was the price at higher end place for mussels-I usually get some from a fish store that has a restaurant in it-not really fancy but very fresh and usually $9 I think.
                                                they only make money because they are a fish market and not a "real" restaurant.

                                                Oanother note is that all chain restaurants use frozen foods and lots of prepackaged,mixes ect.....

                                                1. re: MiriamOttawa

                                                  Not all chain restaurants use frozen food and lots of prepackaged foods and mixes, etc. Most do, but not all.

                                              2. re: JEHILL

                                                I had a similar experience with a manager at the leslie location few years ago.

                                                It seems the customer is never right at any location.

                                              3. My friend used to say:
                                                If a restaurant has a lot of items on their menu, it means they can't do one thing right.

                                                1. I read this entire thread yesterday at the end of a particularly brutal day at work and I just wanted to say it made me very happy. (No, I don't work at Pickle Barrel.) Thank you posters, one and all.

                                                  1. I defended the PB for years, as it was a great place when you are a group of variable ages.
                                                    Kids to seniors, but my last experience with the Grandkids was just plain awful food.
                                                    Sad to say, I will not return.

                                                    1. I agree the menu is way to big. I only go for the deli sandwiches and they're even screwing them up. I sent on back and told the manager I didn't even want a replacement. My meal was comped( i wouldn't have payed anyway), and he sent me home with a new sandwich. So I gave PB another chance, it was the last chance and of course they blew it.

                                                      1. I have eaten at many of the different pickle barrel locations around the GTA. I love the variety of the menu and knowing that everyone in my party will be able to find something to eat!

                                                        I would highly recommend going to Pickle Barrel (any location). I have always received great service, great food, and great value for my meal.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: 123john

                                                          Well you're pretty much the only so enjoy. Just the thought of being dragged there by my family makes me queasy. The service has been indifferent at best and outright hostile at other times. Last time we went there because my 84 year old grandma likes it. We had dirty cutlery with food still crusted on and lipstick marks on the glasses. The server actually laughed and said "I've seen worse!" before taking it away. The food was cold, tasteless and oily. The "oriental" platter in particular was nauseating. It was deep-fried, clearly in dirty oil. The spring rolls were so greasy you could basically see your reflection in them. The chicken wings were rubbery and so greasy the sauce was quite literally sliding off them. I gave up after that. I'm not sure if it was ever good because I'm not an 84 year old grandma, but next time the family meets for lunch I'm faking sick to avoid actually being sick.

                                                        2. I gotta speak up here. I went to the YE location with a group recently, and much to my surprise, I had a good experience. I ordered one of the healthy meal specials and really enjoyed it. Everyone seemed to like their meals. Our servers were extremely nice and were generally attentive. The CH'er in me shuddered at the idea of eating there, but it was fine.

                                                          1. That's so sad to hear - I haven't been in years but when I used to go it was smoked meat on rye all the way, and it was always fabulous (as were the fries and the smoothies). Only thing I wish they'd do is give you a whole dang pickle with your order instead of a piddly little 1/4 spear. It's called the PICKLE BARREL!

                                                            1. We also had a horrible experience at Pickle Barrel, Yonge & Eglinton. It has only deteriorated since the 2009 reviews posted. Our food was cold, service was dreadful, asked for bread and never got it, asked for water took 15 minutes to get it; Healthy Choice Hoisin Beef - beef was like shoe leather, vegetables were so soaked in sauce - far from healthy. Gives Rose Reisman's recipes a bad name! I actually used to enjoy this dish a few years ago. Greek side salad was mostly iceberg lettuce. My husband had a tasteless Veggie Burger - it is far better across the street at South Burger ; came with a meagre 5 or so sweet potato fries on the side with an added charge for sweet potato. Other couple had fish- not very tasty . And on top of all this bad value for money as it cost $ 50/ couple with no wine, no coffee/tea, no dessert. Grazie's across the street is much better value and worth the wait.

                                                              2373 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4P2C8, CA

                                                              Pickle Barrel
                                                              , Toronto, ON M5G, CA

                                                              1. There's a new PB opening up in the Bramalea City Centre in Brampton within the next month or so. Shall we wait and see if this new location turns out any better than the apparently obviously lacking Y&E location?

                                                                Bramalea Cafe
                                                                18 Kensington Rd, Brampton, ON L6T4S5, CA

                                                                1. How is the owner of PB related to Rose Reisman? She of the (pricy) catered holiday and delivered planned meals advertising at the back sections of the Toronto Star?

                                                                  My one experience at the PB at Yonge and Dundas was enough but that is a chow wasteland. The thought of paying that much for eats out of the same kitchens to be delivered makes me confused.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: neighborguy

                                                                    It's a corporation. I believe her developer husband (The "Rose Corporation") is a major investor.

                                                                  2. OMG, the cabbage borscht at the Pickle Barrel at Yorkdale is Yum-O!!!

                                                                    1. just wanted to say that i had a fantastic meal not too long ago!

                                                                      Pickle Barrel
                                                                      312 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5B1R4, CA

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: bety123

                                                                        Please let us know what you had and what made it fantastic!! That way if I ever find myself in the unfortunate position of having to eat there I may survive. Thanks.

                                                                        1. re: Full tummy

                                                                          we had a coupon for a free app and went with mussels. for main course i had the burger with feta cheese. yum.

                                                                          1. re: bety123

                                                                            PB is the last or never place I would think of to eat mussels.

                                                                            1. re: JamieK

                                                                              Agreed on that one. My mother mentioned on the weekend that PB makes her favourite restaurant waffle. I was in disbelief, but not being a waffle fan, who am I to say?

                                                                      2. I picked up a takeout egg salad sandwich there last year that was so disgusting I threw it out. I mean, egg salad is basic and simple - how can you possibly screw that up?? I would never go back to Pickle Barrel. So sad, since it used to be very good many years ago.