My weekend foodie stay-cation
I took off last Friday and this Tuesday and had access to a car, so my significant other and I decided to do a food tour of different places we had always wanted to go.
We started on Friday driving to Whitby to go to Buster Rhino's, after having read the threads on this board. We arrived around 1:30, and although there were always people coming and going, most people were doing take-out. We each ordered the special, which was a full rack of ribs, one side and a drink for $14.99. For my side, I got hush puppies (which, for those who don't know, are like deep fried corn balls). We both enjoyed our ribs a lot. I loved my hush puppies, which tasted great dipped in the BBQ sauce they make. However, the real treat was that the owner was walking around, table to table, asking anyone if they wanted a pickle - and the pickles were bright red. I asked him, "What are they?" but he wouldn't say until you tried them (he would say that they weren't hot). It ended up that they were another Southern speciality, Cherry Pickles. Apparently, in the South, they add Cherry KoolAid to the brine and then soak the pickles in it. It was just as strange tasting as it sounds. My partner didn't even finish his, but I enjoyed them enough to eat both. If you want a roadtrip, the drive to Whitby for ribs is fine (then you can go about 3 minutes and walk along the waterfront), but otherwise I wouldn't break my back to go there.
The next day was our walk along Leslieville. Lots of places to eat, all looked great, but I wasn't particularly hungry. We decided since it was a hot day to pick up some Ed's Real Scoop. For our sample, we tried the "Very Stout", which is Guinness Ice Cream. It tasted very strongly of beer, which may be refreshing if you like beer, but I didn't particularly like the taste. I ended up with Sweet Cream and the creamy Cherry gelato. I liked that you could get two flavours even though it was a kiddie sized cup. I thought the flavour was quite good and I would go back. My partner got a brownie flavour and the espresso flavour, he always enjoyed his although I didn't like his quite as much as my own. We walked down Queen to Greenwood, where we stopped at Chino Locos to get a burrito. Although the reviews were mixed on this board, increasingly becoming negative, we had a good time. The place is really small, but the servers and the owner are super friendly, so you don't mind sitting down to eat your burrito. Although I didn't get a burrito, my partner said his was good (very spicy), and we had no problems with them omitting the toppings we had asked to be left off. That being said, I did notice the guys making the burritos screwed up one or two of the other orders that came after us, so I believe what people have said about this being an issue. The owner told us he is opening up a full restaurant that seats 50 people by Hallowe'en, at Church and Wellsley, so they must be doing well. I will be interested to go to that location and see if there is a difference. I did think it was strange that they only had a tiny fridge of drinks, and the owner recommends you go to the convienence store next door to buy a drink.
That night, we met up with some friends and went to Volo for some drinks and supper. I had told them ahead of time that the food might be terrible -- after having experienced it myself, and having read about it on these boards. But one goes there for the amazing, extensive beer selection, not the food. However, all my companions loved their food. They had pasta dishes and my partner had the day's special, which was pork pie. I had the vegetarian sandwich and it was really not good at all, completely tasteless and almost all bread. However, the drinks were great, and the patio is nicely shaded and you can't smoke on the patio before 10, so you can eat your meal without getting smoke blown in your face.
The next day we went to Little India and went to Siddartha (the non-vegetarian buffet) for lunch. It was delicious. The naan was exceptional and we found the food to taste a lot lighter and fresher than the buffets we usually go to (and still love) in the downtown core. The only negative was that ladies' bathroom had a toilet that didn't flush at all, and things were backing up.
We also managed to go to Sidecar finally for drinks, at about 8:30 on Monday. The place was packed, and you could only get a table if you had a reservation, but we were happy to sit at the bar since we only wanted drinks. My partner had the Old Fashioned and liked it quite a bit, and I had the Painless Brazilian, which was delicious. They use egg whites to make a layer on the top of the drink that is like a strawberry meringue. I would definitely go back, and the bartender told us as we were leaving that "the food is even better than the drinks".
We also managed to drop by Mother's Dumplings and pick up some frozen dumplings to take home. Wow - that place smelled amazing right when you walk in. We picked up the vegetarian dumplings (25 frozen dumplings for $11) that had melon, tofu and vegetable noodle in them. We also got a bag of the pork and chives dumplings. They give you a huge bag of ice to keep the dumplings cold while you transport them home. Later that day, we used our rice cooker to steam them. They were absolutely delicious, the pork ones especially, they were filled with lots of meat and you could tell they were homemade and fresh. The vegetarian ones were really great too, although you couldn't really taste that they had melon in them at all (not sure what I thought they would taste like).
We did a lot of other site seeing, but the highlights of our weekend staycation was getting to eat all the great food Toronto has to offer.
Sounds like an amazing staycation.
I've always wanted to try Siddartha and will definitely try it the next time I'm in Little India.
Very nice! Buster Rhino's and Sidecar are two of my favorites as well. They both really are standouts in two categories that Toronto is lacking (Craft cocktails and BBQ). Sidecar makes an excellent Sazerac as well.
My girlfriend and I went out to Buster Rhino's on Friday for the first time. We got there around 11:15-11:30am. We missed out on the cherry pickles then. Too bad, my girlfriend is a big fan of pickles and has been interested in trying them since seeing them on Alton Brown's Good Eats. She had the ribs and hush puppies. I had the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw. She liked the ribs but slightly prefers Memphis in Woodbridge and Dinosaur BBQ in Rochester better. I liked the PP, it was one of the better ones I've had. Both dishes had a very nice smoky smell. The owner came around asking how everything was. Very friendly chap. I will say I was put off by the mini-warehouse look of the place. I know, I know, who cares what the place looks like when the quality of the food is the most important thing but the overall aesthetic adds to the experience. Hopefully BR does well enough so either the place can move to more appropriate digs or opens a second location (Toronto!!!)
Volo for me has historically had average to good food. I can't recall ever having a bad meal there. Service has been bad to average. There are always times where my beer glass sits empty for a long period of time which is a big pet peeve of mine as I'm usually good for 3-5 beers. It puzzles me to no end when the wait staff is so slow (beyond being short staffed which is understandable) when the more beers I order the bigger the tip will be especially when they're on time for refills which I usually tip extra on resulting in a 20-25% tip.
Thank you for the great detailed reviews of these places. We sometimes like doing that too, taking some time to explore a part of Toronto we don't usually go to, and often it really does feel like a mini vacation. Amazing how different this city can feel after 10 minutes on the subway.
I've only eaten at Volo a couple times (usually I go later haven eaten elsewhere and stick to beer) but the food has always been perfectly fine. Not "chowhound rave" worthy, but not bad either. Kind of like home cooked pasta or lasagne, and reasonable for the price. I try to keep in mind that the standards on Chowhound are very high when it comes to food (as should be expected) but sometimes the overall experience of a night out can be more important than just the food alone. In the case of a place like Volo, an exceptional drinks list can become the main focus, and the food can play a secondary backup role.
Yes, we have also found it's nice to go there just for the drinks and eat elsewhere in the area. I have also found it's nice to go to Volo for some drinks and then cross to the street to Pita-Q for shwarmas and hookah on their shaded patio. Makes for a great, inexpensive evening with a group of friends.
agree with previous comments about volo. i always am miffed that they don't let you split the bills up, and i often end up under-tipping.
still amazing vacation and thanks for sharing!