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Whitby/Durham restaurants that don't suck

So I find myself moving back to Whitby, after 15 years away, during which time I came to the realisation that there's more to good eating than lousy roadhouse chains and dodgy sushi places.

And so my question, friends: are there any restaurants in Whitby Durham region that you can unreservedly recommend? I've heard Mexico Lindo is pretty good, and the Greek Tycoon used to be a decent choice for untaxing Greek. And Starr Burger is there of course. But other than that... There seems to be a real current of mediocrity and pretension flowing through a lot of restaurants out here -- any recommendations for reliably good restaurants would be gratefully appreciated.

Any thoughts?

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  1. Buster Rhino's in Whitby for BBQ
    Bellagio's in Pickering for Italian veal sandwiches
    Big Boy's in Pickering (same plaza as Bellagio's) for burgers

    Those are three of my go-to places in Durham, I'm sure others will chime in. I'm honestly not too impressed with the Lindo "chain". Overpriced for what you get (as far as quantity and quality).

    -----
    Buster Rhino's
    2001 Thickson Rd S, Whitby, ON L1N, CA

    8 Replies
    1. re: TexSquared

      I haven't gone to Big Boy's, though I can walk there.
      Reason: a review that they pre-cook their burgers. No chance of medium rare, or beef ground on site.

      1. re: jayt90

        As a cook Jayt90 I have to tell you...legally we cannot serve a medium rare burger, due to the inherent contamination issues with ground meat. Safe food handler standards in Ontario require it to be cooked to 165 internal temperature. If I were to serve someone a med/rare burger and they got sick they could sue the restaurant, we could also be shut down. Where I work the burgers are cooked fresh and homemade, but must be med/well done.

        These standards do not apply to steak/roast beef etc.

        I am with you on liking my beef on the less cooked side, I hate well done meat of any kind. Sadly I have to save that for home where I can do what I want.

      2. re: TexSquared

        Big boys also has the battered and deep fried mars bars, I went there once for that. Not sure about the burgers or other foods on the menu as haven't tried.

        1. re: TexSquared

          Seconding Buster Rhino's! fabulous BBQ.

          WON
          http://whatsonmyplate.net

          -----
          Buster Rhino's
          2001 Thickson Rd S, Whitby, ON L1N, CA

          1. re: TexSquared

            I found the burgers @ big boy to be a little too pre fab as well. I didn't seem like they made any thing on the premises, it all looked and tasted like food service type stuff.

            1. re: TexSquared

              Just a heads-up for anybody planning on making the trip out to Pickering. Bellagio's is closed for renovations until Monday September 26.

              1. re: TexSquared

                After 6 years of eating around Durham our faves are:

                Breakfast-

                #1 is Anjeliques in Ajax. (huge portions, unique and large menu, shredded hashbrowns, great coffee, peameal and egg sandwich is amazing and decent renovation)

                #2 is Rainbow Restaurant in Oshawa (this place is unreal! Family run forever and large portions and great quality breakfast. )Also good for lunch. A virtual hole in the wall on Simcoe St S. but worth looking for.
                #3 is Michaels Eatery in Ajax.( great standard fare, fast and fresh,super friendly, always get your order right)

                Lunch/Dinner Casual

                * Halibut Time in Ajax for fish and chips (Daddy's Little Grill a close 2nd)

                * Sushi and Rolls in Ajax. Best all you can eat dinner options, the taste is very traditional Japanese, I recommend the tempura shrimp stuffed sushi rolls (Tokyo Maki)

                *Island Mix in Ajax for West Indian (amazing quality and authentic Roti and fun menu)

                *Mt.Everest in Ajax for Indian (spicy Vindaloo is wonderful as well as their butter chicken) (creepy interior but great for takeout.)

                *Daddy's Little Grill in Ajax makes a mean homeade souvlaki platter. The best Tzatziki.

                *Bobby C's in Bowmanville (blue cheese salad and a substantial seafood platter....heaven.)

                *Pizza Pino's is the only place we will get pizza!

                *Blossom Garden in Ajax for Chinese. Never fail hot and fresh delivery...and there is chicken in the chicken balls not just batter like House of China : (

                Higher End

                *Port at Frenchmans Bay ( portions are not huge but flavour is there, the menu has changed for the better recently) and presentation is A+ as well as atmoshphere.

                *Bella Note in Whitby does Italian right (their mussels are superior and the marinara they are in is gently flavored with Jalepeno's, handmade gnocchi excellent)

                Fails:
                -Any Lindo Restaurant EXCEPT Cielito Lindo in Pickering, the owner is always the cook and makes a chicken pasole soup that is spectacular.
                -Chatterpauls (overpriced and trying to hard to be pretentious instead of finding a great chef)
                -Sauters Inn (I want to like it here but I find it weak compared to a made at home German feed)
                -EggsCrepes chain, and most other chain breaky joints to be frank)
                -Il Fornello just plain sucks unless you are going for wine on the patio
                -wild wing, montana's, shoeless joe's etc etc. Ewwww.

                What our choices have in common are that they are independent and NOT franchised. The people who run restaurants for their livelihood desire customer satisfaction and try harder to impress.

                There is also a cute coffee shop called Debbie's on Harwood in Ajax that has some nice desserts which I find are hard to find out...anyone know anywhere to go for a beautiful cake that doesn't boast pretty over flavour?

                1. re: hidpage

                  Thanks for the recommends - Debbie's is definitely a great place!

              2. Oh yes, definitely recommend Burbs Bistro and Bar in Pickering over any of the overrated "waterfront" choices at the foot of Liverpool.

                -----
                Burbs Bistro
                1900 Dixie Rd, Pickering, ON L1V6M4, CA

                2 Replies
                1. re: TexSquared

                  The Waterfront has redone the menu and seriously upgraded the food. You can get an excellent meal there now.

                  1. re: MDMD

                    I second that, for the Waterfront Bistro. Husband I and go there fairly regularly. At first, we hesitated, for we had been there before (several restaurant name changes) and we were pleasantly surprised this time! I even tried their Winterlicious menu, and it passed!

                2. The Villa on Highway 2, west of Brock, is a reliable go to for sushi for me. I am also interested in some other Whitby options, I'm needing to expand my rotation of restaurants these days!

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: Selleck Stache

                    I like Makimono in Pickering and Ajax! Sushi, Sashimi and all you can eat is something I go for often.

                    It's right by pickering town centre on Liverpool.

                    There is some yummy lahmbajeen middle eastern pizza style and other foods at Open Sesame in Ajax on Bayly too.

                    I wasn't too impressed with hot rocks cafe in Whitby as it was kind of on the expensive side, but the food was delicious.

                    1. re: BamiaWruz

                      Have you been to Kobo Gourmet for sushi in Pickering? I keep driving by it but have never checked it out:

                      http://www.kobogourmet.com/

                      Looks like it's actually owned and operated by Japanese, unlike the sushi places you've listed. Don't get me wrong, Makimono and Sushi Mountain are OK for AYCE (as is Ten-Ichi in Scarborough which is my favorite AYCE place).

                      I'd like to try "authentic" but I'm not quite ready to splurge on the high-end places (Kaji, Zen, Hiro, the usual suspects) yet, so I'm hoping one of the sushi veterans here has tried Kobo and can tell me if it's a worthwhile choice.

                      1. re: TexSquared

                        Haven't tried it. However it may be the one I heard of at the Organic Expo in guelph while purchasing some organic miso paste, the man said he supplies it to a japanese restaurant in the area which is very popular.

                        I'll look into it next time I'm thinking sushi :) Thanks!

                        1. re: TexSquared

                          Actually Zen is quite reasonable in price. Go at lunch and order their bento boxes, it's worth it.

                          1. re: TexSquared

                            Just had dinner at Kobo's today for Fathers' Day and it was solid Japanese food. The sushi was very fresh and the wasabi had a good kick. The prices were very reasonable and they also offer omakase. My daughter had the breaded pork cutlet and it's by far the best version of a tonkatsu (?) I've tried -- succulent and not oily. My wife had the teriyaki salmon which was presented in a more Westernized way (it was served on rice, but came with small roasted potatoes and sauteed vegetables. It worked! The service was friendly and efficient and I left feeling very satisfied, but not heavy. The only very minor thing they may want to work on is the atmosphere. It seemed more diner like than say the atmosphere at Zen (Zen plays mellow Japanese music, whereas Kobo had a local radio station playing rock music -- it wasn't annoying, but seemed out of place).

                            1. re: scarberian

                              Thanks for this. I'll go. Never gave it much thought because of no reviews, and a thoroughly dull store front. Maybe I'll ask them to change the music.

                              1. re: jayt90

                                Forgot to mention, my wife ordered the California Roll and it seemed different from other places. It wasn't bad -- it tasted fresh, clean -- but lacked something that ,say the Cali Roll at Zen has. Everything else we ordered was very good. If I were to rank it, I'd say a good second to Zen, but definitely above places like Niji, Icki Sushi, etc.

                              2. re: scarberian

                                Went there today for lunch finally. Wow.
                                I've never been to any of the high end places (the usual suspects, kaji, zen, hiro; it's getting repetitive to hear them recommended over and over and over again) but this place is definitely a step up from any other Japanese I've had so far.

                                Wife had the tonkatsu and said it was the best she's had, beats the one from the diner at J-town and blows away any of the AYCE versions including Ten-Ichi and Makimono. Like you said, succulent and not oily. I had the lunch sushi which was nice, I could definitely taste the difference in quality of the fish and especially the rice. The AYCE places go cheap/lazy on this and use plain white rice for their nigiri. but Kobo does not; could taste the vinegar dressing in there and the wasabi wasn't weak unlike most places.

                                Since your complain was the music, this time it was instrumental jazz music (which also didn't quite go with the food but oh well), don't know if it was off local radio, satellite radio, CD, online, or some other source as I never heard a DJ or commercials.

                                Long story short -- strong recommendation for this place especially if you've only had AYCE or "phony" sushi and want to step up. I will definitely return for dinner and try the omakase next time!

                              3. re: TexSquared

                                Tried Kobo last Saturday night because of the discussion here. The chef is Japanese, and the waitresses appear to be recently arrived from Japan. We ordered the house-smoked salmon salad, the sushi omakase, grilled sea bass and a mixed seafood grill. All of them were very good, and the prices are relatively low. Of high end Japanese restaurants I only know Solo Sushi Ya in Newmarket -- this is in the same league, but a notch lower in the standings. I'd say it's a very good choice for Japanese food in Durham region.

                              4. re: Selleck Stache

                                The Villa is my 'go to' for sushi. Love the maki set - tempura shrimp role for lunch. Yum Yum. Fresh. Fast. Great ambiance and the price is approx. $10.

                              5. We have recently eaten at Nice Bistro for lunch. It was very good...I think it has gotten lukewarm reviews in the past. I thought it was great Bistro food. Eldorado for Mexican, the chef is Mexican and he will prepare some nice things there. Service is dodgy but the food is very good. Teddy's is very good for deli sandwiches, Montreal Fries and Steamies for..you know. Crispy's for Fish and Chips.
                                Buster Rhino's for BBQ.

                                1. I didn't like Big Boys, the burgers were big but were full of filler. They tasted to me like a giant Harvey's burger. The fries were totally forgettable, they were dry and tasted like they'd been sitting in the fridge for a few days.

                                  Greek tycoon was a total let down. I had gyros which came from a package, my SO had chicken souvlaki that was bland (although prepared well). We had an order of saganaki, no booze and left with a bill that was around $50 including tax and tip. Overpriced and underwhelming. I have not found good Greek in Durham yet.

                                  Starr Burger is my choice for burgers. It's always packed, stick with the Starr burgers, and not the pre-made steakettes. Excellent fries and onion rings as well.

                                  Sinatra's has decent veal sandwiches. They can get expensive if you add cheese or extra toppings though, they are $1 each IIRC....

                                  I like Makimono, Sushi Mountain, and Oishi Maki in Ajax and Whitby, they are all solid but unspectacular sushi places. Steer clear of Sushi T&T, and Kyoto House which are sloppy and aren't up to the same standard as the others I mentioned.

                                  Mexico Lindo is decent but never wowed me, I guess you could always go to Taco Bell for worse.

                                  BR's for excellent BBQ without the need for 15 hours and a smoker. Bare bones dining but excellent food and service, probably the best order of fries in Durham.

                                  Montreal Fries, is good but you can replicate the steamies at home pretty easily. Generous poutine, which uses a 'poutine sauce' not a brown gravy. Not exactly a 'destination' but in the area it's worth a stop. Confusing parking and one way streets make stopping a headache at times.

                                  Krispy's in Brooklin, great fish and chips, excellent onion rings (some of the best I've had) and a decent value. A nice change from the ripoff prices some places try to gouge for pre-fab onion rings.....

                                  I stay away from North End Burger, it's always busy because it's cheap. You get what you pay for, pre-fab steakettes, frozen fries..... I assume it's like the east end version of Johnny's.

                                  Tangerine has a couple of good dishes but many are forgettable. I like their Pakoras, but most everything else I've tried was 'meh'.

                                  Stanley's Fish and Chips is another good option (and a couple of doors down from Krispy's in Brooklin). I didn't think the fries were as good as Krispy's although the fish was very nice.

                                  Chatterpaul's gets some good reviews but I have not been. I have heard mixed things about the new Brock House but again I haven't been.

                                  If you like pita sandwiches, Pita Deli is awesome, good falafels and massive portions. Super friendly owners of both locations.

                                  -----
                                  Mexico Lindo
                                  1821 Scugog St, Scugog, ON L9L, CA

                                  Chatterpauls
                                  3500 Brock N, Whitby, ON L1R0G2, CA

                                  Pita Deli
                                  1600 Champlain Avenue, Whitby, ON L1N 9B2, CA

                                  North End Burgers
                                  605 Brock N, Whitby, ON L1N8R2, CA

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Dr Butcher

                                    Sorry to say, but Stanley's has changed owners/management recently (it is 29 June 2012) and the service and food is NOT the same. The fries were horrible, there were only two ladies working the entire place (this includes the kitchen) and, therefore, service was painfully slow. I saw at least one table walk out. Once the food arrived, it was OK, but definitely not the same. I think they are trying to use the same recipes, but it isn't working. We won't go back. I wonder if the Whitby location has suffered the same fate.