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Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (Canadian Version)

My boyfriend and I have spent the entire summer working so we can travel around Canada from mid Sept - December. We're huge fans of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives so we really want to do our own version. We're from Toronto so we want to get out of the city and venture around northern Ontario. We're also going to PEI, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia. In case you haven't seen DDD, we are looking for places with huge portions of homecooked/fresh food. We want to chow down with the locals so no chains and no shmancy gourmet food!

Thanks for your help!

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    1. vesta lunch -- original diner with formica counter and stools, where you can find char brolied burgers--according to their sign. Love it...
      Mars Diner -- 50's style stainless steel diner and lunch counter, not what it was 15 years ago, but still a great place to get a greasy breakfast (at 4am on a weekend). I worry this place will eventually be overtaken by gentrification, and the fear of cholesterol. come for the grease, stay for the sardine sandwich on rye.

      3 Replies
      1. re: NoraBlenderbee

        Vesta and Mars are possibly the 2 worst restaurants in the city, in no way would either of these places make it on the show

        1. re: Bobby Wham

          I stopped going to Mars a couple of years ago when we sat in the back and saw a large area of mold on the wall...the place is filthy.

        2. re: NoraBlenderbee

          Mars : Yes, with the exception of the corned beef hash. And hope for a friendly waitress.

        3. Sorry, but you shouldn't bother. There aren't any good diner's drive-ins or dives in Canada. all you're going to find is disappointment and Tim Horton's. See there's a reason behind this. If you watch the show, all the places have a theme right, home made, local, and big portions right? 1st thing. Canadians' don't do barbecue, second, anything "fresh and home made" in Canada countryside is usually Pies, baked goods and preserves. and the huge portions is just an American thing. If you get a small portion in the states you think you are being ripped off. Any diner or dive you're going to find on the road through out Canada will be 100% frozen, processed food.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Bobby Wham

            I call BS

            On two counts, count 1 is that in point of fact a few (and maybe more than a few) of the places GF goes on his show are actually pretty awful, and a lot of the ones that aren't aren't really diners or drive ins, a prime example of this would be the fish restaurant he went to in the Hawaii episode.

            The other one is that there are in fact places in Canada that qualify, you just have to look around and maybe dig a bit because yes, the good local joints are sometimes well hidden. Some examples I can think of off the top of my head, John's Lunch or Jim's Pizza in Dartmouth, NS for fried clams, pig tails at the Heidelberg House in "suburban" KW.

            Yes it's sad that many of the places in small towns where they actually roast their own turkeys for the hot turkey sandwiches etc. are pretty thin on the ground (I pine for a place in Smithville now long gone), but they are out there.

            1. re: bytepusher

              I'm with bytePusher I call BS too, that's a pretty broad statement to back up, In 5.7 million square miles there isn't one worthy diner

            2. re: Bobby Wham

              I beg to differ. First and foremorst, PEI. It has a ton of old-school Dairy Bars near almost every small town and a lot of them have homemade food using fresh, local ingredients. But since I don't want this posting to get booted from the thread, I will stick to Ontario.

              I think that when we speak about DDD in Canada, we have to consider that it is going to be a lot more ethnic than the DDDs in the States. With that in mind:
              1. United Dairy Bakers at Bath and Lawrence. A kosher-style diner/dive that has been around forever. They have the most delicious homemade soups, especially the famous pea soup, among many other fresh items.
              2. Albert's Real Jamaican on St. Clair. Once again a dive that has been around forever with some great, fresh food.
              3. Many of the middle-eastern restaurants in the Bathurst/Steeles area, especially Sababa, a dive with the best falafels, salads, homemade pitas, and of course, the lentil soup.

              To sum it up, think outside the "American" food box, and you will find many worth DDDs in Canada.

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              Albert's Real Jamaican
              542 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6C, CA

              Sababa
              390 Steeles W, Thornhill, ON L4J6X6, CA

              1. re: Bobby Wham

                I've got to disagree with you, Bobby! There are some great places that I've already had the pleasure of eating at in Ontario that definitely do fit the bill! I know they're out there, but they are usually hidden in small towns.

                1. re: Bobby Wham

                  DDD often hits breakfast joints, and I think one that GF would love in Toronto is Mitzi's (on Souraren over by Roncesvalles Village). Chalkboard menu of 6-8 dishes, fantastic oatmeal pancakes and some really unique egg dishes (who knew kimchi would work on eggs?). Mismatched coffee mugs and furniture give it a certain kitschy feel and its stuck right in the middle of residential streets, which adds to its charm. Portions aren't the usual DDD, but to me that is the lowest priority in finding something "DDD-worthy" in Toronto.

                  1. re: torontojoe

                    Good call on Mitzi's. Only thing is there's no way they're getting a camera crew into that kitchen.

                    1. re: torontojoe

                      I think Aunties and Uncles would qualify, too.

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                      Aunties and Uncles
                      74 Lippincott St, Toronto, ON M5S2P1, CA

                  2. Mad Michael's, just outside Midland. I had lunch there this weekend, first time. It was utterly delightful. Real bbq, everything from scratch. Warm friendly service in a whimsical setting.

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                    Mad Michael's
                    8215 93 Hwy, Wyebridge, ON L0K1E0, CA

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: haggisdragon

                      So please add your comments to the Mad Michaels thread.

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                      Mad Michael's
                      8215 93 Hwy, Wyebridge, ON L0K1E0, CA

                      1. re: estufarian

                        Will do. Actually it was your posts there that lead me to Mad Michael's.

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                        Mad Michael's
                        8215 93 Hwy, Wyebridge, ON L0K1E0, CA

                        1. re: haggisdragon

                          Love that place - but the more independent reviews the merrier.

                        1. re: haggisdragon

                          Strongly agree with Mad Michael's. Thanks to your suggestion, my wife and I went to MM's last Friday for lunch on our way up north. We travel a lot in the States and have hit 15-20 triple D spots with great results. MM's is a quintessential D,DIs, Ds type of restaurant.

                          EVERYTHING is from scratch. Smoked meats (Pulled Pork, Brisket, Montreal Style), pickles, amazing sauer kraut (different but good), killer potato salad, ALL baked goods (corn bread to die for, excellent buns and breads, butter tarts that will blow your mind, and a selection of pies that would make a desert lover faint - really).

                          In addition to the food, MM is a character, the staff were friendly and helpful, the restaurant is also a wacky boutique, and go out back and check MM's smoking rig and grill. This place is a find. Only open until Thanksgiving though.

                          Thanks again for the tip.

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                          Mad Michael's
                          8215 93 Hwy, Wyebridge, ON L0K1E0, CA

                          1. re: haggisdragon

                            It is way over priced and obviously has never rated real southern BBQ as well as you never know when it is open. Very strange hours

                            1. re: Robmckend

                              Its hours are aimed at the cottage country people - so are perfectly logical.
                              Open Thu-Sun at Noon for lunch and 5:00pm for Dinner - what's strange about that?
                              It's called Mad Michaels Restaurant & Bakery - not sure where you get the Southern BBQ clainm from that.
                              Indeed they do smoke their own meat (including Elk, Bison etc) - not exactly Southern staples and instead of using Wonderbread they actually use something edible.
                              Pricing has never caused me a problem - I find them reasonable for what you get - the best brisket I've found in Canada (better in Texas tho') but the best sauce I've found ANYWHERE.
                              Their pork is 'texas-style' - NOT ribs. Their cornbread is, again, the best I've had anywhere.

                              If you don't like their style (or prices) - that's fair comment, although you haven't given any examples. But to criticize them for not doing 'real southern BBQ' is totally unfair, when they don't even attempt to mimic that style (at least the ones I'm familiar with).

                              1. re: Robmckend

                                Sentence structure and grammar, man!! I don't know what you're saying here.

                                I assume your overall gist is that you don't care for MM. You'd be in the minority I must say. A lot of die-hard BBQ lovers really like MM. Myself included. But to each their own.

                            2. Sounds like a fun trip.

                              I'm a big fan of the show too. It's just bad to watch at night because it gets me hungry lol.

                              Here are my recommendations to you for Ontario.

                              Hamilton: Harbour Diner. You can search it on CH for further reviews. It's a dive diner. Good menu, good portions, good prices.
                              http://www.harbourdiner.com/

                              Southampton - Sauble Beach area: Armen's Cafe. This place has never been reviewed on CH, but if you go up this area towards Owen Sound - Wiarton etc..then drive over to Southampton. It's a quaint lakeside town and there's this eclectic diner called Armens Cafe that is pretty cool. The chef, Armen, does pretty much everything from scratch and has a very cool menu. Desserts are very good - had the lemon meringue pie and some of the strawberry sour cream cheesecake and both were excellent. He's only open from late spring to early fall and uses alot of local ingredients as well.
                              This place is definitely Triple-D worthy.

                              Sarnia: Purdy's Fish and Chips. It's only open till mid October. This place would qualify, as Guy Fieri has done a few dockside grills in Florida, Mass and California.
                              http://www.purdyfisheries.com/docksid...
                              The menu is simple but good: Fresh caught fish, fried.

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                              Harbour Diner
                              488 James St N, Hamilton, ON L8L1J1, CA