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Shopping Mall Food Court Favourites

I occasionally find myself famished in the middle of my shopping trips. My go-to establishment at most food courts is Villa Madina where I order the chicken shawarma sandwich with extra garlic sauce and pickles and side of tabbouli. Does anybody else have a tried, tested and true meal that they order at the mall?

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  1. Easy. Just stay away from Bourbon St. Grill (junk Chinese passed off as Cajun) and Caribbean Queen (junk Chinese passed off as Jamaican).

    9 Replies
    1. re: TexSquared

      You might as well include Manchu Wok and it's cousins (junk Chinese passed off as Chinese).

      1. re: Wandering Foodie

        And if you had to eat a meal in the mall, what would it be? We can bash a lot more than the ones you two listed, but would you go hungry rather than eat a meal at the mall? Perhaps some people on the board enjoy food from Manchu Wok or Bourbon St. Grill as a secret guilty pleasure, so I wouldn't mind hearing from them either! Speak up, you Taco Bell lovers in hiding!

        1. re: maabso

          i like the double decker taco from taco bell...and i like taco time (western canadian chain-my university days are showing though) in the atrium on bay...and i usually hate myself after but i've been known to dip into the manchu wok every now and again.

          food court fare for me is usually a&w (or some burger chain) or subway.

          back in my university days we had a mall on campus that was all independents that included a kick-ass korean place (before there were korean places) and a great health food place with carrot and egg salad sandwiches with sprouts...lots of vegetarian options too...it takes me back....

          1. re: ingloriouseater

            That Korean place sounds delicious! My campus food was limited to poutine, pizza and all-day breakfast!

            I'm glad you had the courage to admit to enjoying something from Taco Bell and Manchu Wok (lemon chicken, spicy beef and noodles). I also have cravings for their food once in a while and I too hate myself afterwards haha

            1. re: maabso

              the korean place was my 'go to' place on campus....bibimbap back then really influenced me heavily-this was at the same time that schezuan was just becoming popular-so that will take you back a few years.

              taco time is more about the tater tots they serve...the tacos are better than taco bell but not by much...the only thing at taco bell is the double taco because i like the crunch of the hard taco shell but like that it is wrapped in a soft taco shell to catch everything.

          2. re: maabso

            OK, I'll bite (bad pun...) Most food court stuff are in the realm of "snack" or as you said, "guilty pleasure" as opposed to full meal material. I'd rather hold out and have lunch/dinner somewhere else (or at home).

            That being said, here's my list of likes. Note that I do NOT get these things regularly, maybe each item at most 4 times a year (otherwise I wouldn't be alive right now!). And I prepare to duck the flames expected to come flying... maybe the mods should move this thread to "Chains"!

            Caramel Pecanbon at Cinnabon
            Kernels popcorn (especially if the flavor I want is being made fresh as I walk by)
            Peanut buster parfait at Dairy Queen
            Caramel/chocolate apples at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
            Broccoli and spinach stuffed pizza at Sbarro
            Smoothies at Jamba Juice (Freshly Squeezed if JJ isn't available)
            Krispy Kreme doughnuts
            Big Mac meal at McDonalds (they keep adding new things but I always go back to the classic, and their fries still rule)
            Ted's Hot Dogs (Buffalo)
            Mighty Taco (Buffalo)


            Tim Horton's (on principle)
            Any non-Chinese food outlet with an all-Chinese staff and ownership (Bourbon St. Grill, Caribbean Queen, Thai Express, et al)
            Mrs. Vanelli's (the worst-tasting pizza dough...yuck)
            A&W (overpriced for what you get, and to add insult to injury they no longer ice the drinks, not good at mall food courts with the temp approaching 25C in winter)
            Arby's (also overpriced for what you get)
            KFC and Popeye's (these I only get in the U.S., here the chicken is tiny and the recipes/sides have been changed for the worst)
            Taco Villa
            any sushi place (it can't be good if it's in a food court...)

            1. re: TexSquared

              i forgot about cinnabon....although way too big-i indulge maybe once every couple of years....and i will always have the 'free' kk when i can. dq is a fave too....sundaes and the old brazier burgers...

              i still like the whistle dog at 'the dub' and i too boycot tim horton's....kfc (regardless of the country) is a once a year thing just to remember why i don't eat it. and i still remember the 5 for $5 arby's deals....

              1. re: ingloriouseater

                You could always get the smaller Cinnabons, but I figure if I'm only getting it 4 times a year if that, go big or go home*, so I get the Caramel Pecanbon... and wash it down with strong black coffee to rinse the excess sugar from my taste buds!!

                Arby's used to have good deals but not anymore. Last time I went I had a Groupon (might have been a WagJag) and I still felt ripped off. They put half as much beef in the sandwiches (that and/or the buns look downsized) as they did 10 years ago.

                * that was in my original post that was deleted. I said I only have each of these things on my list, at most 4 times a year. Otherwise I wouldn't still be alive....

              2. re: TexSquared

                I agree with 99% of what you listed, but call me crazy, I sort of like Popeye`s chicken once in a while! It satisfies my fried chicken cravings when I`m feeling too lazy to make it myself and I don`t feel as gross afterwards like I do with KFC.

                I haven`t had a peanut buster parfait in ages and I think I might have to take a stroll down memory lane very soon!

        2. I haven't been in quite a few years, but I remember Koya making very nice chicken stir fries.

          Also, big snaps to the Urban Eatery at the Eaton Centre. What they're doing there is great.

          2 Replies
          1. re: magic

            It's one of the only food courts I'll eat at, mostly for Urban Herbivore. I like the OCAD food court too, for Manpuku, Karine's and that Chinese place that does good stir-fries for $5 or so.

            1. re: piccola

              Oh yes, the OCAD/Village By The Grange food court has always been special.

              Also, the BBQ Beef Flamers at Koryo are fantastic! I also like the chicken at Sammy's Gourmet locations along the PATH.

          2. Easily the best food court food I've had is in Gerard Square. A Jamaican guy at work told me the best jerk in the city is at Tropical Joe's in that mall. Sure enough he was right. Well, maybe. It may be, it may not but I would put it in the conversation.


            11 Replies
            1. re: Davwud

              I was at the Home Depot in that mall last week, and something from the food court smelled pretty good! It was some sort of Indian / West Indian aroma. I'll have to check it out.

              1. re: foodyDudey

                It's called Tropical Joe's. Not the best, but definitely good. The rotis are large and the hot sauce (ask for it) is very tasty. The oxtail stew I'd had from them was also pretty good.

                1. re: grandgourmand

                  I'll have to try it next time I'm in that mall! There aren't as many food court options here in Hamilton but I do visit other malls once in a while and usually end up shopping myself hungry.

              2. re: Davwud

                I wouldn't call it the best, and it is more the baked style (not grilled, all the fat remaining). But the jerk itself is very flavourful and it is great for a food court and really, for that area in general. For about $3 you can get just chicken, a leg & thigh cut up, which makes a great snack if it isn't meal time :)

                1. re: julesrules

                  I like the baked style better. I usually make it at home in a slow cooker.
                  THE best jerk chicken I've had was baked as well.


                  1. re: Davwud

                    I just bought a slow cooker. So you just slather your meat with jerk paste and go? Bet that would work great with pork shoulder.

                    1. re: julesrules

                      I usually add a bit of fruit juice as well. I like a lot of gravy for the rice, etc. Add some sprigs of time and garlic cloves as well if you want.


                        1. re: julesrules


                          BTW, by fruit juice I'm talking a tropical type. Not apple or something like that. Usually I find some sort of orange, pinaple mango concoction.

                          Also, when you make the rice, use coconut milk and add some thyme to that too.


                        2. re: Davwud

                          What an interesting way to spell Thyme (time)??


                          1. re: Davwud

                            Also an interesting measure of time, ``just a sprig of time!``

                2. I'd agree with you that Villa Madina is one of the best choices. I usually order the same thing, the kofta, along with whatever salads appeal to me at the moment.

                  I also like the salads at Cultures, but I avoid their quiches or other hot dishes unless it's the middle of a lunch rush, as they sit around and get kinda leathery at other times a day.

                  1. I like the veggie platter at Shawarma's King in the Eaton Centre.

                    Some Chowhounds like the food at Milo's, but it was closed when I visited that particular food court on a Sunday, even though its neighbours were open.

                    Milo's Pita
                    10 Dundas St E, Toronto, ON M5B, CA

                    Shawarma's King
                    220 Yonge St, Toronto, ON , CA

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: prima

                      prima is Shawarma's King the place on the bottom level of the EC (close to the Bay end) near McDonalds? Last time I was there, sadly it was gone. I LOVED that place if we're talking about the same one. They'd been there for such a long time.

                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        Yes that Shawarmas King is gone. It closed along with all the other South food court shops when the Urban Eatery opened last September. Too bad, I too loved Shawarmas King.

                        They were supposed to reopen in the Bay/Adelaide Centre food court nearby but that was 4 months ago. Not holding my breath anymore. Although there is still a location at Yonge/Eg.

                        1. re: magic

                          Have you ever tried that Yonge & Eg location, magic? Is the food equivalent to the food at the Food Court?

                          1. re: prima

                            It's fairly similar yes. At the Eaton Centre they weren't as heavy handed with the sauce on my shawarmas, which I prefer to Y/E's more liberal dousing.

                            Otherwise, pretty identical. At least for shawarmas. Can't really speak for anything else sadly. But all the greens are super fresh, which is usually a good sign.

                          2. re: magic

                            Thanks magic. I wish they would open in that Bay-Adelaide food court but I can't even think of a vacant spot there... what a shame. Next time I'm up at Yonge & Eg I'll be sure to check them out though, thanks so much for that tip.

                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                Just noticed that there is now a vacant spot in the Bay-Adelaide food court - Grill it Up is closed, I didn't notice a sign saying what was replacing it.

                                1. re: apple_pie

                                  Reeeeallly. Hmm, ok, will have to keep my eye on that. Thanks for the info!

                                  I actually liked that Grill It Up location. They had good chicken pitas. If Shawarmas King goes in there (and they certainly might) that will be great though.

                                  1. re: apple_pie

                                    They closed?! I was there just a week ago. Damn, I actually liked Grill It Up and I think that's the only one in downtown TO....

                              2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                Oh, too bad. Thanks for letting me know. I remember them being there in the early 90s. Hopefully they'll resurface.

                            1. the honey grilled chicken or something like that and the grilled shrimp at ruby thai at newmarket's upper canada mall is rediculously good. The rest of the food at ruby thai, and the rest of the places in that food court are mediocre at best, but those two specific items are incredibly full of flavour

                              1. When I worked in Downtown Toronto, I often found myself drawn to Food Court Pho. In particular, there were a couple of places in the PATH that I frequented. Unfortunately both places are now closed. Based on these pleasant memories, I would check out this kind of operation in any mall food court that was new to me. And I've never regretted eating at a Tim Horton's.

                                1. I always crave the lime lamb curry with rice at Amaya Express. Their regular lamb curry isn't bad, but the hit of lime cuts right through the richness of the stew and elevates an already decent food court dish. Besides - tender chunks of real meat for $7.49 + tax? Amazing!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Wench Foraday

                                    I'm going to try this one, thanks. Any other hits at Amaya? I have one across from my building.

                                    1. re: julesrules

                                      Lamb is the only dish I get there regularly. I've had the butter chicken just once - the sauce was unremarkable and the breast meat overcooked, so haven't gone back for that. I should add that I've only ever seen the lime lamb at TD Center; the Eaton Center spot has always had the the regular curry when I've visited.

                                      1. re: Wench Foraday

                                        Thanks... if I don't see it at FCP I will head to TD one day, it sounds good.

                                  2. You have to be famish and about to faint from hunger to eat at Yorkdale Food Court. The only barely acceptable spot is the Middle-East one but the way sandwiches are served, they end up quite messy. And the prices are outrageously high for what it is.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: lamaranthe

                                      Yorkdale is opening a new food court later this year. It will be interesting to see whether it's an improvement re: the food. I'm guessing the A&W will remain, since it's been a fixture of the mall as long as I can remember. I wish they'd left the A & W where it was at Bayview Village. When I'm hungry at Yorkdale, I'm usually happiest with a teen burger or mama burger from A&W, or the smoked salmon sandwich from the Pickle Barrel's take-out counter (technically outside the Food Court), which I've found to be perfectly fine for what it is.

                                    2. My "go to" spots would be:

                                      Szechuan Express (the take-out counters operated by Szechuan Szechuan. I do find that the quality and portion sizes vary from location to location though. I enjoy the Chili Chicken, Salt & Pepper Shrimp, Crispy Ginger Beef, Mixed Veggies and the Peanut Chicken is my fave.

                                      Soup Nutsy - not sure how wide spread these outlets are but I find their soups to be super-addictive. I always struggle deciding which one to get.

                                      Rare - Again, not sure if these are in many malls but recent experiences at the Eaton Ctr location have been consistently good. The beef is delicious and I really enjoy their tasty soups and salads.

                                      1. Hmm. Mine's Thai Express -- only 'coz you can see them making your food in front of you .. and its relatively delectable... ! They're pretty prevalent now too..

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: jennjen18

                                          What do you usually order? I haven't had luck with what I have ordered in the past or maybe it is just the location.

                                          1. re: maabso

                                            I get the soups -- Tom Yum noodles, and the fillings are depending on what I need/want for that day. The Pad Thai's not bad either -- tell them to make it spicy for kick. It's good to see that they cook it in front of you, + its fast!

                                          1. re: plasticanimal

                                            What do you recommend at Sharwarma King?

                                            My choice would be Soup Nutsy. My favorite is the jamaican crab bisque.

                                          2. I'm from England, but in Toronto every couple of years to visit family. In your malls, I make an over-excited bee-line for two treats I can't get at home: a Tim Horton's BLT and a Yogen Fruz blueberry mixed frozen yoghurt.

                                            I am surprised that native Canadians boycott Tim Horton's. Is there some dark secret I don't know about?

                                            27 Replies
                                            1. re: Shivaun

                                              Well first of all native Canadians DO NOT boycott TH. It's practically a license to print money. Secondly, what you don't know is that at one time it really was quite good. Since they've been sold twice now they've really gone downhill. I firmly believe that they kept compromising the quality at such a slow rate that for the most part, the vast majority of people didn't notice. They now think that's what coffee should taste like.


                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                Some Tim Horton's locations are better than others, and some locations keep their coffee and donuts fresher. I like their donuts and timbits (when they are at their freshest) now as much as I did 30 years ago.

                                                I still think Tim Horton's is pretty good for its pricepoint, and I'd take a fresh Tim Horton's donut over a fresh Starbuck's baked good, if I was given the choice. I also like Tim Horton's cookies more than Starbuck's cookies.

                                                1. re: prima

                                                  You're allowed to like them or anything else for that matter. You're the one who has to eat it.
                                                  For my dad to swear off TH coffee in favour of McD's really says something about how far they've fallen.

                                                  As for 4bucks, I worked there for 9 months and was required to try everything. Some stuff is really quite good. It declines from there all the way down to dreadful.
                                                  TH is the same. Good to dreadful.


                                                  1. re: prima

                                                    The price point is one thing I can appreciate. For $2 you can get a hot drink and something sweet. I enjoy the banana donut/timbits and the occasional cookie too. Hate the coffee though.

                                                    1. re: julesrules

                                                      I completely agree. I used to wonder how anybody could hate TH's coffee, but once I had a taste of 'real' coffee, I saw the light. I came to the realization that the only reason I enjoyed it was because I masked it with lots of cream and sugar. Now I'll have a good quality cup of coffee with a little milk and enjoy it a lot more.

                                                      1. re: maabso

                                                        That and TH's coffee has SALT added... and God knows what other additives to make it addictive...

                                                        1. re: TexSquared

                                                          That's an urban legend. It's been tested and nothing's been found except coffee.

                                                          1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                            You sure? I thought it was found to have a high sodium content. This was discussed in an old thread here -- someone (Davwud?) pointed out that the salt serves to cancel out the bitterness from the cheap Robusta beans they use...

                                                            1. re: TexSquared

                                                              Yep! If you do a google search, all you'll find are people on blogs saying they heard Tim Hortons adds salt. There's nothing with any sort of evidence.

                                                              Their nutrition info states 0mg sodium in their coffee. There'd be some pretty big fines if they were caught in that lie :)

                                                              But I still won't drink their "coffee"

                                                              1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                They probably don't add salt to the mix, but there have been some recommendations on CH in the past that adding salt to crappy coffee makes it bearable. Apparently, it's an old sailor's trick when their ships are out at sea. A bit of salt in the mix makes the awful taste - less awful.

                                                                Timmy's probably doesn't do this, but I could see why some people say they do. Tim Horton's coffee does well only because of the 18% cream.

                                                                1. re: pakmode

                                                                  Agreed with the cream. Probably why I don't know anyone (including me) that drinks coffee black AND likes TH. I'm sure these people exist, but everyone I know that loves TH takes at least cream and usually sugar.

                                                                  1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                    Haha, I love black coffee. It's almost always how I take it. Bold, rich roasts, no sugar or milk.

                                                                    But I must say I do love TH coffee, cream, sugar, the works.

                                                                    So go figure.

                                                                      1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                        I've actually never had it black, so I can't say.

                                                                    1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                      Maybe you're on to something. I like my coffee black, or with minimal sugar. Good coffee won't be too bitter, and will have some natural sweetness to it so you won't need to mask it with "double double" additives. Crap as served by TH (or the charcoal-roast Starbucks stuff), different story.

                                                                2. re: TexSquared

                                                                  Nope, not me.
                                                                  I agree with CG. If TH got caught adding salt when it says they don't it's not worth the fine.


                                                                  1. re: Davwud

                                                                    I apologize for singling you out, no harm was intended. I honestly thought it was you who said it.

                                                    2. re: Shivaun

                                                      Yogen Fruz with the fruit mixed in to order IS good. I haven't tried any of their other products but this old-school frozen yogurt like I used to get as a kid works for me. And the berry flavours work best :)

                                                      1. re: Shivaun

                                                        "I am surprised that native Canadians boycott Tim Horton's."

                                                        No, only SOME do (like me).

                                                        Go to any Canadian TH between 7 and 8AM and see the 20-car lineup of sheeple at the drivethru.... what boycott?

                                                        1. re: TexSquared

                                                          Yep. I like my coffee to taste like coffee :)

                                                          But timmies does have good tea.

                                                          1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                            And TH"s hot chocolate is MUCH better than Starbuck's.

                                                            1. re: Ted Richards

                                                              Oh I disagree! I love th richness of Starbucks hot chocolate, but I do see how it isn't for everyone.

                                                            2. re: CanadaGirl

                                                              Jumping into this SB versus TH mini-war ....

                                                              I actually thought Timmies tea was pretty blah when I've had it.... standard tea-crumbs in a bag type of tea. The full-leaf Tazo tea from Starbucks is a way better and you can get a refill (a new tea bag, not just a hot water refill) with the card.

                                                              1. re: sumashi

                                                                I'm in Halifax (I know, it's the Ontario board :) ). But here, the tea is actually brewed like you would at home and isn't just a tea bag stuck in a cup of water. I have been told tat isn't so everywhere anymore. It could also just be a matter of the brewed TH tea tastes like what I used to and so is therefore "right". :)

                                                                1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                  Here we have the "steeped tea" and also standard hot water + bag of choice available. I am not sure how they actually make the steeped tea. I don't think it compares to a quality loose tea brewed at home. It is my drink of choice at TH but I don't crave it or go out of my way for it - it's what I order when I find myself there for various reasons.
                                                                  My husband somehow enjoys TH coffee black. I will never understand this. At home we grind our own good-to-great beans and we also frequent decent independents (in fact he first asked for my email address at Jet Fuel). He is definitely drinking the TH Kool Aid like so many other Canadians.

                                                        2. Hi Kids,
                                                          Add me to the boycotting Timmy's list - both because they don't make fresh donuts in-store, and because they pitch this all-Canadian sentimental hogwash despite having American major shareholders and buying pre-made donuts from a swiss factory. (And before someone tries to correct me and say they repatriated Timmy's after Wendy's ditched them, I am referring to US major shareholders, not where they are now incorporated back in Canada).
                                                          Oh yeah, and also because everything they make sucks. :-)

                                                          You can also add me to the "Occasional Popeye's Fan" list. SImply the freshest, biggest juiciest fried chicken breast to be found in a shopping mall food court (sorry Colonel). But don't get me started on their worst-of-all-the-chains coated spicy-fries. Get the OK spicy O-Rings instead.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: TorontoTips

                                                            i don't really boycott TH. I just don't like their coffee. Of the remaining donut stores (back in the 90's there were literally 3 donut stores on every corner) I will still have the odd donut from them.

                                                            KFC vs. Popeye's-I prefer Popeyes but again this is once a year kind of fare-as a reminder.

                                                          2. I look forward to New York Fries as the carrot at the end of the shopping mall stick. I hate shopping malls, but I love their fries. Gravy on the side, and ketchup aplenty. :)

                                                            Thai Express has a couple of soups I do like, and I have my favourites at Soup Nutsy too (although I have only ever been to the ones in the downtown Toronto PATH, which stretches the definition of 'shopping mall' some).

                                                            1. I agree on Villa Madina - that was the first thing that came to mind when I read the headline of this thread. They are actually my second choice at a food court if they are there - first choice is The Soup Nutsy, but I don't see the Soup Nutsy very often.

                                                              1. I love Green Curry in Simcoe Place- the food is fresh, the portions are massive, and the lineups are long.

                                                                I also like Thai Island in TD Centre, and they believe in spice, which is always rare in food courts, but I find their stuff runs a little more on the greasy side, especially compared to Green Curry.

                                                                There another Italian place in Metro Hall food court that I like too- yummy veal sandwiches and good meatballs. It's not Piazza Manna, it's some independent joint. But it's good and they have good deals on pizza too.