HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >


CNE recommendations?

Hi folks,

I'm going to the Ex this weekend and am looking for some tasty recommendations.
I'm not into deep-fried butter or bacon-wrapped Mars bars or anything like that.
I just want good-tasting food.

So far I've heard that there's a vegan taco and a korean taco that are must tries.
I'm open to suggestions!

Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My recommendation: Stay Home! Finding tasty food at the EX is an exercise in futility. You have a better chance of finding tasty food at one of Toronto's Soup Kitchens and it's a lot cheaper.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Doctormhl1

      I think that's a bit harsh.

      To the OP I would say that the Food Building is like a gigantic food court, expect nothing unique (beyond whatever gross thing they're deep frying this year) or Chow worthy and you'll do fine. I haven't been this year so perhaps others can fill you in better as to what's toothsome there.

      1. re: ziggystardust

        i dont think that it really is that harsh considering the prices of the food there, for example you get a 6 pc chicken tender meal with fries for $16, A bucket of fries (almost the same amount you get for a McDonald's large fries) for $10, a single strip of bacon on a stick for $6, the only thing thats really affordable are the old standbys like subway subs if you want to try something different bring lots of cash..

    2. Yeah, heard good .things about the Korean taco spot in the food building. Friend had pulled pork from Pulled today and she enjoyed it. I hear the raw place is over priced. This weekend is the old truck rally at the CNE so you might want to check that our. Some food trucks that haven't been in Toronto before

      1 Reply
      1. re: ylsf

        Correction, talked to my friend more today and she said to skip the pulled pork from Pull'd. She said it was just "ok", not worth it.

      2. There is a perogie place that has a sampler plate for $4. You get 4 perogies and a mini cabbage roll that is quite good. Other than that there is the 99 cent spaghetti. Stay away from Bacon Nation. A bacon wrapped hot dog was $6 and it was just a hot dog with a strip of over cooked bacon stuck on top.

        1 Reply
        1. re: juliewong

          +1 to the polish place with perogies and cabbage rolls.

        2. Best thing we had were the Kimchi Fries from Far East Taco (fries, cheese, bulgogi, kimchi). For food trucks we hit up Buster's Sea Cove for fish tacos, and Gourmet Gringos for short rib mole tacos. Both were good. Also enjoyed some cupcakes from a truck whose name I forget.

          1. Just went tonight. I always have the Philippine shrimp patty. Two rather large shrimps in the shell (no heads) on a patty of veggies and potatoes and deep fried. It was better then the last time I had it but merely OK. Then had bhel puri but it was ruined by too much sauce therefore too salty. When leaving I saw the Dutch fries place which has 'Kroketten' which I would have tried if I saw it first.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Teep

              From which gate did you leave? Dutch fries and kroketten? Mmm--the Dutch fried fish from the truck was the last good thing to eat at St Jacobs...

              I've loved those Philippino fried-shrimp things for years--as long as that booth's been there--we never miss them! Glad to see someone else likes them.
              I'll definitely try the Buster's truck too; I had a great fish sandwich from them when they were in the food building.

              1. re: pearl3

                The Dutch fries I saw were in the food building. Didn't see or know about the food trucks unfortunately.

                1. re: Teep

                  Well, I tried the Dutch fries, and 'tho I liked the design of their operation [looks like people shilling a potential franchise to me], I thought the fries were okay + 1, no more. Yes, they were real potatoes, and yes, there were the North Euro mayos on offer, but the frying could have been better. I wanted to love them, too...

                  Someone up or down-thread mentioned the absence of Island Foods--I regretted that; their rotis were always dependable. Also missed Buster's presence in the Food building. But, the Philippino shrimp fry was just as good as always.

                  Causes of Potential Nausea: the Maple Lodge poultry booth offers a Hot Dog Eclair--and they mean "eclair," as in chocolate on the starch part [not chou paste] and whipped cream. Is it just me, or do those items not really blend well with a chicken hot dog?

                  1. re: pearl3

                    I was just there today and saw the maple Leaf "Hot Dog Eclair". And indeed I thought "why? why???"

                    1. re: rstuart

                      Ha - I mentioned it in my post below as well. Didn't realize it was a chicken dog - assumed it was a beef hot dog. And while any variation would be pretty repulsive to my mind, a chicken dog seems even slightly more icky (if possible). Why indeed.

            2. So we went today and checked out the food trucks. The Canuck Pizza Truck was MIA. We had the Poutine with Brisket from Urban Smoke ($5 for a small) - it was very, very light on the brisket but quite flavourful and a decent sized portion. We also tried their Dirty Bob Brisket Sandwich ($8) which was also very tasty.

              Later we went back for Fish (Mahi Mahi) Tacos from Gourmet Gringos $9 (cell phone photo of tacos below along w their menu). The tacos were great. The fish was crispy with a little heat and the slaw with onions paired perfectly with the fish.

              Then we headed over to Per Se Mobile for their Porchetta Sandwich $8 with pickled onions and banana peppers. It was good but not great as the onions seemed to overpower the pork. Their Raw Sugar Cane Lemonade was excellent however and well worth the $4.

              Food Network was filming at Hogtown Smoke at 11am (opening time) and they figured it would be an hour before they started serving so we passed on them. When we returned at around 4pm there was a line in front of their truck but they weren't taking orders. After about a 20 minute wait with no communication from the truck as to what was going on (they were busy talking about the tv shoot earlier in the day) we decided to pass again.

              Overall the lines for the trucks were short to non-existent and it didn't seem that the event was well advertised. The CNE maps didn't show the food truck rally so that may have been part of the problem. The other issue was that the trucks were near the Princes Gates and there were no eating areas/picnic tables set up so this seemed to deter some of the foot traffic.

              I did post a link to a Toronto Star Article about the event in another thread. There's a list (and links) for the participating trucks there too if anyone is interested:


              6 Replies
              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                I was going to go for the food trucks, but the weather is too nice, I worried the crowds would be too big.

                As for what to eat, Naleway Perogies in the food building is nice, they are the ones that sell the tasting plate, other than them EVERYTHING is priced ridiculously.
                Have fun down there.

                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                  We hit some of the food trucks as well. I know you're going to pay too much for food at The Ex so that's really no the issue for me. The 3 we tried were:

                  Fidel Gastro's:
                  Sloppy Jose: tough bun filled with tough and stringy pulled pork and flavourless baked beans

                  Hogtown Smoke:
                  Another shot at pulled pork that was dry, dry, dry

                  I repeat the name of the truck is Stuft. Rather laughable really. After the sausage was done, there was still half a bun left.

                  Pardon me, a Dutch Crunch bun by Ace Bakery that's inexplicably "spike" toasted. Tell ya what. Skip the toasting since the sausage could really use all the moisture it can get. And maybe find another bakery. Sure, the Dutch Crunch has texture, but that's where its story ends.

                  I would have walked back to get the other half filled, but why bother? Inside was a complete waste of ingredients. Beef, thyme, portobello mushrooms, and "creamy" horseradish. This should be at least okay passable, right? Nope. Unbelievably dry, crumbly and, 3-for-3, without flavour. Hey, the point of sausage making is that you get to blend all the fun and fat you want into it. Fat = Flavour. Try to remember that.

                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    Thanks for the report Breadcrumbs. I'd tried Gourmet Gringos when they were at the Scadding Court market, and really like the chicken tinga (??) taco I had.I'm going to the Ex for the first time next week, but I guess that there own't be any food trucks.. just the hall.

                    1. re: rstuart

                      That's right rstuart, the food trucks clear out today but you'll still have some good options. In addition to the Food Building there's also a Ribfest going on (near the Arts & Crafts Building) and for the past 2 years they've had a Wine Garden in the Direct Energy Centre adjacent to the Garden show and shoppers market.

                      We really enjoy the Wine Garden which features different Jazz artists each week. Its a very civilized option and a great place to rest your weary feet after all the chaos that is the CNE. In addition to a variety of Canadian wines, this year they also had 18 Ontario craft beers on tap. Food choices are limited but good quality. There are freshly pressed panini sandwiches in addition to local cheese and salumi plates.

                      The food building is really just a glorified food court and most recurring guests are seeking out this year's fad, dining on sentimental favourites vs high quality food options. I'd say it's unlikely you'll find anything that will blow you away so I'd just go for whatever appeals in the moment. If I'd had room, I'd have gone back for the Red Velvet Funnel Cake with Ice Cream (a new option that folks were raving about at the fair). Tiny Tom donuts are another sentimental favourite for us ....with cinnamon sugar.

                      Have fun and let us know what you think. I've been going to the Ex since I was a kid and haven't missed a year since I was 15. Our visits are much shorter now but we still manage to have fun and find something to spend our money on!! Enjoy!

                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        Ooh.. Red Velvet Funnel Cake sounds good. Thanks BC. I used to go to the Red River Ex in Winnipeg, but I honestly can't remember anything about the food.. probably because I was a teenager!

                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          We forgot about the Wine garden; I was somewhat overwhelmed! I got a spinach and feta pie from Olive and Thyme which was pretty good, but not as good as my friend's Halloumi cheese purse, which we all liked. Her fiance had something from Bacon Nation which he said was pretty forgettable. later on, we split some tiny tom's. Think that I will spend the rest of the day on the couch recovering from the heat and crowds!

                    2. P.S. To The Board Of Governors of Exhibition Place:

                      Please bring back Big Bone BBQ. It was the one guaranteed good thing.

                      And where was the mature man that was the Maestro of the Corndog near the Fire Ball ride? That guy hand dipped the dog and deep fried it when you ordered it every time. I would have never known those things can actually be enjoyable without him.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Googs

                        That's horrible news to hear that the corn dog guy is gone. Always was my go to and better than anything in the food building. He actually really took pride in making those and they were delish.

                      2. We will be going next weekend, so we would like to hear more about the Food Building options as we will be missing the trucks.

                        We do like Naleway for the pierogies but are happy to try out any worthwhile options.

                        1. We're going later this week and hope to find something chow-worthy. I was at a friend's and saw an article that Jennifer Bain wrote last week about a few notable dishes at The Ex this year - one was from a Lebanese bakery place that was serving a street snack made from sesame covered dough that gets toasted and filled with halloumi and fresh tomatoes. Looked/sounded yummy.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: peppermint pate

                            Mmm. That's sounding promising. Let us know your best finds!

                            1. re: Dr. John

                              Well, I went and ate a bunch of stuff but don't have too much to add in terms of recommendations. In fairness, we were with our young kids so we didn't have time to do a thoughtful wander around the food building - we were too busy making pit stops at the cotton candy and slushie carts.

                              The haloumi purse from the Lebanese bakery was decent - the pastry was a bit heavy and the tomatoes weren't delicious local field tomatoes, which really would have elevated it. But overall, I liked it and it was easily one of the healthiest items on offer. One of my children had the mac 'n cheese with hot dog from the Mac 'n Cheesery - I thought it was totally gross. The sauce was watery, the pasta undercooked, just blech. The sour dills and the "frickle" (battered and deep fried pickle) were actually pretty decent. I tried a bao and a taco from Far East Taco but didn't particularly like either - I've been to Banh Mi Boys way too many times in the last month and there's just no comparison - fillings were overcooked, oversauced, meh at best. Longest line were for the deep fried butter (at least 50 people in line around 10:00pm), poutinery and, of course, tiny toms - which were warm, sugary and delish as ever. Passed over the chocolate covered bacon, the krispy kreme burger and the hot dog wrapped in a chocolate eclair. Hadn't been to the Ex in years - gotta say we had a lot of fun.

                              1. re: peppermint pate

                                We went today. We agree about the sesame purse - we thought it was quite good, but would have been better with ripe tomatoes. We were more favourably disposed to the Far East Taco baos - not bad for the Food Building. We haven't been to Banh Mi Boys yet, so we can't compare. The raw vegan taco from Vie was actually pretty tasty - not particularly taco-like, but like salad and dips in a wrap. My wife had a deep-fried triple play: beaver tail, pierogies, and Mars bar. I admire her stamina.

                                1. re: Dr. John

                                  Kudos to your wife - impressive indeed! Definitely try Banh Mi Boys - was recently there for my 20th or so visit. So, so good. Frighteningly addictive.

                          2. Ended up going yesterday and wanted to recommend the Dutch Frites place in the Food Building. The frites were hand-cut, the chicken kroket was yummy (crispy on the outside and smooth in the middle) and for me, the hands-down winner is the GARLIC MAYO dipping sauce. Homemade goodness.

                            Tried a few other things here and there, but wasn't overly impressed. We preferred the bao to the tacos at Far East Taco, for what it's worth.

                            Oh! and a huge shocker is that Island Foods is a no-show this year!

                            1. Went down last night for the first time in about 35 years.
                              Bro in law and I had a couple of Wanda's "Jumbo"(ha!) hot dogs..not bad but not jumbo..
                              Sister had veg roti..totally bland an devoid of any spice/heat.
                              niece had a deep fried pickle(looked gross but she liked it)and half a sub.
                              We shared the haloumi purse.tasty but the tomatoes were awful.
                              Highlight of the night was the waffle ice cream sandwich,smaller than I remember but still as tasty.
                              All in all it was a good night .I might even go back next year!

                              1. After two trips and much junk food, I'd have to say the best bargain with acceptable quality, with emphasis on the acceptable, was the 4 buck burger ordered at the stand that's sorta between Alpine Express and Nitro