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Road Food Recommendations?

I'm a USA citizen, and I'm considering going through Ontario on my way from a stop in Detroit as we head to New York. I don't think our schedule will allow a detour into the center of Toronto, but I will consider that, as noted below.

Mainly, my interest is distinctive foods and places, preferably not fancy (we're on the move) but rather tasty, memorable, unique. I can't think of any ingredient that my son and I won't eat, so just hearing about favorites is my goal. If you had to move far away, what places would you miss a LOT?

As to location, one possible route would be from Sarnia past London through Hamilton and on to Niagara. The other possible route would be via Windsor past London and on to Hamilton and Niagara.

It appears it would cost us a total of an extra 2 hours driving time to go to Toronto. I hesitate to do so, because we wouldn't have time really to take in Toronto itself. HOWEVER, if there is a certifiably authentic German-style Döner Kebab place in Toronto, as I once heard there was, then I think I'd go for it. They're impossible to find in the USA, and I've been hankering for them for over a decade since my last time in Germany.

Thanks in advance for any ideas!

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  1. What we call "donair" is the Halifax version which has a distinct sweet sauce. It's also beef. And I wouldn't say it's well represented in Toronto anyway although it does exist. Apparently the German version can be veal or chicken? Don't know how accurate it is but I could spend some serious time reading the wiki page on global variations of "donair":
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doner_kebab

    1. I've not heard of anyone doing the Germanified version of the Turkish Doner Kebab in Toronto. It's a bit obscure. The recent obsession seems to be more or less disgusting renditions of the already disgusting drunky food specialty Halifax Donair, or more straight up Greek Gyros.

      Along your planned route nothing leaps to mind unless you are willing to make a substantial detour to the Hidelberg Haus north-west of Kitchener Waterloo for the pig tails

      1. windsor style pizza
        cevapi and burek in london
        chinese bakery and banh mi in london
        pb fry truck ingersoll
        stjacobs farmers market for apple fritters, poutine, pig tails
        camp 31 smoked wing in paris
        tim hortons doubledouble and crueller timbits
        harveys poutine
        brampton samosas a1
        koris in oakville: roti, doubles, patties

        - khao san road

        17 Replies
        1. re: KhaoSanRoad

          What a list! Thanks. I'll do some internet snooping. Never even heard of some of these things. Cevapi and burek??? Love it.

          1. re: KhaoSanRoad

            I'd heartily advise a "pass" on the St. Jacobs market. It's become a tourist trap.

            1. re: Kagemusha

              have you had the fritter co fritters?

              - khao san road

              1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                Nothing there is really that extraordinary, sorry.

                1. re: Kagemusha

                  fair enough. personally i like the fresh apples in the freshly fried snacks they provide. and at a $1 or less id say its pretty hard to beat at its price point. but its as always a matter of opinion.

                  - khao san road

              2. re: Kagemusha

                Strongly agree there. I stopped going about four or five years ago, and even then it was awful for a whole range of reasons--in no particular order here:
                1) the baking--any right-thinking KW Deutsch/Mennonite person would be ashamed of nearly all of it, especially the stuff made with yeast [shame, shame], which has that pillowy blown-out Wonderbread quality--the baking is industrialized, but so's the whole place
                2) the produce when it's there--mainly unremarkable, and you can score better, at better prices in all kinds of places--outdoors is mainly a flea market of sorts
                3) the meat, fresh and deli--personal preference here always went to the Kitchener market here, even when it was in Eaton's basement--really unremarkable, unless you've never seen clothbag summer sausage [which is still good here] or a smoked pork chop--in which case, you might find it interesting

                I'm not bitching for the joy of it here; I miss going out that way and doing the tour--maybe having lunch in Elmira, and so on. Being part German, we had a lot of regard for the KW folks--now, not so much.

                1. re: pearl3

                  i dont disagree with any of this. i recommended the fritters poutine and pigtails for a southern ontario road trip of snacks they can grab and go.

                  - khao san road

              3. re: KhaoSanRoad

                Having never heard of cevapi and burek before, I did some googling and came upon a link to a New York City food truck serving same. How do you supposes they compare to the London fare? It does look genuinely interesting and new to me, which is exactly what I'm after.

                http://newyorkstreetfood.com/12563/to...

                It so happens that I'm going to spend three or four days in NYC midtown, so trying that truck might be an option there.

                To show you how out of depth I am: my next search was to find out what koris are.... I found out.

                Edit: p.s., I find that the Facebook page for the NYC Cepak Truck stopped its daily updates in mid-June, so maybe it's already history.

                1. re: Bada Bing

                  the nyc one say "100% beef". but the better ones are a mix of meats like lamb and veal. also, the bread they destribe as. pita. but its more like ciabatta. chewy and airy so i feel like the nyc bread doesnt quite match. as for the kaymak, this is supposed to be the fat skimmed from milk, but more often it a "mock" kaymak of butter blended with cottage cheese. im not sure what london is serving as i dont eat with mine, and the nyc is hard to tell from the pic. tho i love kaymak smeared on the warm bread.

                  i prefer mine with just raw cooking onions.

                  - khao san road

                  1. re: Bada Bing

                    as for the burek, it looks pretty good in the nyc pic. tho i think i prefer a slightly flakier dough.

                    it should be crispy on the outside, with. harder crust on the bottom due to nearly deep-frying in its own fat when baking. and the inside should be a bit chewy. the fillings can be cheese or meat. and both tend to be salty tho the cheese is saltier. i think this works well as it should be eaten with beer at a bar :)

                    - khao san road

                  2. re: KhaoSanRoad

                    Okay, I've had some time to explore these many terrific recommendations--in several cases, needing to investigate what these things even were. My thoughts keep turning back to two:

                    1. Cevapi and burek look most interesting right offhand. Great kebab sandwiches are one of my passions. The burek sounds interesting, too. Is there a clear go-to place for that in the London area?

                    2. Another alternative I'm also an advanced pizza aficionado, if I do say so myself (as clearly I do): I'd appreciate some enlightenment on Windsor-style pizza. Casual googling does not make defining it very easy. There are lots of internet queries about where to find a good one but not much about their nature. The Wikipedia page on pizza does not mention it, nor even Canada. So what is it? And as we can easily enter Canada in Windsor itself, should it be assumed that that is where we should get it? (I kind of hope the London area has a solid version, for reason of driving timing and meal timing. If it's to be found closer to the Niagara area, too, that could be worth mention, because I gather that it's a pretty good pizza even when cold, so we might grab some there and take it with us on the road into New york State.

                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      the best burek ive had in london is here: http://www.coventmarket.com/merchant/...

                      as for cevapi try: gigolaj (coincidentally in same plaza as my moms shop. id be tempted to swap a toronto doner for michigan beer via my mom :P), they also have burek.

                      windsor pizza is really only in the windsor area. for more info read this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/382111

                      - khao san road

                      1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                        I find on the internet a Gigolaj's Bakery at 317 Adelaide St S, London, ON. But I cannot locate any information about their hours, and there seems to be very little internet commentary about the food as on Yelp or such sites.

                        Do you know how late they'd be open on a Saturday? And are there other cevapi places we should/could consider?

                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          ok, from my mom:

                          "
                          519-649-2300

                          civapi fresh on their grill, small portion $6, large $9
                          also available frozen: $35 for 100, $19 for 50 pieces

                          tues-fri 10-7
                          sat 10-6
                          sun 10-5
                          closed mondays

                          burek: sirnica/cheese, meat, zelinica/spinach $4 each
                          "

                          - kaho san road

                          1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                            That's so kind of you to investigate! Thanks. I'm not sure we'll be able to be there by 6 on Saturday, but I'll definitely see what I can do to make it possible.

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              If you're en route today and might not be in London before 6 in time for the cevapi, the annual Rib Fest is taking place in Victoria Park in London this weekend. Ribs and other food are available until 11 pm tonight.
                              http://www.canadasbiggestparty.com/fe...

                    2. re: KhaoSanRoad

                      wow! this is a great list for a taste of ontario. i would add stops at the fruit stalls in niagara for some local peaches, apples and cherries (palate cleansers!)

                    3. what in particular are you looking for in a "german" doner?

                      i personally love the doners at doner kebab house for the juicy crispy meat and the fantastic house made hot sauce.

                      - khao san road

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                        What I find lacking in American döners? Short story: they're Greek or sometimes Turkish rather than German-Turkish. Specifically: (1) The American shops use a relatively dry and thin pita bread in the form of a roll, rather than a fresh and crumby (breadmaker's term) pide bread, cut so as to serve as a triangular pocket. (2) They omit cabbage among the salad fillings, which I think the German-Turks slightly pickle or brine; (3) They apply a mild tzatziki-kind of sauce, Greek-style, rather than a heartier garlic sauce, plus they generally don't offer my important, preferred option of a hot red sauce which I think resembles most closely a sauce called harissa.

                        It's one of those things, like certain executions of pizza, in which the ingredients list sounds generic and uncomplicated, but the execution and the specifics make a world of difference.

                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          the doner kebab house, iirc, has a pita like wrapper, maybe on the thinner side. they do have cabbage. tho dont recall if seasoned with vinegar or not. but the sauces are awesome both the garlic one and the hot pepper sauce that you mention...i might go give them a visit today :)

                          -khao san road

                          1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                            ok, the cabbage looks seasoned. the pitas are from haddad bakery.

                            i took some pics. i will try to post them to my twitter later.

                            - khao san road

                            1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                              Hmmmm.... If they have cabbage at all, that's a good step in the right direction. I will pay close attention to your investigation.

                              Generally, I look for the judgments of those with direct experience of Germany, which I had as a student and as a student teacher over a total of 2.5 years. More Americans got such experience in the military, what with all our bases out there post-WW II.

                              I appreciate your help, all the same.

                              If you were able to survey my whole Chowhound history, you would realize two things: I've looked for this a long time in connection with every metropolitan place I've visited in North America, and there usually ends up being a contingent of Chowhounds in each thread who insist I'm just talking about gyros and another group of people who've been in Germany and back me up. The whole story is almost ready to be a small book full of sociological, demographic and occasionally vitriolic interest!

                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                here are the pics as i said i would post:
                                http://bit.ly/15C1AeB

                                - khao san road

                                1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                  It appears that the first 4 pictures there are what you mean, and that does look genuinely delicious. The rest are apparently a Thai place you're connected to? That looks wonderful. too.

                                  I'd love to live in Toronto!

                                  Thanks.

                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                    question is: is it worth the detour to TO?

                                    btw, when is this trip happening?

                                    - khao san road

                                    1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                      We'd go through Canada either August 10-11 or August 16-17, depending on which routing we choose for to and fro.

                                2. re: Bada Bing

                                  I'm not sure if the gyros at Imbiss is similar to a German donair. I know Imbiss is the term for places serving donairs in Germany, but I haven't tried TO's Imbiss, so I can't tell you what it's like. Has anyone ordered the gyro at Imbiss lately?
                                  http://www.imbissrestaurant.com/ It's the only place I can think of,in TO, that might have the German type.

                                  If you're driving right into London to stop for food, you could get burek and other treats (macarons, Jamaican patties, falafel, cupcakes, samosas,etc) from various businesses at the Covent Garden Market on King St, open Mon-Sat, 9-5 afaik. There's also a farmers' market at the CGM Thu 8 am-2pm and Sat 8am-1pm.It's about a 15 minute drive into town from the 401, if you take the Wellington exit. Most of the restaurants in London that are closer to the 401 are chain restaurants.

                                  For a London institution, might want to try the nachos or kitchen sink pizza at Joe Kool's on Richmond Row.

                                  London also has a number of spots selling pupusas and other Latin American treats. I've heard good things about Las Comales.

                                  Alicia's, on Trafalgar Rd near Highbury, is a neat well-stocked Polish grocery store,with baked goods, deli, etc. within 10 minutes of the 401 (Highbury exit).

                                  KSR, where do you find cevapi in London?

                                  1. re: prima

                                    im not sure, my bil always picks it up for me...a quick google got me eurobest on highbury.

                                    - khao san road

                              2. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                Oh god! Doner Kebab House is probably Toronto's equivalent version of New York's 53rd and 6th halal chicken rice. I can't vouch for authenticity but I enjoy the well seasoned meat, delicious sauces all the same. I'm inspired by this thread to have this for dinner tonight. :)

                          2. Bada Bing - keep this link in mind for later in your trip...

                            http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/06/30/...

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: scoopG

                              Very interesting, scoopG. Thanks! Though I do have to say, when I started reading the article, it seemed to be about a battlefield site visit, but it soon became clear that it's about great eats while visiting the battlefield area. It made me laugh as I remembered the Seinfeld episode where Jerry gets scolded for making out during the movie Schindler's List...

                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                Ha ha. I'll have some more for you if you post on the PA Board. Wanted to get that out of the way!

                            2. If there is a certifiably authentic donair kebab place in Toronto I don't know about it.

                              Secondly, a foray into downtown Toronto will eat up a good bit more than 2 hours if you plan to cross into the US at Youngstown/Buffalo/Fort Erie.

                              You can eat very well in Toronto but please come for a few days!

                              That said, the next time I am driving your route I will be stopping at "Sunset Villa" in Puslinch, about an hour west of Toronto. I have never been there but am given to understand that they serve authentic Danish food which is quite rare in North America. they are open on the days you intend to travel and I am hoping to get there in the next few weeks and if I think it is a bust will report back.

                              Obviously this is a major departure from the donair kebab idea but it might be a find. Check the website. It is about 15 minutes off the highway and could be very interesting.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: sumdumgoy

                                Thanks for the tip! I'll investigate. I realize that I don't have any concept of the savory side of Danish foods. ANd I even lived in adjacent Germany for two years.

                                I have spent time in Solvang, CA, which took shape as an expat Danish community and persists that way, although it's become very touristy and seems almost like a Danish theme park now. As I recall, the foods there are mainly sweets: baked goods, confections...

                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                  If you're driving from Windsor/Sarnia through London towards Buffalo/Queenston, I wouldn't bother making the trip into Toronto for food. The drive from London to Toronto along the 401 can be as short as 2 hours in good traffic conditions, but often as long as 3.5 hours (for 120 miles) in the late afternoon/early evening.

                                  The traffic from Toronto along the QEW past Hamilton toward Buffalo can be horrendous, depending on the time of day you'd be leaving Toronto, and you can avoid that stretch of highway if you don't stop in Toronto.

                                  If you're looking for something delicious along the 403, I'd think you can find something tasty in Hamilton or Burlington, that will be less than a 20 minute trek from the highway.
                                  Here are some ideas in Hamilton: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/847484
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/739033
                                  Ideas in Burlington: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/897086
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/877371
                                  Some Hounds recommend Kori's Roti in Oakville, not sure how far Kori's would be from the 403, but it's certainly a lot closer than Toronto.

                                  You might also want to consider stopping at Niagara on the Lake before you cross the border near Buffalo. The Pie Plate and Stone Road Grill are neat places near Niagara on the Lake, and there are a lot of fruit stalls, if you wanted to try some Niagara fruit while you're in Canada.

                                  Here's a link to an older thread that mentions Sunset Villa in Puslinch. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/710779

                                  1. re: prima

                                    Thanks for such a rich response. It will take me a while to work through it, as I tend not even to know the locations of some of the mentioned cities, so I'll need a map.

                                    I have visited Niagara on the Lake about many years ago, and it was a very charming town and beautiful area. All I recall food-wise was that I found the best North American version of German-style Eiswein that I've ever had.

                                    I do think it would be good for my son to see Niagara Falls, and from the Canada side, now that he's 13 (he saw it last when he was 6 months old!)

                              2. also came across this today:
                                grouchysbbq.com

                                was too full to sample. they were using all cherry when i stopped by, but say they usually use oak or oak plus fruit wood.

                                - khao san road

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                  Funny, I was just coming here to post about this and ask about it. I will create a new thread. I drove by it on Saturday and it caught my attention!

                                2. I'm honing down on our travel plan, and it appears that we will do our Detroit thing, then head late afternoon into Ontario and stop in London for some dinner chow, and then we could probably go as far as Niagara before getting a hotel for the night.

                                  The option of getting a Falls-view hotel seems rather expensive, so I'm thinking we could stop at some location a bit short of that. Any recommendations on a good locale for lodging and food quite near Niagara? For example, does Niagara on the Lake or wherever have a distinctive breakfast stop? (I'm thinking we'll spend the morning looking at the Falls a while and then head over to New York...)

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                    If you like B&Bs, Niagara on the Lake is chock full of them. Many have a 2-night stay minimum during the summer months, so be sure to look out for that. This one doesn't seem to have that: http://www.countrywillows.ca/index.html

                                    I haven't stayed there, but have driven by it and it looks quite charming. It's not in Old Town NOTL, which means it's a bit cheaper and also closer to Niagara Falls.

                                    For breakfast in NOTL, there aren't actually a lot of early morning options. For a family restaurant breakfast, there's the Lawrenceville Restaurant which does pretty decent breakfasts.

                                    The Pie Plate is amazing for pastries and quiches and such, but they don't open until 10 am.

                                    In Niagara Falls itself, I recommend The Regal Diner for diner fare done really, really well with homemade everything (breads, jams, sausage, house-smoked bacon, etc.). Open at 8am, but closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Not in the tourist zone, but just a few minutes by car to the falls.

                                    Of course, if you stay at a B&B, the breakfast issue is moot. :o)

                                    1. re: TorontoJo

                                      Thanks! I'll investigate here. I hadn't been examining B&Bs closely because I always think of them as mostly about atmosphere and multi-day visits. We're arriving late and moving on pretty early. But I'll have a look.

                                    2. re: Bada Bing

                                      The burek place at the Covent Garden Market, and Eurobest Deli on Highbury in London are closed by around 5, but if you'd like the idea of food from the Balkans, you might consider Kantina on Talbot, which is open for dinner. Kantina is a somewhat upscale bistro serving Balkan food made from local ingredients. Neat place.The Only on King is another good option downtown.
                                      Keep in mind that the trip from downtown London to NOTL is around 2.5 h, if you're planning to have dinner in London.
                                      Let us know where you end up!

                                      1. re: prima

                                        Thanks for the timing heads-up. We'd be likely to be passing by London around 6-7 p.m. Arriving in the Niagara area and stopping around 10 p.m. is fine.

                                    3. Another thought occurs to me: are Cuban cigars readily available along my route anywhere?

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                        Everywhere. Pretty easy search actually.

                                        http://www.yellowpages.ca/search/si/1...

                                        Partagas Serie D #4 and you'll be as happy as a clam. Enjoy.

                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                          we also have cuban rum, but not being knowledge on the subject i leave this to others to comment on the quality and value of the only brand available for purchase: havana club. tho having the bottle alone for novelty has value too :P i think others may be available but only in restos that curate a rum list.

                                          - khao san road

                                        2. wahooty where are you?

                                          wahooty has lived in lafayette, michigan and ontario. she would be a resource to tap into for whats different across regions and worthy stops along your journey.

                                          - khao san road

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                            Thanks for the shout-out...but I think you guys have most of SW Ontario pretty well covered here without my help. :)

                                            Personally, when I go back and forth, I do like to pick up some Havana Club. Not the regular stuff, but the anejo reserva - if you're interested, the LCBO has the big bottles on sale right now, and it appears to be in stock in the NF stores. Cuban cigars are also easily found in the tourist strip of Niagara Falls.

                                            If you're interested in beer at all, I spent a little time getting acquainted with NOTL's two new craft breweries on my last trip through - Oast House and Silversmith. Both were enjoyable, and different enough to make both stops worthwhile.

                                          2. Any Ontario trip near the Great Lakes should include a shore lunch. If you drop Windsor pizza ( a difficult find) and enter from Port Huron, there is a very accessible fishery, Purdy's, under the bridge. When you clear customs, just follow your nose to get there.

                                            http://www.purdyfisheries.com/docksid...

                                            Pickerel (Walleye) and fresh picked Ontario corn will be unique compared to what is sent to NYC.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              Looks like a great idea and location! I live near Lake Michigan, so we get plenty of lake fish, but still I'm not often on a waterfront for meals. I'll take note of this place in the event that we're hungry just then. (Will be late afternoon on our route.)