Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Aug 21, 2003 01:59 PM

C.N.E. Food building!

  • d

Hi there,

I'll be going to the ex tomorrow. I know the food building caters to food of most countries.
Any recommendations?

The Filipino booth serves barbecue on a stick which is always yummy! This year i need to try something different!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm now going to sound like an old geezer, but the CNE Food Building isn't anything like it used to be. It used to be operated by manufacturers, who would give away free samples or introduce new products. It's now operated by retailers, many of whom have branches elsewhere in the city (where the food tastes better)! I'm afraid that for the past few years, my family has been going earlier, taking food with us for lunch, calling in a day around 7 p.m., and then picking a Chinese restaurant on Spadina to end the day.

    The last remnants of manufacturers used to be the Loblaws store (primarily President's Choice products) and the BillyBee store (when we wanted honey-garlic or BBQ sauce).

    As for food choices, in previous years the Greek Food at Ellas has been passable. I've had oxtail from Island Foods, but it seems a bit pricy.

    My favorite choice from the food building -- from memories long past -- was the turkey burgers, when the Turkey Marketing Board was trying to promote their product. Before tetra packaging became popular, the Lola drinks were amusing. I remember when the candy manufacturer used to give away Wagon Wheels. Now, we're lucky if a retailer has a deal with Coke, so that large refills are a reasonable choice.

    When I was at Disneyland with the kids, I took the advice of a tour book, and rode the monorail out of the park to go to one of the Disney hotel restaurants. This turned out to be a great recommendation: quality food at a reasonable (although not cheap) price, plus air-conditioned comfort. If there were any reasonable alternatives within the CNE or Ontario Place site that anyone could suggest, it might be nice to stay to watch fireworks!

    5 Replies
    1. re: divirtual

      You said it! The CNE isn't what it used to be. I also remember the samples of food and product in the Food Building. Now, the F.B. is nothing more than an oversized food court. Sure, you get some deals but no more "freebies" like in the old days. (I'm only 44).
      I remember the mid-60s most of all. My grandmother used to always get her Curly Kate (to clean dishes) and us kids would get colouring books from the corn syrup booth.
      I remember seeing a demo of a "new" thing called a "microwave oven" in 1966 or 1967. The lady wrapped a fishbowl, with live goldfish inside, in tin foil and put it in the oven (which was 5x the size of today's models). When she took the bowl out, the fish were still alive and the water didn't change temps. (Can you imagine someone doing that today...? The Animal Activists would shut the whole fair down!!).
      I'm going to the Ex tonight mainly becuase of the 125th celebration. (I remember the 100th in 1978!) but I know it's not the same.
      Don't get my 50-yr-old husband started on memories...
      "let's go to the ex, oh baby!"

      1. re: Tabuda

        SO true, so true....

        My favourite food memory -- is my brother and I chowing down on a HUGE plate of Primo pasta and sauce....all for 99 cents!

        You're all also right about those freebies/discounts. They are long gone. I remember we used to leave with overflowing bags of free food samples which we always took sneak peaks of in the streetcar on the way home....Perhaps we need new management at the EX to bring back those good old days...It seems like now booths go to the highest bidders, no matter how bad......

        I will say though, last year, I savoured one of the best pastrami and corned beef sandwiches EVER...from Schwartz's deli. The line up was huge, the meat was so tender and juicy and tasty, and the rye was fresh yet chewy...all washed down with an IBC Root Beer....come to think of it, I'd go back just for that sandwich this year!

        1. re: Tabuda

          Thanks for the nice post. This time of year always brings back fond memeories of the CNE and especially the Food Building. It's very sad how far it seems to have fallen. I posted on the Canada board last year around this time and it brought a few nice responses. Here is that site.

        2. re: divirtual
          Mississauga Matt


          I nearly went to heaven a few years back when my wife phoned me and said that they were being produced again. The very next day I tracked them down at Sugar Mountain and was carting a case back home.

          I still get them when I see them at Longo's; in fact, the Thursday night blackout was a two-Lola night. No power? No problem! Just give me my deck, the stars, and a couple of Lola's to gnaw on, and I can endure anything!

          1. re: divirtual

            It is SO worth it!!! The main reason I go to the CNE is for the food. It is cheap and amazing! There is a lot of free food, and everything is cheap. Best cheap fair food around!!!

          2. Get some Tiny Tom donuts for sure. Eat them there, don't try to save them to bring home.

            1. I love everything there. To get the full experience, I would suggest getting a foot-long Corn Dog (at the stands for $5, $3 for regular size) and either an ice cream waffle at the stands, or a waffle with ice cream and strawberries in the food building. There are also 99 cent sausages and Smart Choice pasta in the food building, like old times. Best cheap food ever! Oh yeah, if you actually want a good meal, there is falafal and shawarma, and get this--DIM SUM! Haha. I love the food building. :)

              1. I have two words:

                Dole Whip!!!


                Ok that was 3.


                1. In a what must be a first-of-a-kind review, Now does a review of the Food Building! See the link below.

                  They like:

                  ribs at Purple Pig and Big Willy;
                  chicken wings at St. Louis;
                  vegetarian rotis at Island Foods;
                  tandoori chicken and curried vegs at Cafe India;
                  pad thai at Thai Delight;
                  chicken adobo at Phillipine Delight; and
                  Ukranian dinner at Pierogi Chef;

                  . plus they warn away from:

                  Tiny Tom Donuts;
                  99-Cent Spaghetti;
                  bison burger at Foods of Canada; and
                  smoked meat at Montreal Deli.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: divirtual

                    So, our family went to the CNE on Saturday. We packed lunch (from Chinatown on Broadview, Vietnamese sandwiches from the Rose Cafe, buns and sticky rice from the Kim Moon bakery) and parked underground in the National Trade Centre ($17 parking, but worth it to keep food cool!)

                    When spent some time in the farm exhibit (in the old Automotive building) -- where they still give away free food! McCain's gave really small slices of frozen pizza, and little tastes of frozen punch. We stayed for the chef's show -- we got some Wasa crispbread as a giveway -- where the prepared meal was pad thai noodles, satay chicken and a no-bake cheesecake. We got a little taste of each, for staying through the show. (My eldest son described it as listening to non-stop commercials for 40 minutes).

                    For dinner, we went to the food building. My eldest son got the St. Louis chicken wings, which were clearly overcooked. (He said that they were very busy, and regretted ordering it). The lineup for ribs at Purple Pig were very long, and a rack was $18, so we passed. We got three plates of Filipino food -- two chicken adabo and one chicken thigh -- which were okay, but strictly food court. I went to the mainstay Greek stand (previously Ellas, under new management this year) for pork souvlaki, rice and greek salad. (Again, food court quality). Two kids opted for fish and chips, which was predictable.

                    We had spent a lot of time over in the farm building, and then shopping in the National Trade Centre, catching the 4 p.m. dog show. (So predictable, yet so entertaining). We were originally targeting to stay for the 10:30 fireworks, but by 9 p.m. -- wandering around the sports building with no action, and then hanging out in the arts and crafts building, decided to go home.

                    All in all, I think that we'll go back to the plan that we've kept in the previous two years: pack lunch (and snacks that will tide us over until 7:30 p.m.) and then leave the CNE site to go for dinner in Chinatown on Spadina. Arriving at 11 a.m. and spending the whole day onsite at the CNE is exhausting, and the bustle in the food building isn't very conducive to dining. (Just getting a table for 6 to 8 people is a huge stress!)