The invite for the thank you party did mention that appetizers would be served. Of course, at the Centretown Tavern, the list of appetizers is very limited. Some were having the nachos, but they did not look great. Wings, bruschetta and some deep fried stuff were also on the offering. But when asked what appetizers we wanted, Drew couldn’t help but call for a poutine. People looked at him weirdly, but I helpfully suggested that with four forks, it would qualify as an appetizer and would be sharable. So Jen and Nathan bought the concept, and we ordered one.
Centretown’s poutine is not a great poutine. The fries are of the frozen variety. The cheese is curds, and there was plenty in the dish, but not very fresh – no “squeek-squeek”. The gravy? A chicken-based gravy, it was not very smooth, the texture greasy. It was edible – especially for Drew it seems, who had most of it. But this is not a poutine I would recommend to anyone looking for a good poutine.
I was pleasantly surprised. The wings were warm throughout, they were meaty, they were tender, they were well cooked, they were fully seasonned, they were simply great. The chicken was of a good quality – it was impressive. In a stadium, you never know what you can end up with, but these wings were just the right size.
The spices were raw, and by that I mean that the chicken is not cooked with them, the spices are added after the wings are cooked. Same goes for the sauces, and it is in fact the case in most places. Their melange was quite salty, and the overall flavor reminded me of the old style Lays Chips BBQ flavor, with more punch and a hint of chipotle. The chipotle was much more present in the aroma then in the taste, but I didn’t mind – when overpowering, you can grow tired quickly of chipotle.
Near the Skydome, there was not a lot of recommendations. One caught my eye immediately though, the Avenue Open Kitchen on Camden Street in the Entertainment District. It caught my eye for the location (near Queen and Spadina) and for the prices listed ($3.95 for a breakfast plate before 11 am); and it was listed as a “greasy spoon”.
And so we ended up there.
Classic diner environment, a long and narrow room, with stools by the open kitchen and small booths by the wall, an old fridge filled with pop, newspaper clippings and old pictures hanging everywhere. The chef is one of the owners – his face is on a couple of the photos, although he did look younger and therefore probably was when they were taken.
Cheese omelette was the way to go for the Ladies. Great fake cheesiness was inside this nicely cooked omelette, and the ladies looked content and ate with appetite.
For my part, I had to go with the peameal bacon and scrambled eggs special. The eggs were impressive. Usually, in establisments of this calibre, the eggs are overcooked and dry. Not the case here, they were great, smooth and very tasty. Two big pieces of bacon came with, and those were just great. Peameal is not exactly a fine cut of meat, but it was perfect to get me started for the day.
As for the home fries, now these were a real treat. Real potatoes, nicely grilled on the plaque, with bits of onions – no deep frying, no freezing, no breading – they were fantastic. On the negative side, the bread was not great and had too much margarine spreaded on them.
Scott read the news clipping on the wall. A very complimentary review, claiming that “what you may not realize is that there’s a fine art to making food that tastes so good but makes you feel so bad (physically and mentally). They then proceeded to highly recommend they $6 chicken fingers and fries combo – now a little over $7. So no matter that it was only 10 am, Scott ordered the said chicken fingers. And he was not disappointed: thick, real chicken filet, breaded and sizzled perfectly.
The fries were not as great – nowhere near the deliciousness of the home fries. The review on the wall did mention that the fries were overcooked back then – however, Scott had better luck and with ketchup, down they went.
But the chicken, oh, the chicken! The fibres I could see with every bite almost made me regret my choice – but not quite: after all, I got peameal bacon! And it cost less than $30 for the four of us! This place may become a favorite of mine – especially since many reviews can’t stop raving about the lunch daily specials. A hidden gem.
I was, however, looking forward to some food. Although I had had a snack already, I was curious about how the new offerings at the Rogers Centre would turn out. I had seen some “coming soon” signs when I came here for some WBC games back in March. But when push came to shove, and the score being 5-5 in the 5th, I had no choice but to go all in for a classic – the hot dog.
And therefore, a hot dog is what I got. I couldn’t go wrong, a hot dog from the Grille was the recommended buy from the New York Times – they offer advice on what and what not to buy in every ballpark in MLB.
Arriba is a self-described Modern Mediteranean Restaurant and Lounge. Seems like an odd choice for a place with a view on the Rogers Centre, but hey, what do I know, perhaps baseball fans visiting Toronto are also fans of Mediteranean fare. The view is quite neat, and having a good meal is enticing, but if you do make reservations for game time, please be aware that you need to spend at least $50 per person – $75 if the Red Sox or the Yankees are in town. No charges for the Expos, though.
We sat just in time for the pre-game warm-up, as the A’s players slowly crawled out of their dugout to stretch, run around, play catch and do some batting practice while the Blue Jays were wrapping up their own warm up.
From our seats, right by the window, we could see very well. It was quite neat to sit in this loungy environment, and I proceeded to have a quick look at their beer list. Not a bad selection, a bit pricey but better beers and better prices then in the stadium, no doubts. So I ordered an Okanagan Spring 1516 Bavarian Lager.
So the beer is brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516. The Reinheitsgebot stated that only four natural ingredients were to be used to brew beer: barley, water, hops, and yeast. Okanagan Spring claims to follow the true four ingredients recipe, which makes the 1516 a classic Pilsner. Of a golden clear colour, it is more flavourful beer than the usual commercial Pilsner, but it is pretty low key, the malt being much stronger than the hop. It is pretty close to a Helles, I would argue. It has a fairly crisp and clean finish, slightly bitter-sweet. I had a couple more before the game.
As we kept watching the Athletics warming up, using a weird cone-system to measure warm-up distance, my attention was attracted by the tapas menu – half-price from 5 to 7, Monday to Friday. I smelled a deal. The tapas selection includes mussels, calamari, quesedilla, bruschetta, chorizo and shrimp. But we selected, to share, the Yam Fries and the Chicken Wings.
The fries were served with a garlic aioli, which was very creamy and not too garlicky, with a subtle touch of dijon. Now, they did call them Yams, but really, they were sweet potatoes. It is interesting as a french fry because it is sweet and very dense. You have to cut them julienne-style, which is what Arriba did. They were quite salty, probably an attempt to compensate for the sweetness, but it was not overpowering. It was a pretty big bowl, and at $2.50, a pretty good deal.
The wings were surprising. I have got to admit that a guy at the table next to us ordered them before we did, enticing us by doing so when he gulped them quickly and happily. He in fact had ordered more by the time we received our order. Eight wings for $4.50, not a bad price at all. They came in a fancy rectangular plate, all neatly lined-up and garnished with green onions. The sauce was a barbecue-type one, spicy but with a low heat level. The breading was fairly light, crispy but not hard. They were fairly meaty, and they sustained Scott and I until the game.
According to Scott, this place, located on King Street, is standing room only when the bars are closing.
It is easy to see why: Bubba is a small place. 12 people could sit at the table in the middle, a few more on stools by the window. But as we walked in today, there was one person eating a burger at a table and another one was leaving with a pizza.
A sign at the back of the room, right below the TV which was blaring some american insipidity, was proudly informing us that NO OUTSIDE FOOD was allowed on the premise. I felt reassured by such confidence from the owners into the quality of their food.
The menu was simple enough, but I didn’t really investigate: after all we were here for poutine. So both Scott and I ordered a large poutine, but I was a tad bit worried and I decided to complement that with a hamburger. After all, both the poutine and the hamburger were at a special price at this hour – in fact, their special menu is on from 11 am to 11 pm: the drunks can cough up more to enjoy Bubba’s fare.
And many would argue that you have to be drunk to enjoy what came next – but I was 100% sober.
This is Bubba’s Quebec Style Poutine. It definitely looked like a Quebec poutine. Fries. Gravy. Cheese curds. The fries were passable – clearly a frozen-type, they were fairly crisp and didn’t get soggy, which happens with fresh fries that are not blanched beforehand. The cheese curds were nothing extraordinary – no “squeek-squeek” noise here – but they were curds, which is a plus. It seems that they are also kept at room temperature, which permits the curds to be warm throughout with a slight melt on the outside – but very slight here. The gravy was just that – a very thick, brown gravy. The thickness is also helpful to keep your fries crisp until you are done. The gravy was not too salty, which is good, but not very tasty either. A plain, classic old-fashioned meat-based gravy. No screwing around, no experimentation, just the basic, bringing together the ingredients, coating the fries nicely to gave me the best poutine I’ve ever had in Kingston.
As for the burger, well, it wasn’t too too bad. It looked worst than it was. The taste reminded me of a Harvey’s burger. Even though they claim it is made from 100% fresh ground beef and charcoal broiled, it seems to me that the patty had been frozen – for which, strangely, I am thankful – nevertheless, it was grilled nicely. The beef was lying on a thin bed of thinly sliced lettuce, and the condiments, which weren’t spread evenly on the bun, included mayo, mustard, relish and pickles/ The bun itself was fresh – and they must serve a lot of burgers considering how many buns were pilled around the tiny counter at the front.
Melissa was tempted by the Italian poutine – the cashier immediately informed her that it came “with meat sauce, ya know? ” Clearly, we must not look like regular townies or not as informed as Queen’s students.
Melissa did enjoy her poutine, although, as far as I am concerned, their meat sauce doesn’t have enough meat. It is more like a tomato sauce, with some meat in it. If you like tomato sauce, as opposed to a good meat sauce, well, there you have it. It looked somewhat homemade, though, and it was warmer than the gravy, as it melted the cheese much faster.
Thankfully, we had a vegetarian pregnant lady to bring down the average calories and carbo-hydrates per person.
The veggie wrap. Well, it is a veggie wrap, what the hell do you want me to say? Vegetables. Yay. It looked good enough, and the veggies looked fairly fresh.
Bubba’s Pizzeria is getting mixed reviews, but for $10, I got a poutine, a burger and a coke, and I was full and content. The poutine sank in my stomach as we hit the 401 again.
Warm and crisp, they are pretty good. They are served with a clear, spicy and sweet fish sauce and a side of fresh slices of tomatoes and cucumbers, fairly fresh, but a C for presentation. You shouldn’t judge the restaurant on the rolls, though.
The beef was tasty, there was a nice mix of onions, eggplants, peppers and chili, and the freshness of the basil makes this one a Coriander classic. You are never disappointed when you order this dish – even if like me, you believe that eggplants are disgusting.
And hop, on the barbecue!
I grilled it slowly on low heat, with some wood chips to add smoke, for about three hours, basting it regularly. The result was a very tender, very tasty ham, and the combination of maple syrup and the two mustards worked great. I served it with scrambled eggs and some real home fries.
Capstick is a foodie in his own right, and people always look forward to the parties he throws with the help of his partner Shawn.
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