Tommaso’s Trattoria ~ 400 Eastern Ave ~ (416) 466-0988

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Tommaso Conti’s trattoria is a bit off the beaten track (Eastern Avenue between Broadview and Logan). Don’t let location fool you… this is the best Italian food on the east side of town. Their Italian Hot Plate draws the lunch crowds on a daily basis. I’m becoming a bit of a regular. Pay them a visit and you’ll see why.

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There are a number of daily Pizza creations for $4 a slice and Calzones for $5 (Sausage & Rapini is my current favourite). Enormous Italian Sandwiches are also available for $8… everything from Meatball to Chicken, Veal to Cold Cuts.

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The $12 lunch combo affords you a bit of everything from the hot/cold buffet: pastas, meats, sides and salads; all piled high. They really don’t scrimp on the portions… choosing instead to provide you with everything you ask for (and then some). There’s also a massive salad bar ($8-10) for those who don’t dig on the gluten or meat.

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Dinner really has nothing to do with the hot-plate lunch menu, focusing on meaty mains and whole pizza pies. And though I have only ever been for lunch, I’m seriously considering booking our next big dinner here, as there’s ample space for a function in the dining room. It worth noting that catering is also available, and it’s awesome (I work minutes away and often call these guys to bring in lunch). Eastern Avenue love, baby.

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Little Coxwell ~ 986 Coxwell Ave ~ (416) 916-2565

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Located in Olde East York (on Coxwell Avenue between Cosburn and O’Connor), I had initially thought that Little Coxwell catered solely to the high school students across the street. Over time, we have come to realize that they’re a staple with much of the community. Dining in, pick-up or delivery, these guys are cooking the best Vietnamese food in the east end of the city… hands down.

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Rare Beef Pho is my favorite thing on any Vietnamese menu, and Little Coxwell offers-up an extremely generous bowl (in both the size and flavor department) for $8.75. I find Pho never travels well, so I’ll only order it when I dine in… which is regularly. My wife will almost always get the Chicken Bun (vermicelli). It comes in a combo, a deal at $8.50, complete with a spring roll and salad.

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Thinking about something for sharing? BBQ Kalbi Ribs ($9.50) are tossed in a sticky sesame glaze; a great starter for the table. Their Green Mango Salad ($7.75) is spicy and sweet and holds up well the next day without getting soggy. The menu also offers a number of Curry and Rice dishes that lean a little more towards Thai. The Basil Chicken/ Beef ($11.95) is enough for 2 people and comes with either a sidecar of rice or tossed in glass noodles. Green curries are available, loaded with veggies and your choice of protein. The show-stopper for me, however, has got to be their Goat Curry ($10.50). Now I am a purveyor of curried goat, ordering it regularly at various establishments around town. Little Coxwell’s version is right up there, presented as an enormous stew of bone-in goat, potato & root vegetables. Definitely worth a try.

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If you live in East York and are reading this, you probably know all about Little Coxwell already. If not, check out their website (www.littlecoxwell.ca) and order yourself something off the extensive delivery menu. Or dine in with the family. They’re extremely kid friendly; a family-run place. Either way, you will not be disappointed and will have found yourself a new go-to. We certainly have.

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Brock Sandwich ~ 1260 Bloor St W ~ (647) 748-1260

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Brock Sandwich is a place that needs little introduction. Tucked away on one of my favourite sections of Bloor West (between Dufferin & Lansdowne), they have been winning awards and piling-up the accolades over the past year as the best place for sandwiches in the city. I had the pleasure of visiting recently with the babe you see in the window (@giggsysays). Great food; great company; return visits on the horizon. We only wish this place had existed when we lived on Lansdowne back in the day.

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We order-up a couple of sandwiches, both deep-fried. The Crispy Chicken ($9) is a generous portion of southern fried thigh meat, lathered in homemade Piri Piri Sauce and then absolutely smothered in fried onions. Their Pork Schnitzel ($10) is currently my favoutite thing on the menu… in part because of its dill/caper/pickle grabiche; in part because of the bed of spicy collard greens. This sandwich truly is a thing of beauty. We both agreed that one of the more memorable surprises was that the buns did not become a soggy, inedible mess. Even the leftovers held up (though they didn’t make it home before my stomach intervened).

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There are a number of other utensil-free options available, including (but not limited to) a $10 Cheeseburger & Fries combo. This is a great burger at a price-point most other places seem to be exceeding these days. Sides include slaws, soups, salads and spuds.

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Due to Brock Sandwich’s popularity and limited seating, it’s advised that you order ahead for pick-up to cut down on waiting times… especially around lunch hour. I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys are serving-up craft beers by the next time we visit. That will be very soon, btw.

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Kaiju ~ 384 Yonge St ~ (647) 748-6338

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In the basement of the city’s tallest condo lies one of the city’s smallest food courts. It’s really nothing much to speak of. At first glance, one might actually miss Kaiju (tucked away in stall 51). If the PATH ever reaches Aura, this location could become a hot spot. For now, though, Kaiju is gaining notoriety with its Asian mash-up cuisine… specifically their curry dishes. This place is an excellent addition to the Ryerson lunch scene, and I find myself driving over from east of the Don at least once a month for lunch. My goal is to try everything on the menu.

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The name of the game at Kaiju is really the Katsu Curry ($8). Their homemade curry sauce is made from over 14 different ingredients, and simmered low-and-slow for 2 days before serving. Panko-crusted cutlets of the chicken or pork variety are deep-fried to order, sliced thin and served atop the curry sauce (spiced to your liking). This dish looks, smells and tastes great. It’s truly line-up worthy.

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My second visit saw me venture out to try new things on the menu. Their Malaysian Fried Sambal Udon ($8.50) is a real hit. I order it “Kaiju Spicy” and am presented with an extremely generous serving of extra spicy fried udon noodles, tossed with sambal, onion, fish balls, bean sprouts, carrots, red pepper and sliced chicken breast. My lunch date ordered the Thai Spicy Chicken ($8.95), which is served crispy and boneless, drizzled with a sticky chili-peanut sauce. This is a great dish for sharing or ordered as a sidecar. 

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Many moons ago, I lived in Australia and played on a travelling Japanese baseball team. We would have a rather large meal after every home game. This is when I was first introduced to Katsu Curry. Naturally, when I heard about Kaiju, I really, really wanted to love this place. I have to tell you, they have yet to disappoint. I’ll be going there again this week for a Friday lunch. Next up: Taco Rice!

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Stock-in-Trade ~ 1272 Danforth Ave ~ (416) 792-5059

SIT Sign Stock-in-Trade is a new butcher shop located on Danforth just east of Greenwood. Owner Jason Becker is doing a lot of interesting things with the space, and he and his team are pretty cool, knowledgeable people. They source, prepare and serve properly-raised, hormone & stimulant-free meat and incorporate it into everything they do. This place is a very nice, very needed addition to the neighborhood… helping it transform, one sausage at a time. SIT Butcher Their $6 sandwich board keeps me coming back. Piri Piri Fried Chicken, Pastrami Melts and Braised Pork Belly Hoagies are a few that are in regular rotation. They even do a Tofu Sandwich that’s so good, it’s turned out to be my wife’s favorite. Imagine a butcher shop nailing the tofu! My go-to, though, has got to be their take on a Cold Cut Combo… Smoked Kielbasa, Speck, Country Ham, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions and house sub sauce on a garlic-buttered crusty roll. Good stuff! SIT Sub Stock-in-Trade also hosts a Supper Club twice a month, after hours, right in the shop. $55 per person gets you a four-course, family-style meal featuring the best meats and seasonal produce available. Seating is intimate (limited to ten), and it’s BYOB with no corkage. Needless to say, it sells out pretty quickly. SIT Logo Butchery Classes are also offered for both beginners and vets alike. Covering everything from Sausage Making to Low-And-Slow (braising, stewing and roasting), these classes are offered a few times a month (after hours), and you can even BYOB (just watch your fingers). Pricing varies and includes all your supplies as well as your finished products to take home.

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Toronto Food Blog App

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The Toronto Food Blog now has an APP that can be downloaded for free at the APP Store.

Big thanks to my brother Chris for development. Check it out here:

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/toronto-food-blog/id919746678?mt=8

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Hokkaido Ramen Santouka ~ 91 Dundas St E ~ (647) 748-1717

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The Ramen scene in Toronto right now is much like a wildfire: out of control, with little left to burn and nothing left to prove. I traverse the abundant supply by (re)affirming one simple demand: best broth available. So for me, it’s a no-brainer… when I get that ramen hankering, or just need a bowl of soup because my daughter’s daycare has provided me with yet another cold, I go to Santouka Ramen for the broth.

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Served Hokkaido-style, the broth is derived from pork bones that are simmered for 20 hours before adding the veggies, dried fish, kelp, pickled plum, bamboo shoots, kikurage (pickled seaweed), cha-shu (pork rib) and, of course, ramen noodles. I gotta say,  Santouka Ramen would be near perfection if only they pulled their own noodles. But I digress, as it’s not really the noodles I’m after.

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Ordering is pretty straightforward. First you pick your broth… Shio (salt), Miso (soybean paste, served mild or spicy), Shoyu (soy sauce) or Toroniku (with toppings served separately). Then you pick your size (large is only $1 more). Then you decide if you want to make it a combo (served with one of the house salads). For me, it’s very tricky not to order combo 21, as it comes with a sidecar of Ikura Gohan (a rice bowl topped with salmon roe). It is a bit steep @ $17.95, but well worth the splurge once in a while; perfect for a casual business lunch.

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Using the exact same cooking methods in all 54 of their restaurants around the world since 1988, these guys are obviously doing one thing really, really well. The Toronto Food Blog recommends trying this place out if, A,  you’re craving ramen; and/or, B, if you’re in the proximity of Yonge & Dundas Square and are looking for something decent to eat. I can say with confidence that these bowls of soup truly are line-up worthy… even if you do find yourself queued-up outside “against the wind.”

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