Best of 2021

Happy New Year!  Did anyone else feel like 2021 just flew by? Another year of lockdowns and restrictions for Toronto’s restaurants. Rather than dwell on the negative, let’s instead take a look back at some of the best eats of the year.  With the seemingly ever-increasing price of food, we managed to enjoy many a cheap-eat this year… our pursuit of #lunchunder10bucks continues.

Thalis of epic proportions at Karaikudi (1225 Kennedy Rd). Ten, count ‘em, ten different combinations of sweet, salt, bitter, sour and spicy…. the centrepiece being a zippy Kerala fish curry.  Served with papadum, paratha and basmati, this was a most memorable meal.  The winner for 2021’s best #wednesdaysinscarborough.

 The winner of the best #meatlessmonday in 2021 were these Portobello & Béchamel Vol-au-Vent at Le Conciliabule (1300 Gerrard St E).  Puff Pastry Perfection.  We thought about these for weeks after.  The kind of thing that makes you want to learn how to bake… until you realize that you’ll never be able to recreate this, so you just go back the following week and do it all over again.

So good that we did a whole podcast episode around them, the pupusas at Amanecer Salvadoreño (2663 Islington Ave) are the best we’ve ever had.  The cheese pull; the jalapeños; the crunchy curtido; the price; the place… we absolutely loved it all.  Take us back!!!

The falafel at Limon (1968 Queen St E) in #TheBeach is, by far, the best falafel we’ve had since starting the blog some 10+ years ago.  Amba, hummus, Israeli salad, tahini, zhug… perfection in a pillowy pocket.  This has literally ruined all other falafel for us (in the best possible way).  Winner of the most frequent #lunchunder10bucks, we put down at least a dozen of these bad boys in 2021.

Scallop Okonomiyaki at the legendary Okonomi House (23 Charles St).  This savoury konamono pancake is loaded with seafood and finished with a teriyaki bbq glaze job.  This dish takes its name from the loose translation, “cooked how your like it.”  Perfection on a plate from the most authentic Japanese spot in town for over 40 years.  Oh, how we miss frequenting this bustling dining room at lunch hour.

As one might expect with the eponymous name, Taste of T&T (145 Kingston Rd, Ajax) showcases the cuisine of Trinidad & Tobago and its mix of African, Indian and Chinese influences.  This spot is truly a family affair, and it’s all hands on deck required to handle the lineups.   Our most recent visit saw us liming in the parking lot with a couple of doubles (you can never order just one) and a Peardrax to wash everything down.  Winner of our best out-of-town lunch for 2021.

Sunnyside Waffles in Guildwood is a special place! A backyard oasis. Not only is Chef Gord doing great chicken and waffles… he’s providing a much-needed experience.  Slow down, grab a bite, be present.  We had a wonderful convo around food and got treated to an awesome lunch.  Gochujang fried chicken, buttermilk or sweet-potato waffles, pickle-brine kale slaw.  Oh, and don’t sleep on Gord’s cold brew coffee.  Hat tip to our favourite home-based food business for 2021.

Behold this perfect Donair from Mira Mira (1372 Queen St E).  And though my memories of eating these on the regular while living in Halifax are foggy at best, I can assure you that this Donair is in a class all its own.  Served like a burger, it’s slabs upon slabs, sticky & sweet, with peppery arugula and a toasted pita bun.  This one goes to 11.  Oh, and it somehow also qualifies as #lunchunder10bucks.  Winner of the 2021 nostalgia award for taking us all the way back to the Dartmouth Oland Export days.

We absolutely loved our lunch at Zezafoun (4 Manor Rd E).  Shish Barak are unleavened beef dumplings cooked in a garlic & yogurt stew.  Everything folds perfectly into the sidecar of pillowy rice.  Syrian home cooking at Yonge & Eg. in the charmingest of dining rooms (or dine al fresco on their cute little patio).

This has got to be one of our favourite lunches this year… Curry Laksa at Malay Thai… a hawker stall in the food court of First Markham Place.  Curry coconut broth, chewy egg noodles, tofu, fish cake and chicken.  Get in our belly!!!  Oh, and we can’t believe this qualifies as #lunchunder10bucks.  Downtown lunches @ out of town prices.

The panini at Golosita (3187 Yonge St) finishes atop our “sandwich of the year” power rankings.  Enormous two-handers loaded with rapini and provolone.  Deep-fried to a crispy perfection and not the slightest bit oily.  Choose from veal, chicken or eggplant parm , FTW!

Bánh xèo at Bach Yen (738 Gerrard St E).  Savoury Vietnamese crepe made with rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric. Paper thin and delicately crunchy.  Filled with shrimp, pork belly, bean sprouts and jicama.  Served with lettuce cups and quick-pickle salad for wrapping & dipping.  Unreal plate of food in #EastChinatownTO

The Toronto Food Blog will continue to be aligned with supporting local small businesses as much as we can heading into 2022.  As of right now, who knows where capacity limits will net out?  Will dining rooms remain open or do we revert to takeout only?  A huge thanks to the dozen aforementioned restaurants who continue to grind each day to keep their lights on and to put food on our tables.

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