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El Gastronomo Vagabundo – Food Truck Profile

The side design on the El Gastronomo Vagabundo food truck.

Ontario’s first food truck, nearly two years ago, was El Gastronomo Vagabundo. No surprise, though, that the food truck whose chef appeared in his gotchies for a recent spread in the Grid goes by El Gastro for short. That attitude Adam obviously gets that a food truck meal should be a three-minute Ramones song, not a symphony by Bach.

Last night they hosted a party to celebrate (and view) their appearance on Food Network’s Eat St.

I know Adam and Tamara (El Gastro’s operations manager) personally, I spent a day working on their truck and wrote an article for Spotlight Toronto about it. This is a profile (not a review) but take that into account when you read the sections that shade towards opinion. (more…)

Don Don Izakaya

The special black croquettes

There are restaurants that are difficult to describe in one sentence. They balance (sometimes successfully) between doing different things for different people. This is clearly not the case with Don Don Izakaya which is about uncomplicated fun at a louder-than-normal volume.

It took a couple of false starts but it seems restauranteurs have figured out the right sort of izakaya for Toronto. At both Guu and now Don Don loud greetings combine with modestly-priced, small plates of delicious salty food to fuel appetites for more drink.

On my first visit to Don Don I happened to sit at the bar beside two gentlemen who had a friendly conversation with head chef Daisuke Izutsu (the former chef-owner of Kaiseki Sakura). With eavesdropped menu recommendations at my disposal and the experience of two visits I think I’ve been able to hit the menu’s highlights.  (more…)

Cheesewerks Grilled Cheese Opens

The Los Angeles

After cup-a-soup, grilled cheese sandwiches were the first food I learned to make on my own.

Later–much later–I developed some strong opinions about how certain food should be eaten. I’ll admit that I was only partly joking when I indignantly accused my brother of committing cheese abuse by melting precious two-year old Balderson for a sandwich. I was young. Okay, I was a bit of a brat.

The Original: Aged and Smoked Balderson cheddars on cracked black pepper sourdough from St. John's bakery

The Original: Aged and Smoked Balderson cheddars on cracked black pepper sourdough from St. John's bakery

This sandwich has lately been raised to fetish status and those seeking to wrap themselves in the security blanket of melted cheese memories can head to Cheesewerks on the west side of Bathurst, just south of King. Free Stuff Alert: To celebrate the opening on Friday, December 16, from noon to 2 PM they are giving away their Original Grilled Cheese sandwiches. That’s Aged and Smoked Balderson Cheddar grilled on the cracked black peppercorn sourdough made specially for Cheesewerks by St. John’s Bakery. (more…)

Holy Chuck Burgers Opens

I carried a mixture of high hopes and skepticism on the short walk down the west side of Yonge Street from St. Clair. On a tip from @momwhoruns I was going last night to check a new burger place that allegedly could rival the best in the city.

Holy Chuck Burgers has been slotted into the space that Retro Burger occupied for a short period. The irreverent logo and the delicious aroma of griddled, high-quality beef is a sure sign that the new owners are doing things entirely differently.

Update: I took a bunch of friends back for a second shot at Holy Chuck Burgers. I’ve added some more photos and the one of the menu is now clickable for a larger version.

(Double) Cheeseburger with pickles and mayo; hand-cut fries

(Double) Cheeseburger with pickles and mayo; hand-cut fries

I tried the cheeseburger ($7.99, $14 and change as a combo with fries and a water, all in) that is two American-cheese covered patties (cooked to order), between a barely-toasted, note-perfect, squishy Wonder Bread style bun. For a first taste I did my usual charitable thing and ordered it with pickles and a bit of mayo.  (more…)

The Bowery Launch

In the space on Colborne Street that used to be Six Steps the Uniq Lifestyle Entertainment Group (Ballroom, Cheval, Jacobs & Co.) have opened a restaurant that they hope will evoke the New York City neighbourhood of the same name. Now that they have a food-focused location critics who want to dote on executive chef Tawfik Shehata and the “punk-meets-farm menu” that he and chef de cuisine Jason Maw have created, can do so without having to mention the exorbitantly-priced bowling lanes.

Thanks to an invitation from Dana Fields of Fields Communications I had the chance to attend the media launch of the Bowery, see the space, and sample some of the food and cocktails. (more…)