Sipping the bubble tea: Toronto’s best spots

By Ashley Alagurajah

Calling all bubble tea lovers! Toronto is one of the most diverse places in the world. That means getting to enjoy delicacies from all over the globe in this evolving Canadian city.

Bubble tea, a drink straight from Taiwan, finds its popularity in the city due to the increasing number of cultures making their way to Canada, one of the largest groups being those of Asian heritage. Bubble tea has stolen the hearts of many, both those from Taiwan and those who aren’t.

It is a drink usually served cold that consists of tea and milk of various flavours – topped with most commonly tapioca pearls. There are countless variations of the drink, some made with purely tea, others topped with custard and aloe vera. No matter what your preference is, the infinite combinations will allow for you to find a drink just right for you.

With the growing number of shops popping up in the city, CanCulture did some digging to find out where the best bubble tea is served in downtown Toronto. For now, Real Fruit Bubble Tea, Chatime, CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice, and Bubble Republic Tea House go neck and neck to see who does the original - black milk tea with tapioca - best.

Boxcar Social: The taste of coffee from around the world

By Akanksha Dhingra

(CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

(CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

A sunny day, a small cafe, and a variety to pick from. Nothing sounds better than a day out on the streets of Toronto and a chance to taste coffee flavours from around the world, without having to travel.

Boxcar Social’s Summerhill location is a two-storey cafe with glass windows, natural light and unique infrastructure. White walls, artistic decor and red bricks can be the background of your next Instagram picture.

Boxcar Social in Summerhill, Toronto has unique infrastructure and a warm vibe. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Boxcar Social in Summerhill, Toronto has unique infrastructure and a warm vibe. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Be it the coffee beans from Africa and South America farms or the coffee roasters of Oregon and Scandinavia, it is all accessible to Torontonians now thanks to the new and interesting initiatives put together by the Boxcar Social team. They say you can see the world through coffee, and now customers can come see for themselves.

Prior to now, tasting coffees from Burgundy, France and Tanzania was nearly an impossibility for me. Along with the welcoming staff, the calm, comforting atmosphere one experiences when entering the cafe is something you would not want to miss.

The story behind the bean

One of the many different coffee flavours served and tested at Boxcar Social. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

One of the many different coffee flavours served and tested at Boxcar Social. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

“We are a multi-roaster coffee house and our aim is to not stick on specific coffee flavours,” said Niall Curran, a professional coffee taster and host of the tasting.

The multi-roaster cafe is a concept in which the shop purchases and sells beans from various roasters instead of making their own product.

Niall Curran at the tasting event. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Niall Curran at the tasting event. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

The cafe works with different roasteries that are located in different parts of the world. Not only do they serve coffee, wines and scotch, but they also focus on narrating the hidden stories behind the coffee beans.

“My job is to taste different coffees and approve them for the cafe,” explained Curran.

Boxcar Social does not rely on one bean but instead has an evolving coffee profile. Every week, new coffee samples come in that could potentially be served in the cafe’s ever-changing menu.

“We are really interested in why it tastes the way it tastes, and we get that flexibility by being a multi-roaster,” said Curran.

According to Curran, the cafe’s main goal is to bring together interesting flavours that taste good.

“It is a really fun way to operate this coffee shop, we bring the best wines and coffees of the places one cannot always travel,” he said.

You can tell how much focus the cafe puts on coffee, wine and craft beers as the Boxcar team hosts a free coffee cupping event every Saturday, which is often crowded.

The coffee cupping event is a thirty-minute process of grinding, smelling and mixing the beans. It gives customers the chance to grind coffee beans themselves,  taste every coffee and decide their favourite.

Curran is a great host and storyteller who explained the story behind the bean and the country it belongs too. It would make you wonder about the coffees you drank before without knowing how the beans got to your cup.

Curran expertly guides customers throughout the coffee-grinding process and you can expect to go back home with some newly learnt coffee tasting methods. If you are a caffeine lover, this is your next go-to spot.  

Seven Lives: Bringing rare Californian-Mexican fusion cuisine to Toronto

By Nicole Colozza

Seven Lives’ signature taco, the “Gobernador,” in front of their store window, paired nicely with the Baja fish taco. (CanCulture/Nicole Colozza)

Seven Lives’ signature taco, the “Gobernador,” in front of their store window, paired nicely with the Baja fish taco. (CanCulture/Nicole Colozza)

A bright red awning, eye-catching bubble letters and the muffled sound of music accompanied by boisterous singing are what calls customers to line up out the door at the Californian-Mexican fusion taco shop, Seven Lives, located in the middle of Kensington Market.

Sean Riehl, an American-born, self-taught chef, moved to Toronto from California in 2010 and created Seven Lives three years later, originally just as a pop-up.

He opened up a permanent shop in one of Toronto’s most popular markets a year later, and his tacos have been a hit ever since.

The menu is inspired by both the California-style tacos Riehl enjoyed growing up and his trips to Tijuana for authentic Mexican tacos.

“It’s a mix of Tex-Mex,” said Seven Lives manager Omar Joel Soria. “Our tacos have fish and meat in them and he tried to mix Californian style with a Mexican style and put it all together.”

The Seven Lives menu features eight different tacos, each for only six dollars, that switch occasionally on a yearly basis.

You can enjoy your tacos with their selection of sides from classic guacamole and freshly made tortilla chips to colourful seafood ceviche.

Their signature taco is called the “Gobernador” and is packed with flavour from a steamy pile-up of smoked marlin, grilled shrimp and cheese. It’s a Seven Lives specialty and the only taco that never gets taken off the menu, according to Soria.

Another crowd favourite is the Baja fish taco that features a golden slab of fried haddock smothered in pico de gallo and cabbage.

The monstrous fried haddock in the Baja fish taco is encased by its two corn tortillas. You can enjoy your tacos in their quaint shop or take them to go for a delicious on-the-run meal. (CanCulture/Nicole Colozza)

The monstrous fried haddock in the Baja fish taco is encased by its two corn tortillas. You can enjoy your tacos in their quaint shop or take them to go for a delicious on-the-run meal. (CanCulture/Nicole Colozza)

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, Seven Lives has provided an enviable roasted mushroom taco option which is available at their second location in the Annex Hotel.

Photo courtesy of vegetarian.nyc via sevenlivesto on Instagram

Part of the fun is watching your delicious taco being put together in their open-concept kitchen. Everything is made in-house, except for the tortillas as per Riehl’s wishes, and some of their fish and seafood comes straight from Kensington Market shops to “support the market businesses.”

The Seven Lives Family

Over the years, Toronto has made itself known as a diverse cultural hub with a wide range of cuisine options for all of your gastronomical needs. However, with the high number of new food spots opening every month, shops need a certain element that stands out to the hungry masses.

Soria explained how the Seven Lives team, or family as they refer to themselves on Instagram, is what sets them apart from other shops. Along with their fusion cuisine, Seven Lives’ friendly atmosphere is what keeps customers coming back for more.

“The lineup, people love it. You can see in reviews that people think our lineup is amazing. They say, ‘The people are so friendly.’ We are more open-minded so we are not just working, we are also having fun,” said Soria.

When you walk through the door, the bright colours and fast-paced music is not the only thing that gives vibrancy to the small shop. Everyone is laughing and singing behind the counter and second to the sight of one of their mouth-watering tacos, watching the Seven Lives family in action is the fastest way to bring a smile to your face.

Seven Lives is located at 69 Kensington Avenue and is open seven days a week from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Coming this summer, Seven Lives’ third location will be opening on 72 Kensington Avenue, just across the market.

Toronto’s first waste-free market is ditching single-use plastics

By Sophie Chong

Unboxed Market offers cloth bags for two dollars each for produce in the store, in order to eliminate the use of harmful plastic bags. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Unboxed Market offers cloth bags for two dollars each for produce in the store, in order to eliminate the use of harmful plastic bags. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Unboxed Market, Toronto’s first zero-waste grocery store, aims to tackle the idea of eliminating single-use plastics that are potentially harmful for the environment.

Michelle Genttner, Unboxed Market’s co-owner, believes that everyday plastics used on produce in grocery stores and packaging items of food is excessive and avoidable.

“You go to stores and there are individually wrapped potatoes and cucumbers. Next they're going to start individually wrapping grapes,” she said.

Genter says consumers tend to go through layers upon layers of plastic waste in the process of bringing home food from the supermarket.

“It just gets so ridiculous that you’ll have to open up all of these things to get to your food, which you’re going to wash or peel anyways before you actually eat it. So this extra absurd step doesn’t make any sense, especially with plastics,” she said.  

Using a “take what you need” approach, the store charges based on exactly how much of a product a customer needs. Food items such as oil and milk are sold on tap, and are charged per litre, as well as home essentials such as detergent, conditioner, soap, and body wash. Spices, salts, and dry goods are available self-serve style, and eggs are charged loosely by each single egg.

Unboxed Market sells vegetable soups in jars, made in-house from scraps of produce left over from their industrial kitchen underneath the store. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Unboxed Market sells vegetable soups in jars, made in-house from scraps of produce left over from their industrial kitchen underneath the store. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

How it works

Customers can bring containers from home and weigh them in-store, where it can then be filled with product using the self-serve layout. If customers do not have their own container, they can pay two dollars to either borrow or purchase one that the store provides. Cloth bags that can be reused are also available for sale throughout the store.

At checkout, the weight of the container is deducted from the total weight, and customers will only be charged for the amount of product in the container. Customers are then encouraged to wash and reuse the containers when they come back to the store, making the transaction practically waste-free.  

Foods that are available on tap include, milk, oils, cereal, detergent and dry ingredients. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Foods that are available on tap include, milk, oils, cereal, detergent and dry ingredients. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

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The impact of a waste-free grocery store

The self-serve layout of the zero waste market allows customers to be charged solely for the weight of what they buy. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

The self-serve layout of the zero waste market allows customers to be charged solely for the weight of what they buy. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

“By making sure that we’re not bringing in extra packaging, we’re not adding more damage to the world than what already exists. It’s completely unnecessary,” Genttner said.

According to a report released in 2018 by Canadian environmental group, Environment Defence, Canada only recycles around 11 per cent of all plastic used in the country. The report revealed that around 10,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the great lakes every year.  

Plastic pollution in landfills and bodies of water are known to be destructive to ecosystems and harmful for plants and animals. The report by Environment Defence also claims that one in three sea turtles, as well as more than half of the whale and dolphin population, have eaten harmful plastics, leaving no room for food and causing them to starve with full stomachs.

All produce at Unboxed Market are locally sourced and are not plastic sealed, making for no plastic waste. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

All produce at Unboxed Market are locally sourced and are not plastic sealed, making for no plastic waste. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

According to the report, Canada does not currently have laws pushing big chain companies to use recycled resources in manufacturing new plastic goods, and there are no bans on toxic and hard-to-recycle plastics.

Genttner hopes the zero waste movement will encourage consumers to push larger chain companies into incorporating methods towards the movement and eliminating single-use plastics.

“If you have small stores like this then the voice gets bigger, you can start to influence the manufacturers, the government, and distributors by telling people that you need to find an alternative to this,” she said.

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The answer to your hunger: Rye food outlets

By Akanksha Dhingra

(CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

(CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Unpredictable Canadian weather and long lectures are not a great mix. To survive the day, we always need a strong breakfast, lunch, snacks, and a cozy place to enjoy it all.

Although Ryerson University is surrounded by downtown Toronto's various food options, on-campus food outlets also offer affordable meals and snacks for students.

In between classes, it is always a blessing to have a café nearby to pick up your coffee to-go. Other times, having a lavish lunch with your friends is the best solution to all your school stress.

Convenient and affordable little space to get your wraps

Oakham Café located in the Ryerson Student Centre, offers the right setting for an early morning breakfast or a perfect midday lunch break.

Oakham Café in the Ryerson Student Centre offers a cozy environment with mouth-watering food options. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

As you enter, the red brick walls with student artwork on display give you a warm, welcoming vibe. If you are looking for some Instagram-worthy pictures and a chill atmosphere, Oakham Café is the ultimate spot.

It is a perfect place to study and catch up on assignments. Although, expect it to always be busy as it seems like no one can resist the palatable items.

One can never get tired of trying different items on the menu. Freshly-brewed drip coffee, espresso, chai lattes and freshly-squeezed juices are available for $3 and under.

Near the entrance, a chalkboard displays mouth-watering ‘Café Specials’ that are different every day.

Vegans don’t be disappointed, Oakham Café has plenty of things to offer for you too.

The quinoa burger made of quinoa, oats, mushrooms, pecans, and spices is usually in high demand.

“I love quinoa burgers, and Oakham Café has some really good vegetarian options,” said Juliana Regan, a second-year film student. “It is a convenient and affordable little space to get wraps in between classes and after long commutes.”

Juliana Regan, a second-year film student, at Oakham Café. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Juliana Regan, a second-year film student, at Oakham Café. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

As a Pitman Hall resident, I find Oakham to be my go-to place after getting tired of the food.

I would highly recommend my all-time favourite, the garlic bread with spicy mayonnaise.

Oakham Café accepts payments through Ryerson One Cards, so next time you have some flex dollars, visit the café and save some cash.

Oakham is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Monday to Friday and has brunch meals from 9:30 a.m.- 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

Juliana Regan, a second-year film student at Oakham Café. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Junk or healthy? You get both

The Flavoursome Grill halal chicken burger and a cheesy pizza slice from the Service Hub Cafe at Ryerson University. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

The Flavoursome Grill halal chicken burger and a cheesy pizza slice from the Service Hub Cafe at Ryerson University. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

If you prefer vegan, vegetarian, or halal options, the centrally located Service Hub Cafe can be your next favourite setting.

The place gives you the choice between your guilty pleasure food items and healthy workout day food too. From burgers and fries, you can also make your own bowl full of veggies, meat, and sauces.

As a foodie, I love the variety of soups, pizza, and sandwiches.

The cafe is clean and has big windows all around, creating a well lit and active environment.

I tried the grilled halal chicken burger, and it was as delicious as it seemed. A grilled chicken patty topped with a layer of pickles, peppers, tomatoes, and mayonnaise is all you need to have a better day.

“I love how you can build your own bowl, I always come here between classes,” said Pooja Rambaran, a first-year journalism student.

Pooja Rambaran, a first-year journalism student. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Pooja Rambaran, a first-year journalism student. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

The central location makes the café busy and an ideal place to get some munchies in between classes.

The Ryerson Service Hub is right next to the cafe and is never short on seating. If you have a lot of homework piled up, I would suggest you to grab some food and find your comfort spot there.

The Hub Cafe is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Thursday.

Rye’s one and only student pub  

The Ram in the Rye. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

The Ram in the Rye. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Ryerson’s student pub Ram in the Rye is a great place to loosen up after having a hectic day.

Cheap food and drinks are exactly what every student is looking for and you’ll find it all here.  

My personal favourite is the tandoori chicken and naan. Being Indian, the spice is all I crave. The quantity is always enough to fill you for the rest of the day.

A cheeseburger, poutine, and garlic bread from Ram in the Rye. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

A cheeseburger, poutine, and garlic bread from Ram in the Rye. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

The pub has good service and a friendly environment. Being a university pub, there is always some fun event going on. The pool tables and dark lighting are the perfect combination when wanting a night to destress.

Don’t miss the chicken wings, nachos, grilled paninis, and the special Ram Burger that cannot be found anywhere else but here.

“It is always a fun night to come here during events. I get to dance and have a cheese sandwich later,” said Mahima Soni, a second-year business management student.   

You always have a place for your study break or late night hunger, and the pub helps your pocket as the drinks and food are inexpensive.

The Ram in the Rye is located next to the Ryerson Student Centre and is open from 11 a.m. - 2 a.m., Monday to Friday.

Opinion: Being in Toronto has made me more aware of my allergies

By Nuha Khan

When I first heard I was heading to Ryerson University for my undergrad, I couldn’t have been happier. For someone who lives more than an hour away from downtown Toronto, I don’t get many opportunities to familiarize myself with the city. I finally got the chance to immerse myself in everything Toronto had to offer: the people, vintage stores, art galleries, but most importantly, the food.

I’ve accepted the fact that Toronto is not the most ideal city for a person living with allergies. Like many members of my immediate family, I’m allergic to many things - sesame seeds, nuts, oats, just to name a few. I know that these items may not seem like common ingredients used in most meals, however, coming to school in a food-centric city has made me so much more aware of my allergies.

Constantly being in Toronto, it’s almost impossible not to want to eat out at least once a week. At every corner and intersection, I see a food stand or restaurant popping up out of the blue and it’s always something I could never find anywhere else.

There’s been instances within the past year or so where I’ve ordered food that I would never assume to have items containing the things I’m allergic to, but once I’ve eaten it, I get a reaction.

Just last month, I went to a restaurant which shall remain anonymous. I browsed through the menu thoroughly, looking for what to order and came upon a meal I thought I would enjoy. Due to my many allergies, I always tend to be precautious about what I’m getting. Since my meal contained bread, I needed to ask the waiter if it contained sesame seeds, as breads do in some cases.

Now, here comes the most annoying part of my day. Whenever you ask a sever about the ingredients in your meal, they always seem to assume that you’re asking about it because you have an allergy. They tend to make it a bigger deal than it actually is and put you in an awkward situation which almost makes you feel like an outcast. Socially, it’s hard to be that one person who takes too long to order or can’t go to many restaurants because of cross-contamination issues.

The waiter did ask about my allergies that day and offered to prepare a meal that would be allergy-friendly, meaning they would use fresh utensils, pots and stay away from all things I couldn’t eat. This sounded all too good to be true and unfortunately, it was. On the way home, I felt very nauseous and ended up vomiting most of what I had.

In this situation, I was lucky. Everyone who has an allergy experiences different reactions, some of which can be more severe than others. Another person may have had a harsher experience, ultimately placing their lives at risk.

It was indeed a scary experience, but something that does happen often. According to Food Allergy Canada, over 2.6 million Canadians have at least one food allergy and more than 40 per cent of Canadians have to read food labels searching for allergy information.

Since so many Canadians are affected by allergies, it should become a priority for Toronto’s food vendors to be more allergy-safe, as well as more aware of the ingredients they are using to prepare food. When restaurants become more transparent with their ingredients and meal preparation, it will become safer for people like myself and others who also have food restrictions.

It only takes a simple fix. Toronto restaurants should have all employees learn more about allergies themselves and not make it a bigger deal than it is.

Toronto’s allergy safe food spaces

Although some restaurants may be tough to eat at when you have a lot of allergies, there are thankfully a couple of local places that are devoted to being an allergy-safe space.

Toronto’s Hype Food Co. has a ‘make your own’ meal option, all of which is gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. (Courtesy hype.food.co via Instagram)

Hype Food Co. is a bakery and restaurant located in Leslieville on 1060 Gerrard Street East. It is known to be Toronto’s most known allergy-free fast casual restaurant. Owner Pauline Osena wanted to open this business due to her children having many allergies.

Hype Food Co.’s kitchen is free of ingredients such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, sesame seeds and seafood. In terms of their restaurant menu, they offer many “build your own” meals options, including a selection of items like brown rice, zucchini, noodles, beans, Canadian brisket and much more. Giving customers the opportunity to create their own meal allows them to have full control of what they’re eating.

Sorelle and Co.’s berry smoothie bowl contains raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, lemon zest, pumpkin seeds, coconut yogurt and goji berry. (Courtesy nu.nectar via sorelleandco on Instagram)

Another spot Torontonians can go to for allergy-friendly food is Sorelle and Co.This is a vegan-centered café which is free of all tree nuts, gluten, dairy, egg, soy, mustard, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds.

The name Sorelle translates to “sister” in Italian, as the café was inspired by a mother struggling with five daughters who have many allergies. Their main store can be found on 161 Yorkville Avenue, but they have other spots in Vaughan, Saks Food Hall, and Etobicoke. They serve many unique dishes, from berry smoothie bowls to mushroom grilled cheeses to coconut macaroons.

As someone living with allergies, places like Hype Food Co. and Sorelle and Co. are helpful but rare. Toronto should work towards finding a middle ground, making sure that one by one, each food place will have a transparent ingredient list for every meal and understand ways in which cross contamination can be eliminated.

Pow Wow Cafe brings taste of traditional Indigenous cuisine to Kensington Market

By Bree Duwyn

(CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

(CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

Pow Wow Cafe, home of the Indian taco, is adding to Toronto’s diverse food scene with a taste of tradition and indigeneity.

Growing up in Orangeville, Ont., chef Shawn Adler, owner of Pow Wow Cafe, first fell in love with cooking in high school. After a few years of experience working for various restaurants, Adler attended a two-year program at Stratford Chefs School.

At 23, Adler opened his first restaurant in Peterborough Ont., named Aasmaabik’s Bakery and Bistro - Aasmaabik being his name in Ojibway. This began a culinary adventure for Adler as he opened another handful of restaurants, including The Flying Chestnut Kitchen in Eugenia, Ont.

After selling a few of his restaurants, Adler decided to try out the culinary scene in Toronto. Known for its diverse array of vintage shops, cozy restaurants and colourful art pieces, Kensington Market delivers a multitude of cultures, making it the perfect place for Pow Wow Cafe to open its doors in October 2016.

Adler wanted to bring Indian tacos, differing from regular tacos because of the use of fry bread instead of tortilla shells, to Toronto and got the inspiration for their Kensington Market restaurant through his experience catering at various powwows.

A powwow is an Indigenous ceremony filled with dancing, singing (featuring drum circles) and feasting. It is a cultural and spiritual experience that encourages community gathering and celebration.

“I love catering because it poses a challenge. I like it because it’s often in a barn or the fields. It’s cool to create a field kitchen and do things other people can't do,” said Alder.

Adler holds pride in the originality and value of Pow Wow Cafe’s food, including their famous brunch that has people lining up out the door on the weekends.

“This cuisine is not a trend, it's here to stay,” said Adler.

Pow Wow Cafe also supports the Kensington Market community by sourcing their produce from shops within the neighbourhood, as well as Indigenous suppliers.

The restaurant keeps the ingenuity of Indigenous food alive through a variety of dishes based around fry bread. This includes their extensive brunch menu that features eggs, oatmeal and more.

Pow Wow Cafe’s brunch, displayed on a wooden board, is a big hit with the locals and new visitors. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

Pow Wow Cafe’s brunch, displayed on a wooden board, is a big hit with the locals and new visitors. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

Adler’s plans are to further expand Pow Wow Cafe and continue to expose people to Indigenous cuisine.

“I knew in Toronto, there wasn't anyone doing cuisine like we were doing,” said Adler, “So I found this location and the rest is history,” he said.

You gotta try this…

Being someone who thoroughly enjoys food, I am always ready to try out new dishes. After being welcomed by the pleasant staff, I felt comfortably at home inside the cozy restaurant.

Adler advised me that the Indian taco topped with beef was the best choice if I wanted to enjoy a traditional experience.

The appetizers and Indian taco menu are displayed promptly on a chalkboard of Pow Wow Cafe’s wall. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

The appetizers and Indian taco menu are displayed promptly on a chalkboard of Pow Wow Cafe’s wall. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

The taco begins with sweet, melt in your mouth fry bread and beef chili topped with cumin sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheese, jalapeños, cilantro, sprouts and flowers, including calendula and pansies.

A traditional beef Indian taco with all the fixings at the price of $15. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

A traditional beef Indian taco with all the fixings at the price of $15. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

It was incredibly filling and delicious, not to mention wonderfully plated. All the elements of the taco went great together, producing an abundance of flavour and texture. The traditional beef Indian taco is definitely a perfect meal on a chilly day.

If you're not one for beef, Pow Wow Cafe also offers a chicken shawarma and seafood Indian taco. For any vegetarians, a red lentil coconut curry option is available.

The restaurant changes its menu often to offer various sensational combos of Indian tacos, but the traditional beef taco will always remain. It's definitely worth taking a trip to Kensington Market or stopping by Pow Wow Cafe whenever you're in the area to grab an authentic Indian taco or try their famous brunch.

Pow Wow Cafe is located at 213 Augusta Ave. and is open seven days a week.

First annual Toronto Black Vegan Festival brings community together

By Severina Chu

The first annual Toronto Black Vegan Festival was a chance for the black Canadian vegan community to connect. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

The first annual Toronto Black Vegan Festival was a chance for the black Canadian vegan community to connect. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

The black Canadian vegan community came together to feast in celebration at the first ever Toronto Black Vegan Festival on Sunday at Artscape Wychwood Barns.

Hosted by the Black Vegans of Toronto, a support group for black Canadians looking to make the switch to a plant-based diet, the festival featured various black vendors selling vegan products, including food, clothes, and cosmetics.

“The idea came to me to present vegan options to traditional African and Caribbean foods in an exciting cultural setting,” said festival manager Joe Thomas in an email statement. The festival aimed to not only bring together the black vegan community, but to also expose others to a new lifestyle.

“When people like us are already educated in the vegan world, festivals like this help to enlighten people who are not in this world,” said Jacqueline Taffe, vegan chef and creator of Natures Butter.

Vegan chef Jacqueline Taffe created a vegan and gluten-free butter that she hopes she’ll be able to get into stores in the future. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Vegan chef Jacqueline Taffe created a vegan and gluten-free butter that she hopes she’ll be able to get into stores in the future. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Taffe believes that a better awareness about food can help some make the switch to a plant-based lifestyle, especially with so many Caribbean diets being so dependent on meat.

“We were never actually supposed to be eating this much meat. So when people like us say that we’re vegan, we can teach others the same thing,” she said.

Creating a Cultural Connection

Melissa James, founder of Eastend Vegan, echoed the sentiment and emphasized the importance of being open to a healthier diet, especially within the black community. She said she hopes that more people will broaden their tastes and try to have a better understanding of the connections they have with food.

The Eastend Vegan’s almond cheese came as a result of founder Melissa James’ lactose sensitivity. She said that it is a light and healthy alternative to regular cheese. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

The Eastend Vegan’s almond cheese came as a result of founder Melissa James’ lactose sensitivity. She said that it is a light and healthy alternative to regular cheese. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

“What people don’t realize is that the impact of not just slavery, but just leaving home takes away a lot of connections,” said James.

According to James, many immigrants try to recreate tastes of home with what they have.

“You start to adopt a new culture and you no longer have the connection the way you would back at home,” she said.

In order to maintain these connections, people like Owyna Alexander, founder of Caribbubble, wanted to create a product that managed to tie a part of their culture into a vegan diet.

“I love bubble tea and I was looking for more relatable flavours to my culture,” she said. Alexander offers the popular drink in various traditional Caribbean flavours, including sorrel and ginger beer.

Owyna Alexander wanted to create her own version of bubble tea that included flavours from her culture. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Owyna Alexander wanted to create her own version of bubble tea that included flavours from her culture. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

She said she aims to provide a more accessible version of the drink, in terms of both flavours and dietary needs.

“I wanted to be able to provide it to everyone, and I didn’t want the vegans to be left out,” said Alexander.

Fighting the Misconceptions

With the variety of innovative and flavourful products available at the festival, many vendors wanted to combat the stereotypes and misconceptions about vegan food, such as the supposed lack of flavour and food options.

“Flavour’s the biggest [misconception], just because people are so used to eating a certain way,” said James. While it is possible for people to emulate their favourite foods while eating vegan, she said that people need to realize that there will have to be some adjustments made to a recipe and that a change in flavour doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of flavour.

“It’s a first step towards health, so you have to understand that there will naturally be less salt and it’s going to change the flavour because you’re not putting in the same things you used before,” she said.

With this being the first event of its kind in Toronto, many vendors hope that this will encourage more black Canadians to become more open to a vegan lifestyle and prove that it is doable for people in all communities.

“A misconception is that veganism is mainly for white people because that’s what you see in the media,” said Shaleena McGregor, owner of The Sweet Tooth Vegan.

In order to make healthier versions of normal baked goods, Shaleena McGregor swaps out sugar for ingredients like coconut sugar and maple syrup. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

In order to make healthier versions of normal baked goods, Shaleena McGregor swaps out sugar for ingredients like coconut sugar and maple syrup. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

McGregor personally went vegan after doing research into the dairy industry and finding out the impact it had on animals. She now strives to provide healthier alternatives to normal baked goods and reach out to more of the black vegan community on her podcast.

“You don’t really see much diversity, so I’m glad that this event is showing that veganism goes across all races,” she said.

Hopes for the Future

With the event’s success, the Black Vegans of Toronto are planning for more events, starting with a Fall Harvest Festival in September. The hope is that these kind of events will educate more black Canadians on a vegan lifestyle and encourage them to make the changes to their diet.

“In all communities, and especially the black community, we’ll start to see that we actually have a connection to this food,” said James.

“We can create it, we can make something new from it, and we can grow from it and become healthier. The black community is really coming together.”

Don't Forget the Food Stands

By Keisha Balatbat

Crumbs Patties, Choco Churros, and La Marquesita along Gould Street. (CanCulture/Keisha Balatbat)

Crumbs Patties, Choco Churros, and La Marquesita along Gould Street. (CanCulture/Keisha Balatbat)

The endless food options surrounding the Ryerson University campus can be seen as either an advantage or a daunting task. With so many choices, it can be difficult to narrow down exactly what you want to eat.

While most students opt for big name fast food chains, some head over to the often overlooked food stands, located across from the Student Learning Centre, for a delicious meal or dessert.

Among the cluster of food stands and trucks, you’ll find Crumbs Patties, Choco Churros, and La Marquesita.

Crumbs Patties is a stand that sells patties, which are pastries that contain different kinds of fillings, most commonly beef.

“What makes us different is the options,” said Pierre St. Rose, founder of Crumbs.

Customers at Crumbs Patties love ordering the beef, curry chicken, or their signature beef and cheese patty. Apart from these, Crumbs also offers vegetarian options.

“We do a stuffed patty and a deluxe patty so it’s not just your standard patty shop. We have modernized it,” said St. Rose.

He believes in giving each customer great service. He enjoys talking to customers, asking how they’re doing and ending each interaction with a ‘pound’, also known as a fist bump.

“A thank you is one thing but also giving the pound is saying much respect, just from a culture standpoint,” said St. Rose, who is Jamaican and Trinidadian.

“Yes, in reality I’m a business and you’re a customer, but it should be more than just that.”

He typically runs the stand with his cousin and a few other employees. They were once located just across the street, but after a big restaurant bought the building, they decided to temporarily move over to the stand that they have now.

“It’s working but it’s small for the operation we have,” he said. He is currently working on opportunities to expand Crumbs.

This sentiment is something that is shared between the stands in this area. At Choco Churros, they are also hoping to expand the business. Sergio Herrera, one of the employees, said that they want to have a place with an actual cafeteria and provide more places for people to sit in.

The stand opened up in downtown Toronto in October of last year, but the business was actually started by Herrera’s cousin in the 80s in New York.

“What makes us special around this area is that no one else is selling this kind of dessert,” said Herrera.

Churros are fried sticks of dough covered in cinnamon sugar. This stand also offers different sauces on top, the most popular being caramel and chocolate.

Making sure their churros are affordable is one of the philosophies of the business. “You can get three big churros for less than $10,” said Herrera.

Their other philosophies include providing good customer service and ensuring that the food is always fresh.

“I come one hour before opening so I can make fresh dough for you guys. They’re actually the freshest churros in town and what’s a churro if it’s not fresh?” said Herrera.

Sergio Herrera making fresh churros inside of the Choco Churros stand. (CanCulture/Keisha Balatbat)

Sergio Herrera making fresh churros inside of the Choco Churros stand. (CanCulture/Keisha Balatbat)

Like Choco Churros, La Marquesita, the newest food stand to open up, also values fresh food.

Making authentic Mexican food is something that La Marquesita believes in. As many other places downtown lean towards Tex-Mex, Pablo Morales, one of La Marquesita’s employees, said they aim to “make everything fresh and create authentic Mexican street food.”

La Marquesita’s most popular dish are the taquitos, which are a tortilla rolled up around fillings like beef or cheese. Rather than the hard shell tacos that people are used to buying, the use of 100 per cent corn tortillas indicate that the food is authentically Mexican and not Tex-Mex, the Americanized version of Mexican food.

“In Mexico, we eat taquitos all the time - in the morning, brunch, dinner, every time - and we wanted to bring that to Toronto,” said Morales.

Their visible corner spot is an asset according to Morales, but like Crumbs and Choco Churros, La Marquesita also struggles with the small space.

“Sometimes many people come to eat but we don’t have too much space to get more people in,” said Morales.

Pablo Morales greeting customers at La Marquesita. La Marquesita hopes to become a franchise and open more stores downtown. (CanCulture/Keisha Balatbat)

Pablo Morales greeting customers at La Marquesita. La Marquesita hopes to become a franchise and open more stores downtown. (CanCulture/Keisha Balatbat)

Apart from the small space, the cold weather is also something that causes some difficulty for these food stands as people do not want to spend too much time outside during the winter.

This forces vendors to get creative with their stands. “We don’t have an indoor spot so sometimes I put the heater out here so people can get warm,” said Herrera, referring to a small heater that attaches to the counter of the stand.

“Being around a school, yes you have the traffic, but at the same time when there’s weather issues like the cold, you don’t have the opportunity to have people funnel into somewhere like a mall,” said St. Rose.

Food vendors and their relationship with Ryerson students

The Choco Churros stand which is open on weekdays from 12 to 8 p.m. (CanCulture/Keisha Balatbat)

The Choco Churros stand which is open on weekdays from 12 to 8 p.m. (CanCulture/Keisha Balatbat)

The convenience and closeness of the location brings a lot of Ryerson students to these businesses.

“I love this business because everyone is happy when they come get churros,” said Herrera.

He says students love sweets and the quickness of the service. “It helps them have better performances in their classes because of all the sweets,” he jokes.

“This is our first spot and you’ll be part of our story if you get churros from here,” said Herrera.

Despite the convenience of the location, bringing in new customers can be a challenge for these businesses.

“You just have to find ways to interact with the student body as far as just marketing from the same old spot or with social media,” said St. Rose. He said marketing on social media can be difficult.

“You have to be very constant, and how many times can I really say patties?”

However, he encourages students to try new things. “We offer a modernized food item that’s been around for so long and provide an option that has been remixed, along with other creations,” said St. Rose.

Students get 10 per cent off at La Marquesita, but they’re working on expanding the menu and creating new discounts that will be exclusive to Ryerson students.

“Many students have a budget for food and they don’t want to spend more money than that, so that’s why we want to do many specials for students,” said Morales.

The next time you need to satisfy a food craving, consider supporting these local businesses as they offer a great variety of food options for affordable prices.  

Winterlicious at Fonda Lola

By Sophie Chong

General Manager Rafael Bastidas said they tried to incorporate things inside Fonda Lola that referenced Mexico. Included in the decorations are also memorabilia of the owner’s late grandmother, whom the name of the restaurant was inspired from. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

General Manager Rafael Bastidas said they tried to incorporate things inside Fonda Lola that referenced Mexico. Included in the decorations are also memorabilia of the owner’s late grandmother, whom the name of the restaurant was inspired from. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Nestled along the edge of Little Portugal in Toronto, Fonda Lola has brought traditional Mexican cuisine to the west end of Toronto for the past five years.

This year, Fonda Lola is participating in one of Toronto’s most anticipated food events, Winterlicious.

Rafael Bastidas, general manager of the restaurant, said Winterlicious has given them the opportunity to explore with their menu based on what their chef has available at the time.

“We want to experiment with our menu in Winterlicious to see how people are reacting to our food and if we have to promote some dishes more than others,” he said.

Rafael Bastidas, who immigrated to Canada from Venezuela, currently works as the general manager of Fonda Lola. He is in charge of the front of house operations, and is also the in-house mixologist. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Rafael Bastidas, who immigrated to Canada from Venezuela, currently works as the general manager of Fonda Lola. He is in charge of the front of house operations, and is also the in-house mixologist. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Fonda Lola serves a plethora of mexican-style alcoholic beverages including fusion cocktails, margaritas, tequila, mojitos, and beers. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Fonda Lola serves a plethora of mexican-style alcoholic beverages including fusion cocktails, margaritas, tequila, mojitos, and beers. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

For a fixed price of $33 plus tax and gratuities, Fonda Lola offers a prix fixe menu of a select number of appetizers, entrées, and desserts.

Fonda Lola offers the staple dish of chips and salsa as an appetizer (usually $12), made with house-made corn tortilla chips, and pico de gallo that is seasoned with red onion, lime, and cilantro. The tomato salsa is tangy but not overly sweet like many store-bought salsas. The tortilla chips are light, not too salty, and adds a great crunch to the house-made salsa.

Fonda Lola boasts house-made and handcrafted ingredients in all of their drinks and food that they serve. All ingredients used in dishes are locally sourced within the Toronto area, and they offer vegan and vegetarian options. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Fonda Lola boasts house-made and handcrafted ingredients in all of their drinks and food that they serve. All ingredients used in dishes are locally sourced within the Toronto area, and they offer vegan and vegetarian options. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

For the main course, they have Carnitas Tacos (usually $16), which contains Mexican pork confit topped with red onion and cilantro. The pork is tender and moist and pairs nicely with red onion and cilantro. Fonda Lola also sources their pork meat from a local Portuguese supermarket in Toronto.

However, if customers are looking for vegan or vegetarian options, they also serve Cauliflower Tacos (usually $16). The dish includes cauliflower sautéed with garlic and guajillo pepper, topped with cilantro, red onion, and house chipotle and aioli.

Bastidas recommended the Cauliflower Tacos, made with sautéed cauliflower with garlic and guajillo sauce, topped with cilantro, red onion, and house chipotle aioli. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Bastidas recommended the Cauliflower Tacos, made with sautéed cauliflower with garlic and guajillo sauce, topped with cilantro, red onion, and house chipotle aioli. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Desserts at Fonda Lola typically range from $8-$15. On their Winterlicious menu, they featured the Tequila Flan (vegetarian), which is not a regular item on their menu. It’s made up of a sweet custard infused with tequila and cream cheese, baked with a layer of house-made caramel. It has a smooth, creamy, light texture with a slight taste of alcohol, the sweetness of the caramel adding depth to the tangy tequila and the cream cheese.

What is Winterlicious?

Winterlicious has made its 16th annual appearance in Toronto this year, with reportedly over 200 participating restaurants. From January 25 to February 7, Torontonians are encouraged to explore the city’s diverse culture through the food scene.

“They showcase diverse cuisine, they’re talented chefs. This is an opportunity for people to dine out and explore Toronto’s food culture,” said Eirine Papaioannou, event support supervisor at the Toronto Office of Partnerships.

Hosted by the city, customers and avid food lovers get a chance to grab a taste of Toronto’s ever-changing restaurant industry. The event allows both newcomers and native Torontonians to expand their taste buds at cuisines for a reasonable price. Fixed prices for three course meals vary from restaurant to restaurant. There are three fixed prices for both lunch and dinner includes: lunch for $23, $28, $33, and dinner for $33, $43, $53.

“The event is open to everyone who lives here, or is visiting here, and because of the price points it is accessible at different levels,” said Papaioannou.

At toronto.ca, interested customers can customize their search for the type of cuisines, neighbourhood, and price point in order to find exactly what they’re looking for. The search engine also allows for visitors to easily find information on which restaurants offer vegan, vegetarian, and accessibility options.

“Toronto has one of the best culinary scenes, such as diversity of food types...this is a way for people to explore the world in their hometown,” she said.

Is it worth it?

Winterlicous can be a way to narrow down possible food options for customers who have a hard time deciding on what to order from a new restaurant. Prix fixe menus give them a taste of the restaurant, and a new culinary experience that can seemingly be five to eight dollars cheaper than ordering from the regular prices. They may also be pleasantly surprised by great hospitality, the atmosphere of the restaurant, and other aspects that could drive them to visit again.

Some customers may be disappointed that even with the set prices, their bill can almost amount to the same price as if customers had ordered from the regular menu. This is because the prix fixe does not cover alcohol, taxes and gratuity.

For students on a budget, Winterlicious would be a great option if they're willing to; spend some money to try something new, go out for a date night, a special family function, or a night out with friends. However, students should be wary that even with the fixed prices, their overall meal can still cost four times more than your everyday Big Mac combo at McDonald’s.

How to eat healthy at Toronto Eaton Centre

By Ashley Alagurajah

Eating healthy can be a daunting resolution while in the big city of Toronto. With so many delicious foods and smells, it’s hard to resist the temptations all around you, especially in the Toronto Eaton Centre. We took a trip to the food court and found three unique options if you are looking for some healthy choices while you’re out and about.

Urban Herbivore is a plant-based food spot that makes delicious vegetarian meals. Options like sandwiches, salads, and bowls are not only tasty, but they are good for you too. Today we tried the Moroccan Stew ($10.84 CAD) which is a “mild Mediterranean stew with root vegetables and chickpeas served on choice of grain.” We substituted the rice base for quinoa and turned this into an extra nutritious lunchtime meal.

Mucho Burrito was next on the list. The build-your-own Mexican spot was perfect for creating a bowl that has exactly what you crave. We ditched the tortilla and went for a Build Your Own Bowl ($11.25 CAD) instead of a burrito, and once again switched out rice for quinoa. The rest of the bowl was beef, beans, salsa, and cheese – a spicy and delicious meal that your body will thank you for.

Last, but certainly not least, was Jimmy The Greek. Although rice and potatoes can be alluring, we went for the Chicken Fillet Greek Salad ($10.99 CAD). The salad had lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onions, olives, feta cheese, and delicious Greek dressing, topped with a grilled chicken fillet for protein and souvlaki sauce.

We hope this gave you an idea of what you can do to avoid the grease and focus on nutritious eats in the tempting setting of the Toronto Eaton Centre food court.

New food options available for commuters as Union Food Court opens

By Severina Chu

Commuters now have a variety of new and tasty meal options with the opening of the Union Food Court at Toronto’s Union Station.

Part of the Union Station revitalization project, construction for the food court was first approved in 2009 and originally scheduled to be completed by 2015. Several delays later, the food court finally opened in late November of 2018.

It is located on the lower level of the GO York Concourse and offers 10 new food retailers and seating for up to 600 people. Many of the food vendors offer meals that cost $15 or less which allows students to grab a bite to eat before class, work, or on their way home.

The Union Food Court offers food from local vendors around the city. While commuters can still buy from familiar chains like McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, and Pizza Pizza, they now have the option of choosing healthier and more culturally diverse meals. Here’s a closer look at what’s on the menu.

Loaded Pierogi

In its newest Toronto location, this retailer serves the traditional Polish dumpling dish with a twist. Customers can get pierogies, either fried or boiled, loaded with various meat and vegetable toppings.

One of Loaded Pierogi's vegetarian options, Baba's Classic ($9) is topped with caramelized onions, sour cream, and green onions. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

One of Loaded Pierogi's vegetarian options, Baba's Classic ($9) is topped with caramelized onions, sour cream, and green onions. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Bangkok Buri

Inspired by the street food served in Bangkok, Bangkok Buri serves traditional Thai cuisine with a modern influence. The menu includes noodles, rice, and salad dishes, as well as gluten-free and vegetarian choices.

Roywoods

Known for being an authentic taste of the Caribbean, this established Toronto business has now made its way to Union Station. They are well-known for their jerk chicken, which they offer either in a platter meal or on a sandwich with Jamaican coco bread.

The jerk chicken sandwich ($10) is served on Jamaican coco bread and comes with a beverage. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

The jerk chicken sandwich ($10) is served on Jamaican coco bread and comes with a beverage. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Paramount Fine Foods

Paramount Fine Foods is serving up authentic Lebanese cuisine, including classics like shawarma and falafel served in a wrap, on rice, or on salad. The Union Station location also offers fresh bread and house-made sweets.

Scaccia

A family-owned and operated Italian restaurant in Toronto, Scaccia has expanded its brand to a quick service location. The scaccia, a stuffed flat bread from Sicily, is made with various combinations of meats, vegetables, and cheeses that makes for the perfect meal on-the-go.

Scaccia has a wide range of good eats, from hearty meat and cheese sandwiches to lighter vegetarian options. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Scaccia has a wide range of good eats, from hearty meat and cheese sandwiches to lighter vegetarian options. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Shanghai 360°

Shanghai 360° serves dishes typical of northern Chinese cuisine. With familiar Chinese takeout favourites such as fried rice and dumplings, the Union Station location also offers a noodle bar with your choice of noodle and soup base.

Sushi Shop

Despite the simple name, Sushi Shop is not your traditional Japanese menu. Here you can get sushi in creative forms, such as burgers, tacos, and burritos, along with unique flavour combinations.

The Union Food Court is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.

Toronto Cafés for Every Occasion

By: Kayla Zhu

Does your mood fluctuate as much as Toronto's weather? We've narrowed down a short list of cozy cafes in the downtown core that serve different purposes depending on what it is you're looking for, check it out!

Jimmy’s Coffee (84 Gerrard St. West)

Great for: Everything! Meetings, studying or even just chatting with friends

Jimmy’s is a veteran face in Toronto’s café scene, with eight locations scattered across the city. What makes the Gerrard Street location especially appealing is its spacious three-floor interior, reminiscent of a cozy, Victorian house. The first floor is great for chats over coffee while the third floor doubles as a rental space for meetings.

The second floor is the study hub, with spacious tables and single booth spots lined along the walls. An abundance of outlets, comfy cushions and a quiet but diligent ambiance make it the perfect spot to sip various “Jimmy”-named blends (including Dean, Hendrix and Hoffa) and grind through some assignments. Jimmy’s also offers an impressive assortment of pastries and finger food for your mid-study snack fix.  

The Black Canary Espresso Bar (329 Yonge St.)

Great for: Studying, people watching and reading

The Black Canary Espresso Bar is somewhat of a hidden spot, making up a small corner of the beloved Silver Snail comic bookstore. They’ve got a few tables and single bar stools along the window, making it the perfect spot to get some work done while gazing out onto the hustle and bustle of Yonge Street. There’s something cozy and a little special about being tucked away in a secret corner of the lively Yonge and Dundas area that really gets those productive juices flowing. Also, the expansive windows give the space lots of natural light, perfect for leisure reading or journalling.

Their menu consists of classic espressos, Americanos and macchiatos while incorporating some more eclectic recipes like banana hot chocolate and Nutella lattés. They’ve also got a few food options for hungry comic book perusers and hardworking students.

And, if you’re into life-sized character figures, you’ll encounter plenty of those at this establishment.







Dineen Coffee (140 Yonge St.)

Great for: Casual meetups, catching up with friends

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Within the café-goer scene, Dineen Coffee has a bit of an upscale reputation. But don’t let that scare you off! The Yonge location is super warm and welcoming and offers a generous amount of seating for chatting and working. However, the café is known to be constantly packed with business people, so make sure to grab a seat early.

They offer an impressive range of drinks, with one of their seasonal fall drinks being the delicious Turmeric Gold latte pictured above. They offer a seemingly endless assortment of finger sandwiches, pastries, croissants and more—perfect for sharing with a friend.

If you’re looking for somewhere with a nice mood, along with a bit of background noise to reduce those awkward silences, Dineen Coffee is your best bet. The gold accented decor, vested employees and classic, yet modern interior design really brings that timeless, fall ambience.

Thanksgiving traditions across Canada

By: Sukaina Jamil

Although Thanksgiving enjoys a celebrated history  in Canada spanning hundreds of years, what’s often lost is how this festive holiday is observed from coast to coast. It’s an official statutory holiday in every province and territory, but it may come as a surprise that in four provinces, namely, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Thanksgiving does not hold that statutory holiday status. What’s more, not every region chooses to serve the seemingly requisite turkey and mashed potatoes as the main dish.

Now that the long weekend has come to an end, let’s talk about the different spreads on tables across Canada, and try not to salivate as we go.

Let’s be real, the year-long hype that comes with Thanksgiving season is largely due to its staple fare: turkey, roasted season vegetables, some variant of potatoes and of course, pumpkin spice and everything nice.

Although you might assume that these dishes are executed in the same way across the country, most Thanksgiving dinner spreads contain some features that are unique to their region.

Residents of Prince Edward Island often spruce up their Thanksgiving starches with some lobster mashed potatoes, infusing two of the province’s most beloved ingredients. Nova Scotians opt to not mash their potatoes, but rather throw them in a stew with a bunch of other vegetables to create Nova Scotian Hodge Podge (most intriguing name ever - a must try).  

Taking a sweeter turn, pumpkin pie has become the lifeblood  of the Thanksgiving season. After all, it is fall, and what feature speaks more to our country’s love of the harvest season than the delectably saccharine pumpkin? However, no Thanksgiving spread is complete with just one dessert, which is where each province’s character emerges. Ontarians delve into decadent butter tarts, while Nanaimo bars are spruced up and served by the dozens in British Columbia. Ever heard of Saskatoon Berry Pie? It competes fiercely with its pumpkin counterpart on dessert tables across Saskatchewan.

You didn’t think we’d forget about the bread, did you? While American Thanksgiving feasts are traditionally served with cornbread, Canadians in Manitoba and Yukon combat with their bannock and sourdough bread, providing a variety tastes and textures for your palette.

Bannock can be served in many different forms, and is a traditional Métis food. Thanksgiving traditions in Canada trace back to long before European settlers came to the land to when Indigenous people would hold feasts in celebration of the fall harvest. Manitobans still include traditional Aboriginal foods in their Thanksgiving meals as a way to honour this piece of history.  

From stews and starches to pies of all kinds, no two tables in Canada are likely to look the same on Thanksgiving.

If you’re getting the urge to travel across the country and divulge in some Thanksgiving leftovers from different provinces and territories, we don’t blame you. In fact, let us know if you need some eating buddies!

Hip Hip Halal! Three halal burger joints taking Toronto by storm

By: Sukaina Jamil

The Burgernator

Photo courtesy of The Burgernator

Photo courtesy of The Burgernator

Perhaps the most well-known halal burger joint in Toronto, The Burgernator is located in Kensington Market on Augusta Avenue. Although the restaurant opened back in 2013, they recently revamped their menu in early March of this year. They introduced newer, bolder flavour combinations that emphasize their identity as a one-of-a-kind stop for adventurous halal burgers.

The Burgernator has broken down its menu into four different sections: B.M.D. Burgers of Mass Destruction, Classic Arsenal, Vegetarian and Sides. The Classic Arsenal section consists of four burgers with seemingly military style names such as the Sergeant Burger, which consists of a beef patty, burgernator sauce, lettuce, tomato and pickles, falling just under $6.

Although these options are easier on your wallet, it’s not a true Burgernator party until you take a visit to the B.M.D. section of the menu. Selections range from The Bazooka Junior: beef patty, fried egg, sautéed hot peppers, cheese and spicy chipotle aioli, to the Drop Down and Give Me Spicy: double beef patty, chipotle barbecue sauce, cheese, onion rings and sautéed jalapeños. However, if you’re like me and are scared of the lasting effects of red meat (hello pimples, yes I’m talking to you), then never fear, The Resistance is here! A burger stuffed with grilled cajun chicken, cheese, hot pepper salsa and chipotle aioli all ready to hop into my tummy.

Photo courtesy of Dine Halal

Photo courtesy of Dine Halal

The Burgernator caters to vegetarian diets as well, which is hard to believe after reading the contents of their self-named burger - I’m talking three beef patties with caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms tucked in between two grilled cheese sandwiches. If these contents initiate your gag reflexes, for either diet or health reasons, take a trip to the Battlefields, a burger with a crusted portobello mushroom stuffed with cheese and fresh herbs, topped with veggies, roasted garlic and rosemary aioli.

Cool down with some chocolate or salted caramel milkshakes, or take your meal to the next step by ordering Burgernator Fries: a bed of fries topped with beef chilli, cheese, chives and sour cream. Whatever you choose, it’s obvious that this restaurant isn’t joking in their mission statement when they say “The burger is our weapon. Toronto, our battlefield.”

Jackson’s Burger

Photo courtesy of Jackson Burger

Photo courtesy of Jackson Burger

Located just steps away from Ryerson University, Jackson’s Burger has been serving Torontonians with their unique menu of halal burgers since January 2014. This burger joint is perhaps the least well known of all the restaurants on this list, however what they may lack in popularity, they make up for in taste and quality. Their beef is hormone and antibiotic free, with the patties made fresh at the time of order. The quality is evident in the flavour, when you bite into a burger you can clearly tell has no old or previously frozen ingredients.

The menu at Jackson’s Burger differs from that of other restaurants, as they have an “Internationals” section, consisting of burgers that highlight special ingredients from different countries around the world. The “Effin’ Jerk” burger consists of jerk chicken covered in jerk mayo, with a pineapple salsa garnish. “Canada Eh!” is a classic Canadian burger stuffed with grass-fed beef, bacon, egg and fried cheese. The seemingly weirdest burger on the menu? “Damn Skippy” has a beef patty that’s garnished with peanut butter and strawberry jam.

For those looking for more traditional burgers, the restaurant does have a classics menu that lists anything from a regular cheeseburger to a fish and chips burger, crispy chicken or a vegetarian patty. These can be topped with your choice of free sauces and toppings, or, if you’re willing to pay a little extra, a range of premium toppings including caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms is available for you. These are all conveniently laid out on a screen at the cash register for customers to browse through as they order.

My favourite thing about Jackson’s Burger? Their loaded fries. The “Effin’ Poutine” comes with fries, jerk chicken, cheese, gravy and jerk mayo. It might sound like a weird combination, but after one bite my mind seemed to leave my body and I scarfed the rest down before I could even tell what was happening. Suffice to say, it was not my best day (even though it felt like it was). This section of the menu also offers the “Shroom Daddy,” which is just regular poutine topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions, along with Chipotle and Sriracha Poutines.

And, like any good burger joint, they offer delicious cold milkshakes to cool you down in order to maybe forget the hot, greasy food you just stuffed down your gullet.


Ozzy’s Burgers

The youngest burger place on this list is quickly rising up through the ranks of Toronto’s burger game as its handmade patties and sauces win the hearts of almost anyone who walks in the door. Ozzy’s Burgers is owned by Ozgur Sekar, who formerly worked at another halal burger joint in Kensington Market, Top Gun Steaks and Burgers. Sekar opened Ozzy’s and made it his mission to develop a menu filled with unique burgers with risky flavour combinations, each dripping with cheeses and sauces that make your mouth water just by looking at them.

Although the restaurant does not have a website yet, their marketing is mainly done through their social media platforms that showcase how they make their burger patties fresh in-house everyday. The beef is ground daily and formed into 6 ounce patties as needed. Their menu consists of both built-up burgers and large steak sandwiches, such as the Son of a Bun, a beef patty topped with chicken strips, caramelized onions, jalapeno, cheese and garlic and chipotle sauces. The Ozzy-licious Sandwich bursts apart at its seams, stuffed with Canadian ribeye steak slices, onions, mushrooms, hot peppers, cheeses and of course, is then drowned with sauce.

Perhaps the best thing about Ozzy’s, aside from how each of their burgers seemingly fall apart due to how loaded they are, is that they employ members of both the refugee and LGBTQ+ communities.

This piece was edited by Julia Nowicki