Editor’s Note: This is a piece written by guest contributor Mach Zreik, who you can find on twitter
Let me preface this review by saying that I’m just an ordinary guy that loves food, even more for great food. I didn’t go to culinary school, my main gig isn’t being a food critic, and when I came across sous vide the other day, I had to look it up to find out what it means. With that out of the way, let’s get started.
I came across the “25 all right” list about a month ago in The Coast and noticed that I only really tried maybe two or three items on the list. As someone who tries to live with the mantra of ‘variety is the spice of life’, I felt like I wasn’t really putting in enough effort to check out our local food scene and switching up my eating out habits. So the quest began to tackle everything on the list. I thought if I did one or two a week, it would take me three to six months and I didn’t want to drag this out. So I decided to do about one a day. I finished up on Dec 20th with only one left (Mr. Berns, closed until spring). So I’ll officially finish the list in spring.
A friend of mine and a great food blogger (Eat This Town) told me the other day that when you start following a writer/critic/blogger, you begin to form a relationship with them and start to understand their taste/experience. This couldn’t hit home close enough. Not that I’m now BFFs with Melissa & Allison, but there are some recurring flavours with this list. Unfortunately, I didn’t agree with some of those flavours. I found out that I don’t like rice cakes (think soft and spongy texture) and I’m not a fan of grilled cabbage/radicchio. But that’s a bi-product of stepping out of your comfort zone.
What I liked most about this list (besides the eating) is the actual process of finding these gems all over the city. Sometimes there were places that I would drive by on a regular basis and say to myself ‘next time’ but other times I had no idea where they were and had to ask for directions since they were hole in the wall places. So this list was a kick in the butt to get me to start crossing some places off of my food hit list.
Each of the items on the list had a unique flare or flavour that made it fun to jump from one to the other, so I appreciate the variety across the board (although, I really wouldn’t be opposed to 24 different Italian sandwiches). I’m also grateful to not have any allergies (except a mild allergy to eggplant), so there were no issues with going through the list. I also never changed anything that I ordered, I left everything (regardless of personal taste) they way that the kitchen made it. My personal favourites on the list were
Sweet & spicy chicken at Backoos
I just love fried chicken so much and Backoos has a delicious way of making it so tender, juicy, and tasty. The sauce is a bit too sweet for me, so I think next time I would get it on the side for dipping. But there’s no doubt that this is some fantastic fried chicken.
Calamari at Mappatura
This dish packs in the flavour! Spicy & salty (from the batter), sour (if you drizzle lemon juice on it), and bitter (from the kalamata olives) all in one dish! Also, it’s quite a bit for one person, I definitely recommend sharing.
Hokkaido ramen at Tako Sushi
Tako gets everything right with this bad boy. The spicy broth has so much body which is balanced by the perfectly cooked noodles. To top it off you get some incredibly tender pork, big delicious chucks of mushrooms and an egg to top it off!
Coney island hero at Salvatores
I vehemently believe in less is more and prefer the simpler things. But this hero changes it all. There are so many things and different flavours that are jam-packed into this sandwich it’s hard to believe that it all works, but it does! Just remember this is an off-menu item.
Eggplant parm hero at Rinaldo’s
Still an Italian hero but on the other spectrum of the coney island. This is simple in it’s purest form. Eggplant, marinara sauce, and cheese. Half as many ingredients as the coney but just as delicious. Never thought I’d say something vegetarian is delicious, but I guess 2017 is the year of surprises.
Overall I had a lot of fun on this adventure. I posted all conquests one at a time on social media (Twitter) and had some great conversations with people (offline and online). This just reiterates to me that it’s good to go to new places, try something that makes you a bit uncomfortable, and find the hidden gems. So take a break from the usual and hit up one of these (or any other) local food places that have been on your list forever. There’s definitely something to be said about those that wander.
Here are the rest of the items: