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Frequently referred to as “that other pho spot on Ossington” by Torontonians, Pho Tien Thanh holds its own in a city where pho shops are a hot commodity. As most pho places are wont to operate, the food arrives quickly and piping hot, all to the ambient background sounds of slurping and sipping with minimal chatter to be heard. As per norm, cash only.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure everyone loves a good bowl of pho. It’s got this warm, comforting flavour that makes you feel right again, or at least helps you along the way to getting there (esp key in winter). The broth is usually made from simmered beef bones, oxtails and onions but unsurprisingly, every pho establishment ends up with a different final product, some preferring to use more onion for flavour, while others rely more heavily on spices like ginger and cinnamon. In terms of toppings and add-ins, the offerings are typically bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves, red chili and a selection of various sauces. I like mine with extra lime, extra bean sprouts and a touch of sriracha.
Head down the stairs into the Cartier building, walk past the “sushi” joint taking up the entire seating area and you’ll find a little slice of unexpected heaven. It comes in the form of a small depanneur known affectionately by its greatest offering: the one and only Super Sandwich.
Quaint and cozy, this joint is a typical Québecois diner. Its authenticity is further highlighted by the fact that it is located relatively deep in the countryside of Québec, where the population is dominated by francophones – also the ones who invented the irreplaceable, unlike any other, international recognized and provincially representative dish of poutine. Just off the main graveled road is a little house that is one of the oldest mainstays in town. Behold, the Casse-Crôute Chez Claudette! The food served here is basic – hot dogs, hamburgers and… poutine ! And boy, do they do it well. The cheese curds are freshly made, squeaky and firm and the fries hold their form even in the onslaught of thick, delicious gravy. Poutine doesn’t get realer than this.
Frankfurters, frank, weenie/wienie, wiener, dog, wienerdog (think Welcome to the Dollhouse), danger dogs, and red hots are all colloquial terms for the pervasive social and cultural phenomenon of the hot dog. Costco sells the best of them. The juicy jumbos (literally) are exactly what they are advertised to be: mouthwateringly thick and moist and large enough to be called jumbo in size. To sweeten the deal even further, these dogs are cheap – a large refillable drink cup and the dog itself come to $1.50 and no one can come close to beating that. Once in a while, I will make the effort to go here just to eat the hot dogs. I’m not joking.
Best. Chicken. Ever. Get ready to go wild for this one. Crispy on the outside, firm but tender on the inside, the chicken at Romados lives up to all that street talk. Yep, it is arguably serving the best chicken in the city. None of that dry, bland tasting meat that you choke down with big gulps of water. Nope, not here. With some seasoning, a bit of spice brushed onto the meat and a little extra gravy for the fries, the taste is incomparable to anything else. Mmm, mmm, mmm. We got a half chicken and two thighs to go. Smothered with fries and coming with a bite of salad, the three of us wolfed down our meals like there was no tomorrow. Yes, we were hungry. But the main accelerator for the speed at which we ate was the tastiness of the food itself.
Situated on lower St Denis amongst great restaurants like La Fabrique, L’Evidence is a classic restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. During the summer the terrace is nearly always full for brunch and I visited with some friends of mine who are regulars. The interior decor has a classic french vibe in the style of L’Express but with a more down to earth mentality. The service was quick and efficient – don’t expect small talk but do expect perfect coffee refills.
Kam Fung offers the most authentic and traditionally found dim sum dishes in the entire city. Legendary by name, it is easy to see how popular they are by the hordes of people lining the restaurant entrance come noon. The best time to come in order to avoid the wait time is just before the rush, at 11:30. There is a tradeoff though – while service is quick (it always is), the food is hot and there is less clamor around while eating, there is greater variety in the dishes served during rush hour. By no means am I saying that the dishes served before aren’t good – on the contrary! There is just more choice later on. You’ve been told. For those who have never been, it is perhaps a good idea to go along with someone who has some experience in ordering dishes as it may seem overwhelming at first – people are constantly shouting, and it’s not in English. There is a regular flow of traffic in the restaurant, enabled by diners leaving after their meals or just settling in as well as the always moving body of cart ladies hawking their foods.
One of those quick in and out restaurants, Sumo Ramen specializes in… you guessed it. Ramen noodles. The large cartoon sumo wrestler that represents the place is instantly recognizable, giving the place a bit of edge over say, Hakata Ramen. With the majority of the clientele being student based, the prices are friendly and quite reasonable. We ordered a Heineken and a standard milk tea with bubbles. I have to say that the bubble tea here is not the best you can get in the city. The milk tea did not taste super fresh – more like it was made out of a powder or something concentrated. The tapioca balls seemed thin and lacked substance – they were not chewy or bouncy like you would expect them to be. I would suggest going to Magic Idea for a proper cup of bubble tea instead. I do definitely appreciate Sumo Ramen’s effort though.
Based off the Lachine Canal, the St. Ambroise Terrace is an ideal pit stop for bikers, rollerbladers and runners. While a little out of the way for non users of the nature path, rest assured that you are coming to enjoy one of Montreal’s best outdoor spots for live music, fresh beer and cheap barbeque. For an apricot beer, an alcoholic cider and two burgers, it cost us $16. Not bad, eh? We then added two hot dogs on top of that and it broke down to costing about $4 for a beer, $5 for a cider and around $3 for the steamers and burgers.
One of my favorite spots to go to for a quick and easy lunch is the Vietnamese Hoai Huong, located a block away from the Cote-St-Catherine metro station. We sat on the terrace out front which was quite roomy and equipped with sun umbrellas so those who don’t like to endure the heat can eat in comfort. I had the “pink Vietnamese drink with coconut milk” which was exactly that- the pink color comes from the red jelly at the bottom which was chewy and a little sweet. Great chiller for summer weather.
Everyone appreciates good food. When it’s cheap too, it’s a pleasant bonus – this unbeatable combination usually makes the place an instant favorite or a go-to spot. Dépanneur Le Pick Up is one of such places. Serving a number of different clubs and sandwiches for lunch – the pulled pork is notably their most famous item – Le Pick Up exudes a very friendly and very casual vibe because if you were wondering, the restaurant really is located inside a dépanneur so after your meal you can conveniently pick up a few things for the kitchen if you wish. Unfortunately the pulled pork was all out by the time we got there, so we got the club chipotle and the vegetarian Vietnamese sandwich. The chicken in the club was tender, juicy and delicious and the smoked Mexican mayo contributed a nice spicy kick to the overall flavor. The Vietnamese was quite spicy in its own right, being peppered with hot red ones throughout. Everything disappeared faster than you could say “Dépanneur Le Pick Up” – a foretelling sign that we’ll be back in no time.
A lot of the restaurants I will post in the coming future will likely be difficult for me to translate into English. Please bear with me! I’ll do my best with pictures and Google Maps to identify the places for you. The first restaurant we went to in Taipei city was a noodle shop close to my grandmother’s apartment. We ordered a beef tenderloin noodle soup and a pork turnip noodle soup. Food came out a few minutes after we ordered and tasted great too. Having gone with natives of the country, we didn’t think to give our bodies time to adjust to the local food. Either that or we got a bad batch of noodles. In this, both my brother and I had upset stomachs that evening and had to stay in bed for the entire next day. So my advice to you is to stay away from greasy/oily soups your first couple of days in.
Qing Hua Dumplings has an unassuming looking exterior – to the average passerby, the place could be easily overlooked. Serving some of the most authentic, delicious soup dumplings I’ve had in the city (yes, even better than Chinatown), Qing Hua provides fast service, an approachable menu and great food.
Made from an old shipping container and equipped with solar panels, Muvbox is meant to be self-sustainable and an easy to set up pop up restaurant. Situated between the old Farine Five Roses factory and the De La Commune Park by the water, Muvbox is a small, compact “fast food” restaurant serving gourmet lobster rolls and clam chowder.
Amidst a wealth of synagogues, Kosher grocery stores and smoked meat delis in Outremont sits the Bistro Le République. Advertising a deal for every day of the week, Tuesday’s special offered us $15 gourmet burgers, including two pints of Creemore Springs beer – not bad at all, if you ask me. Its enormous terrasse curves around the corner of the street, almost doubling the seating area inside. Raised on a platform, the wooden benches (softened by cushions) allow not only for a great view of the surrounding area but can also serve as an observation deck for some superb people watching (Shtreimel wearing Hasidic Jews, multiple children in matching clothes all riding scooters, well dressed and good looking youth etc).
Buns is a small, hole-in-the-wall hamburger joint on St. Catherine street that Montrealers love to love. While Burger de Ville remains at the top of my list, Buns comes in as a close second. The limited menu and the dingy interior adds to the charm of the place, not to mention the chipper single staff member acting as the chef, the cashier and the server all at once (St. Catherine location). Expect to pay little for decently fast service and a juicy burger… what else can you ask for?
Being directly on Mont-Royal street, Pizzédelic‘s terrasse is perfect for people watching. Taking advantage of the last few rays of sunlight we could catch after work, we ordered a pitcher of white wine sangria with frozen raspberries and orange slices. Even with the frozen fruit, it tasted light and fresh, like it was supposed to.