This food court Chinese BBQ pork brings back childhood memories

So, most people don’t know this about me, but I was actually born in Etobicoke, before Ma and Pa packed everything into our chuckwagon and we saddled up and headed west to Cowtown. Now, I don’t remember too much about those days, but I do remember that we had this real-deal Chinese joint that was so legit, the menu was in Mandarin! (Can’t say I recall what it was called, though…)

Now, when I was a kid, my favourite Chinese food was called pua’a pua’a. It was this real-deal BBQ pork dish that was red around the edges, with a tangy sauce. Now I just found out that, apparently, that dish isn’t Chinese, but Hawaiian, which is like going on Ancestry.ca and learning you’re from a completely different place. That also might explain why we could never find it in Calgary…but just the other day, when I was going to the bank to get some Bolivian pesos, I came across it in the food court—at a Chinese stall, son!

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Reunited never felt so good! Apparently, the proper Chinese word for this dish is char siu, but I’m just gonna call it delicious from now on. The pork is cooked perfectly; you’ve got a nice tang from the bean curd, and the sauce is sweet, but not too sweet. All this and a whole pile of noodles for only 8 bucks, bro!!!

lbs gives you three choices of lobster…and a burger, to boot!

I dunno if you ever watch Restaurant: Impossible, this crazy Food Network show starring my main man Robert Irvine. Basically, Rob the Bod finds these little mop ‘n pop joints that are about to shut down, and gives ‘em an extreme makeover, sledgehammer style. And when it comes to the menu, he’s all about efficiency. Why make a multi-page menu when people don’t order half that stuff anyways? Stick to what you know, and do it really, really well, bro!

Now, I’m pretty sure that Bobby the Beef Puppet would be a big fan of lbs, this new lobster joint that just opened up on Yonge St a couple months back. This place only has four things on the menu: lobster dinner, lobster roll, lobster salad and…a 6 oz bacon & cheddar burger. One of these things is not like the others—although you can add lobster to your burger for an extra 16 bucks.

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Now, I bet you thought I’d go for the burger, and to be honest with you, I wasn’t so sure myself. But while I’ve had plenty of lobster poutine, some crazy lobster nachos and a couple legit lobster rolls in this city, I can’t even remember the last time I had a real-deal lobster dinner. And hey, everything—all four things—on the menu are the exact same price, so you can get a 1.5-pound lobster for just as much as a burger, bro!

They’ve also got all kinds of funky butters, including bacon butter—cuz, y’know, Bacon and Butter are the names of my two unborn children. It adds a nice smokiness to the claw meat, which are already pre-cracked to make it easy to eat. The fries were nice and salty, but the side salad was pretty meh. I couldda gone for a killer taco salad, or some mac ‘n cheese balls or something…

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And yes, I finished all this and still had room for a donut ice cream sandwich for dessert!

This CNE mega sandwich is like three Italian sandwiches piled on top of each other!

So, we’re hanging out at the Food Building at the CNE. Man, this place has everything: deep-fried meat loaf, pulled pork cinnamon rolls, cricket-protein bug dogs… I could probably just pitch a tent outside and sleep here for two weeks—and with all these funky fresh eats, I’d spend a lotta time sleeping, too!

Now, if there’s one thing I miss about The Big Slice, it’s the real-deal Italian sammies. Most people would go there for a ginormous slice of pizza at 4 in the morning, but I usually stuck to the sandwich. Of course, The Big Slice is no more, but now they’ve got a San Francesco sandwich shop a couple blocks away. And at the CNE, they’re serving up this massive meat creation that will make you hunch extra low and unhinge your jaw just to chow down… Check out this melody:

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So, what you’ve got here is breaded veal piled on top of crispy eggplant piled on top of crispy chicken, all straight from the fryer. You’ve got tomato sauce on both buns, some pesto mayo, provolone cheese, and French fries on the bottom. Oh, and they chuck a meatball on top, just because. Dude, this thing is so massive, I had to carry it under my arm like a football. I even stiff-armed Andre Durie on my way back to my table—which is weird, cuz I’m pretty sure he’s a slotback…

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I washed down this mega manwich with a nice, fresh glass of Beetlejuice from the Bug Bistro. This tasty smoothie mixes mealworms, mango and buttermilk for a rich, fruity taste and sprinkles some cocoa and cinnamon on top. I haven’t enjoyed dining on insects this much since I was going to the garden to eat worms with Alice Cooper back in the day, bro!

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Of course, you know me. After eating three sandwiches in one, I’ve still got room for dessert, son! So I scarfed down this tasty culinary creation from Philthy Philly’s: the philly steaklair. You’d think this would be nastier than a Scott Stevens elbow to Eric Lindros’ noggin, but actually, it’s magically delicious. You’ve got the fresh-glazed pastry, with melty chocolate on one side, a whole buncha whipped cream going all over the place…and then, right in the middle, a nice steaky centre. These two things totally shouldn’t work together, but they definitely do. Kinda like Lou Reed jamming with Metallica…or maybe not.

Chicken and brisket and ribs, oh my!

So, we’re hanging out at Carbon Bar, this funky post-industrial palace on Queen St East. This place is so fancy-schmancy, the maître D laughed at me when I showed up in my flip flops, my bling-bling and my AC/DC tee.  But hey, as my B.C. bros in Bison B.C. will tell you, These Are My Dress Clothes, dude!

Anyhoo, I came here for the Pit Master Platter, a jackpot-winning trifecta of pork ribs, beef brisket and buttermilk fried chicken. These are a few of my favourite things, bro. All that’s missing is pulled pork pizza and grilled cheese nachos…

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Now that is one round mound of deliciousness, son! The brisket is super tender, the ribs fall off the bone, and the chicken is nice ‘n crispy ‘n greasy…and completely boneless. But what really makes it is the cauliflower. Say what now?

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They call this dish KFC—as in Korean Fried Cauliflower. You’ve got a whole buncha crunchy caulis in a sweet, spicy sauce. And they definitely don’t shortchange ya, either!

On the other hand, the Pit Master Platter isn’t really that much bang for your buck. This plate is supposed to feed a family of four, but I’m pretty sure that me and Guy Fieri could polish it off, and still have room for dessert. And at 30 bucks a head, it makes for a pricy light snack in Flavourtown:

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(This is what you get when you divide it by four. #sadpanda #hungryhungryhippo)

This Hawaiian pie-an tastes better with bacon!

Now, one of my all-time favourite movies is this small-time Canadian flick called Waydowntown, which was made in my hometown, Calgary. There’s this one scene where my homeslice Fab Filippo is at the food court, and he asks for a slice of Hawaiian. The kid behind the counter says, “Uh, we don’t have Hawaiian,” so he’s like “OK, ham and pineapple.”

Now, if they had True True Pizza in Cowtown, our protagonist wouldn’t have this problem. This real-deal joint at Union Station is serving up a funky-fresh take on Hawaiian pizza—and they make it with bacon!

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They call this the Aloha Smoke, and it has me going all Hawaii Five-0, bro! It’s got crispy, smoky bacon, a nice kick from the pineapple salsa, some fresh cilantro and a little bit of parmesan on top, for that extra richness. They sell this thing down at the market for about 15 bucks—and yes, I scarfed down every single slice, and still had room for dessert!

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Five funky food pairings from the Roundhouse Craft Beer Fest

I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Old Style Pilsner. Or gimme six Bud Light Strawberry Daiquiris and the bill, bro. I won’t go outta my way to buy craft beer unless I’m stuck at some hipster dive bar on Ossington where I’ve never heard of anything on tap. Then maybe I’ll order a Steamwhistle, or something…

But when I heard that there was gonna be all kinds of funky food trucks at the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival, I knew I had to come check it out. It’s 20 bucks to get in, but then the drinks are super-cheap–they’ll fill up your cup for just two beer tokens:

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Now they don’t take craft beer tokens at the local food trucks, so you still gotta have some cash on hand. But with most culinary offerings selling for 10 bucks or less, I really can’t complain. So I started off by hitting up the FeasTO food truck. These cats are known for dumplings, but when I saw they were serving up some popcorn chicken, I knew they’d be kickin’ it up a notch:

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The chicken is crunchalicious, straight from the fryer, and they’ve got a nice sriracha mayo on top. I paired this with a Righteous Rockwell Pilsner, which is so underground, you can’t even Google it, bro! The beer had a nice, rich flavour, with even more bite than Saskatchewan’s national brew. It deserves to be called righteous, for sure!

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Now, I dunno about you, but whenever I see a sign for Bloomin’ Bacon, I always give them my money. This funky Hungarian food truck Chimney Stax makes this crusty, doughy, mass of goodness, then puts a buncha bacon on top. What could possibly be bad about that? And then you’ve got this Forgotten Lake Blueberry Ale beside it. This stuff’s super-strong–7.5 per cent, son! And it’s got a nice tartness from the blueberries, too. I’ve never had a purple beer before, but I gotta say, this shit’s super legit!

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Now, the last time I went to The Pie Commission, I had an outta-bounds beef ‘n beer pie. This time, I switched it up with some smokey steak ‘n cheese…and a side of beer. This pastry is equal parts flaky and steaky, with super-tender beef that just melts in your face. And you gotta have a dark beer with such a rich dish, so I went with Wellington’s Imperial Russian Stout, which tips the scales at 8 per cent. Just three beers in, and I’m already all tipsy like Jon Montgomery after winning a medal in Whistler… Oh, wait!

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So now I’m heading past Dobro Jesti, my favourite Slovenian food truck, when this guy says to me, “Hey buddy, do you want a garlic donut?” Do I want a garlic donut!? Dude, Garlic Donut is my middle name! After devouring his doughy offering, I immediately went and bought more. Can you believe they give you this many for just six bucks?

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These bite-sized garlic bites are outta bounds, bro! You’ve got a hot, puffy pastry, deep-fried to perfection, with enough garlicy goodness to make Guy Fieri cry. Paired with a Little Norway pale lager from Sawdust Brewing Co, which is crisp and refreshing, with just enough hops so you know you’re not drinking Coors Light. Werd to ya mora!

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Now, at this point I was getting pretty full, but when I saw the Koi Gourmet food truck serving up some real-deal Korean meals, you know I had to make room for bulgogi, son! This funkalicious sandwich is served open faced on a scallion pancake wrap, with pickled carrots, mango, daikon, cucumber and cilantro, sorta like an outta-bounds bahn mi. The best way to attack this monstrosity is to fold it up and shove it down like an oversized taco, all while chugging a refreshing Radicle Wheat Beer from Henderson Brewing Co. The citrusy flavours go nicely with the pickled veggies to make this a righteous Korean-German experience, kinda like Psy jamming with Kraftwerk. All that’s missing are the pistachios, bro!

Holy octopus balls, Batman!

Lately, Dundas Street has been turning Japanese. You’ve got ramen, izakaya, curry, sushi burritos, green tea ice cream…oh, and that overhyped cheesecake. Now, I loves me some sushi, and just about anything katsu, but when it comes to takoyaki, I’m all like that sounds wacky—until I put these balls in my mouth, bro:

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I know what you’re thinking—tacowhatty? This Japanese snacky is made from wheat flour, cooked in a pan, and stuffed with some good old Doc Oc; diced, minced octopi. You know this is heading straight down my piehole, so let’s break it down. You’ve got a buncha nice, hot balls, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with a good chew from our octofarian friends. Topped with spicy mayo and a sesame vinaigrette, green onions and Japanese chilis, all on a bed of purple rice, purple rice. I only want to see you lapping up some purple rice…

Now, this dish gets an F for funkaliciousness. And that’s the same grade I got in Home Ec, son!