Random thoughts for those who travel. Ridiculous thoughts for those who dont. Until you know me, it might not make sense.HA.

Deli Reviews and Diner Experiences

Dangerous Dans Diner…….A Dangerous Burger, served with a heaping side of ATTITUDE.

Dangerous Dans Diner…….A Dangerous Burger, served with a heaping side of ATTITUDE.

7 May 2012

After a lovely Sunday afternoon hanging out with friends and family in Lesliville, some afternoon suds, and great conversation – early evening hunger set upon us.  Combined with the “end of the weekend” blues and laziness we decided to check out a diner just down the road which apparently serves one hell of a burger.  The joint is called Dangerous Dans Diner.

Ill try and keep this short in the spirit of not posting every detail about everything I eat in the city…..but this place deserves a few points to mention.

First, it is a basic diner, set on the corner with views of the street through the large glass windows, and lit up by traditional fluorescent lighting.  The menu was quite extensive but certainly focused on various burgers ranging from the traditional ½ pound cheeseburger all the way through the “Colossal Colon Clogger Combo” at $25.

Note: the “CCCC” is a 24oz burger (1 ½ lbs) topped with 2 eggs, ¼ lb of bacon, ¼ lb of cheese, served with a small poutine and a large shake.  I asked the manager how many people actually eat the CCCC and he replied that they probably sell 25-30 a week.  WOW, glutten.

Immediately upon entering the diner you could smell the grill, hear the music and chattering, see that the seating was slightly different than we are used to……and notice a touch of attitude from the manager, cashier, cook, and dishwasher.  For those of you not familiar with traditional diners and “how they should be”………..a certain amount of attitude, cockiness, no care if youre there shtick, is appropriate and expected.  They treat you as if youre the one lucky to be there….that WE need them (to eat) more than THEY need us (the customer to pay the bills).  This however is no reflection of the food or speed or efficiency of service, simply how the staff interact with the guests.  After finishing your meal it wouldn’t be out of place for the waiter to say something to you like, “hey you done?”…………ah ya…………”well if so why don’t you free up these seats and get the hell out of here.” .  This might sound offensive to some but it is the essence of a proper old school diner, and just one small example of this attitude.

None the less.  Dangerous Dans Diner is this type of place, and interestingly enough the seating in the restaurant is comprised of seats from cars and vans.  Neat concept.  Not sure if it adds to anything or takes away….but it is what it is, and when you go there you sit in a retro fitted car seat around the tables of four.  We all ordered the traditional cheeseburger and decided to split a large order of poutine to see if in fact it was good old traditional poutine or simply fries, gravy, and shredded cheese.

Everything was served quickly and in the astonishingly large portions we were expecting –  becoming even  more impressive when the plates are right in front of you.

Burgers were awesome all around.  I though the bun could have used a bit more work but all in all, what a good burger!  Poutine was decent as well.  Good Ontario cheese curds but certainly not those rubber squeaky curds you get in La Belle Province. Well, we tried.

We finished our meal and on our way out of the diner, I had this exchange with the cook.

Me: “Hey man, good burger.”

Cook: Walking by, looking away, in a snarky voice says “Ya……. you don’t think we know that?”

Simply Awesome.

Prices:  ½ lb Cheese Burger – $ 5.55.  Large Poutine $ 7.25.  Pitcher of draught $14.00

Location: 714 Queen St East, Toronto, On 416 463-7310

www.dangerousdansdiner.com

It is never interesting to watch people eat, but here is a quick video of us at the table with food in front of us.  The really cool thing about the recording  is:  THE MUSIC PLAYING IN THE BACKGROUND.  To hear a sample of that alone, is worth clicking on the video if only for a few seconds.  Hilarious.

 

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The Big Slice of Life

The Big Slice of Life.

3 May 12

Years ago life was simpler.  We’ve all heard that  – probably say that –  and shit, even thinking that ages one immediately in front of company even a few years younger than yourself.  It is true though – in some sense –  there were less rules,  more personal responsibility,  and in that, more leeway in what we could do and get away with.  Kids could still go to playgrounds or adventures in the woods without a parents supervision……dressing up as a devil on Halloween was considered an appropriate costume, and there was no such thing as a peanut free zone.  Today of course, none of these three examples are appropriate or allowed. It is too bad really.

My early youth was accelerated by an amount of independence given to me by my parents, with trust of course (although I didn’t always follow that, kids will be kids), and appropriately for the times, I lived a great childhood exploring, doing, living and learning.  Growing up, I was a big sports fan and I was allowed to attend Toronto Maple Leaf games at the Gardens – me and my buddy on our own – as early as age eleven.  Living outside of the city a random “Leaf game school night” would look something like this.  Mom drops us off at the GoTrain station in Oakville. We ride into Toronto to Union, and transfer to the subway.  From the subway, walk to the Gardens and watch the game from up in the grey section (and get this, tickets were $8 at the time), and do this in reverse following the contest.  Alternatively, my friends mom would pick us up around 11pm in Oakville and drop me off at home for bed and an early rise the following day for grade six.  Grade SIX!  Yes folks, during those days, you could leave  a somewhat responsible child on their own to do their own thing, and not have your neighbours call family and children services for neglect. Having this new found freedom,  my friend and I would snatch up every available Leaf ticket and exercise our independent option from those early days well into our teens.  I remember heading to the ticketmaster  outlet at Sunrise records on opening day for ticket sales and laying down $300 for upwards of 20 games we would attend.  And this would be at age 12. On a side note. When the boys in blue played their last game in the storied building back in 1999 I remember people saying they had never been to the gardens to watch a game.  Or maybe once for a game, once for a concert and once for a wrestling event featuring Hogan vs Andre the Giant or something along those lines.  At the time I went through my meticulously kept ticket stubs  – in a photo album – and counted the games I had attended during those years.  A proud me had walked through the hallowed halls of my/this  hockey shrine, at least 122 times.  Thank you mom and dad and the late 80’s.

To continue, one of the places we would frequent in the city was a pizza joint called THE BIG SLICE.  Located on Yonge St just south of College this appropriately named pizza parlour was just what a young and hungry kid needed.  In no particular order: Pizza, Cheap, Big.   My friend and I would go there night in night out for our fill right before puck drop and I would always order the peperoni and mushroom – cost with a coke at the time $3.50.  Standing at the counter in awe of the massive slices of pie, the smells, the excitement of the city and game night, was magic to us.  This was growing up at its finest…..free to do as we wished and away from moms and dads who (as with most other kids our age) were telling their children to do their homework and go to bed.  How cool were we?

Fast forward 25 yrs later and I’m still eating THE BIG SLICE.  It has become a Toronto staple for me.  When Im in town and I need a quick bite to eat, nothing tempts me more than going for a quick slice of premium pizza (note:  this is not gourmet pizza or gluten free pizza or organic pizza or any other lovey dovey term of the day), simply pizza. And it is good.  It was good then and it has been good ever since, including yesterday.  The pizza is still spun by hand in the front window, toppings generously added by feel – not by scale and weight.   The counters, tables, chairs, and paintings on the walls – all remain the same. Dance music of the day played over the decrepit radio shack speakers – wires still unattached to the walls – a five minute job that could have been done decades ago.  Until recently Ive not taken notice of how long Ive been eating at The Big Slice and how long things there have just remained the way they were.  Continually I still order peperoni/mushroom and a can of coke.  The cost today is five bucks tax incl. Pizza, Big, Cheap.  I was thinking to myself that maybe it’s the nostalgia, maybe the feeling of returning to a different time – young, innocent, free – or maybe Im just stuck in my ways, and this the reason I keep going back.  I mean Im not with my buddy like the good old days  – who has long since moved to Asia  – nor going to a hockey game……..nor there avoiding bed time and homework. But I am there for some reason besides just being hungry.

I can only think to myself that I love the place because it hasn’t changed. Its grown up a bit – like we all have.  Funny though……on the other hand it means that (in this case) I haven’t grown up either.  To take note of yourself in a slice of pizza……it’s a bit crazy, but I think its contemplative and  cool. Life is good sometimes.

Final Note: take away all the philosophical stuff and life lessons Im trying to pull together, and the pizza there is that good.  You really should check it out. Open daily…….pretty early to very very late. East side of Yonge at the corner of Gerrard.

……and my buddy, that’s Graham.  Some of you would know him.  Hes lived in Thailand for the last decade with a lovely wife and two beautiful children…..he has everything he needs  but access to The Big Slice.


Thunderin Thelma – a new definition of street meat.

Thunderin Thelma.

Walking along Queen st East this afternoon I came across the Caplanskys Deli food truck affectionately called Thunderin Thelma.

Its located at 72 Queen St East and serves up a mini menu from the actual restaurant.  A smoked meat sandwich with pickle costs $7.  They have poutine as well ans some sort of speciality maple donuts which sound (and probably are) very good.  The truck is open M-F from 11-3pm.  This also happens to be the idea that owner Zane Caplansky pitched on the CBC show called Dragons Den. Incidentally the Dragons did not invest in the food truck idea, but Zane went ahead anyway.  They also make appearances at food shows and other outdoor events in the Toronto area.

Next time Im in the area, its going to be a tough decision between traditional street meat and Torontos best (and first) smoked meat. A pic of the truck below.

Check out the video of the pitch from Dragons Den.

www.caplanskys.com


Youre not just a piece of meat.

Damn Good Burger – Royal Meats Barbeque

25 April 12

Finding myself tailing along with a buddy on a business appointment just outside of Toronto, we were delayed in the timing of his meeting so we decided to go for a quick bite to eat.  The sales rep we were waiting to see suggested that there was a “great spot for burgers – if you like burgers – right around the corner.”

Now I am a burger guy and this comment peaked my interest with the usual cynicism I hold when it comes to peoples evaluation of what a good burger is, what good wings are, what good street meat is (Diamond cut required) or who serves a good deli sandwich.  These four items Ive searched far and wide for – and when possible, indulged, eaten, and evaluated.  For years I’ve been complaining that no one could make a decent burger on Utila for example.  Some people there blame it on the beef, some on the lack of fresh baked buns and others simply don’t care about this stuff and would look at me like “why does this guy talk and care about a freaking burger so much?”.

Recently when in was in Israel I went through the same process with friends there of whom most claimed to know of a decent burger spot in Tel Aviv or somewhere else.  I digress, I was so enamoured with the high quality shawarma in Israel that I didn’t give even one burger the chance at my criticism, while I was visiting.  I looked but didn’t take.   At a cost of 12-15usd for a minced beef sandwich (with probably a crappy bun – although I don’t know why Im saying that), the thought of an Israeli burger just wasn’t doing it for me…….that ……. and the shawarmas were just that good.

On with the show here and back to this afternoon.

My buddy Hitch and I stepped inside a very tidy and simple restaurant with big glass windows and lots of light.  Immediately I sensed that we might be in for a bit of a treat.  At Royal Meats Barbeque, you select from the deli counter the meat you wish to be cooked.  They favour burgers there (in two sizes, ½ pound and full pound) and they are well on display beside a few other items such as sausage and chicken fillets, which are also on the menu.  After placing the order, you have a seat and wait a short time while the fresh made patty is grilled in the open kitchen with your eyes and nose as witness.

Once ready, they call you back up to the counter to garnish the fine looking specimen of beef.  There are the traditional toppings – lettuce, tomato, full size deli pickles, and condiments.  Further, they only provide Heinz Ketchup – there is only one kind (as WE know) and anything different would be sac religious on a burger (or anything else requiring ketchup) – check mark for that.

Also offered, was a special house dressing which looked decent, but I didn’t want to crowd the senses in the overall evaluation.  This would be similar to being served a draught beer in a frosted mug – that is, youll never know if the beer has gone sour because of the coldness of the glass – always room temp mug for the first beer to verify a good brew, FYI.  Royal Meats also offered another special “spread” we’ll call it. I believe the worker said it was a mixture of cream cheese and mayo.  I usually add mayo to my burger so I reasoned this wouldn’t be too far off the path not to give it a go.  They spread it on the underside of the top bun, looked good.  Was a decent replacement for cheese.

Speaking of bun.  This is where everything about a burger can fall apart – literally and figuratively.  You can have a decent burger….heck you can even have a great burger…..but if the bun isint up to speed the whole thing can fall apart and go right downhill.  This burger bun was big enough to cover the patty and was toasted as well – which made me a bit nervous.  That is, with over toasting and a large portion to shove down the trough, a badly toasted bun can become hard and tends to cut/chafe the top of your mouth.  Not a great description but a situation we can all understand.  Well…….. this bun was perfect.  A mix between toasting and steaming on a fresh baked bun that had the consistency and look of a ciabatta and Kaiser roll mix.

When leaving I inquired to the manager about the burger and he told me they were made fresh daily at their Royal Meats Butcher shop that has been in business for the past fifteen years.  Also, they only use salt, pepper, chillis and onion in the patty……simple but good. Fresh and fast.  Price was decent at $7.50 for the half pound and $9.50 for the full pound………youre going to pay a bit more for drink and fries if you even have the room.

And there it is……..a very decent burger at a relatively new joint.

Royal Meats Barbeque

710 Kipling Ave, Etobicoke, On M8Z 5G5

http://royalmeats.ca

This post is dedicated to Dor, Arbel, Stass, Niv, Nir, and others.


Caplasnkys Deli, Downtown Toronto

Caplanskys Deli

31 March 2012.

Location: Toronto, On. Just outside Kensington Market. 356 College St.  416 500-3852

Second day home after a one year trip abroad which turned into three, I had my first meal at this relativley new deli.

Toronto smoked meat for god sakes….

Hand carved, proper rye, slaw and pickle of course.

Good proper menu otherwise.

College and Spadina, west on Spadina…north side.

Thank you zane.

www.caplanskys.com


Montreal Deli, Etobicoke.

Montreal Deli, 20 Feb 2012

Location: Dundas St West. Just past the 427 on the north side.

This place has been a convenient rest stop for some of the better medium end meats.  Never disappoints for sure, as the sandwiches are piled roof high.  Simpistic as it should be – the sandwich that is –  as are most of the deli and offerings.  More of a converted 70’s Swiss Chalet than anything….the Montreal Deli does in fact hold its own.  Regular smoked meat or “ole fashioned” are both on the menu giving up the appearance that this is the legit shit. Great plates are served but only after using a slicer for the meat……a bit of a faux pas.  None the less, at $12 for the combo that can easily go home as leftovers, it is good value. Pretty easy to distinguish that Lesters Meats are providing the source of this gluttony. Not the best of the best but, Id take it rather that leave it, 9 times out of 10.

http://www.montrealdeli.ca/welcome.htm

NEXT UP: Yitz, Moe Pancers, Steeles…in no prticular order.