September 24, 2009
Address: 2917 West Berry Street, Fort Worth, TX
Rich and Alana both ordered: Chips with guacamole and queso, and tempura fish taco platters with rice and refried beans.
Plus: Giant drinks. Yummy tacos. Jukebox!
Minus: Overwhelming atmosphere. Screechy number-calling lady.
Rating: 8 horned frogs out of 10
Rich sez: On the way to our 2nd sports event in Dallas, an NCAA Football game, Alana mentioned that she had read about a great taco place only a few hundred feet away from the TCU stadium. So, after we bought some TCU merch from the school’s book store, we headed into Fuzzy’s Taco Shop.
Unfortunately we entered through the exit door and thus started the confusion of trying to figure out what the HELL we were supposed to do/go in this madness. As we walked in, some lady on a microphone was screeching out orders like a deaf person with Tourette’s, and there were so many neon lights that I started to have images of Harrison Ford contemplating human life while eating tacos. To add to the chaos, the place was packed, and there were no free tables. With all this ridiculousness going on, Alana escaped my clutches to try to find us a table – NO LUCK – All Alana could get was a small table with no chairs near the entrance. This was no good, so I decided to go back towards the exit and eventually found myself sharing a table with some cross-eyed university students. I sat and waited while Alana went to order us our food and beverages.
Alana sez: Eventually I managed to make my way over to the cashier to order our food from the menu on the wall. I had started feeling pretty anxious because of the crazy atmosphere, so choosing meals for both Rich and myself from the huge variety of tasty-sounding Tex-Mex options seemed like an insurmountable task. Feeling pressure from the counter staff, I blurted out an order for chips and guac, fish tacos, and margaritas. Gigantic drinks and order number in hand, I began to work my way through the crowd toward Rich, who appeared to have taken up camp with a surly-looking co-ed and her gloomy boyfriend.
Rich sez: Alana came back to our shared table with these fishbowl sized drinks and we sat waiting and listening to the crazy woman behind the food counter shouting out numbers in NO numercial order. Finally our number came up, and Alana had trouble maneuvering through the crowd to bring it over to the table. Of course, when all of our food hit the table and Alana got somewhat settled, we noticed a free table. Before I could even take a bite of my first taco chip, Alana cartwheeled out of her seat like a Ninja Turtle and slammed her margarita down on the free table. I collected the baskets of food and sauntered over.
Alana sez: So Rich took his sweet time to get to our third table, but we eventually managed to bring everything over to our newly-claimed booth and carve out a little bubble of peace for ourselves amidst the insanity that is Fuzzy’s. Finally able to relax and enjoy lunch, my mood brightened and I started to sample the food.
The tortilla chips were obviously house-made, light and crispy and topped with a sprinkling of chili powder — some of the best I’ve ever tasted at a restaurant. The guacamole was also super-fresh, with big chunks of avocado and very well-balanced flavours. I moved on to my main dish to find two soft corn tortillas folded around chunks of crunchy, tempura-coated fish, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and fresh Mexican cheese. A dash of the house hot sauce took these bad boys over the top. As for the sides, I very much enjoyed the creamy refried beans. However, the rice mixed with mushy, overcooked veggies left something to be desired.
Rich sez: Once we were safe in our booth and full of soft-crunchy-taco-goodness, Alana and I decided to stick around for a while. The chaos of the place had grown on us. Maybe it was the fact that the woman abusing the PA system had gone on break. Anyways, this meant another round of margaritas and chips. But this time, instead of guac, we went with queso. I had never had queso, and neither had Alana. My 1st impression was not a good one. It was hot, gooey and creamy white. Those three things usually don’t sit well with me, but this queso tasted like it was milked from a cow in heaven. As we finished up our drinks and enjoyed the ruckus of the purple-clad TCU Horned Frog supporters around us, Alana and I both agreed that Fuzzy, whoever he is, makes some of the best tacos we’ve ever had.
September 24, 2009
Address: 780 East Road to Six Flags, Arlington, TX
Rich and Alana both ordered: California springrolls, grilled shrimp springrolls, and veggie pho.
Plus: Ridiculously fresh food. Delicious broth. Creative, huge springrolls. Inexpensive.
Minus: We found a mushroom in our soup!
Rating: 10 happy bellies out of 10
Alana sez: The morning after flying to Texas for the Dallas Cowboys’ home opener, Rich and I were eager to tour the NFL’s newest stadium and take in a Rangers game. But first: breakfast.
Arlington is not a very pedestrian-friendly city so we asked Curtis, our hotel shuttle driver and apparently Vernon Wells’s BFF, to drop us off somewhere in the vicinity of Tasty Town. We soon found ourselves in Lincoln Square, surrounded by T.G.I.Friday’s, Chili’s, and Hooters. “Thanks,” Curtis.
Eventually we stumbled upon a tiny Vietnamese spot that seemed out of place among the surrounding chain giants. Since this was one of those rare occasions where soup for breakfast seemed like a good idea, we headed into Sprout’s.
We were surprised by the mod decor we found inside, which was very pretty and much more welcoming than the generic ’80s banquet hall vibe that most Vietnamese restaurants go with. At the direction of our friendly server, we grabbed a booth and settled in to look over the menu. Before we had even finished reading the appetizers, we found two tall glasses of Diet Coke with plenty of crushed ice placed in front of us. We were off to a good start.
Sprout’s offers up a wide variety of creative fresh springrolls, with everything from crispy chicken to grilled tilapia stuffed into rice paper wrappers with lettuce, fresh herbs, and vermicelli noodles. We eventually decided to try the California (avocado and imitation crab) and the grilled shrimp versions. For our mains, we were all about the vegetable pho (noodle soup).
While we waited for our apps and enjoyed some fun retro tunes, our server brought out some Diet Coke refills before we even noticed we were empty — it’s the little things like this that take a restaurant experience over the top. Before long, our springrolls were placed on the table and Rich and I came to understand what “Texas-sized” really means. These things were huge — each springroll was at least twice the size of the largest ones I’ve been served in Canada! Dipping our overstuffed rolls into the provided sauces and condiments, we found them to be fresh, toothsome, and extremely tasty. The grilled shrimp roll in particular had an amazing char-grilled flavour that was complimented nicely by the pineapple dipping sauce. Just as we finished our rolls and felt like we couldn’t take another bite, our soup arrived.
I’m usually disappointed by vegetarian pho — without the usual chicken or beef broth, the animal-friendly versions tend to be bland, bland, bland. As such, I didn’t have high expectations for Sprout’s offering. This skepticism was shattered as soon as my pho was placed in front of me — steaming hot, and accompanied by crisp, fresh sprouts, Thai basil leaves, fresh lime wedges, and bright greeen jalapeno slices, this looked like one kickass bowl of soup. My first taste of Sprout’s broth did not disappoint. It’s rich vegetable flavour was enhanced by the sweet basil and the subtle spiciness of the jalapeno slices. A squeeze of lime juice took it over the top. Normally, I add hoisin and sriracha to my (typically flavourless) veggie pho broth. Not this time — this was a soup base that could stand on its own. Swimming in this amazing broth, I found the freshest possible vegetables, big slabs of flash-fried tofu, and perfectly cooked vermicelli. And a single mushroom, which I placed on my side dish with disgust. Mushrooms are Satan’s food.
In Toronto, most vegetarians I know point to the Golden Turtle as the place to find the best veggie pho in the city. I’ve tried Golden Turtle’s pho, and it pales in comparison to Sprout’s. I highly recommend that any vegetarian Vietnamese food fans who find themselves in Dallas/Forth Worth take a special trip to Arlington to try out Sprout’s. It was easily the restaurant highlight of our trip.
Rich sez: Who knew SOUP for BREAKFAST would be so good. Also on that same day, I watched an episode of King of the Hill, which is based in Arlington, in Arlington. What a great day.
RICH TIP OF THE DAY: After putting jalapenos in your pho, remember not to rub your eyes.
September 23, 2009
Address: Toronto Pearson Airport, Terminal 1
Rich and Alana both ordered: Veggie burger with fries (Rich), Caesar salad (Alana)
Plus: Decent veggie burger.
Minus: Overpriced. Sullen staff. Plastic pint glasses. Too many laptops.
Rating: 6 airplanes out of 10
Rich sez: On our way to Dallas for the weekend to experience my AMAZING, over-the-top birthday present (Giants vs. Cowboys NFL game — home opener in the new Cowboys Stadium), Alana and I found ourselves sitting in the Molson Pub at the Pearson Airport for an early dinner. As we both cruised the menu, we decided that the veggie burger with pesto sauce would sit best on our 2 and 1/2 hour flight. I ordered mine with fries and a Caesar (SIDE NOTE: if the waitress askes if you want to make your $8 Caesar a double, just remember a 2nd shot costs $4 more at Molson Pub).
So, as I sipped on my surprisingly good Caesar and scanned the sports-themed spot, I noticed that every photo/wallpaper picture in the place was showing some Toronto sports figure jumping in the air. It was weird and dated. It makes sense that the pictures were dated — Toronto has not had a sports figure to celebrate in a long time. Yes there was Sundin and Carter, but where are they now? Exactly.
On my 2nd Terminator-style scan, my sensors were going off the charts for the number of middle aged men sitting by themselves with their laptops, scrolling their porn, checking their blackberries, and ordering pint after pint of Canadian. They were like douchebag drones from their future, divorced and sad.
FOOD ARRIVES – Great preso, ginormo burger with fresho looking patties. Fries were crisp with just the right amount of added salt — that being said, I made sure I polished those golden potato fingers first and fast before Alana could get her li’l talons on them. As I sunk my giant teeth into the burger I noticed there was really no pesto sauce…? WTFTTM* Molson Pub. Even though the burger was missing its pesto, I would say that it crushes Lick’s veggie burger for taste, size and texture. The Molson Pub in general is overpriced and lacking friendly staff, but makes up for it with more than satisfying pub food.
Alana sez: Eating at the airport is never a great experience. Everything costs twice as much once you pass security, the employees seem to loathe humanity, and travelling usually brings out the worst in people. As such, I wasn’t very hopeful that we would find a decent dinner in Terminal 1 on our way to Dallas. After surveying our options, Rich and I settled on Molson Pub, despite our hate-ons for Canadian. Hey, it was either that or a stale donut at Tim Horton’s.
After being seated by our sullen waitress, it didn’t take long for us to decide on our meals — there are only 2 fishetarian entrees on the menu. While we waited for our veggie burgers, I was brought a warm pint of Canadian in a plastic glass. Joy!
Our food took no time at all, and I was soon looking at a clearly homemade veggie patty that seemed to contain shredded carrots and zucchini. As Rich mentioned, there was none of the promised pesto sauce to be found. However, the patty itself seemed to have a subtle pesto flavour. I was suitably impressed. This was actually a pretty tasty burger! The Caesar salad on the side was also decent — lightly dressed with a tangy dressing, it was devoid of the usual wilted lettuce or gloppy pastiness that is often found in pub salads.
If you must eat at Pearson, make your way to Molson Pub. Despite its flaws, it’s definitely the best eats I’ve found at the airport.
* WTFTTM means What the Fuck to the MAX
September 10, 2009
Address: 399 Keele Street, Toronto
Rich and Alana both ordered: Aloo Gobi, Channa Masala, and Naan.
Plus: Tasty food. Huge naan. Cute take-out lounge.
Minus: Overpriced. Long wait. Limited menu.
Rating: 7 smooches out of 10
Alana sez: After a long holiday Monday spent running a garage sale and packing up Rich’s old apartment, we were exhausted and feeling a mean craving for Indian food. Our standby, Curry Twist, is closed on Mondays, so we decided to try out a new-ish entry into the Junction’s catalogue of eateries: Indian Kiss. This take-away spot opened recently at Keele and Dundas, and I had heard some good feedback. We were hopeful that it would cure our curry fever.
The menu for Indian Kiss is on their website, but it’s quite limited — there are no appetizers, no fish/seafood dishes, and not a lot of vegetarian options. We settled on the aloo gobi, channa masala, and naan. Indian Kiss is a take-away only restaurant, so I gave them a call to place our order before we headed down there to pick it up. It’s a good thing I called ahead — after giving our order, I was told that it would be 40 minutes for our food. That seemed absurd for take-out, especially since it was very early in the evening (we called at 4:30). However, Rich and I were jonesing for an Indian food fix pretty badly, so we decided to wait it out.
I really couldn’t believe that it would take 40 minutes to make our food, so we headed down to Indian Kiss after about 25 minutes to see if our dinner was ready. We were greeted by a very friendly woman at the counter but, true to their word, we still had a 10- to 15-minute wait ahead of us. We took a seat in the very cute and comfortable lounge area, which is well-stocked with magazines. The soothing green colour on the walls and the cushy couch took the edge off of our wait.
After we finally paid and made it home with our eats, we couldn’t wait to dive in. The prices at Indian Kiss are quite high ($2 to $3 more per dish than Curry Twist), so I was expecting huge portions. As we opened our take-away containers, however, I was dissappointed to find that the amount of food in front of us in no way justified the higher cost. Neither did the flavour, unfortunately. The channa masala and aloo gobi tasted just fine, maybe even excellent, but they were still no match for our gold standard, Curry Twist. The sauces in our dishes were well-seasoned, with complex flavours, and I was impressed by the inclusion of fresh herbs and ginger. Our naan was gigantic, fluffy, and slightly charred, just the way I like it. However, nothing really blew my mind in the same way that Curry Twist does every time.
Our meal from Indian Kiss fully satisfied our craving for tasty Indian food, but the high prices and long wait left a slightly sour aftertaste. Curry Twist will continue to be our standby in the Junction, but Indian Kiss is a reasonable back-up on Mondays when nothing but Indian will do.
Rich sez: I found the Indian Kiss experience to be a lot like that of a strip club. When you first walk into the joint, you’re mesmerized by the decor and bright colors. The familiar aromas help build the excitement of what is about to ensue. [Alana: Ew. Gross, Rich.] You’re told to sit down and wait. And wait. All you want is some attention but, when you get some, it’s going to cost you. But who cares, right? You’re the King of the World!
At first you don’t mind paying — the dish looks light and full of life. When you bring this bag full of joy back home with you, you’re led to believe that this is going to be a night to remember. However, when opened up and put out on the table [Alana: Again, gross.], you find that the familiar taste and fulfillment that you desire with your sweet and spicy dish is nowhere to be found. Once you’re done, you feel like you’ve received more of an Indian peck on the cheek than a kiss. Like a stripper, Indian Kiss does not give you enough for your money, and you don’t get the same spicy enjoyment you expect when you bring it home. [Alana: Rich, we need to talk.]