Ginger (2007)

Ginger/Ginger 2
695 Yonge St.
(416) 966-2424

521 Bloor Street West
(416) 536-3131

252 Carlton Street
(416) 923-7979

546 Church Street
(416) 413 1053

403 Yonge
416-263-9999

The two original Ginger’s I know of are the one at Yonge and Bloor and the one at Yonge and Gerrard (called Ginger 2). quick and cheap with large portions, damn good prices, and a variety of good food, from stir frys, pho (Vietnamese soup with rice noodles, thinly slices beef, and veggies–the broth actually cooks the beef), as well as Vietnamese subs for less than $3, fruit salad, thick and delicious smoothies, vegetarian pho (vegetarian broth with deep fried or steamed tofu, veggies (snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, carrot, green and red pepper, bean sprouts) in a heaping bowl of healthy goodness. Other fare includes cold salad rolls (veggie, shrimp, or meat varieties), or the spring rolls (deep fried), come with a sweet dipping sauce or a fishy tasting brown sauce with sprinkled peanuts.

Service is very fast and efficient. Customers line up and order and they take a clear plastic block with a number and staff serve the food. Food is served hot and fresh and staff are pleasant (not extremely pleasant-it’s very fast paced at the Yonge/Bloor location).

The Church and Wellesley location (re-branded as Ginger – Taste of Health) has an actual bar where they serve up fancy fruity martinis. Ginger on Church and Wellesley is more upscale in terms of the decor, but the prices are still as low as Ginger on Yonge/Bloor and Ginger 2 on Yonge/Gerrard. The Church location is fairly new, so there is more seating, bathrooms are nicer, and the placer is cleaner. At the time of my Church street visit (March 2006), they did not offer vegetarian pho as they claim that they cannot make their Pho vegetarian.

The other Ginger locations on Bloor (the Annex) and on Calrton (in Cabbagetown) offer a more trendy and chic look (similar to the Church street location). All of the “newer” locations (Church, Carlton, and Bloor) market themselves as healthy and offer vegetarian options.

The Yonge/Bloor street location and the Church/Wellesley location accept all cards, while the newer Annex location only accepted cash at the time. The Annex location also had a slightly different menu. At that location i ordered the vegetarian hot and sour pho which was equally delicious but had less vegetables than the Yonge/Bloor location. The broth was tastier and the whole decor/ambiance more trendy (even the veggie salad rolls w/ peanut sauce came in trendy shapes and in a more trendy plate). I prefer the veggie salad rolls (more variety) which came with slices of mango and carrot and there was more vegetarian options whereas the Ginger at Yonge/Bloor offered veggie, shrimp, beef salad rolls in an oyster sauce topped with peanuts. Ginger in the Annex offered a delicious REAL peanut sauce (veggie with no fish stock). If only they could improve their portion size on the Pho.

Overall the new branding of Ginger Taste of Health focuses on serving the vegetarian community, when it claims vegetarian options available, whereas the Church/Wellesley could not give a rat’s ass about us veggies and The Ginger at Yonge/Bloor could very well be lying since their English communication skills suck–staff hardly talk…who knows if they even understand the word “vegetarian”. Bathrooms are Ginger at Yonge/Bloor look like a murder scene, don’t bother going to the washroom there, hold it in. Both Ginger at Yonge/Bloor and Yonge/Gerrard need makeovers but food and service is excellent, fast, efficient, friendly, and quick. It’s definitely worth moving to a neighbourhood where there is a Ginger. You get a fast, hearty, healthy, and cheap “no bullshit” meal.

Also offers cheap Vietnamese submarines for under $5 and cheap stir fries (veggie, seafood and meat varieties). My friend Wendy (fellow reviewer) often stops by Ginger at Yonge/Bloor for a large Vietnamese Sub for $2.95 (sure beats Subway or Mr. Sub). She is very happy with her selection as the sandwich is large, fresh, and best of all cheap. Can’t complain.

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Ginger

 695 Yonge Street – (416) 966-2424
403 Yonge Street – (416) 263-9999
546 Church Street- 416 324 8724
252 Carlton Street 416-923-7979
521 Bloor Street West (416)536-3131

When you think of Ginger, think casual, fast food, and excellent prices. You will not be ripped off or disappointed. It’s like a giant food court, noisy, but the food quality is definitely better than your typical food court with tasteless, bland, and expired dishes, claiming to be Italian or Chinese but really it’s the North American rendition. Food court food is a quick and cheap and lousy interpretation of Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, or Thai food should be.

I went there with some friends after checking out a rockin’ good underwear sale. We were really hungry and we did not want to spend too much money so we checked out the newly opened Ginger on Church street near Wellesley.

Scott had the green curry with silken tofu and vegetables. He wasn’t too impressed. There wasn’t much tofu really, and the rice wasn’t that soft either. Overall, he wouldn’t eat it again. He didn’t like the atmosphere, it was too loud to hear more than one table away.

I had the eggplant and tofu green curry dish with steamed vegetables and white rice. I omitted the green curried tofu and replaced it with more steamed vegetables but unfortunately, due to poor communication skills, they did not add any more steamed vegetables so I was a bit unhappy.

Bob ordered the rice, veggies, 3 shrimp, chicken, beef price ($8.50). He felt that it was not too spicy, it was flavourful, with a fast food ambiance, yet it felt like being in a restaurant. He liked that he did not have to leave a tip. He liked the comfy chairs, and the “in between” nature of fast food and fine dining. Lastly, he liked that they brought the food to you

Paulo had the same dish as Bob but without the clump of white rice (shrimp, chicken, and beef) with veggies

Lailah ordered a thick udon noodle soup with tofu and vegetables (known as Pho). The soup bowl was big and hearty and came with a generous serving of noodles and vegetables (also known as Pho).

On other visits I have had veggie salad rolls (cold rice paper rolls in a sweet peanut sauce, not peanut butter sauce but a sweet teriyaki sauce with crushed peanuts on top. As well, I have enjoyed a traditional Vietnamese dish called Pho, a soup with tons of veggies, rice noodles, and tofu, in a clear veggie broth and covered in basil leaves. The soup is very hot (in terms of temperature and it’s also spicy). Most Phos have beef or chicken but mine was 100% veggie. I had to inform the server when taking orders since most Thai, Vietnamese, or Korean food always has fish, oyster, or chicken broth added to most dishes so it’s best to be the paranoid vegetarian and emphasize having an “animal-free dish”. The new Church Street location has a fresh fruit martini bar which makes it look less look “fast food” but overall it’s still fast food and excellent prices. Accepts all cards

Rashnaa

307 Wellesley Street East.
416-929-2099

Rashnaa is an intimate little South Indian and Sri Lankan restaurant right on Wellesley near Parliament. Very unassuming and modest in design, with non-kitschy decor, very cosy, and romantic. It is a great place to bring a first date who loves South Indian cuisine.

Rashnaa is formally a small workman’s Victorian house on two levels. The first floor contains about 10 small tables with an upper level with one table and bathrooms. The upper floor contains one table that sits 4 and bathrooms. There is a large backyard terrace that is beautiful.

Opened for 15 years, Rashnaa’s reputation as one of the finest South Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants has been established through word of mouth. With high quality, vegetarian friendly, affordable and fresh cuisine I can tell you I had a very satisfying experience

When Daniel and I went there for dinner, he had the butter chicken with vegetables and a potato curry. I ordered the vegetable delight, a medley of potato, eggplant, and breadfruit curry (in a coconut curry sauce), a green pea and cashew curry (YUM), a lentil curry, and a spinach curry, that comes with basmati rice (I omitted the rice and ordered roti instead). The waiter was impressed that I opted for vegetarian dishes that he brought out samples of other South Indian curries: a delicious roasted beet curry with coconut curry sauce (to die for!) and a curried eggplant that resembled traditional Jewish eggplant.

The food and service was fabulous and my dish was only $8.95. There are many options for vegetarians as well as a variety of wonderful breads (naan, and various vegetables rotis). Most curries are made with ghee or coconut milk (specific to South Indian dishes). Ghee is clarified butter, very rich and may be difficult on the stomach. Accepts credit card. Casual ambiance. Licensed.

Everybody Eats [dinner- closed June 2005]

557 Parliament
*closed June 2005*
416-923-0100

Aaron and I went to see a play last night at the Berkely Theatre so we needed to grab dinner in a closeby neighbourhood restaurant so we decided to go to Everybody Eats. Everybody Eats is a cosy café with a local neighbourhood feel. It is decorated in white exposed brick with abstract art on the walls. Divided into 2 dinings rooms and a back terrace, the front room is small and resembles a greasy spoon with its open concept kitchen while the back dining area resembles a chi chi poo poo bistro with linen clothed tables with a real fire place.

Their business card describes the place as ecclectic, innovative, and casual. The brunch menu on the weekend (10am-4pm) has typical brunch fare (eggs any style, toast, non-dairy vegan French toast , salad, baked beans, and burgers). There is also an eggless omelette (made with tofu) so this place is perfect for me.

The dinner menu is diverse, funky, and ecclectic. With each entree, the chef recommends a wine or beer (from their extensive list of wines and beers) that goes well with the dish. Talk about drinking advisory services! For our appetizer, Aaron and I shared the pan fried veggie dumplings (4 for $5.95) with spicy peanut sauce. Although greasy, the dumplings were really good and hit the spot. For my main entree, I was disappointed to only find two vegetarian items: the fusili pasta with vegetables and feta cheese and the pan fried tofu with watercress and some rice in a nice teriyaki sauce. I opted for the Pan Fried Tofu with sauteed watercress which came with white rice.

WOW, it was REALLY good, salty, greasy, but GOOD. The only thing was the portion size. It was a small square of tofu with watercress (think spinach!) with a small side or white rice in a teriyaki sauce. Aaron opted for the curried lamb-burger with roasted rosemary potatoes. His lamb-burger came with a yummy portobello mushroom. He thought his food was good but too greasy. Other items on the dinner menu include burgers (ground strip loin with garlic mayo or curried lamb with sweet apricot chutney on kaisers buns with roasted bell pepper, jalapeno and onion.) Other menu items include a risotto of toasted nutty barley with chopped asparagus. Some starters include artichoke caviar, a Mediterranean relish served with warm herbed pita, and sweet potato fritters with pineapple salsa and cumin-scented yogurt. Desserts include a variety of cakes and pies from Altitude Bakery on Queen East. The night we went, there were two desserts: chocolate banana cake and apple sour cream cake. Not many healthy desserts but oh well. They accept all cards. Licensed with an extensive list of wine, beer, etc. Closed Mondays. Open until 10pm Tues-Fri. Weekend brunch is served 10-4pm.

PearTree Restaurant

507 Parliament Street
(416) 962 8190

Located right in the heart of Cabbagetown, this place serve a traditional brunch as well as a first-rate Eggs Benedict, all priced under ten dollars. Although a small menu, they also serve a medley of items ranging from fish to stir fry’s to steak. They have a back terrace and next to the patio is a terrific little solarium, which gives a summertime feel 12 months of the year. If you arrive before 2:30pm, you can enjoy their complimentary blueberry coffee cake, which are made that day and are excellent. I ordered the vegetarian stir fry which had a lot of vegetables. The dish was $8.95 and came with cashews (hold the rice) and it was supposed to come with tofu but I could not find it. 😦

My dish was drowning in sweet Schezuan sauce which was kind of slimy and gross. I still loved my stir fry. Other than that, I could not find any other vegetarian dishes. My two friends had a “I want it all breakfast” with sausages, eggs, home fries, a small side order of fruit salad, peameal bacon, pancakes, and toast- all for $12.95. He said he loved it. My other friend had smaller version of this breakfast, called the TTC breakfast. It had much of the same things (eggs, side order of fruit salad, toast, sausage, home fries, peameal bacon) but without the pancakes. My friends claimed that both breakfasts were excellent and they loved the fluffy pancakes and non-greasy sausages.

Desserts are available and they appear lovely. About 15 cakes and pieces to choose from. According to another review of this place, rumour has it that these wonderful decadent desserts are purchased from an outside source.

Decor is cosy and simple with exposed brick on each side of the restaurant, two distinct dining areas, and big spacious tables. There is a lot of great artwork on the walls and the whole ambiance of the place is non-pretentious and prices are normal ($7.95-$9.95) for most dishes.

Brass Taps Pizza Pub

 495 Danforth Av (416) 466-3403
157 Roncesvalles Avenue – (416) 536-6678
221 Carlton Street – (416) 966-9440
934 College St. (416) 533-4333

Some places specialize in specific type of food. Brass Taps is a toned down, casual version to Il Fornello. If you decide to dine at Brass Taps, don’t go for the burgers, wraps, or pub fare, since it’s just mediocre. Go for the gourmet pizza and the excellent Sunday brunch.

Centrally located in Greektown at Danforth and Logan and on the cusp of Little Italy at College and Ossington, this pub is known for its gourmet pizza (many different varieties and you can even build your own pizza and choose your own crust!) . Some Brass Taps Pizza Pubs play cheesy 80’s music and some hard rock and roll. Decor looks like your typical pub- bar stools, woodwork, and a large bar with an extensive selection of wine, beer, and hard liquor.

Also contains comfortable seating with large tables and booths as well.

They serve brunch Sundays from 11:30am-2:30pm and the menu is fairly extensive. I usually order granola with fruit and yogourt but since the menu has recently changed (perhaps due to new management?), I decided to have the Garden party egg white omelete.

The service is prompt and portions are big. I went with three friends and they had a mix of different items, French toast club sandwich with banana, peanut butter, and nutella, my other friend had a bagel with provolone cheese and red pepper, and another friend had a pizza frittata, which is an open faced omelete on top of pizza dough with pizza sauce and veggies.

All of our dishes arrived fresh and were under $10.00. Average price for brunch items was $5.95-$7.95. I received the wrong egg-white omelete, (I got a mushroom and cheese egg-white omelete). I told her kindly but timidly that I got the wrong item, so she re-ordered the omelete for me for free. Woo-Hoo.

The egg-white omelete was big and fluffy and had a lot of sauteed vegetables, and it came with roasted potatoes in a rosemary, garlic, and herb saute, and it came with four slices of toast. I did not eat the toast or potatoes but I was very satisfied with the egg-white omelete.

Soft drinks are expensive so be warned but portions are big, the 80’s music was absent that day but the overall ambiance was friendly and accomodating. I was thoroughly impressed. The server’s name was Shelley and she was super nice. Looks are deceiving because I would have never thought that this place served brunch- it simply looks like a pub. Many locations in Toronto. Extensive selection of vegetarian meals and excellent vegetarian pizza dishes. Please note that even though Brass Taps all share almost identical menus and the same name, they are not affiliated with each other. In sum, this beats the overpriced trendy il Fornello by a long shot. Some locations like the Little Italy location (on College street) offers free concerts (my friend Christy and I saw Shaye perform there), and other events. Very friendly service. Accepts all cards.