Tacos El Asador

690 Bloor West, at Clinton,
416-538-9747

This place is super cheap! prices start at $1.95 for a veggie taco, and combos that have a couple of items & a drink range from $5.60 – $7.50, with the all time high price of $16 for a fried fish meal.! After eating in Bistro 990 the day before, this place is the bargain find of the year.

The name says it all – tacos is what they specialize in, but there are also enchiladas, soups, burritos, quesadillas, etc. I had a combo that was an enchilada and a soup. The soup portion was big, and it smelled great. it tasted very fresh & was chock full of vegetables, very yummy. This was definitely a homemade soup too, certainly not your Campbell’s over salted standard.

The atmosphere is decidedly casual, with the picnic tables and plastic cutlery, and tv’s all around, but you really go there for the good value. The service was impressively fast & friendly, and for $7.50, I was stuffed. My dining companion Chris likes to go there on Monday nights to relax and unwind before heading in across the street to catch the Catch 23 Improv show in the back room at Clinton’s.

Judging by the patrons, I think this is a local favourite spot, there was a constant stream of customers for both take out & eat in. This place was so cozy, you would not feel out of place eating alone.

My dinner, drink & dessert with tax & tip came to a grand total of $9.55. You could have done it even cheaper! I will definitely be returning to the comforts of Tacos el Asador.

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Utopia Cafe and Grill

586 College
(416) 534-7751

A whole mish mash of food awaits you at Utopia, a small cafe and bistro with a funky name, located right in the heart of Little Italy. They serve a variety of dishes from Grilled Angus Sirloin to Half Roast Chicken to Veggie Burritos to a Hamburger served with goat, swiss, and cheese and eggplant, zucchini, and roasted red peppers.

Wine is served by the glass and there is a large variety to choose from. Staff are very friendly and there is an exposed kitchen so you can see the cook prepare most dishes.

It seems most of the menu consists of quesadilas and burritos with interesting fillings. Some of those fillings are inspired from Mexican, Italian, and Indian cuisine. I enjoyed the quesadilla with pesto, cheddar & monterey jack cheese, salsa, and sauteed portobello mushrooms. It came with a side order of coleslaw or field mix salad and rice & black beans (I chose coleslaw and field mix salad) .

They are very considerate and accomodating to vegetarians. The waiter told me straight out that they are considerate and accomodating to vegetarians since the owner is vegetarian and they could always make substitutions. I was relieved. The waiter asked me what I wanted to avoid and I told him. He gave me the various options of vegetarian dishes on the menu and there were many.

They serve many burritos and quesadillas with soy protein or tofu and they told me that they could make anything vegetarian. I was also happy that when I asked for a diet Coke, they asked me if I wanted a regular size or a large. Most places like to charge more so they assume you want large, thus charging you more. Some burritos and quesadilas include the Grilled Lamb Burrito (that’s what Daniel ordered), Steak Burrito , Grilled Chicken Burrito ,Grilled Sausage Burrito, Curried Chickpea & Potato Burrito ,Grilled Vegetable Burrito ,Chicken Goat Cheese Burrito. Some quesadilas included the White Bean & Tofu Quesadilla ,Grilled Eggplant Quesadilla ,Mushroom & Pesto Quesadilla , Chicken Quesadilla , and the Steak Quesadilla.

They also serve a variety of hamburgers like the Utopia Burger (a burger with the works plus goat, swiss and cheddar cheeses, grilled eggplant, zucchini, roasted red peppers and sauteed mushrooms), Swiss and Mushroom ,Mediterranean Burger (lettuce, tomato, Bermuda onion, tzatziki and feta cheese ), Grilled Bison Burger , Homemade Chicken Burger , Homemade Charbroiled Burger , and of course the Veggie burger.

Sandwiches include the Vegetarian Souvlaki (with soy protein!), Chicken Breast Sandwich , N.Y. Sirloin Sandwich , Grilled Chicken Club , Baked Chicken & Pesto , Grilled Veggie Sandwich , Spicy Italian Sausage Sandwich , Grilled Tuna Sandwich , Smoked Salmon Sandwich , Tandoori Chicken Sandwich , and the Pesto, Mushroom and Asiago Cheese sandwich. All dishes are served with field mix salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Sandwiches range from $8.00-$9.00

Service was very slow but the ambiance was great. Covered in beautiful abstract artwork that is for sale, exposed brick, dim lighting, exposed kitchen, tables spread out throughout the cafe in front, and a beautiful back terrace that is half enclosed, half exposed, this place is definitely on my “A” list of places to come back and eat. They also serve a weekend brunch from 12pm-4pm. Some brunch dishes include the Chicken Pesto & Cheddar Cheese Omelette , Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese Omelette , Smoked Salmon & Swiss Omelette , Utopia Scramble (three scrambled eggs served with sausage and home fried potatoes), the traditional Steak & Eggs, Daily Quiche served with a field mix salad and a balsamic vinaigrette, and other dishes like the breakfast burrito with bacon or sausage.

Even though most dishes are beef, chicken, lamb, or sausage, there are many vegetarian options for the fussiest and strictest of vegetarians like myself. Prices are between $8.95-$15.95 for dinner and $6.00-$9.00 for weekend brunch. The only drawback to Utopia was the long long long long wait. I would definitely go back, though. They accept Interac and VISA.

La Hacienda

640 Queen Street West
416-703-3377

 

La Hacienda was one of the few remaining restaurants on the Queen West strip that I had yet tried. This may be owing to its dark, shabby interior which is more suitable to a watering hole then a place to eat. On my roomate’s insistence, a group of my friends decided to eat here for a friend’s going away party.

We took a seat on the enclosed back patio which was almost pitch black and very “budget” in a Green Room type of way. We decided to take our time and order our meal in parts starting with a round of pitchers and a plate of nachos. The nachos did not have enough cheese as my friend pointed out to the waiter when we ordered a second round and the vegetables were still somewhat raw.

The menu consisted of the traditional Tex-Mex fare but was missing some of the more obvious favourites of fajitas and tacos. I settled on a chorizo enchillada which is a tortilla stuffed with meat, cheese, and some veggies and baked in a casserole dish. Chorizo is normally quite spicy, and though the waiter claimed the chorizo came from St. Lawrence Market, the taste of it was drowned out by the awful ragu-like salsa accompaniment.

As stated before, La Hacienda is in the same class of the Green Room or Red Room in terms of affordability, style and taste. A good place to come and talk with friends but not for a tasty meal.

Dos Amigos

1201 Bathurst
(416) 534-2528

The closest I’ve come to Mexico was spending one day in a run down border town adjacent to Arizona. That experience, coupled with a few visits to California where authentic Mexican food abounds, have greatly influenced my appreciation for this often overlooked cuisine. Finding authentic Mexican food in Toronto is somewhat of a challenge. I guess Toronto’s diversity does not extend to Mexicans, but I was unable to locate a decent Mexican restaurant until I happened upon Dos Amigos.

A dark, mood oriented atmosphere is apparent in this finely decorated establishment. Though this isn’t the best fit for dining with my grandmother, I can still appreciate the soft Mexican music playing in the background.

On my first visit here, I decided to be a tad daring and tried the mole chicken. For those unaware, mole chicken comes bathed in a chocolatey sauce. That’s correct, chicken and chocolate. Don’t think Oh Henry’s chocolate when you think of mole chicken but more of a semi-sweet chocolate mixed with other ingredients that accompany the chocolately taste. Maybe it is because I am a chocolate lover but I absolutely adore this dish. Served with the requisite rice and refried beans, Dos Amigo’s mole chicken was a fabulous introduction to this dish. I have since taken up preparing mole chicken myself, though admittedly I am using store bought pre-prepared mole and chipotle sauce.

My second visit to Dos Amigos I also opted for a little adventure by ordering the “all meat dish”. That is not exactly what it is called but if you see the menu you will know what I am referring to here. Basically this dish contained a variety of different meat products including steak, chicken and sausage. Honestly, there was just too much meat in my gullet to handle. Wait a sec, that didn’t come out right.

El Sol

1448 Danforth Av
(416) 405-8074

This small cafe serves up spicy, hearty Mexican dinners for those seeking a lot of food and a lot of grease. Portions are enormous and food is quite greasy and full of cheese and very spicy. The place is surrounded by brightly coloured papier mache sun’s, beautifully displayed on the walls. All are unique and hand made. They sell for under $25.00 whether you choose the largest sun or smallest. The restaurant has a dance floor at the back and contains about 15 tables. The food is quite tasty and the ambiance is colourful and bright. Every time I go eat at El Sol I cannot decide which sun I to buy. There are so many to choose that it becomes overwhelming. I always go home empty handed. Table D’hote meal for two is $19.95. They accept all major credit cards.

Insomnia

563 Bloor St. W., 416-588-3907

Located right in the Annex at Bloor and Bathurst, this bistro/bar/cafe is named for its late, late hours. The kitchen cooks till 3:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. “Tapas” here means caesar, mesclun and Greek salads, along with crab cakes, soup and calamari. My friend ordered a thick tortilla soup and he said it was very tasty. I did not eat anything but I did take a look at the extensive menu.

They serve many French dishes, like an eight-ounce strip loin with peppercorn ($17.00), Mediterranean dishes (capon stuffed with spinach, peppers and chèvre which is $16.00) and Asian (curried mussels are $8). As you can see there are no vegetarian healthy dishes for me, so the hell with them. They do serve pasta dishes ($13.00–$15.99) and thick-crust pizzas ($11.00–$12.00).

Generous desserts are led by a flourless chocolate cake known as the Climax ($6.00). Prices are way too high for me and there are not enough vegetarian dishes but I may try this place again in the near future.

El Zaziummm Restaurants

51 Roy E. Sherbrooke métro Tel. 844-0893
1276 Laurier E. Laurier métro. Bus 47 Tel. 598-0344
4297 Saint-Denis Tel. 288-9798 Mont-Royal métro.

 

El Zaziummm is a colourful place to dine. Three locations spread across the east part of Montreal, most locations in the funky Plateau neighbourhood. It’s quite funky and ecclectic in its decor. With toilet paper rolls used as napkins, this place serves Tex-Mex-Californian fare in a creative way. The menu resembles a comic book and the décor is described as bright, colourful, and animated.

Some dishes include Lili’s punch (rum, pineapple, lemon, lime) a beverage that arrives at your table in a beach bucket complete with plastic shovel! “Folle cuisine de plage” (crazy beach cooking) is the slogan. It looks like the unholy trinity (Acapulco gold, tequila and tropical sun) all conspired against the decorators.

Other items include Nachos, guacamole, shrimp cocktail, gazpacho, beef or chicken tacos, fajitas, California hamburger, and chicken cactus salad. Prices are from $7.95-$12.95. Many vegetarian options. Accepts all cards.