The Original Banh Mi Factory [closed Dec 2007]

1325 Finch Avenue
416-631-0070

[closed Dec 2007]

The Original Banh Mi Factory (Banh Mi meaning Bread) is a bakery, dessert, soup, smoothie, and submarine eatery with free Internet, 3 large TV screens with Muchmore music playing and has a casual and clean ambiance.

It may claim to be Canada’s largest sandwich shop, but The Original Bahn Mi (Vietnamese for sandwich) Factory has much more than sandwiches. Along with a selection of tasty Vietnamese subs, the 7,600-square-foot restaurant has a menu featuring more than 125 items.

I went with my colleague Carmen for lunch there and i was shocked at the selection. They have Pho (Vietnamese beef and rice noodle soups), as well as a large Bubble Tea selection, home made baguette, sushi, a vast array of desserts, Thai dishes like cold salad rolls (veggie and shrimp). Prices are beyond superb for what you get. I ordered a 6″ sub with thinly sliced tofu, thinly sliced carrot, cilantro, rice noodles, and pickled vegetables. The homemade baguette bread was hot and fresh, crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.

The place is a little kitcshy as it has two large TV screen with Much More Music playing movies like Grease and TV like Fame (all content on Much More Music is music themed). Also offers Internet access and has a large kiosk for freshly baked goods. The Original Banh Mi Factory resembles a bakery, sub shop, smoothie / frozen drink cafe with a smooth kiosk and professional blenders ready to make Bubble Tea smoothies.

A cool incentive of this place is if you spend more then $10 they will give you a free baguette to take home. In all reviews I’ve consulted, I am told that the Rose Cafe is the best when it comes to Vietnamese Subs, but this place is damn good to begin with. Baguettes (white or whole wheat) are made on the premises (which is a plus) and prices are quite reasonable.

Unfortunately the Pho dishes, which look large, satisfying, and healthy, are all beef based, since traditional Pho is comprised of raw beef that cooks with the veggies in the heated beef broth (GROSS). The place does remind me of McDonalds since it’s large, clean, and has a simple, fast food “look and feel”. They plan on having a drive thru window soon. They sell their famous Deli Majoos – cream filled pastries that taste like doughnuts. Since baked goods are made on the premises, expect all baked goods to be fresh and warm. You can see staff make all of the food since the kitchen is behind the cash but is open concept with clear view windows. Does resemble a bakery more than a restaurant. Nice front display with colourful looking dishes. Open concept dining room has high ceilings and is not crowded but feels very comfortable and seems too nice for fast food.

At present, they only accept cash but there is an ATM in the restaurant. Definitely recommended if you are in the Finch and Dufferin or Finch and Keele area during the day.

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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.

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

Vietnam Noodle Star

 4188 Finch Ave. E Unit 2
416-609-9796

Entering a room where everyone is a different culture than you can sometimes be intimidating. It can also be a richly rewarding experience. Such is the case with Vietnam Noodle Star. Walking into this restaurant, it is easy to see how people of similar cultures congregate despite Toronto’s diverse and eclectic nature. Literally everyone here from the wait staff, to the clientele to the people on TV are Asian. At least I knew I was getting an authentic Vietnamese dish and not some trendy, tourist crap.

Squeezing five people at what should have been a three person table and ordering a helluva lot of food made this experience crowded but very tasty. Starting with some simple small spring rolls that were slightly oily but crunchy we were quickly deluged with the rest of our order. A massive bowl of vietnamese beef noodle soup was enough to share between all of us though I had to resort to a fork to scoop up the rice noodles. My favourite dish was a beef curry that reminded me of a red thai coconut curry with a slight kick to it. We were also served beef and pork satay skewers which we could dip in an oily peanut sauce and a plate of delicious fried pork with white rice and veggies. If that wasn’t enough to ruin my diet week of Wendy’s salads we had a plate of sauteed bok choy.

A delicious if not diet-ruining lunch at what should become a new Scarberian staple.