Yonge Street may be listed in the Guinness Book Of Records as the longest boulevard in the world, but the stretch that runs from diabolical Captain John's at its foot by the lake to the Golden Star just north of city limits has to be home to more inexpensive noodle houses, falafel factories and burger joints than any other road around.
Mention Malabar to most and the first thing they'll likely think you're talking about is the costume shop on McCaul. But now there's a second, Maroli (22 Balliol, unit 109, at Yonge, 416-483-5393), a nine-month-old Davisville take-away that specializes in the Malabari cuisine of southwest India.
Nowhere near as incendiary as the vegetarian cooking of the south, Maroli's dishes feature fragrantly spiced coconut-based curries that often incorporate halal meat - chicken, pomfret, even venison and oysters. Case in point, Malabar Fried Chicken ($6.50), an intriguing take on KFC that replaces the Colonel's familiar fritter batter with one made with chickpeas, pakora-style. Maroli is a real foodie find. Or it will be once you've found it hidden away down a sidewalk next to a Hasty Market.
According to its promotional material, the confusingly named Fondue and Grill Village (752/754 Yonge, at Bloor, 416-413-1053) - the sign out front also claims the recently launched spot is called Long Vuong Vietnam - appears to be an offshoot of nearby Gingers 1 and 2.
Not quite. While owner David Tran was a cook and eventual partner at those moderately priced pan-Asian spots, F&GV is entirely his gig. Though some of the previous menu also remains (spring rolls, pad thai), this cavernous cantina also offers DIY all-you-can-eat Korean table-top barbecue ($9.95 lunch/$12.95 and $15.95 dinner) and Liu Liu-style hot pot fondue ($20.95).
Korean hot spot Yummy Bar-B-Q has moved a few blocks south into a room four times its previous size (522A Yonge, at Maitland, 416-921-5158). But its lengthy menu hasn't changed a bit - bulgogi beef ribs with kimchee are still only $7.99, and lunch specials like grilled chicken on rice continue for $3.99.
Yummy's former cramped location is now Bibimbob (597 Yonge, at Gloucester, 416-922-6367), a Korean 'cue with what may be the shabbiest patio on the drag.
Tempus (508 Yonge, at Alexander) has taken over Retro Rotisserie lock, stock and, well, rotisserie and now plies Middle Eastern fast food alongside puzzlingly pricey Italianate pastas.
"Come back in 50 minutes," might not be the first thing you want to hear after placing an order at a so-called fast food joint, but reflecting on that demand an hour later as I rip into a freshly grilled whole chicken from Red and White (519 Yonge, at Maitland, 416-924-3539, $10.99), I'm glad I did. Splashed with a barbecue sauce that tastes commercial despite its slight cayenne kick, it might not be the tastiest bird in town, but at least it hasn't been drying out on the spit at some Portuguese churrasqueira for who knows how long. Good eastern Mediterranean salads, too. Next time, I'll order in advance.