In the eight weeks since Francisco Alejandri's Agave y Aguacate (214 Augusta, at Baldwin, 647-208-3091, agaveyaguacate.blogspot.com) received a rare NNNNN rating in NOW, the low-rent Mexican take-away in the Market has become a culinary cause célèbre. Subsequent across-the-board raves in the dailies have only increased the often long lineups, especially on sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoons.
When Alejandri first opened last February, the operators of the other stalls in this ad hoc Latin American food court thought his prices too high: $4.50 for a steak salad? WTF? However, the non-stop parade of gastronauts making a beeline for Agave has made the other four competing stands up their game.
Gone are the ancient refrigerator cases that took up half of the space - in their place two rows of professional-grade stainless steel tables. El Gordo empanada shop is now half its original size, having made way for a juice bar, and both the pupusa and arepa stalls have improved their presentation. Business is booming for all, even though the minimal seating has been eliminated. Surely, it's time for Agave to move into bigger stand-alone digs.
"I just want to get through the summer first," says the enigmatic Alejandri.
Nick auf der Mauer knows all about being an overnight sensation. His Porchetta & Company (825 Dundas West, at Palmerston, 647-352-6611, porchettaco.com) pork-centric takeout joint has been a zoo since launching last December. Sundays are even crazier now that he's introduced the Breakfast Sammy ($5.95), his already famous roast pork 'n' crackling on a Portuguese bun now with additional smoked Gouda and an oven-baked egg. Follow him on Twitter for one-time-only pop-up sandwich specials like Lake Erie pickerel, crispy prosciutto and arugula in caper mayo.
John Lee has just announced that after a five-year run, Chippy's in the Annex (490 Bloor West, at Albany, 416-516-7776, chippys.ca) closes for good on May 9, adding that he's planning to relocate the popular take-away somewhere "north." Lee also notes that the flagship location on Queen West will close this winter for a major overhaul.