Being NOW's inveterate resto critic doesn't just involve waltzing around the latest boite du jour with a glass of champagne in hand while we insult the furniture. Sometimes, we do lunch! Here's the five most delicious noontime noshes of the past 12 months.
1. Banh Mi Boys 392 Queen W, at Spadina, 416-363-0588,
This Asian fusion takeaway proved so popular from the get-go that owners David and Phil Chau had to close up shop shortly after they opened for two months to re-group. They came back even more focused with Saigon-style subs on house-baked baguette stuffed with duck confit, steamed Chinese bao layered with slow-roasted pork belly that betters Momofuku and those astounding kimchi ‘n' Kewpie mayo-dressed sweet potato fries, all at ridiculously low prices. And they wonder why there's almost always a lineup.
2. Fabarnak 519 Church, at Dundonald, 416-355-6781
The Church Street Village is the last nabe in town you'd associate with serious dining. Best ass contest and pub-grub poutine, no problem. This stylish café - in the 519 community centre of all places - not only offers dazzling four-course prix fixe lunches for the same price of a small salad at Canoe, it provides entry-level positions for marginalized youth to boot. Feel good, eat even better.
3. Kinton Ramen 51 Baldwin, at Beverley, 647-748-8900
The crowds at this 30-seat sweatbox are so unruly, management has had to post rules of conduct. Your entire party better be there when they call your name or it's back to the bottom of the list. And they yell a lot, too. Who cares when the broth's this intense, the noodles this firm and the fatty pork so ambrosial?
4. 707 Market at Scadding Court Community Centre 707 Dundas West, at Bathurst, 416-392-0335
It's a pity that Rob Ford doesn't stop by this low-rent curbside food court instead of the McDonald's drive-thru across the street on his nightly drive back to Etobicoke. Instead of a super-sized Happy Meal and a double order of fries (hold the gravy), Hizzoner could be pigging out on Filipino noodles at Kanto, Egyptian camel burgers at Casbah, or Colombian pulled pork tostados at Ceviche 707. On second thought, maybe it's better he didn't. He'd likely close the operation down!
5. Fuzz Box, 1246 Danforth at Greenwood, 416-769-1432
If I had known it was this easy to get traction on Twitter, I would have disparaged the Haligonian donair long ago. Why, it seems the entire east coast took offence to my depiction of the notorious Nova Scotian scoff as "a gyro with a gag-inducing difference: a sickly sweet white sauce made with evaporated milk and garlic salt." At least I didn't mention anything about bodily fluids.