These five spots offer a glimpse into Toronto’s history, diversity and booming food culture, as well as an excuse to go out for lunch – today!
Peameal Bacon Sandwich – Carousel Bakery
The Carousel Bakery has been slinging Hogtown’s most famous sandwich at the St. Lawrence Market since 1977, and people still line up to get them six days a week. A nod to Toronto’s roots as one of the biggest pork processing centres of the British Empire, the star of this iconic sammie is peameal bacon, sliced, fried and served on a plain white roll. While purists eat them au naturel, a squirt of yellow mustard and a few slices of pickled banana peppers take them to the next level.
The Beast – The Stockyards
While this barbecue joint is known for expertly smoked ribs and brisket, its burgers are nothing short of spectacular. The Beast, composed of two griddle-smashed, mustard-seared patties, special sauce, pickles, caramelized onions and American cheese, is everything a hamburger* ought to be: juicy, meaty and utterly satisfying. While there’s no elegant way to eat this monstrosity (ask for extra napkins—you’ll need them), it is the stuff of carnivores’ dreams.
Vegetarian Banh Mi – Banh Mi Nguyen Huong
There are many fancier versions of this iconic Vietnamese sandwich to be had in Toronto, but this one wins for sheer simplicity, not to mention price. Here, $3 buys you a crusty baguette stuffed with lemongrass marinated tofu, cilantro, sliced cucumber, tangy carrot and daikon slaw, and a dash of fiery hot sauce. Hold the butter to make it vegan. Cash only.
Eggplant Sandwich – California Sandwiches
This homegrown sandwich shop has outposts across the GTA, but its Little Italy location tucked away on a residential block south of College, retains the old-school charm of a bygone era. The soul of this gut-buster is a hefty slice of eggplant, breaded and fried to crispy perfection, layered with oozing mozzarella, anointed in roasted peppers (hot or sweet) and doused in marinara. A soft Italian bun holds it all together.
Spicy Classic – PG Clucks
You can buy by-the-piece bird at this tiny College Street chicken stand, but its giant FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICHES sign reveals what really brings in the crowds. While the Jalapeno and Honey sauce is a pleasant combination of spicy and sweet (those looking to up the ante can order it served on a house-made honey cruller donut), the best bet here is the Nashville-inspired hot chicken sandwich. Coleslaw and pickles provide a tart counterpoint to the meat, marinated in buttermilk, deep fried to golden perfection and tossed in smoky-hot chili sauce.
*Author’s note: While it remains the subject of fierce debate, it is this critic’s unwavering view that, being composed of two pieces of bread and a filling of meat, cheese and sliced vegetables, a hamburger is very much a sandwich.
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