Cooking has been in Joe's blood since he was a child. At the age of 8 he cooked his first meal for his parents. Salt cod and potatoes. Much like all of us, it took some time to iron out the bugs sorta speak. Joe's first lesson in the kitchen that day?? Soak the salt cod before using. None the less his parents smiled and ate their dinners.A lot has changed over the years but one thing has remained constant. Eating Joe’s food brings a smile.
These days you can find "Chicken Joe" Lopes at Churrasco Portugril. One part Tasca (A tavern serving sandwiches (less the booze)) and one part Churrasqueira (A churrasco chicken place), Portugril has been serving up Portuguese favourites for nearly a decade now.
Newly relocated to a strip mall in Toronto’s Victoria Park Village Portugril’s bright, inviting façade and great food has become a terrific addition to this neck of the woods. Nicely situated in the middle of residential, commercial and industrial inhabitants. Perhaps the Firefighters down the street are the biggest fans though. It’s not hard to notice them flock from the local hall like ants to a picnic.
Inside the place has a cafeteria feel to it. Bright, clean and all about function. There’s plenty of seating (unlike the last place) and a pretty large, open kitchen area.
In that kitchen, Joe and his compadres are cranking out Churrasco and Rotisserie chicken along with olive oil roasted vegetables, rice, potatoes and sandwiches. They’re also making their own Piri Piri from scratch. In fact, about the only thing they aren’t making in house is the bread. Which they get fresh daily.
So lets take a look at some of their goodies shall we??
First off let me point out that the sauce isn't a traditional Piri Piri sauce. I spoke with one of the lovely young ladies who worked there and she described it as a "Traditional Piri Piri with stuff mixed in." A perfect description. Flavourizers like onion and chilis are minced and mixed into the sauce as a sort of fortification. It comes in a range of heat levels from mild to "WhoopASS." Very tasty. They sell it by the bottle in the store. It’s well worth it. I have a bottle in my fridge right now.
The Slawpy Joe sandwich is quite good. It's chicken simmered in a slow cooker with some of the medium sauce. It's then pulled like pulled pork. All in all you can't go wrong. It comes on a fresh Papo Secos. This crusty roll is the workhorse of the Portuguese sandwich world. The bun is soft enough that the juicy meat doesn’t squish out the back side of the sandwich. The sauce was spicy enough to carry the sandwich and the slaw on top added crunch and balance.
The Bifana was amazing. The lean pork just sucks up flavour and is of course, very tender. It too comes on a fresh roll. The onion and peppers add some nice flavour texture while the cheese combined with Piri Piri acts like a glue, tying it all together. This is truly and outstanding sandwich.
The chicken is terrific. It would be nice if it were cooked over coals or even better, wood but that doesn't mean it doen't have a lot of flavour. The slow cooking makes for a more succulent meat which is nicely spiced up with the sauce. I opt for hot every time. I love the heat. The rice and potatoes are the typical roast style you find at all Portuguese places. Done perfectly. The veggies were very nice as well.
You can find Portugril at 1733 Eglinton Ave E. in Toronto.
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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
Well that’s all for now folks. We’ll see you next time in the food court.