Breakfast, Lunch and Snacks
This restaurant ceased operations as of November 1, 2013
It’s always interesting and even exciting to see a new “Foodie” part of town develop. The intersection of Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue in Toronto has, in the past, just been an area that, more or less, intersects the Business, Entertainment, Fashion and Chinatown districts. While still in its infancy, it’s looking like it’s trying to become it’s own little sub district. Call it the “Snack” district if you will. Within the last couple years no less than 5 places have opened up serving high quality fast food. Taking advantage of the lunch late night bar crowds. The latest of which, White Squirrel Snack Shop offers a little taste of Toronto.
In 2009 David Ginsberg opened White Squirrel Coffee Shop just west in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood. It’s been a hit ever since but the small shop doesn’t have a full kitchen. Wanting to expand his horizons, David found a spot and together with Chef Chelsea White crafted a menu that takes from Toronto’s strength; Diversity. Influences from across the globe can be found in items like Nachos, Fried Rice, Souvlaki and Po’ Boys. Many of those items coming in full or snack sizes.
The Snack Shop operates out of a store front on Queen Street West. Up front is the dining area with it’s half dozen or so seats as well as couple tables beside the counter. Which is about half way through the space. The restaurant has high ceilings and is very long and narrow. Two things really stand out, first is the completely unfinished wall down one side and the enlarged 100 year old map of the city on the other. The map is beautiful with it’s collage of vintage photos adorning. The unkempt feel of the place… not so much. The kitchen is in the back and where you pick up your goodies.
And speaking of those goodies, let’s have a look at some.
They make their own hot sauce and it’s just as good as anything you’ll find anywhere. There’s a hint of smokiness that comes from Chipotle. Other than that there’s a medley of chilies and other flavourizers. The whole purpose was to make it flavourful and not just hot for hot’s sake.
The Kimchi Fried Brown Rice is a bit of an odd dish. Brown fried rice with kimchi, oyster mushrooms, tofu and topped with grilled bok choy. What I’ve heard and read so far, for the most part matches my findings. Which are that it wasn’t really what I was expecting (not that I really know what I was expecting), wasn’t wowed by it but at the same time, found it addictive. It was slightly spicy with a bit of crunch and packed with flavour. About half way through I decided to add a bit of the hot sauce. It was just that much better. Adding another layer of flavour and kicking the spice level up a few more notches really helped solidify this dish for me.
I thought the Sweet/Spicy Wings were quite good but not really my thing. They come grilled and tossed in a maple, chili, lime, cilantro sauce. They have good flavour but I find the sauce a bit thin. I like a heftier sauce that really sticks to them. I also found that the taste was somewhat restrained whereas I like a bolder flavour. So all in all they were really good but just not what I go for.
The Cubano is one tasty sandwich. Slow roasted pork, smoked ham, slaw, grainy mustard and pickles on fresh French Bread. White Squirrel’s version of this classic Florida sandwich is fairly close to traditional. The use of grainy mustard and slaw a slight departure but it holds fairly true. And does it justice. The most pronounced flavour is the piggy, roasted pork. The rest of the ingredients all play supporting rolls. The bread is delivered fresh from a local bakery every day and is excellent.
Their Snack Shop Burger is pre ordained with a half pound of house ground beef on an egg bun with caramelized onions, pickles and dijon mustard. While it’s not my “Go to” burger (bacon, cheese, pickle, raw onion, prepared mustard) I thoroughly enjoyed this. Make no mistake though, that is because of the meat. It’s excellent. The bun is good. It doesn’t detract and is sturdy enough to stand up to the oozing juice. The toppings are okay but nicely balanced. The sweetness of the sautéed onions equally measured by the pickle and mustard. The beef is, well, beefy. It is loosely formed into a patty and though it was cooked to well done, it’s still plenty juicy. The nice thing is, it’s ground corsely enough to still have a pleasant chew. This is just a great burger.
So whether you’re stumbling out of a bar or escaping the rat race, White Squirrel has some tasty treats for you.
You can find White Squirrel Snack Shop at 507 Queen Street West in Toronto, On.
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You can also find them on the web and Twitter.
Well that’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.