Some foodie districts can only elude you for so long. For me, Ossington Ave. was one of them. I’ve walked around it, I’ve walked through it, but I’ve never eaten in one single cafe, bistro, or restaurant on it! There are so many places on Ossington I’ve heard and read about (and even saw while strolling by several times), but I’ve never tried them. Whether it was because of money, not being anywhere near the neighbourhood, or just being unsure of the hype and resisting the somewhat annoying “trendy” tag slapped on it, I’ve gone through my entire food journey without an Ossington meal. All that has changed.
After hearing and reading about the famed Ossington Ave. eating district for what feels like eternity, I finally made the plunge and went Cuban for lunch at Delux! I’ve wanted to eat at Delux for a long, long time. I was absolutely floored, though, when I looked up their menu online and discovered that they served Cuban lunch and brunch! OH.MY.GOD. All this time I thought they only served French fare for dinner (which, don’t get me wrong, they do); I had no idea they served lunch and Sunday brunch, much less CUBAN!
Coming to Delux was such a joy because to my recollection, I’ve never had anything Cuban in my life. I was beyond excited. I was in conniptions. I planned this visit an entire two weeks prior, going over the menu and deciding what I wanted to try, and even showing up for lunch outside the restaurant half an hour early and then circling the neighbourhood in twitchy anticipation before they opened. With the exception of going to Fresh, I’ve never shown up to any restaurant that early. That’s how giddy I was about eating lunch here.
Delux, located at 92 Ossington Ave., serves up a mean Cuban inspired lunch menu Tuesday to Saturday, and a Cuban brunch menu on Sundays. I know my post title says “Havana Days, Havana Nights” and I know the Havana Nights part doesn’t make the most sense considering Delux goes French in the evenings, but I thought Havana Nights sounded a lot sexier than Havana Days on its own, so humour me with that one. Their Cuban inspired lunch menu hits all the marks in terms of selection: appetizers, salads, sides, sandwiches and mains, and desserts. It’s well-rounded, it fits the bill for any and every type of appetite, and there are vegetarian options for those who go meatless.
The menu, while Cuban inspired, has a number of Caribbean, Mexican, and South American flavours and influences within it. Menu items include conch fritters (a type of shellfish and dish typically found in the Bahamas), empanadas, jicama salad with cucumbers, radishes, and apples, fried green plantains, roast pork with rice and beans, the famous Cuban sandwich, and so much more. Their prices, ranging from $6-$15 for appetizers, salads, and mains, and $3 for sides, are incredibly reasonable and I’d even say more reasonable than many other places around the neighbourhood and city.
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve always thought of Delux as one of those places in the city that was fancy and inaccessible to me, a place I’d only be able to go to when I truly had the money to splurge. I was so wrong. While it’s true that I based this judgment on incomplete knowledge, it was a still a misguided perception nonetheless. And I am SO happy that I was proven wrong. Delux is as accessible as they come. I didn’t feel like I was eating in a place that oozed pretentiousness, or that I was dealing with that pesky “trendy” label at all. It felt like a place that I could come back to again and again for the amazing food and reasonable lunch prices.
I had myself some guava juice ($2), their achiote and lime chicken sandwich with avocado, tomato, and aioli on fresh bread ($9), and for dessert, their Cuban crème brûlée ($4). First off, let me mention the service. I know this is an aspect that I don’t talk about at all on the Ate by Ate and it’s because if a place was truly bad, I simply don’t write about it at all. So you know by default that the service is fine (to me, let’s be clear about that) if it shows up on the blog. Thus, my mentioning it at all means something special. The service is awesome. So friendly and so FAST. I wasn’t waiting around for my food at all and I was actually taken aback by how fast my food came to me. I don’t mean 5 seconds after the nice waitress took my order, but definitely quick enough for me to notice!
Second, let’s talk about the marinade of the meat: achiote. I have never had this in life. Prior to seeing Delux’s menu, I had never heard of it in my life. Achiote, commonly used in Latin Americna, Mexican, and Filipino cuisine, is created by grinding the seeds of the inedible annatto plant/fruit and transforming it into a powder and/or paste with other spices and herbs. From there, it is either used as a dry rub for meat or combined with liquid to form a marinade.
In this case, it was used as a marinade for the chicken and it was out of this world. I will even be so bold as to say that you have not eaten chicken until you have eaten this sandwich! The flavour had depth, warmth, a bit of kick, a bit of tang, and a hint of smokiness. It was like the much awesome sister of BBQ sauce (sorry, BBQ sauce, but you lose this contest hands down).
This sandwich was all sorts of amazing. Amazing doesn’t even do it justice. The bread was as soft as you can imagine with delicious crust and surprisingly sturdy! This sandwich was stuffed to nines with fresh chicken chunks, thick wedges of avocado, tomato, and one very amazing herb aioli spread, and the bread didn’t give or fall apart. It was able to contain everything and boy was everything delicious. One of the BEST sandwiches EVER.
And the crème brûlée! I would seriously come back to Delux JUST for the Cuban crème brûlée. The flavours were like a punch in the mouth, but a happy, dizzying good way with a bold coffee, espresso flavour and sweet, creamy caramel undertones, wrapped in a rich custard whipped like mousse on the inside and a hard, crackled caramel shell on the outside. Perfectly executed and bang on on what a crème brûlée should be.
I absolutely cannot wait to come back to Delux to try their other sandwiches, their conch fritters and empanadas, and definitely their Sunday brunch! After realizing just how wonderful their food and menu are and how affordable their items are, I no longer have any apprehensions about those preconceived thoughts of Delux being out of my reach. I am coming back and making myself right at home.
Delux is located at 92 Ossington Ave. at the corner of Ossington Ave. and Humbert St. between Dundas Street West to the north and Queen Street West to the south. Delux serves both lunch and dinner from Tuesday-Saturday, and brunch and dinner on Sundays. Lunch is served from 11:30am-3pm from Tuesday-Saturday, and dinner is served from 6pm from Tuesday-Sunday. Click HERE to view their website, and HERE to follow them on Twitter @DeluxRestaurant