When One Door Closes, Another One Opens – Ate by Ate’s Fresh Start and Baja Tacos & Cod Sliders at The Happy Hooker, Part II!

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Okay, so “tomorrow” ended up being almost 2 months.  I honestly didn’t mean to be away so long.  I was so excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with you guys, posting about fall baked goods, fall harvest goodies and afternoon tea and just reveling in the delicious bounty of my favourite season.  But I just couldn’t post.  I wasn’t ready to tell everyone what was going on and didn’t want to pretend things were normal when they weren’t.  Aside from being just plain tired and sleepy some days, something else happened in my life during my time away that has, well…turned my life upside down a little.

I got laid off and lost my job.

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I can’t even begin to explain everything that I’ve been feeling and thinking since it happened and everything that has happened in relation to it since it happened.  Dealing with very mixed emotions, people, the day-to-day grind of remaining work while I’m still there, the future.  It’s something that you’re never truly prepared for and when it happens your mind just starts running in a million different directions.  It made me so sad not to post for over a month.  Part of me wanted to but the other part just didn’t want to bother with the facade.  I missed my Food Calendars, I missed the majority of the fall season, I missed posting on Ate by Ate’s Facebook page and getting fun tweets from people, I missed Ate by Ate’s 3rd birthday.

Needless to say, I’ve experienced MUCH happier Novembers in my 28 years of life and saying that it’s been a roller coaster would be a gross understatement.  Despite everything that’s happened though, my heart is so full of joy for Christmas, I am soaking in as much holiday happiness as I can and moving on from this chapter in my life will be the best thing for me come the new year.  It’s time for a fresh start, truly, and maybe finally, I can give Ate by Ate the love and attention it needs again because I have floundered this entire year.  Ate by Ate is my baby, it’s my bread and butter and we need to start having fun again.

So, let’s take a deep breath and dive right into the Happy Hook Part II post that never happened in October!

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Ironically enough, The Happy Hooker and I were introduced through work.  Back in May, I went on a fun “Insanewich” culinary tour led by Stephen from Foodies on Foot where the entire food tour was – you guessed it – based on sandwiches!  We noshed our way through numerous neighbourhoods in the city and chomped on sandwiches of all kinds: panini, sliders, grilled cheese, ice cream (SO creative and the best way to end a sandwich tour on a sweet note) and The Happy Hooker’s myriad selection of seafood sandwich bites!  What I love about The Happy Hooker is its playfulness, versatility and culinary creativity.  Seafood is much more than your typical fish ‘n chips, slab of grilled salmon and things you crack and eat out of a shell.  While the familiar is great at times, the menu at The Happy Hooker allows you to try different kinds of fish and seafood in so many different ways.

We have fish that’s grilled, fish that’s fried, seafood on a stick and seafood between buns.  We have shrimp, baja, cod, oysters, lobster, blue marlin, and grouper.  And we have beautiful, delicious side dishes that go with all those scrumptious seafood delights such as a rainbow of salads (check out the arugula and kale, it’s a thing of beauty!), fish fries and other yummies.  Oh!  And pie-in-a-jar desserts from Le Dolci.  And deep fried Oreos.  Ohhh boy.  The Happy Hooker’s menu changes on a regular basis based on the availability of fresh seafood, seasonality and what’s plain delicious and fun.  Prices range from $3.50 to $11 with small tacos coming in at $3.50 each and larger sandwiches coming in at $9-$11 with sliders sitting between the two at $4.

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I’ve had the luxury of trying their seafood tacos and their adorable and delicious sliders.  What we have here are Cali Baja tacos with avocado crema, fresh lettuce and tomatoes served with a little wedge of lime, grilled shrimp tacos with mango salsa and pickled onions and BC cod sliders with tomatoes, slaw and capers, all dressed in their special seafood mayo sauce.  My mouth is watering just looking at these photos again.  I know some may appreciate larger portions more but you all know I’m the type of person who hates having to choose between menu items and generally munches on multiple small portions of things.  It just makes my life (and digestion!) easier.  I get to try numerous things at once and I don’t feel overwhelmed with what’s in front of me.

I would LOVE to eventually try everything on their menu but if I had to recommend something, I’d get the sliders and Cali Baja tacos again in a heartbeat.  The BC cod was so flavourful and moist (and come on, they’re just so damn cute) and the crispy fried goodness of the Cali Baja pairs so well with crema and sauce and fresh veggies.  I love my shrimp too but coming from a person who tries her best not make a hot mess out of herself while eating, it’s not the most graceful of things to eat – I kept dropping shrimp back onto my plate!

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The Happy Hooker exudes fun, hip, and casual and it’s one of those places that brings to mind fun lunches you can enjoy on a park bench on a gorgeous summer day.  Given how we’re deep into the first week of December though, that visual doesn’t really help our cause so I’m super curious to see what their menu looks like during the winter and how their food transforms into hearty comfort food.  No matter the season, it’s a fab place to try lots of different types of seafood and their buttermilk oyster sliders and blue marlin burgers totally have my name on them for a future trip!

It’s good to back everyone and thank you for hanging in there with me.  The support means the world and I am going to make the next 20 days before Christmas (and beyond) the most fun it can be.

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The Happy Hooker is located at 887 Dundas Street West, just west of Manning Ave. between Bathurst St. and Ossington Ave. near Trinity Bellwoods Park.  They are open every day from 12pm-10pm.

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Your Wish for Summer Patio Dining is My Command…Fish Tacos and Rapini & Chickpeas at Wish Cafe!

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Daisies and flowers, candles, soft cushions, bright and crisp whites, pinks, and greens, and a feeling of total bliss and relaxation – nope, we’re not at the spa, we’re wining and dining on the patio at Wish Cafe and Restaurant!  Located on Charles St. just east of Yonge, Wish serves lunch and dinner from Tuesday-Saturday and a weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.  I first discovered Wish last year while I was walking around the Yorkville area and exploring Church Street a bit.  When I reached Charles St., I looked down the road and thought, “hmm, I’ve never been around here before, let’s see what’s around!” and that is when I found Wish and breathed a silent, “wow…” when I saw their patio.  And after browsing their menu online, it was then and there that I decided that I had to come back and enjoy a great meal in a beautiful setting. 

Wish is one of the prettiest spots I have ever dined at.  I know if you look at Wish from across the street it doesn’t look particularly gorgeouys, but it’s the patio and the cafe’s interior that really have the beauty and character.  There are flowers on every table, everything looks bright and fresh, there are beautiful wooden shutters for that comforting, rustic vibe, and there’s a tinkling fountain by the front entrance and that makes everything feel and sound extra soothing.  Ladies and gents, if you want to take a special someone out for a nice meal and/or date, this is PERFECT.  It’s fancy without being pretentious.  It’s pretty and sweet without being frou-frou.  And the prices?  Incredibly reasonable considering how nice it is and how it’s located within the Yorkville neighbourhood!

Although the prices might not suit those who are on a tight budget, you can definitely enjoy a fabulous, special meal for $10-$15, and most certainly for under $20.  There are a few items on their menu that are over $20, but let’s face it: if you enjoy dining in the city at establishments that are not fast food, coffee shops, and bakery cafes, you know you’re looking at a bill that will most likely total $20 when it’s all said and done but at Wish, you can feasibly have a wonderful meal for $10-$15.  Obviously, I’m not taking into account alcohol, but I’m the type of person that only orders water most of the time because I’d rather spend my moolah on food! 

Prices aside, Wish is top-notch.  The menu exudes freshness and simplicity while at the same time offering dishes that are unique and different with ingredients that aren’t necessarily conventional at other dining spots: blue crab cakes, warm salmon salad with bok choy and zucchini and orange balsamic, warm lentil salad with radicchio, root vegetables, and hazelnuts, fish and chips with beet root slaw and saffron tartar sauce, and shaved eggplant baguette sandwiches with tomato fondue just to name a bunch!  I wanted to try so many of these dishes at the same time, but I wanted to go with the most summery menu item so I chose their trio of fish tacos!

Let me preface the following by saying that what I imagined in my head was completely different from what I actually got – in the best way possible.  When my fish tacos ($12) were brought to my table, I gasped.  The presentation was beautiful, colourful, scrumptious, and absolutely screaming summer!  The soft flour tortillas were placed on a cute little dish on their own while the fish and toppings were presented on an adorable wooden cutting board so I could have a ball and assemble everything together myself.  SO DARLING! 

There were little metal cups holding my cabbage, pickled cabbage and onions, diced mango and tomato salsa, and creamy guacamole and my 6 pieces of halibut fish (which weren’t in chunks or slices but instead in chubby fingers like jumbo fish fries!), were breaded and crispy and so moist and soft on the inside.  I felt like I was dining at a summery seaside resto with this meal!  It was fun, relaxing, and oh-so-delicious.

Wish also offers a number of sides on their menu that complement their mains and as had my mum along with me for the ride, we shared and split an order of rapini and chickpeas ($5) and OH.MY.GOD was the dish ever amazing!  This dish could honestly pass for a meal all on its own!  The dish was BIG and so full of flavour.  The rapini and chickpeas were such a terrific complement to each other because the chickpeas toned down the inherent bitterness of the rapini and gave the whole dish the most mouthwatering, buttery texture and flavour! 

Oh my goodness, I just wanted to eat those chickpeas for the entire day because they were so good.  I’m almost positive the rapini and chickpeas were tossed with a buttery dressing and vinaigrette and it elevated the flavour over the moon.  The rapini was cooked just right, not too raw and bitter but also not soggy and overcooked.  This is a great dish to order to bump up the veggie intake and to take advantage of a bright and fresh dish.

I had so much fun eating here and I’m so happy I finally got the chance to try their food.  After this experience, Wish Cafe shot straight to my Top 5 favourite spots in the city and I’m really glad I took my mum along with me because she almost never gets to dine at fancier places that are still reasonably priced; heck, she doesn’t dine at fancier places at all!  Wish Cafe will do that to you.  It’ll draw you in, make you fall in love, and have you coming back for more.  It is an absolute gem in the city and if you get the opportunity to eat out on their patio, do it!  It’ll be one very special and delicious meal!   

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Wish Cafe and Restaurant is located at 3 Charles Street East at the corner of Charles and Yonge Street in downtown Toronto.  They offer lunch and dinner, as well as weekend brunch, and their patio is currently available for spring and summer wining and dining!  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays).  Hours of operation are 11am-11pm from Tuesday to Saturday, and 10am-4pm on Sundays.  View their official website and menus HERE.