Foodie Districts: Mirvish Village!

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After sharing the goodness of portobellos, avocado, and honey-nut bread from Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches this past week, I thought it would be a great time to do a Foodie Districts post on the quaint, yet flashy, Mirvish Village!  Named after the late business tycoon, theatre connoissuer, and philanthropist, Ed Mirvish, the little district that could is sandwiched between The Annex and Koreatown near Bloor Street West and Bathurst Street.  Mirvish Village is a tiny neighbourhood with a loud voice, a little bit of cheese, and a whole lot of retro, vintage, and character. 

Flashing lights from Toronto’s historic flagship discount store, Honest’s Ed, flicker like bedazzled jewels at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst, vibrant, colourful murals and graffiti paintings adorn the brick walls of the shops and Victorian house storefronts, and the wining and dining is one big pub and carnival affair.  While the bulk of Mirvish Village is concentrated within one or two blocks on and around Markham Street, its character and quaintness more than make up for its tininess, and the food in the area is fabulous.  You have a terrific pub, a southern cajun and creole powerhouse, vegetarian delights, and a board game cafe to boot!  Here’s a food snapshot of Mirvish Village in all its glory:

Southern Accent, Toronto headquarters for all things cajun, creole, and carnival!  Southern Accent has become one of my absolute favourite places to eat not only because of the food but because of the flamboyant decor and big and brash, party atmosphere.  With its colourful lanterns, psychic readings, boozy purple lighting, and southern fare, every day is Mardi Gras and it is just so much fun having a meal here.  My boyfriend took me here for our very first Valentine’s together because he knew I would go crazy-happy with the atmosphere and decor and because I have a real soft spot for cajun cuisine.  I love learning about the food culture (especially in New Orleans) and because there aren’t too many places in the city that serve this style of food, coming here is always a huge treat.  Hush puppies, collard greens, gumbo, okra, oysters, southern corn bread, jambalaya, catfish – it’s all here.  I am crazy about their creme brulee and my favourite foods thus far have to be the grilled corn on the cob with paprika along with my pork tenderloin and grilled mango skewers and my cod fish dinner. 

I’ve enjoyed a number of delicious dishes over the years and what I love about the menu is that there are always new selections every so often depending on the season.  Aside from their permanent, every day menu, Southern Accent has a running price fixe that changes throughout the year, huge annual Mardi bashes, and consistent appearances at both Winterlicious and Summerlicious.  Located at 595 Markham Street, open at 5pm Tuesday-Sunday.

Thanks to my grad school friends and grad school activities, I became very acquainted with the Victory Cafe!  I held conference committee meetings over juice and snacks here during the summer, attended an end-of-the-year sociology bash where I stuffed my face with a chicken club and a rich, decadent, delicious slice of chocolate milk and cookies cake (pictured up top), and an evening or two here and there for some drinks and classic pub food with classmates and professors.  Their menu is a classic pub menu with fabulous variety and portions.  There are curry and rice meals, plenty of vegetarian yummies (chili, spinach and cheese quesadillas, lentil and veggie curry, and veggie chili poutine among others), in addition to pub classics such as fish n’ chips, club sandwiches, calamari, wings, and nachos. 

The Victory Cafe houses some great memories for me because it was one of the first pubs I ever frequented as a grad student and because it gave me one of the best mac n’ cheese meals ever!  One of my fondest memories is my first visit to the Victory.  While walking in the direction of the pub spot, I stopped to ask someone if the Victory was around the corner to make sure I was heading the right way (this was before I knew my neighbourhoods inside out and backwards).  The nice young man told me it was just down the road and then went on to say, “you have to try the mac n’ cheese, it’s the best!”  I took the advice (I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!), ordered the mac n’ cheese and from that moment on, I was forever grateful to that young lad.  I absolutely cannot wait to go back during the summer so I can eat it out on the patio and get a fab photo.  Located at 581 Markham Street.

If you’re in the market for a spot that is both vegetarian-friendly and meaty, Butler’s Pantry is at your service!  Serving brunch, lunch, and dinner, Butler’s Pantry is perfect for those who want to dine among vegetarians and carnivores alike.  Their menu is chock full of mains that showcase the diversity of different regional and ethnic cuisines and comfort foods while at the same time showing the versatility of vegetarian cuisine as starring mains.  They serve a selection of soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch, egg breakfasts and French toasts for brunch, and a host of pasta, rice, meat, and veggie dishes for lunch mains and dinner.  They have two locations in the city (one in Mirvish Village and the other in Roncesvalles) and I’ve been itching to go for the longest time because their menu is just spectacular in terms of variety and very reasonable when it comes to pricing.  Located at 591 Markham Street.  Open Monday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday-Saturday 10am-11:30pm, and Sunday 10am-10pm.

 

I’ve been meaning to do a big post on Snakes and Lattes for ages now, but I need more food photos!  Snakes and Lattes is Toronto’s super popular board game cafe.  With a selection of over 200 board games, comfortable couches, and food and drinks, it’s the perfect place to go to when the weather isn’t cooperating and to spend time with a group of friends.  It’s such a fun place to go to and given how crowded and busy it can get during the afternoons and evenings, I’m not the only who who feels this way! 

How the cafe works: $5/person for all day play.  You can stay for as long as you want, order whatever drinks and food you want, and have a blast with your friends.  If you know you’re going to be coming with a group of friends, they also take reservations, just give them a call and they will save or section of the cafe for you.  They have a fabulous menu of drinks (cold and hot) and quite a bit of lunch and snack food including freshly made sandwiches, quiches (meat and vegetarian), mini donuts, and vegan cupcakes!  Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches and Snakes and Lattes sit on the border of Koreatown and Mirvish Village, but I like to include them in the mix.  Located at 600 Bloor Street West just west of Markham Street.  Open at 11am into the wee hours of the morning!

*****

Mirvish Village is located near the intersection of Bloor and Bathurst, between The Annex and Koreatown

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Vegetarian Sandwich Series – Wishful Thinking of Portobellos and Honey-Nut Bread at Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches!

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It’s about time I made it to Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches!  I’ve been meaning to do a post on them for the Vegetarian Sandwich Series for months now (months is actually an understatement – I’d say it’s been a good year!) and I’m thrilled that I got the chance to sink my teeth into one of their delicious veggie sandwiches.  The Vegetarian Sandwich Series was the very first special series I thought of and started on Ate by Ate back in June of 2011 and it was entirely inspired by my vegetarian friend, Wini, who wanted to know where the best vegetarian sandwiches in the city were hiding.  Since I started the series, I’ve been on the hunt for the yummiest sandwiches, the joints with the best selection, and the hidden gems and surprises and I’ve found some amazing eats! 

Even though I’ve barely knicked the surface (if I posted everything on my “behind the scenes” ongoing list all at once, there wouldn’t be anything to post 3 years from now!), I’m glad that Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches has finally made its way to the blog because it’s been on my hit list for so long.  A vegetarian sandwich series just without be complete without the sandwich cafe in town with half a menu of veggie sandwiches!

       

Located on Bloor Street West bordering the Annex, Mirvish Village, and Koreatown, Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches is the all mighty soup and sandwich cafe with over 20 sandwich choices on their sandwich menu!  With picnic, diner friendly red and white checkered tablecloths and cute sandwich names to boot, this is the perfect place for sandwich fanatics (think Joey from FRIENDS), deli lovers, casual diners, diners on a budget ($4-$5 sandwiches!), carnivores, and herbivores alike.  Their menu has so much variety and selection that when you read through it, you’ll be thinking, “oh my goodness, which sandwich do I love and want more?” as opposed to, “hmm, so, what are my choices?”  Knowing I wanted a veggie sandwich clearly wasn’t good enough when I had 10 choices to mull over! 

In terms of meat sandwiches, choices include oven roasted turkey (the One Wing sandwich sounds like a Thanksgiving sandwich constructed from heaven), slow roasted pulled pork, roast beef, smoked chicken, black forest ham, bacon, capicola (an Italian cold cut), and tuna.

Vegetarians can rejoice because their vegetarian choices are even more varied than their meat ones!  Chad of Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches tells me that the ho-hum lettuce, tomato, and sprout combination just doesn’t cut it when it comes to providing a menu that captures the essence of how creative vegetarian sandwich creation and eating can be.  Part of the fun of vegetarian sandwich creation is mixing and matching vegetables, fruits, and non-meat proteins with delicious breads.  Sky Blue Sky definitely has one of the larger vegetarian sandwich menu selections in town and choices include portobello mushrooms, avocado, almond butter and banana, mozzarella, tomato, and basil, cashew butter, roasted chick peas with curry and mango chutney, pear and Gouda grilled cheese, basil pesto, roasted red peppers, and SO MUCH MORE.

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Soaking Up the Sun and Good Food – Preparing My Taste Buds for Toronto’s Summerlicious!

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In a matter of two weeks, Toronto will be kicking off another summer of price fixe menus and good food with the annual Summerlicious event taking place from July 8th-24th!  The concept and execution is exactly the same as Winterlicious and the only difference is that it takes place in July every year.  I’m always excited to see which restaurants are participating and what their menus have to offer, especially now that they’ve made it a point to specify exactly which meals are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.  It makes it much easier to figure out if a particular restaurant can offer you enough options to make it worth your while and this is particularly important if you’re going with a group of friends with varying tastes, diets, and lifestyles. 

Even though I love both Winterlicious and Summerlicious (and this year’s newest addition, Veggielicious!), I’ve actually only taken part for the past two years, going out for two Winterlicious outings and one Summerlicious.  I don’t go for the big ticket menus though and will always, always stick to the $15 lunch menus and $25 dinner ones.  In all honesty, even if I could afford the fancy pants places, creating parameters for myself with this budget helps in narrowing down my choices which means less hair-pulling when it comes to actually making a decision.  I have a hard enough time as it is because I’m so indecisive!

I’m really lucky to have had good experiences during the times I’ve taken part.  Never have I felt that a meal wasn’t worth it or that I made a bad choice.  I had a great Winterlicious lunch this past February at Amaya’s Bread Bar near Yonge St. and Lawrence Ave., a really fun time with my friend Sally the previous Winterlicious at Big Daddy’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar on King St. West (no photos because my camera was unfortunately stolen not long after, ugh), and an AMAZING, memorable meal at Southern Accent (which is where the delicious photo up top was taken!), located in Mirvish Village.  My boyfriend and I have already made a decision that we absolutely MUST go back for another Summerlicious meal because it’s one of our favourite places to eat in the city.

I’m no expert on fine dining, but if I could offer any tips and opinions, these would be it:

  • Decide what your budget is.  If you’re new to the price fixe fest, it is overwhelming trying to decide what you might want to try and what you want skip.  The list of restaurants on the Summerlicious website specify what price points each of the participating restaurants are operating at during the duration of the festival, so at a quick glance you can either make a note or move on.  My budget has ALWAYS been the $15 lunch and the $25 dinner and I’ve never once strayed from it. 
  • Compare lunch and dinner menus at the same restaurant.  If you find a place you think you might like but you’re not sure whether to go for the lunch or the dinner or ditch the place entirely, read both menus and see what the similarities and differences are between them.  Chances are there may only be a difference in one main or a dessert and if that’s the case, the $10 or even $20 difference between lunch and dinner just isn’t worth it.  Look for variety between menus if you need to make a make-or-break decision.
  • Stay away from places that offer ho-hum, every day eats.  A place might make a mean Caesar salad, but you don’t need a price fixe menu to enjoy such a classic staple which you can enjoy any day of the week.
  • Piece together all 3 compenents of the meal (appetizer, main, dessert) and do some quick mental math to see if you’re actually getting a sweet deal.  If the main iself is normally something that runs close to $20 (or if appetizers and desserts go for $10 normally) and it’s being offered on a $25 price fixe menu, you know you’ve hit pay dirt.  This is one of the reasons why I LOVE Southern Accent during Winterlicious and Summerlicious because their mains sit around $18 on their every day, permanent menu, not to mention their food is just amazing.

If you plan on hitting up a place (or two…or even three, ha!), let me know what you’re contemplating!  As well, if you have past experiences you’d like share, feel free to leave a comment here as I love hearing about what others have to say about their meals!

*****

Southern Accent is a cajun and creole restaurant with beautiful New Orleans and southern inspired decor and amazing food.  They are located at 595 Markham St. in Mirvish Village near Bloor St. West and Bathurst.  The Summerlicious list of restaurants and price fixe menus can be viewed here.

A Little Cajun, A Little Carnival – Party It Up and Have a Happy Mardi Gras!

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If you’re in the mood for a little Cajun or a little carnival (or both!) on your palate today, I’d recommend Southern Accent, located in Mirvish Village on Markham St. off of Bloor and Bathurst.  Think bourbon chicken, collard greens, cheese grits, jambalaya, gumbo, okra and corn bread, bread pudding, and lots of hush puppies!  Fabulous atmosphere, delicious food, and cheeky, fun, flashy decor to boot!  There are plenty of options on the regular menu in addition to the different daily price fixe.  I won’t be going myself tonight (I’m reserving my next trip there for spring, actually), but I wanted to share a bunch of photos from the few times I’ve been there to celebrate the day.  Whether you practice Catholicism (as Mardi Gras is traditionally the religious celebration prior to Lent) or you’re just in it for the festivities, I hope you all have fun!  😀

*****

Southern Accent is located at 595 Markham Street in Mirvish Village, just slightly southwest of Bloor St. W and Bathurst St.  It’s about a 3-5 minute walk from Bathurst subway station and they open their doors for dinner at 5pm.

Summer Days Drifting Away – Memories of Summerlicious at Southern Accent

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Summer days have certainly drifted away, that’s for sure!  Although there’s no snow on the ground just yet, it’s definitely scarf and mitten weather.  Even though it’s winter, I’m really excited to still share scrapbook layouts and meals from those sunny, languid days.  One of my favourite days from the past summer was when I went to Southern Accent for Summerlicious with Richard.  Located in Mirvish Village at 595 Markham St. (Bloor and Bathurst), it’s one of my favourite places not just for the food, but for the beautiful, adorable decor inside! *squeals*  It makes the scrapbooker in me prance around the room because, as the name of the restaurant alludes to, it’s a Cajun and Creole restaurant with colourful lanterns, streamers, and Mardi Gras memorabilia galore; it’s a dream and it makes me want to go to New Orleans even more.

Being the foodie that I am, Summerlicious is also a delicious dream.  Summerlicious (along with Winterlicious) is a food fest  during the month of July (and January-February for Winterlicious) devoted to price fixe menus across the city.  Over 100 restaurants participate, and if you’re like me, it’s an amazing way to try out a new restaurant or to order dishes you wouldn’t normally order because it’s out of your price range.  For me, price fixe menus for dinner are always at $25.  That’s my threshold.  Choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert, and we’re good to go.

Going to Summerlicious this time around was SO much fun and the price fixe menu made me so giddy!  Vegetarians be warned though: although they have fantastic vegetarian dishes, they don’t have a lot and they have a daily menu (in conjunction with the permanent menu) that changes each day, so it’s best that you call in advance to find out if there are enough options to suit your fancy.  Hush puppies, bourbon chicken, blackened shrimp, ugh, the food is SO GOOD.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this meal.  EVERYTHING that I love so much rolled into one.  For my appetizer, I chose the roasted eggplant and bocconcini stacks with roasted red pepper and basil pesto.  I love bocconcini cheese and pesto like nobody’s business, oh my god.  The combination of olive oil and roasted vegetables was amazing.  My entree gave me, by far, the most delicious corn on the cob I have ever had.  Perfectly grilled and sprinkled with paprika.  Sitting on top of a light and fluffy rice pilaf were skewers of juicy pork tenderloin chunks with sweet grilled mango.  And the finale?

Richard’s pecan pie and for me, strawberry rhubarb crumble with oatmeal topping and vanilla bean icecream (!!!).  Needless to say, I was stuffed after this meal.  These pictures were so much fun to scrapbook and each and every single meal at this place is wonderful and memorable.

*****

Scrapbooking materials used: white, red, and golden rod cardstock by Recollections, patterned paper by DCWV, journalling tag by Anna Griffin (Darcy Collection), alphabet stickers by ATD and Recollections, starburst stickers by Sticko, 5-petal flower punch, adhesive gems.