The Keys to My Heart: The Grilled Halibut Melt at Jakes Pub & Grille on Main Street Unionville!

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I knew it was too good to be true.  The weather, that is.  I was loving the chillier mornings and the moderately warm, sunny days last week.  Then the weather decided to pull a fast one on me and scorch my little tooshie again, all the while gloating as I cowered under the sun in my bucket hat, whimpered in the heat, and cursed the buses that didn’t have air conditioning.  So, I did what any disenchanted girl would do: in defiance of the nasty weather, I hightailed it over to my favourite local pub for a patio lunch, noshed on my favourite dish, sat under a nice, shaded wooden awning, watched people happily sling back a few beers at neighbouring tables, and walked away with a happy belly full of yummy food.  I had myself one of the best lunches this summer and kicked the sweaty, icky, yucky feeling to the curb.  Eating at one of my favourite spots in one of my fvaourite neighbourhoods in my neck of the woods always does the trick.  Welcome to Jakes on Main Street Unionville! 

Jakes is a very classic type of pub establishment with a casual and relaxed atmosphere that’s family-friendly and always hopping with regulars who come out for beers, families who come out with their kids for some good old fashioned kiddie food (you wouldn’t believe how many kids and baby strollers that were there during the hour I was there!), and groups of friends sharing giant plates of food and having a great time.  It’s such a popular, well-loved spot and the crowds show it.  The patio is constantly packed, there’s always a consistent stream of people filling up the tables when they’ve been vacated, and it doesn’t matter what part of the day it is; Jakes is definitely the place to be if you’re around Main Street Unionville.

Jakes and I go way back.  Probably not as far back as many of the locals here who’ve lived in Markham all their life, but far back enough; my first look was back in high school and my first visit was before I even started grad school!  It’s my favourite spot on Main Street and my favourite classic pub in Markham.  I know that aside from the beer, pubs aren’t necessarily known for their haute cuisine.  There are some pub spots in the city that I’ve been to that are totally top-notch with delicious food, but if we’re playing a game of word association here, we know that most people would associate pub fare and bar grub with things like wings, calamari, and nachos and unless they’re spectacular, they’re forgettable to most people. 

At Jakes?  Call it pub fare, call it bar grub, call it whatever you want because the food here is REALLY, REALLY good!  You must be thinking, “how good can it be?”.  Trust me, their menu selection and portions speak for themselves.  We’re talking 6 types of poutine (butter chicken, pulled pork, and steak and mushroom just to name a few!), 21 different sandwiches, burgers, and wraps (beef dip, smoked salmon club, California club with guac and mango salsa, fish tacos, and more!), pub appetizers (deep fried pickles, crab cakes, coconut shrimp, and bacon wrapped scallops among others), and plenty of mains and entrees including baked chicken, pub pie, goat cheese quesadilla, and spicy chicken and seafood.

Prices are typical of a sit-down pub ($7-$20) and their menu is the same for both lunch and dinner, so you enjoy the goodness during the day or well into the evening.  It’s been so long since I’ve been here and while I was sitting at my table waiting for my food to come, I saw countless dishes being brought out to other patrons and I was reminded of how great their food was and how much I dearly missed what I had ordered since it had been so long since my last visit.

My favourite thing to have at Jakes: the halibut melt!  One of my ultimate not-healthy, comfort food weaknesses is fish and chips and Jakes halibut melt ($11.99) is a delicious, crispy, melt-in-your-mouth battered halibut fish sandwiched between caramelized onions, melted mozzarella cheese, and grilled bread, served with tangy tarter sauce (I LOVE TARTAR SAUCE!) and either fries, caesar salad, or green salad with your choice of salad dressing.  I LOVE fish sandwiches, tacos, and burritos and given how I’ve blogged about the haddock fish burritos and shrimp burritos and quesadillas from Burrito Boyz and the fish tacos from Wish Cafe, I figured it was time to post another one on seafood sandwiches, pub style!     

The sandwich is so, so good because the grilled bread is able to hold up to the melted cheese and caramelized onions and give the crunchy halibut fish the support it needs to stay crispy with every bite – no one wants a limp and soggy sandwich!  The battered halibut on the inside is moist and flaky and perfectly golden on the outside with a scrumptious buttery warmth to it.  I think one of the things I love most about fish and chips is the difference in textures (moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside) and this sandwich is so full of crunch and flavour and the melted mozzarella just adds that extra butteriness to the whole sandwich. 

And the tartar sauce!  It is so much fun dipping this sandwich into the tartar sauce and having that creamy tangy just whack a few good ones out of the park in your mouth.  After awhile though, it gets a little hard trying to dip the sandwich in so I just dip my fork into the sauce and slather it on.  And while the salad is just a side to the star of the show, it’s worth noting that the green house salad is great with it baby greens, refreshing cucumber, shredded carrots, and sliced bell peppers.  There’s a ton of different dressing options and I chose a honey mustard to go with mine this time around.

Jakes has made changes and additions to their menu over the years and I’m looking forward to coming back more often for some casual pub fare and really good food in fab neighbourhood.  After living in Markham for 14 years now, it’s a neighbourhood pub that definitely feels like home.

*****

Jakes Pub & Grille is located at 202 Main Street Unionville in Markham just south of Carlton Rd. on the popular Main Street shopping and dining strip.  They’re open 7 days a week for both lunch and dinner with a big patio out front.

Putting Market Vegetables to Use: Roasted Eggplant, Marinara, and Mozzarella for Eggplant Parmesan Melts!

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It was eggplant day at my house today!  Remember the baby eggplants that I was so super excited about finding and buying at the farmers’ market this past week?  We put them to use for dinner and made our version of roasted eggplant parmesan sandwiches!  Super simple, super DELICIOUS!  I wasn’t always a fan of eggplant, but over the years it has grown on me and I’ve found ways to cook it that make my tastebuds and tummy happy.  Roasting, for me, is definitely the way to go and breading it also makes for delicious eggplant meals. 

This past Tuesday I bought 6 beautiful baby eggplants at the East York farmers’ market at the East York Civic Centre on Coxwell Ave. and we were hemming and hawing on how we should cook them and what to serve with them.  Should we throw them on the grill?  Mix it with other vegetables?  Eat them alone?  My mum came up with a great idea today: make eggplant sandwiches!  We sliced them to roast in the oven for our melty, cheesy, saucy sandwich melts.  The eggplants were sliced and seasoned and tossed in olive oil with a little bit of black pepper, dry basil, and minced garlic. 

We placed the slices of eggplant on a tin foiled baking sheet and roasted them in the oven for 25 minutes at 400°F.  I can’t even put into words have AMAZING they smelled!  And of course, tasted 😀  They were soft, the skin was nicely blistered and roasted, and the garlic…ahhh.  And then the fun part came: assembling our eggplant parmesan melts!  We loooove English muffins in our house, so we toasted some English muffins, put some mushroom and tomato marinara sauce on the stovetop to heat up, and got our slices of mozzerella cheese ready to go.  I slathered on a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce on the bottoms of the English muffins, placed two big slices of roasted eggplant on top, layered it with a slice of mozzerella cheese (which melted beautifully omg yum), placed another slice of eggplant on top, and topped the whole shebang with another generous dollop of tomato sauce.  Eggplant sandwich success! 

I was inspired by a lot of different things in making these roasted eggplant melts: the amazing breaded eggplant sandwiches at St. Lawrence market, Giada’s eggplant and asparagus stacks on her Food Network show, Giada at Home, and the eggplant parmesan at Frankie Tomatto’s!  Even though we didn’t have any parmigiano-reggiano cheese to shave on the roasted eggplant or fresh basil to finish off the melts, we made do with what we had at home and made a great dinner with fresh vegetables straight from the market.  It made me so happy to see my market vegetable purchase go from farm to table and it was such a simple way to make a wholesome, healthy, and hearty dinner.  I’m super excited to see what other fresh and delicious eats I find at my next farmers’ market visit!

Taking Advantage of Summer’s Colour and Bounty – Not Your Ordinary Lunch Box Sandwiches

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This ain’t no ordinary kiddie lunch box lunch 😉  It’s been really fun mixing and matching vegetables and sandwich fillings with whatever we have in the fridge for the week and getting fresh bread from the bakery.  If you like mixing things up and hate eating the same thing twice in a row, you’re like me.  It’s quite fun, actually, challenging myself to get creative with combinations.  It’s like playing a sandwich puzzle, haha!  Here’s a thorough photo recap of some of my sandwich lunches over the past few months.

  • Sandwich #1: turkey, baby spinach, red and yellow baby bell peppers, hot banana peppers, sweet vidalia onions, mozzerella cheese on a submarine bun
  • Sandwich #2: oven roasted turkey, mesclun salad spring mix, green, red, and orange bell peppers, alfalfa sprouts, sweet onions on a kaiser bun with cantaloupe on the side
  • Sandwich #3: roast beef, baby romaine, roma tomatoes, mozzerella cheese, cilantro, lemon dill hummus spread on a wheat bun
  • Sandwich #4: roast chicken, alfalfa banana sprouts, hot banana peppers, avocado on a wheat bun 

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – A Mozzerella Cube of Portobello Mushroom Goodness

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This week’s Grad Lounge feature: layers and layers of penne pasta casserole surrounded by mozzerella cheese and savoury portobello mushrooms, served with a spring mix green salad with sesame ginger dressing and whole wheat roll.  Pasta, cheese, and mushrooms in a warm delicious cube?  Yeah, I’ll sign up for that 😀  Pasta bakes are such great comfort food and they just scream warmth and coziness.  The mushrooms have such rich flavour to them and as you dig into the casserole with your fork and knife (or, you know, you could also just spear the cube, lift it up, and bite into it like a beast) it’s like opening a food present!

You have that great cheesy baked crust on top that holds everything together and as soon as you start digging in, it falls apart into a melt-in-your-mouth combination of herbs and pasta.  YUM YUM!  I hope everyone is keeping warm and enjoying their holiday so far.  The last few weeks have been insanely difficult for me because of school and really, this blog keeps me going so thank you to everyone reading.  The holidays are always really special to me and I can’t tell you how full my heart feels from today and the last few days because of family, friends, and food.  Make some fabulous memories and have an amazing last few days before Christmas ❤

 

You knew an interior shot was coming 😉  The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York Univeristy Keele campus.  They are now closed for the holidays but will reopen on January 4th, 2011.