Sandwiches work-in-progress at Leslieville Pumps

Pulled pork

Solid sandwich in search of more flavour

Finally managed to visit Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen today for lunch with a friend, situated conveniently at the corner of Queen Street East and Carlaw Avenue in Toronto’s east end and readily accessible by two major transit routes.

A friendly little place where everyone makes an effort to call you by your name after you place a food order, the whole vibe is “welcome, hope you have a good time.” The seating areas both inside and out are kept quite clean, and the folksy decoration fits nicely with the increasingly eclectic Leslieville community that surrounds it.

I ordered the pulled pork sandwich (topped with cole slaw), the classic poutine and a semi-sweet iced tea. My friend ordered the BLT sandwich, deep-fried pickles and iced tea, as well.

Almost full marks on the pulled pork sandwich. They did not scrimp on the meat or overwhelm the pulled pork with so much BBQ sauce as to create a huge mess, and the coleslaw had a nice crunch and added a lovely contrast to the meat. Where they need to improve the sandwich is in the spice of the BBQ sauce, which never really stood out to me. It simply moistened the already juicy meat rather than enhanced or added flavor.

My friend’s BLT was completely underwhelming, unfortunately. Truthfully, there is little to say about this sandwich other than if you want a BLT for lunch, head directly across the street to Rashers, a small restaurant that specializes in all things bacon.


Rashers Beer BLT vastly superior to Leslieville Pumps BLT

Fortunately for my friend, the blasé BLT was offset by the deep-fried pickles, which were nicely coated with a crunchy crust that wasn’t the least bit greasy. And the pickles themselves stood up to the frying nicely, still providing quite the crunch.

The poutine had ups and downs, but ended up being nothing special. The fries were quite good, not particularly greasy and maintaining a very woody potato flavour. The cheese curds—two varieties, in fact—were okay, adding that stringy quality for which poutine is known, but not adding much flavour to the mix. And the gravy was only slightly better than hydrated beef Bovril cubes, so runny that it largely just pooled in the bottom of the container rather than mingling with the fries and curds.

And finally, the semi-sweet iced tea. Let it be known that I like my iced tea unsweetened, so I knew I might have some issues. I was not ready, however, for something that tasted like it came out of a Lipton Iced Tea can. My dining companion—born and raised in the Southern United States—assures me that the tea was indeed brewed rather than the processed stuff, and is simply suffering from the addition of lemonade. Not a fan.

The $34 meal managed to fill us up, but didn’t leave us terribly satisfied. There was enough merit in the pulled pork and deep-fried pickles, however, for me to be willing to try other dishes on another day.

Visiting Toronto? Try the bacon! (review)


The familiar red awning says it all

(Trying my hand at food reviews)

If a restaurant earned a one-word review, that restaurant is Rashers and the one word is bacon.

Bacon is all you really need to know about Rashers, which specializes in all things bacon, offering multiple cuts—British style, peameal and strip—in a variety of formats…well, one format (sandwich) in a variety of constructions. (You can also order any of the sandwiches without bacon, but we can’t be friends if you do.)

My personal favourite and weekly go-to is the Beer BLT served on a ciabatta bun, which I sometimes get with double bacon just to blow up my electrolytes.

Beer BLT

Beer BLT (double-bacon), potato wedges (salt & pepper), homemade beer mayo

For the less adventurous, but just as hungry, there is the traditional bacon butty (British bacon, white bread, brown sauce) or the Hogtown grilled cheese (peameal bacon, aged cheddar, multigrain bun). For the more adventurous, the Full Monty (full British breakfast on a bun) and the Brie & Bacon (no explanation here).

And to help you hold all that delicious bacon grease are various potato sides, including wedges (my fav), curly fries and tater tots. Oh, and ask for the beer mayo, a homemade ambrosia that offers a subtle sweetness without the oily heaviness you might expect from a mayo.

But surprisingly, I think the best thing about Rashers is the staff, who—come to think of it—kinda smell like bacon. You will never meet a friendlier group of people who seem to love what they do and are truly grateful to see their patrons. If you’re a regular, you receive an eager welcome upon opening the door, and if you’re a newbie, you are immediately greeted with smiles and offers of assistance.

Rashers staff

Serious intent disguises the welcoming smiles that greet you

My weekly pilgrimage is to the Rashers location on Queen Street East near Carlaw Avenue in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood. That it is squeezed between an over-priced tea shop and over-priced pet store makes Rashers’ more than reasonable prices a nice change of pace—its belly-filling sandwiches priced around $8-$10 and sides at $4.

The only real challenge with this particular location is lack of seating, which is essentially 4 bar stools against the window or a triplet of old-style school benches out front. Fortunately, at least from Spring to Autumn, there is a park a couple of blocks West that seems to make the food taste that much better.

More recently, Rashers opened a location in the Western end of Toronto’s downtown core on Ossington, near Dundas. A significantly larger place, this location has booths for dining in comfort and a central bench for stand-up dining (can’t remember if there were stools). And for your entertainment during your meal, they installed a huge mural along one wall that essentially bacon-ifies familiar motifs and Toronto-centric events or landmarks (e.g., Toronto Raptors, Ikea monkey, Yellow Submarine).

Bacon raptor

Both locations are easily accessible via local transit, whereas you may have issue at busier times finding a place to park in either neighbourhood. Regardless, you should make the effort to check these guys out.