Been There, Haven’t Done That Yet

Stats show that, in the before times, the average adult spent about $155 a year on food take-out and delivery.

Back then, when we were ordering only occasionally, it made sense that we’d order a certain kind of food that was familiar, that we were used to eating at home.

But now that shopping for groceries has become an expedition, and going outside can feel like playing Russian roulette, we may want a little more variety in what gets dropped off on our porches, at our doors, or in our lobbies. We’re all tired of looking at the same four walls, and though we can’t do much about that just yet, we can bust out of our old delivery and take-out habits and try something new.

So here’s a handy guide to some alternatives to the tried and true.

Pizza

Yummy, obviously and that new super-chewy crust from Maker and Blondie’s is really good, but you can get pizza anytime. And you probably have.

Must Try

Some call it Turkish pizza, but it’s way tastier than that. Try pide from Pizza Pide in the east end, Anatolian Pide House around College and Spadina and for lahmacun, there’s Best Istanbul in Kensington Market, or Mamajoun, the Armenian place on Ellesmere in Scarborough.

Iahmacoun (also known as Turkish or Armenian pizza) is a round, thin piece of dough topped with minced meat, vegetables and herbs

Southern-fried chicken

According to certain histories, fried chicken originated in Scotland, where Boswell records Dr. Johnson being served some in the 18th century. If true, the Scots really dropped the ball. Thankfully, some folks in Kentucky and Louisiana picked it up, licked their fingers, and the rest is history. It’s still good, but not exactly uncharted territory.

Must Try

Korean-fried chicken: You can taste the results of this post-Korean War mash-up of American Southern fried chicken and Korean sauces and seasoning at The Fry (Yonge at Cummer, Sheppard, and Wellesley, and Bloor and Bathurst), Don Chon on the Queensway in Etobicoke, or Dakgogi (Yonge south of Finch or Yonge and Wellesley).

Korean-style friend chicken is usually characterized by its crunchy and crispy crust

Chinese

Here’s the thing about Chinese food: It doesn’t exist. China’s a big country, and it’s made up of a lot of former smaller countries, making for one of the most regional food scenes on the planet. And that’s not even counting the stuff that immigrants developed here, dishes like Singapore noodles, General Tso chicken, and chop suey, that were so successful, they’re still some of the most popular delivery and take-out choices.

Must Try

The Eight Traditions

They like enumerating things in China, and have helpfully divided their cuisine into eight categories, almost all of which we can get here. So why not try Jiangsu food at Xian Tin in Thornhill, or Zheijang cuisine from Green Tea (Highway 7, Markham) or Asian Legend (Dundas and McCaul, Finch and Leslie, Sheppard in Scarborough, and Don Mills at Barber Green), or some Shandong dishes at North-East in old Chinatown.

Chinese-Canadian

The country’s big, and so is its take-out shadow, so of course there are several alternatives to the sort of fun food they used to call Chinese in Canada that we now call Chinese-Canadian, like those vermillion sweet and sour pork balls and plump egg rolls you’d slice down the middle and squeeze those plum sauce packets into.

Must Try

Taiwanese fried chicken. The most popular chicken spot in Taiwan, Hot Star, recently opened locations downtown on Yonge, in North York at Yonge and Finch, and at Pacific Mall in Markham. What makes it so popular? They discovered that if you flatten out a cutlet, it looks a little like the island of Taiwan. How fun is that?

Thai

Who doesn’t love a good pad Thai? Especially now that we’re getting such good pad Thai at spots like Pai. But there’s more to Southeast Asia than Thailand.

Must Try

Laotian tapioca pork balls at Laothai (4 Gladstone in West Queen West), or nam khao from Wiang Kuk Thai in First Markham Place.

Burgers

Easy, portable, and inexpensive even when you order from one of the gourmet places like Burger’s Priest or Rudy.

Must Try

The art of the sandwich

The breakfast sandwiches at Egg Bae’s, like Eh bae bae, are ridiculous and perfect, and a must if you haven’t started getting breakfast delivered yet. And then there’s Vietnamese banh mi (multiple locations of Banh Mi Boys, or Banh Mi Cafe at Eglinton and Trethewey are a couple of a dozen options). Maha’s Egytpian sandwiches on Greenwood just north of Gerard (try The Max), Sea Witch’s pickerel sandwich (St. Clair and Christie).

Sushi

Portable and easy to eat at home, fish from places like JapanGo and Taro have been go-tos for ages. But other nations have coastlines, too.

Must Try

Other fish in the sea

Now that you’re doing all your drinking at home, too, why not get an order of fish and chips to go with it? Go for Duckworth’s at Danforth and Main, Kingsway at Bloor and Royal York, or Fresco’s in Kensington Market. And if you want to keep it raw, there’s always poke (Poke Eats at Yonge and Sheppard, perhaps, or any one of the dozens of downtown spots).

About the Author

Bert Archer lives in Toronto, writes about travel and cities and things that tourists like him like, and teaches food writing at George Brown College. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter, and read stories he’s written about places he doesn’t live in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, CNN, the BBC, and about a dozen others.

See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.

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