Fried Crawl – the great eatening of July 2014
A while ago my friend Marissa & I decided “Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if we tried out a few of the fried mushrooms on offer in vegan cafes/restaurants around Toronto? Or, just generally deep fried foods in general. Yes, yes it would be awsome.” And the ‘Fried Crawl’ idea was born. We narrowed it down to a handful of places in the West End (to make traversing the route easier) and set a date!
First stop was Green’s Vegetarian at the edge of Kensington Market. One of the more decent places in Toronto for vegetarian Chinese food, we knew already they had top-notch fried goods. To pace ourselves, we decided sharing all the dishes would be ideal – so we got an order of the Deep Fried King Mushrooms with Pepper Salt, plus some of their fried soy fritters (closer to nuggets, really). The mushrooms have a great, fluffy/crunchy batter that’s dusted with chili flakes & salt and are incredible. The soy nuggets were breaded and crispy, but nice and soft and proteiny on the inside. Win!
After that it was a short walk on Dundas over to Cafe 668, a place I’d been to a couple of times already and mostly enjoyed. We went for the Mini Taro Wrap, the deep fried dumplings and the deep fried mushrooms. I love the taro wraps (it’s not a flavour/texture I get to enjoy often), and the dumplings were pretty good. The batter on the mushrooms was nice, but they were whole cap cremini (or something similar) and I felt like they were too large/moist once you got through the crunchy batter.
And our little side plates at Cafe 668 were so perfect to lay out a modern art fried piece that I couldn’t resist:
As a nice halfway break, we’d decided to walk to our next location – Hogtown Vegan up on Bloor. They’d just opened up at their new location a little further west (near Dufferin) and it was great to see the new, larger space. We crammed into a booth (at this point there were 7 of us!) and decided on sharing some tofu ‘wings’, fries supremacy and their deep fried shiitake mushroom ‘clams’. I don’t know what the hell a clam tastes like but I could care less, because the shiitake are awesome. – I think the thinner type of mushroom is just nicer deep-fried, and their batter is a good ratio of covering and crunch. I loved the fries, as always, but was disappointed in the ‘wings’ that night – we’d asked for Buffalo and there was nary a spicy taste to it in my opinion (but the crunchy breading was terrific, which was a positive).
We lost a good few people after that, as many had reached peak fried levels or had other stuff to get to. We soldiered on to the nearby dive bar, Disgraceland. They have a surprisingly vegan-friendly menu – I’ve been mostly for brunch, so it was great to try some of the apps late in the evening. Fried mushrooms were naturally on the list, and we also got the deep-fried pickles and popcorn tofu. Again, these were whole cap cremini-ish mushrooms which meant I enjoyed them a little less even though the batter was pretty good and a nice spicy soy sauce to dip in. The deep fried pickles were terrific! They had a crunchy breading and some vegan mayo for dipping – I was not sure I’d like hot pickles, but it was terrific. The popcorn tofu was ‘KFC’-style, so in a herby breading which was delicious and crunchy. It came with some gravy (a little watery) for dipping and coleslaw (sad and disappointingly unflavourful) too.
I made it to the last bite without feeling too overwhelmed with gross greasiness, and I think getting the limited number of apps to share amongst us all really helped with that. It meant we all got nice variety out of it! After it all I felt pretty fine, maybe just a little food hungover in the morning but honestly no worse than any other rich meal I’ve had before. But I’m not sure I’d do it all again in one go – maybe pick a couple of places in the East End to try next time but keep it simpler and smaller. Thanks for the fun vegan junk/comfort food outing though, Toronto! You’re good to us.