Cactus Club Cafe

Cactus Club is a chain from out West that I saw during my recent visit to B.C.
They’ve recently opened a location here in Toronto in the financial district. Mr. Spoon and I decided to stop in for a leisurely, light Sunday lunch as we were walking past.

We immediately noticed as we walked up that they have a rooftop patio so we asked to be sat up there since it was a lovely August day with lots of sunshine and not too much humidity. Luckily I was wearing a nice dress so I didn’t feel too underdressed. The waitresses were walking around wearing very form-fitting matching dresses and all looked very put-together with heavy makeup and fully-done hair so I’m glad I didn’t stand out too much. Mr. Spoon mentioned he felt a little too casual rolling in with a T-shirt on but there were plenty of other people wearing very casual clothing for their Sunday brunches.

Cactus Club Summer Drinks | thelittleredspoon.com

We decided to sample some cocktails, Mr. Spoon tried the “Summer Smash” which is gordon’s dry gin, cucumber, thai basil, ginger, lime and soda. Now I’m not a gin person, I thought this drink was pretty good but I wouldn’t be able to finish it. Mr. Spoon finished two. Nothing like a nice cool, refreshing drink with cucumbers and booze in it to sip while you’re relaxing in the sunshine and warm breeze, right?

Cactus Club Bellini | thelittleredspoon.com

I tried the Passion Fruit Bellini – smirnoff vodka, passion fruit and sparkling wine. Apparently these drinks are part of a promotion and are only available for their “98 Days of Summer” drinks menu.
It was really good, more of a thick slurpee consistency than what I was expecting. The flavour was great, a nice bold fruit flavour and I could barely taste any alcohol. It did give me a bit of a brain freeze, though, and I thought the presentation was beautiful but a bit impractical. (I may have accidentally knocked that short, poorly balanced straw out with my hand while talking. Twice.)
Cactus Club Edemame | thelittleredspoon.com

We wanted to split some munchies and keep it simple. The prices were pretty steep at this place as well (I was having sticker shock looking at the menu) so we wanted to just sample some stuff. There was a limited menu for Sunday lunch. Some stuff that could be made vegan but not really too many options. Nothing I’m not used to.

The edemame here was perfect, not a single bad one and a good sized portion. I think it could have used a touch more salt but that’s just me talking.
Cactus Club Truffle Fries | thelittleredspoon.com

We also shared some truffle fries with truffle, herbs, grana padano, garlic aioli. Of course Mr. Spoon ate the ones with the cheese on top and I dug around for the naked ones underneath.

What can I say? A girl can’t resist a nice salty, crispy, truffle-y french fry. They were absolutely heavenly. Good enough that it made me wonder if maybe this place would be worth coming back to eventually.

However I did get a very strong whiff of pretentiousness from this place. Of course it’s a chain restaurant from the West coast situated in the heart of the financial district in downtown Toronto, so without a doubt they are catering to people with a LOT of money. And I think they are very successful at doing that. It seemed that a lot of the other guests were there to blow a huge stack on a boozy Sunday lunch in a private booth in a glamorous restaurant just to prove they could. I’m sure the rest of the (expensive) menu is very delicious, but I didn’t get that welcoming feeling that I was among other foodies enjoying food. I felt like a regular person surrounded by rich people who enjoyed spending money just to show that they could.

I suppose there need to be restaurants like Cactus Club Cafe in the world. I don’t have anything negative to say about my experience there, in fact I quite enjoyed everything about it, I just got the feeling that I did not belong in that world.

What do you think? Would you fit in at a place like this? What’s more important to you in a restaurant – atmosphere, food, drinks, service or something else? Leave a comment and let me know.

Cactus Club Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Hogtown Vegan

So many wonderful vegan comfort food spots in Toronto, not enough time to try them all! I finally got myself over to the Vegan Hogtown on Bloor (between Dufferin and Ossington) after living downtown for almost a year. Vegan chicken and waffles? Mac and cheese? Chili cheese fries? Yeah I definitely knew I had to hit this place up at some point and I’m glad I did.

Hogtown Vegan Menu | thelittleredspoon.comHogtown Vegan Apps Menu | thelittleredspoon.com

We decided to try the fried shiitake clams, nachos, and fries supremacy.

 

Hogtown Vegan Beverages Menu | thelittleredspoon.com
As for drinks, we drank whatever on tap that was on special that night. I forget what it was but it was a local craft brew and I do remember it was quite good and reasonably priced.

Hogtown Vegan Sandwiches Menu | thelittleredspoon.com

So many choices! I love a good vegan philly cheesesteak or pulled pork sandwich but we opted to order off the (non-sandwich) entree list not pictured here.

Hogtown Vegan Cutlery and Water | thelittleredspoon.com

Nothing fancy for the cutlery and water.

Hogtown Vegan Shitaake Clams | thelittleredspoon.com

The fried shiitake “clams” were delicious. They came with a chipotle ranch dipping sauce that disappeared quickly. We really love shiitake mushrooms so these were probably the hit of the night.

“Why bother calling them clams? They’re just fried mushrooms. Why not call them that?” Mr. Spoon wondered.

I don’t know why, I guess it’s just part of the shtick. Why call any vegan food anything, really? I know some people hate when vegan food is named after what it’s meant to resemble, especially when it’s not a super accurate recreation. Why call it “pulled pork” when it’s really pulled mushrooms? Well, why call pork “pork” when it’s really a pig? Who knows why, that’s just what people call it. I’m fine with people naming vegan food after “normal” food (obviously) but I guess it’s not for everyone.

Hogtown Vegan Chili Cheese Fries | thelittleredspoon.com

The fries supremacy were pretty good. I wouldn’t say they blew my mind but they did all get eaten. Personally I don’t find yellow nacho cheese sauce all that exciting so perhaps we should have opted for the chili cheese fries that had different toppings. But we were already getting nachos with all the nacho toppings anyway so figured this would be fine.

Don’t get me wrong, they were good, and the cheese sauce and vegan sour cream were both pretty realistic. But even if these were vegetarian and I still ate dairy I probably still would’ve been a little “meh” on them. That’s just my personal taste and not a reflection on the dish itself.

Hogtown Vegan Nachos | thelittleredspoon.com

Nachos are where it’s at, though, am I right? I love a good nacho plate.I liked these nachos. What more is there to say? They were crunchy, thoroughly topped and there was guacamole. Maybe a bit heavy on the beans but otherwise A+

Hogtown Vegan Peppersteak and Dumplings | thelittleredspoon.com

Mr. Spoon’s dad tried the “Peppersteak and Dumplings” TVP (textured vegetable protein) steak and dumplings in a mushroom-beer gravy, with collard greens and sweet potato mash on the side. I have to say that’s quite a sloppy presentation. The steak, dumplings and gravy met everyone’s approval. Mr. Spoon thought the gravy might’ve tasted like a packaged mix of some sort, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t but at least it tasted all right. Everyone found the collard greens a little bitter but that’s just the way they are. I had some with my dish as well and found them okay, I just added a little extra salt.

The sweet potato mash was definitely quite sweet for me. I have more of a salty tooth than a sweet tooth but I think it was a good match for my dish of chicken and waffles, which came drenched in syrup.

Hogtown Vegan Caesar Salad | thelittleredspoon.com

Mr. Spoon ordered a caesar salad and it was quite disappointing. I don’t see many “fakin’ bits” or much “creamy Caesar dressing” in this picture but I guess there was a little bit… The thing is, this is a guy that really likes Caesar salad, he appreciates a GOOD Caesar salad, so to be served this… Well it seems a little half-assed, to be honest. I really hate to be harsh, especially to a vegan restaurant, but this was just gross and pathetic. Some of the lettuce (which you can’t see in this picture, it was buried) was wilted and rotting. Like, not just a little old but actually melted and slimy in some parts. And it wasn’t just a tiny bit, it was a fair amount of slimy lettuce. That’s fricking gross.

It took a while but we eventually flagged down our waitress to send it back. She did ask if he wanted a replacement but obviously he didn’t. I would expect a way better salad from a vegan restaurant to tell you the truth.  Even without the rotten bits, the presentation was boring, the salad was bland, the lettuce seemed like it was from a bagged mix, the almond dust “parmesan” on top was nothing special, there wasn’t much taste or pizzazz… What’s the point, really? At least the waitress took it off our bill but it was definitely a let-down.

Hogtown Vegan Chickn and Waffles | thelittleredspoon.com

I would say overall my meal was probably the best one. Slightly less sloppy, and definitely more interesting. I love a good fried veggie chicken. Here the texture was nice and crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. I liked the combination of flavours and textures on the plate. Getting a forkful with a little bit of everything on it was quite nice.

I’ve never had chicken and waffles before so I was really looking forward to this. Everything was really tasty and I definitely enjoyed it. The only problem is I was super full from trying all of our appetizers and sampling everyone else’s food (visiting a vegan restaurant is the only time when I get to sample other people’s food so I always take full advantage ) that I had to take most of it home for leftovers.

Hogtown Vegan Leftovers | thelittleredspoon.com

Luckily my leftovers were just as good for lunch the next day, maybe even better because the syrup had really soaked into the waffles and I drizzled a little extra on top. Yum.

Overall, though, I don’t think I would go back to the Hogtown Vegan after our first experience there. It was interesting and I’m glad I got to try it, I thought the prices here were pretty reasonable (except the $10 disappointing Caesar), even our pints were only $5 that day. However, the service was really not that great and we could’ve had a better time.

One thing that was annoying was we ordered three appetizers to share among us, and after a few short minutes (we weren’t even halfway through them) ALL three of our entrees came out as well. So the table was absolutely crowded with all of our dishes and all of the food was going cold before we could finish eating anything. This place is meant to be casual, but I’m sure this is still a pet peeve for anyone, regardless of whether they’re in a pub or a fine dining restaurant.

This place is really not that close to me either, so for me personally that’s a factor as to why I most likely won’t make the trek back out. I could potentially see myself popping in here for a beer and to split a plate of vegan nachos again but I wouldn’t tell someone from out of town “oh, you HAVE to go here!”

If you’re really keen on checking out their signature dish of chicken and waffles, I would say go ahead and try for yourself. I truly did want to like this place and maybe one day I’ll give it a second chance, but for now it’s not on my short list of places I need to go back to or tell everyone about.

Have you been to Hogtown Vegan in Dovercourt Park neighbourhood? Know a different cool vegan joint with kick-ass chicken and waffles? Leave a comment to let me know about it.

The Hogtown Vegan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sushi on Bloor

This place was so cute! Popped in for lunch on a work day and tried their lunch special. Right away we were served water, green tea, salad (not pictured but it was a basic iceberg lettuce salad), and miso soup.

Sushi on Bloor Lunch Menu | thelittleredspoon.com

I chose to order from this menu and got and Oyster Mushroom and Avocado roll from column A and a Sweet Potato Maki roll from Column B.

Sushi on Bloor Lunch Menu P2 | thelittleredspoon.com

You could also order non-sushi lunch meals but what fun is that?

Sushi on Bloor Miso Soup | thelittleredspoon.com

The miso soup was nice. Perfect temperature for sipping right away and I like a good amount of seaweed. Yum.

Sushi on Bloor Lunch Rolls | thelittleredspoon.com

The rolls themselves were great! This was the perfect amount of food for a quick work lunch. We had an hour break and were able to make it back just in time.

I would definitely go here again. It was quick, tasty, and definitely affordable. Check out Sushi on Bloor if you’re ever in the Harbord Village neighbourhood.

Sushi On Bloor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato