The goal here is to share our gastronomic adventures/misadventures in the hopes of supporting our local independent restaurateurs. The HungryHobo staff will secretly dine and evaluate the restaurant without the proprietor’s knowledge in order to have a true and genuine customer experience. This guerrilla style of critique is necessary as we do not want to receive any special treatment in comparison to the average diner. We will try to target restaurants with the student’s pallet and pocketbooks in mind.
Cusine: MIddle Eastern
75 Dundas West
Mississauga, On L5B1H7
Lately in my inebriated stupors, I seem to crave the same thing... Nothing too fancy but something different than the conventional burger or hotdog. The humble shawarma cures all that ails me after a long night of sin and debauchery. The Middle Eastern street food is becoming more and more popular in North America, and is not surprisingly well represented here in Mississauga.
Case in point, Reyan Restaurant located along Dundas and Confederation Road. Call me crazy, but I like this neighbourhood. Maybe it’s the old school strip plazas or the dilapidated architecture but there is something about suburban decay that just gets me. It really isn’t much to look at inside or out. Actually it’s pretty damn ugly now that I think about it. You really can’t miss the tacky red sign with the moustached man on it. The inside of the restaurant is pretty simple. There’s seating for around 30 people in a small narrow room with sterile white walls. There are a few knick knacks and trinkets here and there, probably from their native land. Suffice it to say they probably aren’t going to win any awards for interior design.
Now it may sound like I’m knocking the joint, but I actually kind of dig the whole minimalistic approach. It gives the place some character and lets you focus on the food, which by the way, is surprisingly good even though the decor might suggest otherwise.
The thing to order would have to be the Shawarma and the Falafel sandwich. Reason being? Well, for one they serve a quality product. In plain sight, you can see two large towers or rotating chicken, which are then sliced to order placed on a pita or taboon bread and accompanied with a melange of fresh veg like lettuce, cucumbers, pickled beets, and tomatoes . Other traditional toppings are added like tahini (roasted sesame paste), hot sauce, and the essential garlic sauce. I personally recommend asking for the fried onions to be put into the Shawarma. They are actually meant for another dish but if you ask nicely they’ll do it. A fried onion on anything automatically makes it better. The falafel sandwich is pretty much the same thing minus the meat. A Falafel is a fried ball of crunchy goodness primarily composed of either spiced chickpeas or fava beans. Again I can’t stress enough about the fried onions.
Now you’re asking yourself, what makes these two items so special and so different than places like Ozmoes or Pita Nutsy? As good as those two places may be they really can’t compete with the pricing at Reyan’s. $3.99 for a Shawarma and $1.99 for Falafel is ridiculous! Sure they have a full menu with other classics like Shish Taouk sandwich -$4.99 (skewered beef or chicken kebabs) and foul -$5.99(pronounced fool: is a popular breakfast made up of mashed fava beans which are slow cooked with onions, olive oil, parsley, lemon juice, and garlic. It’s served with Egyptian flatbread). I have absolutely no idea how they stay in business with prices like that but frankly, I really shouldn’t be complaining.
It’s pretty rare to find a place that serves quality food for such affordable prices. Reyan Restaurant just screams value especially for hungry students looking for deal. They’re also open till 11pm which is relatively late by suburban standards. When ever I get the munchies and I’m strapped for cash, I plan on getting a shawarma or 4 because God knows they need money more than I do.
Willy’s Jerk Chicken
3024 Hurontario Street
Mississauga, ON L5B 4M4
I’ve eaten at a lot of jerk places in my lifetime. It’s pretty easy considering the large Caribbean population within our fine city. Doesn’t hurt the cause growing up with a lot of Jamaicans too. In my experience I’ve learned a thing or two about these types of establishments. For one, they always seem to run on the matriarchal system. At the heart of every jerk spot is a woman calling the shots. If there are any men working at the restaurant, they are usually put in the kitchen. My theory was confirmed recently when I visited my local jerk shop and found that the order counter was empty. Soon enough an older gentleman stepped out of the kitchen, our eyes made contact and he begrudgingly acknowledged me. Before I could say anything he told me in a low almost defeated voice, that he was only the cook and that the boss lady would be back soon. The other thing I learned is that it’s a crap shoot in regards to friendliness of said ‘boss lady’. Every restaurant is different but you have a 50% chance of getting either the sweetest woman alive with a grandmotherly demeanour or you get the snide and short tempered woman full of island sass. Those are the odds but well worth the risk of the latter scenario.
Thus, bringing us to Willy’s Jerk, which, is hidden somewhere between Hwy 10 and Dundas. The best way to describe it is as a walk-in closet with an attached kitchen. It really isn’t a restaurant as much as it is a take out spot. Seating is minimal to say the least, with only a table for two. Above the “dining area” is the picture menu. For some reason there aren’t any corresponding prices to the items, so you have to ask before you order. A rather difficult task considering the lady at the counter wasn’t very chatty or friendly.
Willy’s Jerk specializes in (you guessed it) jerk chicken, but they also have all the other beloved Jamaican standards. What may be exotic to the western pallet is considered simple home cooking and that’s exactly what is served at Willy’s. Hearty and filling food that you’d imagine a Jamaican granny would cook. Classics like curried goat/chicken, stewed oxtail, fried red snapper, ackee and salt fish (the national dish of Jamaica) are all on the menu.
At first glance, the selection can be daunting, especially if you’re relatively new to the cuisine. Just a quick tip for people venturing off into an exotic restaurant, if a dish is in the name of the restaurant, order it. This is a no brainer. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you get the best item on the menu. So in this case, you can bank on the jerk being the thing to order. As advertised, the chicken was absolutely amazing. A flavourful mix of jerk spices which is primarily made up of allspice (Pimento), scotch bonnet peppers, nutmeg, clove, garlic, thyme, etc all help season the perfectly cooked bird. The marinate penetrated straight to the bone as every bite was a savoury, spicy, and sweet taste of Jamaica. It was both sticky and saucy with an intoxicating aroma that lingers on your clothes and fingers for days. It’s a delicious reminder of just how good the dish was and the smell just makes you crave it again and again. All combos are served with the essential rice &peas (beans in Jamaica are called peas) and Caribbean style coleslaw. The rice was delicious with slight undertones of coconut and since I’m being honest I really could have done without the bland slaw.
Combos come in two different sizes either small or large. Being hungry on that particular day, we ordered the large; which had generous portions of both protein and starch. So generous in fact, that we couldn’t finish and had to bring it home. Prices were decent, a value when you account for the amount of food you get. Prices range between $6-$10 depending on what combo you choose.
Minus the snooty service and the lack of seating, Willy’s Jerk is a definite must if you’re craving some island flavour.
WOW Korean Restaurant //Click here to VIEW GALLERY
55 Dundas Street East, Mississauga, ON L5A 1W1
You can’t help but notice this place when driving down Dundas. With the loud orange sign and a name like WOW Korean Restaurant, it certainly is eye catching. Upon walking into the joint the first thing you discern is how small it is. By our best estimates, it seated around 25-30 people max. It’s what some critics would call “intimate”.
You know that saying that we eat with our eyes? If that were true then what you would be eating would certainly taste like something from the 1980’s. Now I’m not one to judge a restaurants food based on its decor but the best way to describe it would be “basement chic” It kinda reminded me of an old person’s recreation room. Wood paneling was every where and it matched the old school wood chairs you could usually find at your grandparents breakfast table.
We were greeted by a cute little Korean couple wearing aprons and slippers and seated in the corner. Small talk was brief and we were left to navigate a relatively foreign menu. I’ve had Korean food before, Korean BBQ that is, of which this restaurant didn’t serve. When dealing with an unfamiliar cuisine its best to ask for recommendations. The staff certainly knows more than you do about what’s good so it requires a little faith on your part. Just tell them you’re adventurous and you’ll order what the usuals order. We asked for her opinion and she was taken aback a little bit. I assumed that she wasn’t used to gringos like us asking such a question.
Upon her recommendations we ordered 4 different dishes that we thought would be a respectable representation of the menu.
All meals are served with banchan (or panch’an) and a bowl of rice. Banchan refers to small side dishes that accompany the entrées. The most famous of which is kimchi which is spicy pickled cabbage for those of you not in the know. The others were Kongamul (glazed potatoes), Miyeok (seaweed with sweet vinegar), and Gamja Jjorim (boiled bean sprouts with sesame oil) Beef Hot Pot Soup ($10.99) - A complex broth both savoury and sweet served with marinated beef that is sliced raw and put in the hot liquid to cook and flavour the soup. Green onions, enoki mushrooms, fish cakes, and potato starch noodles accompany are added to give the soup body and depth. The dish is served in a traditional fire heated stone bowl which insures that the soup is still boiling once it arrives at your table.
Seafood Noodle Soup ($9.99) – A colourful and vibrant dish also served in an extremely hot stone bowl with a garden of vegetables and a medley of seafood (albeit frozen). We would have preferred it to have fresh mussels, shrimp, and squid but we understand considering the cost associated with freshness. The stock was made with Benito flakes which are shaved smoked tuna loin and is a common way to make seafood broth.
Korean Style Beef Dinner ($13.99) – Also know as Bulgogi, this dish is extremely popular for both advanced eaters as well as for the noobs. It’s one of the safer items that one can order and is a perfect gateway into Korean cuisine. Its grilled beef marinated with a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and scallions. It’s served on a sizzling plate which hisses and crackles as it takes its way from kitchen to tableside. It certainly adds flare but can’t mask the dryness of the meat. The heat from the plate could have overcooked the beef but to be honest we have had better bulgogi in other places.
Spicy Chicken Dinner ($13.99) –Crispy pieces of chicken quickly stir fried in a fiery kimchi sauce with sliced zucchini and mushrooms. This was certainly the favourite protein of the night because of its spicy bite matched with the crunch from the chicken and the zucchini. It was also served on a sizzling plate. Call me crazy but I think that the Koreans have a thing for serving food at extremely hot temperatures.
Overall the food was good. Nothing fancy but certainly something different then the conventional continental fare that we are all so used to. There were some exotic flavours in the case of the Beef Hot Pot Soup and the Spicy Chicken Dinner. The service was friendly and fast but the menu itself was rather pricey in conjunction to the portions. For the prices we paid we expected a little bit more in terms of the servings.
“WOW” may not be the best adjective to use in describing our experience there. Maybe an enthusiastic “Meh” would be more befitting.
Zita’s Churrasqueira BBQ & Grill
5425 Creditview Rd. Unit 13
Mississauga, On L5V 2P3
Remember back when chicken was exciting? Neither do I. It’s always just been there as a menu staple, a member of the holy trinity of meat. If it wasn’t beef or pork, it was chicken. The colonel and the folks and Swiss Chalet just weren’t doing it for me anymore and frankly, I got kinda bored with it all. That is until I discovered a hidden gem of a chicken joint.
In a generic strip plaza like any other found in Mississauga, there is a woman who is dishing out some of the finest foul I have ever tasted. Pardon the corny alliteration but the chicken is just that good. Zita’s Churrasqueira BBQ & Grill can be found on the corner of Bristol and Creditview and specializes in Portuguese cuisine. It’s a small take out style restaurant with a huge professional kitchen taking up most of the space. Usually when the kitchen to seating area ratio is off, it’s an indication of just how serious they are about the quality of food, so serious in fact that they skimp on customer comforts like a dining space. Behind the counter is a petite woman named Zita who is the owner of the restaurant that shares her name. In my countless visits to her establishment, she has always greeted me with a warm smile and a cheery tone. She kinda of reminds me of my sweet old kindergarten teacher, Mrs. McGrady, God rest her soul. Zita runs a clean and efficient ship with small staff of two or three. At certain times of the day, especially come 5pm-6pm, the small restaurant is packed with hungry patrons on their way home from work looking for a quick and cheap dinner fix for their families. They’re all there for the same thing, the grilled chicken.
She marinates the poultry for a day in this magical concoction that’s just the ideal level of spiciness and tang. The chicken is cut in half and then grilled all the way through. The smoke from the fire flavours the bird adding a bbq dynamic. The smoke that escapes the range wafts through air and acts as free advertising. Always ask for the hot sauce shots because you’re gonna be dipping everything into it. I would bathe in it if possible. Zita’s also has specials that change on a daily basis. The Portuguese are a seafood loving culture so you can bank on the fish being delicious. Bacalhau which is Cod (the national fish) is made in a variety of different ways but my favourite is the Bacalhau Na Braza. The fish is pan fried and then covered with sautéed onions, red peppers, capers, and a light lemon sauce.
Zita’s offers incredibly affordable meal deals with the intent to feed a crowd. I usually order Family Pack #1 which is more than enough to feed a group of 4. In addition to the grilled chicken you also get sides dishes. Included in all Pack and combos are sides of Portuguese style rice, addictive roasted potato balls, garden salad, and dinner rolls. All of this only costs a whopping $19.99. Locals say she doesn’t charge tax which I’m pretty sure is illegal but I’m not about to go running to the Feds.
Once you visit Zita’s you won’t be able to resist her motherly charm and home cooking. It’s the perfect place to reignite your love with the ubiquitous chicken.