We started at the Food Building – partly because we’re gluttons, and would have ended up there anyway, but also because in recent years food has taken centre stage at the EX. Franchisers and independent chefs alike reveal new creations with catchy names and hope they go viral. The cronut burger, in 2013, sent several of the brave souls who tried it to the hospital and made headlines across the city. This year’s attention-grabbers have also been burgers (presumably of the non-sick-making kind) and poutine.
For all my arab friends out there, and all my non-arab, but arab-food-loving friends: I have been trying to find a decent shawarma and falafel place since I’ve landed in Canada, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Many a times I’ve ordered a shawarma wrap, hoping to see the meat being shaved off the stack with a large knife or a small circular saw, dropped to a circular tray below, retrieved and placed into the familiar flat, arabic bread and finally decorated with a party of cucumber, onion, tomato, lettuce, eggplant, parsley, pickled turnips, pickled gherkins, pickles, rhubarb and cabbage.
What I do end up with, however, is a grilled chicken/meat sandwich where the chicken/meat is sliced up (decievingly) into shawarma-looking slices. As an arab, personally, I cannot emphasise enough on how much Toronto has ruined shawarma for me.
After months of trying fake shawarmas from random food places, getting disappointed (or worse; getting sick) I found a tiny fast-food restaurant that secretly hides behind the harbourfront theatre at 218 Queens Quay W- ‘Habeebee’s shawarma’, or, more commonly known as ‘Shawarma Guys’ is the ‘quick and good’ type, where the service is quick and the food is delicious. Located in the lower level of a retail space and kept out of sight by Pizza Pizza, Subway and Quiznos, the Shawarma Guys is a great alternative to your typical fast food.
Beef or chicken shawarmas will run you about $5, with falafel under $4. The meat is pretty good, and I would personally recommend avoiding the iceberg lettuce and cheap tomatoes. Instead, load them up with radishes, banana peppers, and Frank’s Red Hot for a tasty time.
There isn’t much room inside, but the food is worth it. I would reccommend getting yourself a shawarma or two, coupled with some of their mouth-watering poutines, and chilling with some friends at the Toronto Lake, playing Taboo or cards, watching people walk along with their dogs, or just enjoying the semi-good weather while it lasts.
Say goodbye to boring Saturday nights or to the typical Starbucks run and say hello to board game cafés. Located on 600 Bloor Street West is North America’s top board game café, Snakes and Lattes. Snakes and Lattes provides an exciting environment that combines food, coffee, and board games to create the ultimate café experience. Visitors can choose and play any games that interest them and can order delicious food and drinks from a full menu handcrafted by experienced baristas and chefs. The café also offers the magical help of Game Gurus which teach and recommend games to clients. This way visitors can fully enjoy Snakes and Lattes’ wide range of board and card games (i.e. Cards Against Humanity, the Game of Life, Eldritch Horror, etc…) for only $5. This friendly fee allows you to come whenever you have a moment to spare whether it is for one hour (in between classes maybe?) or six hours (Saturday night is always game night). Moreover, Snakes and Lattes allows clients to purchase games (perfect for playing on campus) both online and in-store.
However, Snakes and Lattes isn’t the only board game café around. Situated close to the intersection of College Street and Spadina Avenue at 454 Spadina Avenue is another board game café known as Castle. Once again, visitors can enjoy a variety of amazing food and drinks and can choose from hundreds of board games, however at a cost of $2.50 per hour. Similar to Snakes and Lattes, Castle’s great hours of operation (Sunday to Thursday from 12pm – 12am and Friday to Saturday from 12pm – 2am) makes it very accessible and gives students a well-deserved break. So remember Saturday night is game night.
Editor’s note: some details of this article were corrected on 27 August.
Toronto is a fantastic city, if you’re the kind of person who’s eager to go out and enjoy it. Taking in Toronto takes a kind of energy, a sort of “yes, let’s!” mentality that some people have and some people don’t. Unfortunately, in most cases I don’t. I’m not what some might call a social butterfly. I’m really more of a social sloth, friendly and entertaining but not in any way proactive, content to lie in a tree and let fungus grow on my back (wait, what?). It’s not my greatest feature, and I’ve been working on it since the Gamecube days.
That’s why I jumped at the chance to grab a couple of Craft Beer Passports. With a Craft Beer Passport, you can drink a craft beer for $2.00 at any or all of the participating locations. The beers are as varied as the bars, which go as far east as Greenwood and as far as west as The Junction. It’s a great way to force myself to see the city and, because I have an extra passport, to coerce some friends to join me.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be hitting up as many of the spots on my passport as I can. I should warn you that I know nothing about beer, but I’m definitely willing to learn. And if you follow along on my little adventure, you might also learn a little: about beer, Toronto, and friendship (d’awww).
Do you remember when you were a little kid and coffee was the mysterious elixir that adults lived on? I don’t know about other people, but when I was young, my mom would disapprove whenever I had my eyes on something coffee-related (ice capps were permitted, though; those things are still fantastic). That’s why I didn’t have coffee on a regular basis until I started UofT, and to be honest I miss the good old naive days when I just had infinite amounts of energy from within. But does it really have to be like this? Will the university student ever stop being a caffeine addict?
First of all, coffee may not be such a bad thing after all. It has been proven that coffee contains antioxidants that help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, type 2 diabetes, and is even good for heart health. Of course, the main benefit is that caffeine is a stimulant that makes you feel more alert by binding to adenosine receptors in the brain. Recently it has been shown that coffee beats soda as the drink of choice for students.
However, coffee has about 5 times the amount of caffeine than soda, and adding milk and sugar (about 3.5 teaspoons for me, no joke) is bound to be detrimental for your health. Since it takes about 6 hours for caffeine to leave the system, drinking it later on in the day severely interferes with sleep. And If you don’t get enough sleep, you wake up tired and have to consume more caffeine.
Also, habitually drinking coffee results in a new standard for “alertness”, where depriving yourself of coffee produces more adenosine receptors that result in withdrawal symptoms such as headaches. And so the circle of despair continues.
Then how do we beat the coffee addiction?
- You don’t have to quit cold turkey. Having coffee twice a week, or when you’re out with a friend on a Thursday afternoon is perfectly fine. Taking the time to really enjoy coffee as a pleasure is much better than being dependent on it.
- Tea is a magical thing. It still has caffeine but releases it in manageable increments. Getting something really flavorful like “Banana Spice” or “Mango Madness” can really hit the spot.
- If you must have coffee everyday because you absolutely cannot deviate from your normal routine, try decaf. It may taste horrible, but you can’t get everything you want in life.
To be completely honest, the only reason why I lean more towards the anti-coffee side is because I think that we should stop relying on external resources to fix internal problems. In first year I was always the disheveled, jittery girl who showed up to every midterm saying, “I had 6 cups of coffee last night”.
If I had not procrastinated (which is another topic on its own) and studied during my hours of optimal energy, I wouldn’t have been in that mess! Even waking up earlier and not having to rush out the door gives you a sense of control and focus which can then be translated into energy, that has originated out of you.
So the lesson is what you thought: Have coffee in moderation. Embrace coffee because it’s a beautiful thing. Check out a cool coffee place down the street, experiment with different brews. But keep in mind that you don’t really need it, and cutting down a little bit can help you feel liberated!
Who knows, you might even get to enjoy whiter teeth and a few extra bucks!
My journey with blogUT started before I even came to U of T– I found the site over three years ago while frantically researching the school and convincing myself further and further that this was where I was meant to be. When I got my acceptance email I couldn’t wait to learn as much as possible about my new city, school, and home– hence where blogUT comes in.
So in honour of university application season and the fresh crop of future U of T students that will soon be upon us, here are some of my favourite pieces that blogUT has ever published. Enjoy this (re)introduction to your school and city.