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That'll Be a 40 Minute Wait: Hoagie Station, Scotty Bons, Haifa Room

By: Eklectish Toronto

The Toronto food scene is incredibly diverse, and arguably the best in North America. However, it is also susceptible to fads propagated by lazy blogs. This means the biggest compliment you can get from a Torontian is for them to be a repeat customer. We’ll be exploring the city with a rating system that uncovers which restaurants are one-offs and those which should become an institution.

Rating Description
Five Star The speechless lean-back
Four Star We’ll be back
Three Star Good, but unlikely to return
Two Star Something forgettable
One Star “You WON’T believe what Toronto JUST got”
(AKA: beware at all costs)

The last few months have been a celebration of the best local restaurants in Toronto’s Annex and St. Lawrence areas. During another pandemic lockdown we felt it was best to shine a light on the locations that deserved your business during tough times. However, we don’t want readers to get the idea that this series is too optimistic or generous with its ratings, so this month we’re going back to basics. These spots are all places we tried for the first time, and we are judging whether they deserve a return or not. Enjoy!

Hoagie Station

495 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1Y2

Website not complete - check out their online menu

Rating - ★

This review was really difficult to write. A new hoagie spot opened in the Annex and the boys were ready to fall in love. But it only took a few bites to realize that this wasn’t meant to be. We all ordered different items (the classic Italian OG Hoagie, Italian Spicy, Vegetarian Hoagie), and each of us were highly disappointed to the point where we couldn’t even finish the sandwich. First off, the bread was drenched in olive oil. And I mean drenched. Each bite produced a steady drip of oil onto the plate, though luckily not on our clothes (you’ve been warned). We aren’t sure if this was a mistake, or was intentionally done to gloss over the mediocre bread. The meat didn’t produce any confidence either, contributing to an overall poor sandwich experience. I empathize with how difficult it must be to open a business, especially in these times. I wish this place nothing but success, and hope they can get there by improving their sandwiches. The Annex deserves a good hoagie spot, and hopefully Hoagie Station can become that. Right now however, it is not up to the task.

Scotty Bons Caribbean Grill

402 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1X5

Rating - ★★★

This three star review comes with a major caveat - we have returned to Scotty Bons multiple times. Perhaps this has revealed a flaw in our rating system, but we think our logic makes sense. The primary reason for our repeated visits to Scotty Bons is based on value. A jerk or BBQ chicken bowl will run you $13, but with unlimited choices of a wide list of toppings, a normal plate becomes a generous feast that is hard to finish in one sitting. When you’re hungry on a Sunday after an expensive weekend, but still want to indulge one last time before the weekend ends, it’s hard to say no to a massive Scotty Bons plate. The reason we could not give it 4 stars however, is that the taste is not good enough to return if prices were slightly higher. The quality of ingredients is high and you will enjoy the meal, but it is not the kind of dish that will leave you craving it while sitting at your desk during a boring work day. We’ve been told by Caribbean friends that the best restaurants cannot be found downtown, and they are probably right. But if you want some of that Caribbean flavour for a very reasonable price, try Scotty Bons - just don’t expect it to become your new favourite.

The Haifa Room

224 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J 2Z9

Rating - ★★★

The Haifa Room originated as a window for pickup food, setting up shop during the throes of the pandemic. It has since evolved into a chic-looking Israeli and Palestinian restaurant on the trendy Ossington strip. There is a lot to love about this place - it serves an excellent culture of food that is too often overlooked in Toronto, and the menu is well-crafted. The harmony of the Palestinian and Israeli food at Haifa, overseen by management with both Palestinian and Israeli descent, is wonderful to see from two cultures that are often falsely presented as incompatible. And the food is indeed delicious - we were very pleased with the excellent Palestinian chicken and Sabich (fried eggplant) plates, each served with a melange of tasty Middle Eastern accompaniments such as hummus, cabbage, purple turnips, fries, and pita.

The Haifa Room’s Achilles heel, from our experience, is its service. We waited fifteen minutes for an already empty table to be cleared for us, and were not provided menus for a similar amount of time upon being seated. The server even forgot two appetizers that we ordered (though it must be said, that the portions of the main courses were generous enough that these appetizers were not missed). Their cocktails also left something to be desired, and were fairly expensive for the portion. This is a difficult time for restaurants to hire and retain talent, and the service industry has been struggling. This restaurant still deserves the benefit of the doubt and your patronage, for now, but we certainly hope that things improve as the restaurant industry continues to reopen and find its footing.

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