Marky & Sparky’s

20130618-2448-markysparky-exteriorMarky & Sparky’s is where carnivores go to congregate, and meat lovers have been doing so for over a month now in the west end. It seems Marky & Sparky’s is holding its own against the west side’s resident smokehouse staple: Barque.

BBQ connoisseur, Marky, was a client of Sparky’s from Butcher By Nature across the street for years. Their partnership came together as naturally as pulled pork and poutine. Together, they see to it that your smokehouse needs are satisfied. And, satisfy they do.

20130618-2448-markysparky-ordercounterThe aroma inside this liquor-less Junction eatery is haunting. The smoky scent fills the air, and is invitingly nostalgic; reminiscent of family cookouts, and BBQs gone by.

The small Take-out/Eat-in shop on the corner of Annette & Runnymede cannot seat many. Apart from two tables, a banquette and three chairs, a short row of high top stools lay tucked away beneath an industrial metal counter space.

20130618-2448-markysparky-ribspoutineThe first item on the M&S menu, and the star of the show are the ribs. We walked up to the counter and ordered a half rack of the dry rub baby back ribs ($15). The smoky flavor, and seasonings really shine through when not lathered in sauce. Tender and tasty, I’d recommend them.

20130618-2448-markysparky-pulledporkpoutineProving the old adage that they’re stronger together; united the pulled pork poutine ($9.75) stood, but divided it would fall. The gravy could stand to be less salty. The cheese curds were not the freshest, and would do well to be served at room temperature, as opposed to direct from the fridge. The fries are fine, and the pulled pork is perfection.

The ½ lb beef brisket sandwich ($11) is offered with a variety of sauces like horseradish, Szechuan, or sweet cherry chili. I asked Marky for his reco, and he suggested the chipotle. A tad too overpowered with pepper and spice for my taste, I opted to dip my sandwich in the mild bbq sauce that is readily available on the counter. A spicy bbq version is also up for grabs to accompany your meal.

20130618-2448-markysparky-brisketcloseupA vinaigrette or creamy slaw, or baked beans come with your meal. The vinaigrette slaw is sweet and tangy, in conjunction with a good level of crunch. No soggy cabbage here!

The Ultimate Combo ($60) guarantees a full taste of what Marky & Sparky serve up. I would have liked to sample their wings, or chicken sandwich but I simply hadn’t any more room. Next time, I will snatch me up some onion jam too. And, my sweet tooth rests assured that a fried Mars bar ($4) is just a short walk away.

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For those aiming to dine in, or take out, be sure to arrive well before closing time at 8 p.m. to ensure you get your fleshy fix. The goods go fast!

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Frank’s Pizza House

When Giorgio walks down the street, his kids wonder why people call him Frank. He laughs it off, and tells them not to worry.

FPH

Frank’s Pizza House has been around since 1965, but Frank is no longer behind the counter. Over 20 years ago, the pizza dough was passed on to current owners, the mother and son duo of Maria & Giorgio Taverniti. And, that’s when Giorgio inherited the nickname of Frank. The Tavernitis know not to mess with a good thing, Frank’s was tried and true, and they chose to carry the name over. The pair are nearly always there, serving up orders, and cooking up ooey-gooey goodness fresh to order with the help of a handful of waiters.

Giorgio is instantly likeable. The charming cuisinier is quick to please his patrons. It smells sensational inside, but on a sunny June day, my guest and I sat on the street side patio under a crimson umbrella (hence the reddish hue on the food photos below).

Franks-saladWith quite a selection, it was a task to choose a meal. Who better to help you narrow down your options then the mastermind behind the menu– Giorgio recommends the calamari; it’s pan fried, and breaded to order. Frank’s Salad is a fan favourite, so my guest selected the luscious greens. The balsamic vinaigrette is made in house, and is fantastic. The array of herbs and crunchy legumes make for a flavourful starter.

bruschettaMy appetizer was premeditated. I knew bruschetta was on Frank’s extensive list, and I knew I was going to order a serving. The refreshing spread was nice, and light. These days, bruschetta makers stray from its origins, and add balsamic vinegar and crumble some feta onto the grilled bread. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoy the creative takes on a classic, but it was a smart decision to let the quality of the tomato take centre stage. The back to basics approach is a winner in my books. The oil is first rate, a few subtle herbs and a hint of onion bodes well on this bruschetta.

margheritaMargherita pizzas are a staple at italian restaurants, and it’s beloved by many at Frank’s. With such simple elements, there’s nothing to mask substandard ingredients. Anything other than unadulterated freshness would be easily detected. This pared down pie has nothing to hide. A delightfully thin crust, a generous serving of savoury sauce and topped off with the finest quality cheese: molto buono!

panzerottiMy intentions were good; I ordered a calzone. But, then Mr. Taverniti informed me of their prized offering. Votednumero uno in Toronto are Frank’s panzerottis. Prior to this revelation, I never knew what the difference between a calzone and panzerotti was. For those in the dark like myself, a calzone is a baked pizza turnover, and a panzerotti is a deep fried version of the latter. Filled with melt in your mouth cheese, mushrooms, onions and green peppers, I was sold. For an extra dollar, you get a cup of ol’ Frank’s tomato dipping sauce. While more sauce is never a bad thing, I was happy with the amount of sauce readily available in my panzerotti.

Franks-kitchenAfter a condensed carb intake, we were left unable to fathom the idea of dessert. I’m sure the tiramisu, and tartufo are equally spell binding though.

As we were preparing to leave, a couple walked in and wondered aloud whether Frank was in. They were blown away by Frank’s/Giorgio’s authentic pizza pie, and had to come by for another try. And, you don’t even have to leave your house to experience Frank’s because Giorgio will deliver to your front door.

Buon appetito!

 

Frank’s Pizza House

1352 St Clair Ave W  Toronto, ON M6E 1C4

(416) 654-6554

Twitter: @PizzaFranks

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Top 5 Veggie Joints

Whether, or not you’re a vegetarian, these top o’ the line tasty eateries will wow your senses, and smooth out your waistline* (actual results may vary)*.

Top5Vegfresh

Fresh

When one thinks vegetarian restaurants, the thought of Fresh is not far behind. “Toronto’s original source for modern vegetarian food and made-to-order juice” easily tops our list because aside from creating quality cuisine, the variety will leave you dumbfounded. With countless options and add-ons, it’s no mystery why it’s beloved by Torontonians. The black bean burrito is the stuff of dreams; my dreams anyway. Note: The usage of Torontonians; because eating & drinking healthy alternatives are not sole priorities of vegans & vegetarians out on the town. Look out for the fourth Fresh location this summer.

Top5VegHogTownHogtown Vegan

An oxymoron, and an absolute must try! Satisfy your comfort food cravings the carefree way with all of the indulgence, and none of the guilt. A former meat lover’s fantasy, HV makes it difficult for anyone to miss animal products. The poutine, as well as the mac & “cheese” are divine. Really, they are saintly. Unchicken & Waffles, Phish & Chips, and a multitude of burgers and sandwiches are all moderately priced, and overwhelmingly enjoyed. Weekend brunch promises more bliss, and so does the drink selection– it’s a steal!

Top5VegVegetHaven

Vegetarian Haven

A haven is defined as a place offering favourable opportunities, or conditions. This Baldwin Village resto bears a bold name, but lucky for you the name lives up to the aforementioned statement. A haven is perfectly encompassing for this welcoming sit down. The staff is incredibly warm and charismatic, but that’s not what will keep you coming back– the Asian infused menu will make a regular out of you. Moroccan Pad Thai anyone? The spicy dish is an example of the eclectic mixes that are sure to please your taste buds. Warning: Make sure to save room for dessert!

Top5VegBunners

Bunners

From outside, and even on the inside, this bakery does not look any different from their dairy loving counterparts, and neighbours. When I moved to the Junction, I didn’t even realize it was a completely vegan & gluten-free bakeshop. I enjoyed Creamies, and was unaware of its lack of animal byproducts. What is Creamies you ask? Oh, just two sensational chocolate chip cookies hugging some vanilla frosting. Savoury options are available too: Pizza, Pot Pie & Chickpea Curry pockets are yours for the taking (in exchange for money, of course.) Butter Tarts, Cinnamon Buns, Cakes, etc. are hard to beat at Bunners.

Top5VegPulpKitchen

Pulp Kitchen

Not since Harry Potter has a fractioned address been more magical. Located at 717 1/2 Queen Street East, Pulp Kitchen is far more accessible than Platform 9 3/4 was for Hogwarts attendees. An enchanting list of juices await you inside and select breakfast, lunch and snacks too. After squeezing out elixir after elixir, the good people at Pulp Kitchen close their doors, and rest on Sundays. Be sure to soak in their detoxifying delights from Monday through Friday from 8 – 4 & Saturday 10 – 4.

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The Detox Market

This pop up shop turned permanent store is here to stay (and, thank goodness).
The Detox Market is the first of its kind in Toronto. After a trip to California to visit some friends (friends who own TDM), Naturopathic Doctor Bita Doagoo came back with an idea in mind. It started as a temporary boutique during TIFF, but now there’s no turning back.
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Nestled near the corner of Spadina and King, this natural product haven is a breath of fresh air, literally. Walking through the door, your sense of smell is instantly aroused. Pinpointing what exactly your sniffer is picking up can prove difficult, but all you need to know is that you’ll like it (a lot).
Candles, cotton tees, chocolate, cosmetics & more can be found at the Market. Manager and nutritionist, Laura Townsend showed me around the store. Everyone who works at, and for the store are naturo-professonals.
Rahua is one of Laura’s favourite lines. The hair products are organic, some are gluten-free, but they all come from the Amazon rainforest. After showering with a sample of their shampoo & conditioner that I was graciously given, I can vouch for it’s “magical properties”. Volume in a bottle, this earth friendly alternative gets two thumbs up.
Next up, Odacité might just be Laura’s all time fave product offered at the Market. This made fresh to order skin care line is truly remarkable, and left my skin feeling soft, even after a one time day and night application. Thankfully, I have a little extra.
Vamp à NY is the best selling perfume among a sizeable selection of sprays. A bottle will run you $98, and it comes in a cute, collectible New York style coffee cup. A collection of nail polish remover bottles excited me, because I’ve longed for a non-toxic solution to remove the coloured coats on my cuticles. Unfortunately, the remover works only with water based polishes which are conveniently located next to the rows of water based nail polish in an array of colours; but it means little to nothing for the plethora of polishes I already own.

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Price points vary at this trendy emporium, but when it comes to your epidermis, you’re worth every penny (or, nickel since pennies are soon to be extinct). An impressive wall dedicated to tea is sure to delight, as well. A constant stream of Detox infused with green tea & lemongrass is yours to sample. The Detox Market has teamed up with Belmonte Raw; a juicing co. in Leslieville, and they also provide TDM with veganlicious meals.

The beneficial brands are alluring, but my eye was also caught by the Hello Berry bracelet I am now the proud owner of ($30). Fair priced, and all so adorable, Hello Berry is the local company being featured at TDM. More in the way of showcasing Toronto talent are in the works for the shop. A bustling yoga studio sits atop TDM, and the Market’s aim is to utilize both spaces for seminars and wellness programs, etc. So, go ahead, and detoxify your life.
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Top 5 NYE Extravaganzas

Given the world didn’t end a la Mayan Calendar conundrum, plan a night to remember and ring in 2013 in style; whatever your style is.

nyemask6Masked Avengers

Should auld acquaintance be forgot? In memoriam of Gossip Girl, throw yourself an outrageous Upper East Sider a la scandalous TV series. Or, head to Toronto’s upper east side for some masquerade fun at Yorkville’s Club V. Come for the free mask, stay for the midnight champagne toast (F.Y.I.: FREE masquerade masks for the first 400 people). Completing the Gossip Girl/NYC experience is the live countdown from Manhattan’s Times Square.

Bloor-Hot-Docs-cinema-320x213Bowl the night away

In complete contrast to a girlie Gossip Girl evening, this one’s more guy-centric, and aptly named THE DUDE’S NEW YEAR’S: THE BIG LEBOWSKI. Usher in the new year with a screening of the Coen Bros’ cult classic at Bloor Cinema. A Lebowski-themed party, filled with White Russians, AND bowling await you.

Skyfall_11_hLet the sky fall

Celebrate the 23rd Bond story, and have a Skyfall soiree in honour of the longest-running film franchise in history. Here’s hoping your party is a smashing successful like this film was at the box office this year. The heavily anticipated installment in the bond series drips with luxury, and sets the tone for an evening of extravagance. Tell your agents to come dressed as Bond, James Bond, or one of the many bodacious Bond girls. Naturally, you’ll serve shaken, not stirred vodka martinis while Adele sings in the background.

Side effect: Your get-together will get everyone geared up for TIFF Bell Lightbox’s Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style which debuts in January. It’s only the largest and most comprehensive exhibit dedicated to the British spy.

nye4MackHouseHogmanay!

Mackenzie House (AKA the home turned museum of William Lyon Mackenzie: TO’s first Mayor) is hosting a Hogmanay! You know, the Scottish word for the last day of the year, and the celebration of the new year? It’s perfect seeing as Scotsman Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne is synonymous with NYE. Traditional Scottish music, food and festivities are yours to enjoy by candlelight.

P.S.: Pre-registration is required.

cake5Cake, Cake, Cake, Cake

Have your cake and drink it too. With a wide selection of sweet (& cheap) drinks to choose from, it doesn’t have to be your birthday to take advantage of these deals. Cake has some calorie-rich group rates that should not be over-looked, including mixers, party favours, cake platters, and much more!

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