Divino’s never managed to fill Terroni’s shoes

Divino Pizza

Sorry, I've never developed a taste for chicken pizza

After perennially-packed Terroni moved out in late 2010, Divino moved in in early 2011. But the newcomer has never managed to fill Terroni’s very large  shoes and whenever I go there — mostly to pick up takeout — I wonder how much longer Divino can hang on.

Divino definitely has some good dishes — the casareccia with homemade spicy italian sausage, garlic, rapini and red peppers is a personal favourite — but it’s not something I want to eat all the time. So why did they take the angel hair with lobster off the menu just when I was getting addicted? And do they really think that the lobsterless linguine di mare that has replaced it will make us forget what came before?

Along with its shifting menu and lack of white pizzas, Divino also has a service problem. Wait staff are friendly, but they’re not particularly efficient and meals, no matter what time of day, take much longer than they should. Even when we were the first arrivals for the newly revived brunch, we waited forever just for coffee. Yes, it was a nice bagel with lox and cream cheese, but I could have assembled things faster at home and that’s including a trip to Montreal Bagel to buy the ingredients.

If  Divino’s going to succeed, they’re going to need to staff up properly, find a menu that works for them and then quit changing it. Oh yes, they could also add a few killer desserts, which neither Terroni nor any of the other neighbourhood Italian joints do particularly well.

Divino Italian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

The Monk’s Table: Don’t take that poverty vow if you want to hang here

The Monk's Table on Yonge St.

Everybody would be happy to know your name

The Monk’s Table is one of those places where you get the feeling that everyone is trying very hard to be a regular, even if they’ve only really been here two or three times before.

In theory, the Monk’s Table should be great. The food is supposed to be way better than the average pub fare (a reputation earned in the days when this was still the Abbot on the Hill), it’s a good space if a tad cramped, and the staff are chatty enough that they reinforce the feeling you could easily become a regular. But there’s a problem and it’s this: Once you leave, the whole experience becomes eminently forgettable, not to mention that you spent more than you bargained for. In short, you don’t care if you ever go back or if you become a regular.

This is not to say that the burgers and the curries aren’t decent. And items like crème brulée pâte do indeed zing up the menu not to mention sticky toffee pudding for dessert. But, compared to Wylie’s down the street, it’s far more expensive and not really worth the price premium. In short, it’s hard to get by on a monk’s stipend here, which might explain why they’re always auditioning regulars who eventually decide they’re not cut out for the Monk life.

The Monk's Table on Urbanspoon

Harry’s Social Kitchen: Why oh why isn’t it what I wanted it to be?

Bang bang shrimp at Harry's Social Kitchen

Another Harry misfire: Bang bang shrimp ($13) are tasty enough, but too much (cost and portion) for an appetizer and too little for a meal

Yonge and St. Clair is way overpopulated with sushi joints and Italian restaurants. We desperately need a diner or a Lady Marmalade or a Rushton, but it seems we’re not indy enough or the rents are too high or both, which means, instead, we got Harry’s Social Kitchen.

Maybe I’m bitter because I had high hopes for Harry, that there would be comfort food and cocktails for not unreasonable prices, that it would serve a great weekend brunch and that it would be a fun place to hang out. Alas, those dreams have been quashed. Harry is stingy on the tuna and cod, serves frozen fries, calls his sandwiches “handhelds,” doesn’t do Saturday brunch, and, as of late, has been completely closed on Sundays.

I do give Harry’s credit for trying but after six months, it doesn’t appear to have hit its stride and I’m wondering if it will even be able to survive much longer.

Won’t someone please give us the restaurant we need?

Harry's Social Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Holy Chuck: Average burgers with interesting but pricey shakes and sides

The Holy Chuck signature burger

The Holy Chuck is ithe signature burger

Call me old fashioned, but when a burger, fries and shake get up into the $20 range, I expect either a little bit of atmosphere or an extraordinary eating experience. Given that Holy Chuck, the new(ish) burger joint at Yonge and St. Clair is a classic flourescent-lit, order-at-the-cash-and-eat-in-an-uncomfortable-chair-at-a-table-that-may-or-may-not-have-been-wiped-clean type of place, the onus was on the food to turn in a spectacular performance. All it managed was a “meh.”

To save room for the other stuff, I chose the Jr. Cheeseburger (all dressed, hold-the-hot-peppers) for $5.99. It was fine but my tastebuds couldn’t tell that the meat had been ground on the spot.  When I saw the $4.29 price tag for the sweet potato chips, I thought twice about ordering them but then caved. They were good enough that I had them on their own a week or two later only to be disappointed when they arrived slightly soggy.

If you choose the cheaper French fries at $3.29, know that they’re seasoned with thyme, a practice I disapprove since, at best, it does nothing to improve the fry experience and, at worst, it detracts from it.

Holy Chuck’s crazy milk shake flavours seem tailor made for a bucket list, but after trying the Reese’s Pieces and Banana, and the Bacon, Fudge and  Sea Salt, I no longer feel that I’ll have to return to sample the Peanut Butter and Jelly and Grandma’s Apple Pie. At $5.49 each, that $11, I can spend at Greg’s.

What else do you need to know? My teenaged eating companion really likes the Holy Chuck signature double cheeseburger with caramelized onions, which at $9.99, she should. And she’s a fan of the deep fried Twinkie, not the shakes, when she wants something sweet.

Here’s the entire Holy chuck menu.

Holy Chuck on Urbanspoon

Best Dry Cleaner and Tailor at Yonge and St. Clair

My Tailor Alterations and Dry Cleaning (mysteriously listed in the phone book as My Taylor) is hands down the best and the cheapest in the neighbourhood. The epitome of a Mom and Pop shop, they scrutinize every item you take in and will phone you up if there’s anything that could possibly go wrong.

“Pop” runs the sewing machine and he’ll fix your leather purse for you on the fly or take up your jeans in a hurry if you ask nicely. “Mom” is in charge of the dry cleaning and the expert in stain treatment.

The only caveat I have about this place is the hours. They’re not open first thing in the morning, which can occasionally pose a problem. Apart from that, I love them.

1394 Yonge St. (south of St. Clair)