As is the case lately, Merwin messaged me something random and my reply was “dude I’m hungry, let’s get lunch.” Yes at nearly 32 years old and it being 2012 the word “dude” leaves my mouth far more than it should. I’d actually been to the Thirsty Cactus 2 years ago (might be 3 years?) with Kathryn & Co. and had a very lasting memory of a Quesadilla that I wish I’d ordered. I wanted that Quesadilla and was going to have it one way or another. The Thirsty Cactus essentially does TexMex but pub style. For me that means spice and I’m about to get my cheese on.
Their patio had literally just opened that day and we were the first ones to use it. Merwin saw a HUGE Marvel Comics billboard, resulting in me explaining who Iron Fist was.
This just got really nerdy.
Anyway their web site is under re-construction so I’m going with prices from mem…or…y? OH GOD!
They start the ball rolling with a complimentary bowl of nachos and cheese. It’s nothing special, just movie theater fare. BTW someone help me out with this because I never buy nachos at the movies. Do they still do that thing where they give you 2 hot plastic pouches of cheese that you have to pour yourself? I asked a co-worker about this a few days ago (riveting conversation obviously) and he wasn’t sure either.
5 Layer Dip – $10
Get a spoon because this is not your average dip. The dip is layered with ground beef, refried beans, guacamole, salsa, and cheese. If you count the sour cream I guess it’s 6 layers? In any case, this was fantastic. Merwin and I both noted that this worked far better with the fried pita than the nachos. The chips were simply too thin to handle the sheer girth of the dip. It’s layered really well as they basically go hottest to coldest from bottom to top. It’s not like I took measurements but I’d venture to guess there were more beans than any other component and that hurt the other flavours just a bit.
Grilled Chicken Quesadilla – $11
The Thirsty Cactus does not mess around when it comes to their portions. This thing was a BEAST! I was surprised when I noted it didn’t come with a side. Then it arrived and it all made perfect sense. This was loaded up with chopped veggies, large slices of chicken and more cheese than I could handle. Some people may think less of me but I could only eat half of this thing before I was KO’d. The cheese was simply too much and completely lived up to my memory of seeing my friend eat this very dish a couple years back.
Rancheros Burrito – $10
When I saw the server put Merwin’s plate down I was dumbfounded by the size of the burrito. Then he cut it open and I burst laughing. This thing was overloaded. This particular item was on their Express Lunch Menu. A burrito that huge and a side for $10 is a total trip to Valuetown. Merwin said it tasted great but like the dip found the beans a little too much. Much like me, he could only get through half of his lunch. Despite great taste, it’s simply too much food.
We are not men. =(
If you’re in Dundas and looking for great tasting Pub food with a TexMex twist, you’ve got to pop into The Thirsty Cactus. Do yourself a favour and come hungry though, you’re going to need all the room you can muster to finish a full meal.
Last week the stars aligned and I got to have dinner with Casey, Sarah, Lily & Victoria in Toronto. With the summer upon us, I plan to branch out a lot more in terms of restaurants to try out. Casey had mentioned he was a big fan of Morgan’s On The Danforth. I’m rarely on the east end of Toronto so it was a perfect opportunity to give this place a try.
Casey spotted this sign. Of course there was no way the two men of the group were going to pass up a beer with such a ridiculous name. I try to keep my beer on the lighter end of the spectrum. This tasted great. It was very light and had a fruity citrus taste to it. This kind of beer would be dangerous on a hot summer on the patio between the easy taste and the greater alcohol content.
Calamari – $12
I always feel like Calamari is a gamble. More often than not it’s either over battered with all the flavour being shot or it’s under battered + undercooked and turns into this chewy mess. Morgan’s On The Danforth did a great job finding the happy middle ground. It was just the right amount of batter. They used a Citrus Aioli that complimented the calamari really well. As a heads up, the dish isn’t that large so if you have a group of say 6 or more it’d be in your best interest to order two dishes.
Roasted Game Hen – $22
I was split between this dish and one other when I first looked at the menu online. I’ve actually never had Hen before. The Hen itself was amazing. My dish came last and it was served extremely hot. The skin had a fine crispness to it. The Hen itself was thick and really juicy. The Celeriac Mashed Potatoes left something to be desired. While the Hen was piping hot, the potatoes were lukewarm. I would suspect it was prepared and then left waiting for the Hen to finish. It’s a shame because at relatively the same temp I would have enjoyed it far more. I did enjoyed the diced bacon in the potatoes. You can’t go wrong with bacon.
Coconut Chicken Curry – $18
This was the other item that caught my eye. Victoria ordered this. The first thing the entire table noticed when this arrived was how good it smelled. I can’t even begin to describe how much I wanted to eat it after the strong curry aroma hit the table. UGH I WANT IT RIGHT NOW! Yikes… anyway I liked how the pappadums essentially shelled the chicken & vegetables inside. Victoria said she really enjoyed this. Thank goodness as I’d have been really disappointed to have a smell that great and the taste didn’t live up to the hype. No doubt in my mind I’m ordering this if/when I go back.
Wild Boar Tagliatelle – $19
This was another dish that had a great smell to it and looked fantastic when it arrived. Lily said she enjoyed it. I should have scummed some off of her. I’ve never had pasta with a Boar Bolognese before.
Unfortunately I don’t have a shot of The Double Smoke Burger that Casey & Sarah ordered. Both Casey and I took photos but the lighting was really poor and none of the pics would do it justice. It should be noted those burgers are the reason Casey & Sarah keep coming back though. He was raving about how good it was coming up to dinner and was (as per usual) very happy with his burger. Sorry about that one.
I was very happy with my first visit to Morgan’s On The Danforth. My dish lived up to expectations and between other amazing sights and smells I have no doubt I’ll be back sometime. If you’re on the east end (Danforth smack in the middle between Donlands and Coxwell) you’d be well served to pop in for some great food.
The first time I set foot in Chucks Burger Bar, I made conversation with a cute blonde girl (what a surprise). We were talking about how great the food was and she asked if I’d ever been to The Harbour Diner before. I told her no and she explained that if I wanted to find really good comfort food that I should make time to go. She then pimped out their Lobster Macaroni & Cheese like it was the greatest thing she’d ever eaten and I was sold. My visit was put on the back burner until yesterday when I hit it up with Marie for dinner.
I checked out their web site earlier in the day and it was made clear to make a reservation before coming. When we arrived I could understand why. The place was completely full. Including the bar stools, I’d say The Harbour Diner seats 30 people maximum. Looking around it feels like you’re being seated in your Grandmother’s kitchen. In fact Marie noted that her Nonna had identical chairs at her place. It puts you in the kind of comfort zone you get when you’re home. Our server Kassie was very pleasant and helpful over the course of the evening. She went through an assortment of specials with us. I already knew what I wanted based on an episode of You Gotta Eat Here.
Ridiculous Cheese Bread $8
Marie and I were split on whether to get Nachos or try the bread. I’m glad we went with this choice. This bread was fantastic. The calabrese, typically a tough bread, was very light and crisp. The cheese was thick and melty and brushed with garlic butter. It had a slight tang at the end of the bite and after a bit of interrogating I found out they brush the bottom with just a little blue cheese mayo. It all came together so well. If/when I return, this’ll definitely be ordered again.
Potato Wedges – $5
While the bread blew me away, the wedges were disappointing. I’d like to think we just got a bad batch as the cooking was very uneven. Some tasted right on the money with a crisp coating and a nicely cooked potato. Others felt completely undercooked. I doused them in black pepper (Marie and I are both pepper fans) but they couldn’t be salvaged. The wedges are typically a side dish with various items on the menu but I’d explore other options.
Harbour Diner Meatloaf – $12
Now this is what truly sold me on The Harbour Diner. I’d seen this dish on You Gotta Eat Here. I don’t typically eat Meatloaf. It’s not exactly a staple of a Caribbean household. On the few occasions I have had it, it’s been disappointing. This was anything but. I’d built so much hype in my mind for this dish and it met all expectations. The meatloaf itself was cooked perfectly. The mashed potatoes had just a hint of garlic in them and were very light. The real kicker to this dish though was the Peppercorn Gravy. My God was that gravy delicious. It complimented the meatloaf so well. I honestly couldn’t get enough of it. The photo may not even do justice to the sheer size of this dish. It was a BEAST! I came in very hungry having skipped lunch and could barely finish it.
Buffalo Chicken Sandwich – $9
Marie got the sandwich and said she was really happy with it. We couldn’t figure out what they do with their Buffalo Sauce. It was spicy but didn’t have the typically thinner consistency you’d get with hot sauce. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say it was more akin to the sauce in a Butter Chicken dish. I took a bite and the chicken was thick and juicy. The hot sauce didn’t have an immediate impact but felt like little shots at my tongue when the after taste kicked in. I passed on the Coleslaw but Marie said she enjoyed it.
OK side story
We arrived at what I would consider to be the “first dinner rush” at 6:30pm. After finishing up dinner, Marie checked her phone and saw that Chris had commented on her Places Check In. He lives very close by and we invited him to join us for dessert. The place was relatively quiet and we figured we’d just add him to our table. Well that got wacky quick. A second rush came in around 7:30pm. The table that was empty since we got there was now occupied. I wasn’t sure what to do. I was going to ask two girls behind us if we could switch tables as they occupied a table for 4. Our server asked me not to go down that road though. I had to suck it up and call Chris back saying I made an error and we couldn’t have him for dessert. I called and and explained how I dropped the ball. Mid call, out of nowhere, the couple that sat down beside us offered to give up their table. To say I was surprised and well… dumbfounded would be an engrossing understatement. The place, after the second rush, was completely full. Never have I come across anyone who’d be willing to give up their table in a full restaurant to complete strangers. “It’s cool man, we’re going to take a walk and come back in a little while.” WOW! The guy got up, explained what’s up to our server and the couple bounced for 15 minutes before coming back to a table. Writing this now, I still can’t get over the level of generosity two complete strangers sent our way. I kept shaking my head and smiling last night and I’m doing it again as I write this. There really are great people in this world.
Desserts – $4 + $1 for whip cream or ice cream scoop
The Harbour Diner‘s desserts change daily. They had around 6 pie choices and this amazing Chocolate Pear Tart. It wasn’t overloaded with Pears, which was fine by me. The tart was thick but didn’t feel heavy or dense. I really enjoyed the whip cream. I’m finding more and more that good whip cream is hard to come by (hi Dana). Marie and Chris both ordered the Peach Raspberry Pie. Chris got Ice Cream but I forgot to ask him if he found it made a big difference over whip cream.
I really enjoyed my experience at The Harbour Diner. The service was on the ball and friendly. The food was mostly (sorry potato wedges) top notch. The portions were great, especially at the price point. If you’re in Hamilton, I’d highly recommend this restaurant. Do yourself a favour though and make a reservation.
Last night I saw a tweet from Norman stating that Evolution looked to be reaching capacity this year. For those of you not in the competitive gaming scene, the Evolution Tournament is essentially considered the World Championships of Fighting Games. I was really happy to see a tournament that had grown from a small arcade 12 years ago in California into a major event drawing thousands of people from across the globe to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. I headed over to Shoryuken to read all about this great news and offer congratulations. What I found was not a post about capacity, but a slap in the face to the patrons that have helped grow this event into what it is.
Evo 2012 Registration Changes
On Sunday, the day of all the tournament finals, we will require an attendee badge to enter the main ballroom. To purchase an attendee badge, head to evo.shoryuken.com. If you’re already registered to compete at Evo, you will get a badge, so don’t worry.
If you’re not playing in any of the tournaments and want to get into the main ballroom on Sunday, you still need to buy an attendee pass. With your pass you’ll also get an Evo T-Shirt.
I sat there a little bewildered. I’ve been to the Evolution Tournament 3 straight years. It’s a standard vacation spot as I get to hit up Las Vegas for a week and get my nerd on with friends that I only get to see once per year. I’ve sat in the Augustus Ballroom at Caesars Palace with thousands of other players watching the finals. That is a MASSIVE room. In fact it’s so massive, that despite record numbers in attendance, the room itself is only filled 2/3 of capacity. I believe the average attendance for Evolution is anywhere between 2000 – 2500 people (not players, people). A quick check of the capacity of the room says it holds 3630. Now then, with all that said I can also tell you one thing. In 3 years, with the competitive scene in it’s biggest boom period since the “Golden Age” in the early 90′s there has ALWAYS BEEN ROOM! Players will sit on chairs, they will sit on the floor (not in the aisles though, that’s a fire code violation), they will stand along the walls, they will put their girlfriends on their shoulders, they will do anything and everything they can to watch.
The Evolution Series would now have every person, both player and spectator alike, pay to watch the finals of the tournament. It’s not listed on their post what the cost would be. You’d think to yourself “it can’t be that bad right?”
They want every single person to spend an additional $50 to get a piece of plastic (and a T-Shirt. YEAAAAAH!) to watch the finals.
Ladies & Gentlemen; welcome to the World Championships of Cash Grabbing.
See the players don’t really give a shit about that. They’ve already paid $50 to register and an additional $10 to enter each game they’ve been practicing over the last year. Thing is though, the Evolution tournament isn’t just marketed to players. They want you to bring your families. They want you to bring your children. They want you to bring your girlfriend or boyfriend. COME TO LAS VEGAS! IT’S A VACATION! Oh but wait…
You’ve got a girlfriend/Wife/Husband? That’ll be $50!
You’ve got a child? That’ll be $50. TWO KIDS?! WONDERFUL! $100 please
Justin, you’re being harsh. It’s just a venue fee. Everyone pays it. BZZZZ! WRONG! See there’s a major difference between a venue fee and this bold faced cash grab. The former would have allowed all parties the opportunity to account for the potential excess spending and make an INFORMED DECISION before the PLAYERS registered for the event. You know what stings after dropping $50 to play video games? SPENDING ANOTHER FIFTY DOLLARS! If you’re up front saying there’s an incremental increase in fees based on bringing extra parties, it acts as a means of dissuading people from attending the event. $50 may not seem like much to the single guy living at home. $50 means a hell of a lot more to the couple that are getting by and saving for a vacation. It definitely means something to the family that budget to go to Vegas as their vacation spot. So the organizers don’t tell you up front. They know it could cut into revenue if they tell the players there’s going to be more spending involved so they wait until their “early bird special” is almost about to end.
Side note: the “early bird” price is $50. If you don’t register for the event by mid may, the fee goes up to $70. WEEEEEE! EVERYONE SPEND!
The deadline of course is genius because a ton of time is spent telling people “get in before the deadline.” They know they’ve got you by the balls at that point because like cattle being herded, everyone has been locked in the pen and can’t get out after spending money to beat the deadline. So what do you do now? You can’t just leave your significant other or family out while you watch the finals. That’d be social suicide. So you bite the bullet, drop $50 or $70 just to get a seat at the general admission mess of all messes that is the Evolution Top 8.
Oh you thought it wasn’t a free for all trying to find a seat after spending extra money just to watch the show? HAHA! FOOL!
Well Justin this is to ensure that all the players get to watch the show. We can’t have all these free loading assholes taking up valueable real estate. Hey I totally agree with that argument. Too bad the reality is that isn’t the case. The PLAYERS should get first priority on seating. The ORGANIZERS should have contingencies in place to ensure that happens. Then and ONLY THEN after accounting for all players, as per their own statement, should the rest of the seating be sold to spectators. The players had to pay $50 or $70 regardless to enter. They’ve already sunk that money. You prioritize the seating, everyone gets paid and then you don’t have to GOUGE the people that just wanted to either watch the event or support their sifnificant other or mother/father on the biggest gaming state of them all. The current system does NOTHING to ensure the players get to watch the event. It’s the same race to a random seat it always was. Now everyone just has a badge around their neck. Yeah… that did a whole lot to ensure the players got to see the show.
So now everyone learns a hard lesson this year. The Evolution Series is no longer about the players. It’s about maximizing money in any way, shape, or form you can. The patrons this year get bent over and have to take it. Next year though, everyone will be going into this event with open eyes. They’ll be open and they’ll be pissed. Every person left bitter about extra spending this year may not be as happy to return next year. Maybe it’s the player choice. Maybe their girlfriend/wife is in their ear reminding them. The bottom line though is they’ll remember. The extra money made this year on what amounts to a last minute cash grab is money that may not be spent next year on principle. The organizers will try to spin it one way or another but in the end it isn’t to ensure the players see the show, it isn’t a venue fee.
It’s a cash grab.
I saw a post from Kitestring a couple weeks back talking about a big Food Truck Rally coming to Hamilton. I’m a huge fan of Food Trucks. The idea of a mobile restaurant is so smart. I’ve watched every episode of Eat St (you should do the same) and I’m looking forward to their 3rd season starting May 9th. Of course the key to it all is having high standards for your food at a street vendor price. The trucks at last Fridays event did just that.
For the mostpart…
Before I get started, I’d just like to say I’m going to smack Chris for finishing his Pulled Pork Parfait just as I arrived, enlightening me to how good it was, and then showing me the longest line of any Food Truck at Sew Hungry to get my hands on it.
I was joined by the one and only Merwin. Thank God because stuffing my face solo is next level sad face.
We hit up Wood Fired Pizza first. We both wanted something familiar to get the ball rolling before trying out another spot or two. The line up was manageable and the staff was working like mofos. I felt sorry for this poor man working that oven. I got a slice with Bacon, Red Onion and Hot Peppers. Merwin elected for a vegetarian.
I’ll be straight up in saying my pizza was pretty chaunced. The underside crossed over from very crisp to charred before it was taken out and it made a world of difference when I got that first bite. I couldn’t taste any bacon whatsoever despite it being integral to the name of the slice. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the underside being so burned but the crust still being too doughy. Merwin said his vegetarian had a good amount of feta and he was happy with the slice. I’ll assume I just ran bad on that particular slice and move along.
A little further down the street we found El Gastronomo Vagabundo. I saw the name and told Merwin “that name is getting my money.” He wasn’t up for what was on the menu but it was go time for me. The Biltong Tacos were fantastic. They used a double cooked Pork Belly with Jalapeno Aioli and topped it with Quickled Cabbage. I’m not typically one for Cabbage but it worked really well here. I LOVED the Pork Belly. It was crispy but at no point felt dry. The Aioli was good but I tasted zero spice. I’m convinced if it isn’t Scotch Bonnet or worse, I can’t taste heat anymore. I really enjoyed this.
Our last stop was The Blue Donkey. Again, like a 4 year old child, I was drawn to the truck based on name alone. The logo helped too. Merwin and I had hit up Sotiris a couple weeks back and ever since I’ve been more open to trying Greek oriented food. I must admit if I got here at the start of the day, this would have been the only food I ate. The portions were ridiculous. I got the Spicy Sausage Pita with Tomato, Onion, Tzatziki, Trinidad Hot Sauce (what does that even mean?) and French Fries. This was a giant mess of a Pita. I was a little turned off over it just being a chopped Sausage. I kept thinking it’d be diced up. It was a little overcooked for my liking. I don’t mind charbroiled as long as it isn’t dried out. I still don’t know what Trinidad Hot Sauce is, but if it’s “sauce I can’t taste” then that’d be the best description. I’m sure it was there but the Tzatsiki overpowered it. The fries at the bottom added way too much density to an already thick pita. It felt like an unnecessary novelty add on. I’d say it was OK but I’d never order it again. Merwin got the Chicago Gyros Pita. Unlike myself, he was thoroughly impressed with what he got. There was no “hot sauce” in his but all other toppings were the same. I also got Feta Fries, which is exactly what you’d figure. Sadly, the fries were grossly undercooked. I tried to stick a fork in them and they’d just crumble. I ate exactly 3 of them before giving away the entire container to a couple of really pleasant ladies who were also waiting for their food. They didn’t mind the folks being useless and said it’d be “messy hand food” and dove in. More power to you.
The festival/event itself was a lot of fun. I ran into a few friends I haven’t seen in a while. The atmosphere was really upbeat and friendly. I spent almost as much time talking with complete strangers as I did with Merwin over the course of a couple hours. The food was hit or miss but I didn’t really mind. It’s more about the event and a great sense of community from people not just from Hamilton but surrounding areas. I’m looking forward to attending again next year.
When I moved out on my own 7 years ago, calling the research process a pain would have been an understatement. All I really had to go on was price and location of the new place. I remember taking addresses, dumping them into Google Maps and then asking my friends who lived in Hamilton what the area looked like. After a couple of times, my questions weren’t just riding on my nerves but theirs as well. Having an all in one solution would have been great back in 2005. Thankfully a lot has changed in that small amount of time. That is very much evidenced with RentCompass. While this company has already produced iOS applications native to iPhone and iPad, I’ll be looking at the Facebook application specifically.
The default view takes you to a map of Southern Ontario. A form on the right side allows for basic search criteria to narrow down parameters. The map essentially adjusts on the fly as you add more criteria. I put in what I’d be looking for if I were to move today and ended up with this search area. Locations are conveniently listed by apartment or house overlaid on a Google Map. Just a heads up that if you’re used to using your Scroll Wheel for zoom in/out it doesn’t work. It will scroll you up or down the map. At first I thought there was no zoom feature until double clicking on a location. I think I spend too much time on Google Maps. In any case, the map is easy to navigate and listings are loaded quickly. All listings jump to a detailed listing, which I’ll touch on later.
The list view is just that. It has the basic information for each listing based on the criteria laid out in either Map or List mode. Every listing is linked up to more details with options to favourite any listings you want to revisit. It holds the favourites in the top right corner for either review or printing. I was a big fan of the Google Map on the right side of List Mode. You can manipulate the map and the list mode will adjust on the fly depending on what you’re looking at.
While the general search tools struck me as standard fare, the detailed listing view was anything but. I loved the work that was put into this aspect of the app. I was especially impressed with the pulling of Google Street View for the address listed. It instantly reminded me of asking friends for impressions of the neighborhood. Street View has full functionality just like the standard view through Google Maps. I was also a big fan of the Amenity View. It’s one thing to write “close to a grocery store.” It’s another to have a comprehensive listing of everything you could need in the area. It’s a small addition that makes a major difference. As for the listing themselves, each one can be shared through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or Digg. I was a little disappointed to see a MySpace link but no Google Plus. I found the pictures used in detail view a little blurred. I’m not sure if it’s a compression issue to save on load times or the original photos weren’t well taken. I noticed this on multiple listings.
I cross referenced listings on RentCompass with Kijiji and Craigslist. While listings are relatively up to date, they’re definitely not complete. I saw listings going back upwards of a week on both sites that weren’t listed in the app. I don’t know how the database is constructed or where it pulls information from. However, it’s best to know while you’ll have the majority of listing options, not all listings are housed here.
A few things struck me as ood:
- I didn’t see a means of sorting by price from cheapest to most expensive or vice versa. I know that’s a major criteria for a lot of renters, especially younger people on a budget.
- List View doesn’t always lump together listings by street. You may end up missing a listing if you’re not careful.
- Map view tends to glitch when you get down to near street level stating no listings are available while there clearly are listing in sight.
At present I think this is a slick application with a lot of promise. The issues I’ve touched on can be tweaked on the back end with relative ease. I was very impressed with the way maps handled search criteria and was especially impressed with the detailed view. The Street View literally got a “wow” out of me when it first loaded. If you’re in the market for a new place, RentCompass Facebook Tool is definitely a tool worth exploring.