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Neighbourhood Guide: Lawrence Avenue East (Wexford Heights) Part 1


Home to an incredible variety of food

When I'm hosting my food tours I love questions from my guests. It means they are interested and engaged. One of the most common questions I get is what is my favourite neighbourhood to eat in. It's an easy one for me. The stretch of Lawrence Avenue East between Victoria Park and Birchmount, also known as Wexford Heights, has an incredible array of food from all corners of the globe. It's diverse, it's delicious and you get a lot of value for your dollar. It's also very close to the area of Scarborough I grew up in so I have 30+ years of eating experience here!


This is such a densely packed area of restaurants that I'll split it up into two posts. In this Post I'll take a look at my favourites from just west of Warden to Birchmount. In a future post I'll tackle the rest of the strip West to Victoria Park.

Pili Pili

1960 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1R 2Z1

www.pili-pili.ca


This popular take out spot (named after the hot pepper that is native to East Africa) specializes in Tanzanian BBQ, making it one of the more unique options in the area. Try the Mishkaki, cubed marinated chicken or beef that is marinated for 48 hours before being grilled, or their whole chicken, which gets a similar treatment before being grilled. If you ask me the star of the show is their ribs. Beef short ribs cut to a perfect thickness and then finished with their special blend of spices. Absolutely amazing!

Perfectly seasoned Pili Pili Ribs & Mogo

As an added bonus you can also buy any of their raw, marinated meat options to take home and grill yourself. They include their special basting sauce and spice rub along with instructions to help you best recreate the Pili Pili magic at home.


Check out their BLOG for occasional weekend specials.

Here's a tip, call your order in at least 15 or 20 minutes ahead of time or be prepared to wait. Everything is fresh and cooked to order here so it will be well worth the extra time!


Stop by and you'll see why Pili Pili is a staple on our Best of Scarborough Food Tour.

Aleppo Kebab

1960 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1R 2Z1

https://aleppo-kebab.business.site


This newly opened Syrian restaurant is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood as they serve up some of the best kebabs in the city.


It's perfect for either a take-out or dine-in meal in their bright and beautifully decorated dining area. I still have only stopped in here once shortly after they first opened so I'm due for a return trip to sample some more of their menu soon.

Aleppo Kebab Plate. Image via Aleppo Kebab.

On my first visit I went with the Aleppo Kebab Plate (always a good idea to try the dish that shares it's name with the restaurant). It was a delicious, perfectly seasoned ground veal kebab served with rice, salad, hummus and a spicy flatbread topped with tomatoes, onions and parsley. Perfect for scooping hummus or pieces of kebab.


I'll report back when I have the opportunity to try some more dishes!

Rose's Halal Kitchen

1960 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1R 2Z1

https://www.instagram.com/roseshalal_kitchen/?hl=en


The sign on their storefront says "Authentic Jamaican Cuisine Owned By Jamaican Muslims" and to my knowledge they are the only fully halal Jamaican restaurant in the city. That's a bonus for muslims in the area craving the Jamaican classics and this place does all of those classics well.


Their Jerk is particularly delicious. Not overly spicy but seasoned really well, and you can always add some pepper sauce to heat things up a little more. Oxtail, Curry goat and fried chicken round out the usual suspects that are available here. On top of those option they also offer daily Ackee & Saltfish, Fried Snapper and a soup of the day. I have to try and time my next visit when Fish Tea, a fish broth with boiled down starches (aka provisions), is on the menu. It's a personal favourite of mine.


If you check out their Instagram you'll find some daily lunch specials and also see pictures of some mean looking Jerk Chicken sandwiches that go for two for $10!

Sahan

2010 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1R 2Z1

http://www.sahanrestaurant.ca

Goat Rib & Beef Stew Platter.

The only outpost for Somali food in the East End of the city that I'm aware of, and it's good one! Sahan serves up large beautiful platters of meat, rice and vegetables. Meals include a choice of fresh fruit juice and a delicious lentil soup.


I would recommend dining in as they have a good size dining area, service is friendly and helpful and the food is beautifully presented.


My personal favourite is the goat ribs but other highlights include chicken and beef stews and king fish. Make sure to try their Milk Cake if it's available.

Makkal Chon

1979 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1R 2Z2

http://www.makkalchon.com


This small dine-in spot serves up many of the Korean staples like Pork Bone Soup, Bulgogi and Bi-Bim-Bap but the main attractions here are the vegetable wraps. Sizzling plates of your choice of meat, seafood and vegetables show up at your table along with a plate of various leafy greens for you to create your own wraps. Your table will also be filled with various banchan (complimentary small side dishes that are standard with most Korean meals) to enjoy with your meal.

Veggie Wrap with Bulgogi. Image via Makkal Chon

This place is popular and service is a little on the slow side. They also do not except reservations so be prepared to wait for a table especially on weekend evenings but don't worry, it will be well worth the wait.





Pho Metro/Banh Mi Metro

2057 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1R 2Z4

https://phometro.com

https://banhmimetro.com


Pho Metro has been a neighbourhood favourite since opening over a decade ago. The dining room is usually packed for good reason. They serve a wide variety of steamed rice and vermicelli noodle plates topped with grilled meats and crispy fried spring rolls, but as the name suggests they are best know for their Pho. These steaming noodle bowls are sure to please with their delicately flavoured broth and fresh herbs along with a selection of different meat options.

Kimchi Fries and a Grilled Beef Banh Mi

Like many Vietnamese restaurants the menu is large and can be a little intimidating for first timers. The House Special Noodle Soup is a good starting point and you can never go wrong with an order of the fresh shrimp and pork springs rolls on rice paper.


As if there weren't enough options here already, Metro expanded to add a separate Banh-Mi take out counter a couple of years ago. Here they serve a variety of sandwiches that consist of crusty french rolls filled with choices like lemon grass chicken, braised pork belly, fried tofu and more. You can also pick up a wide variety of sides and snacks such as bao, steamed buns and kimchi fries.


Whether you are looking for a quick sit down meal or some delicious take out Pho Metro is always a great choice!

Diana's Oyster Bar & Grill

2105 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1R 2Z4

http://dianasoysterbar.com


Diana's started as a seafood wholesaler and retailer in the 80's before more recently launching one of the best seafood restaurants in the city. This a an East End go-to for seafood fans and especially for oyster lovers. They offer specials on different varieties of oysters five days of the week so there is never a bad time to stop in for your fix.

Fresh Oysters. Image via Diana's Oyster Bar & Grill

Aside from oysters, their menu is stacked with favourites like Ahi Tuna Tartare, Lobster Rolls, Grilled Octopus and a serious seafood platter that features a little bit of everything good from under the sea.

Coffee In

2181 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1P 2P5

http://coffeein.ca


I'll have to admit that this is the only place on the list that I am yet to visit but I still wanted to share it because of how excited I am to finally check it out. This place definitely fits the bill of the hole-in-the-wall, blink-and-you'll-miss-it type place. So much so that I've been passing it for years without even noticing it. Part of the reason it's been able to hide in plain sight from me for so long is its name, Coffee In, combined with its exterior look of an older run down coffee shop.


It wasn't until I read an article from Toronto's very own suburban food guru, Suresh Doss, that I realized it was actually a family run Filipino restaurant camouflaged as an old coffee shop. They apparently specialize in a garlicky pork and noodle soup bowl call Batchoy that can be compared to the Filipino equivalent of ramen.


It sounds like the perfect Winter meal so I've been saving that one for a November or December visit. I wanted to include it on this list as it sounds amazing and sits on the very eastern boundary of the Wexford Heights area.


I'll make sure to report back on my Batchoy experience when I finally do make it there. In the mean time if you want a first hand description you should check out Suresh's article HERE. Read that and then check out the rest his work. He's a great resource for finding new places to eat, even ones hidden right in your own neighbourhood!

That wraps up part 1 of this literary food crawl of the Wexford Heights neighbourhood along Lawrence Avenue. Let me know if you think there are any glaring omissions from my list and stay tuned for part 2 where I'll tackle the Western half of the strip between Victoria Park & Warden.

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