Lake Shore West

The top 10 eats in Mimico and Long Branch

Lake Shore West between Mimico and Long Branch is undergoing a renaissance, one that's been boosted by the recent expansion of the Humber campus. There's a slew of coffee shops catering to students and locals, a couple of pubs, and food options that range from Portuguese and Greek to East Indian and Japanese. Those with a sweet tooth are also in luck - there are bakeries and ice cream shops a-plenty).

Here are 10 spots to grab a bite on Lake Shore West between Mimico and Long Branch.

CHEAP EATS

Hex-Mex Handheld Grub
Just a few months old, this unassuming takeout joint brings a dash of the city's Mexican explosion to New Toronto. Burritos ($6.85 small, $8.95 large) and tacos (two for $7.50) come in beef, pulled pork, chicken, veggie and fried cod iterations. The standouts, though, might be their fantastic nacho chips (crispy, salty, not at all greasy) and hot sauces (labelled Hot, OMG and Pain). For the thrill-seekers: Evey few Saturdays they'll roll out the Burrito de los Muertos, which features ghost and habanero peppers. So far, only one customer has finished the whole thing, and they'll make you sign a waiver if you want to try.

Tatsu's Bread
It just looks like a bakery from the outside - imagine my surprise when I walked in and head a saxophone playing. Tatsu's is the go-to hangout for Humber students between classes (including music students looking to jam), and it serves way more than bread -- there are grab-and-go sandwiches (about $5), daily pizza squares, ($1.50), and a variety of baked goods and pie slices. The house specialty is the Tatsu's burger ($5.30), a half-pork, half-beef patty topped with the usual veggies and Japanese steak sauce.

The Empanada Company
The Empanada Company's owners work from a recipe that is half a century in the making. You'll find both classic preparations and more contemporary fillings, including Cajun pulled pork, and a sweet-savoury combination of leek and prosciutto. The crust is traditionally baked, unless requested otherwise, and with a price point that ranges between $2.25 to $2.75 per empanada, there's no reason not to try them all.

FINE DINING

Taste Portugese Cuisine
The couple behind Taste adapted recipes handed down by Portugese family members to create their menu, and though they serve up a little of everything (including a hugely popular pulled pork) it's the rotisserie chicken ($10.95 for half a chicken) they say they can't keep in stock. There's a cozy bar atmosphere to the place -- fitting, since Taste may also be the only place on this strip to grab yourself a craft brew. They've got a few picks from St. Ambroise on tap (apricot wheat and oatmeal stout, anybody?) and a wider selection in bottles and cans.

COFFEE + SNACKS

Big Guy's Little Coffee Shop
It doesn't get much cozier than this: An unfussy neighbourhood hangout (staffed by the eponymous Big Guy, Steve Turner. The short menu includes espresso drinks, drip coffee, tea, and a few pastries and basic sandwiches; Turner commissioned his extra-dark roast from Planet Bean in Guelph, who eventually decided to start selling it themselves. It's the neighbourhood's home away from home, so much so that their Facebook page features statuses like: "We have decided to turn the coffee shop into a confessional for the day. So come along and get the 1000-lb weight off your shoulder."

Fair Grounds
This organic coffee shop does it all - they roast their own fair-trade blends from South America and Africa, bake their own pastries, and serve them all up in-house. Their two dozen-ish blends are also available to take home, and they supply baked goods to other shops as well. Snacks ($2.75) include savoury scones like feta/olive and sweet potato/sage; some vegan baked goods may be in the works as well. (They're also working on opening another location further east on Lake Shore, closer to Humber.)

BAKED GOODS + DESSERT

Sweet Olenka's
This chocolate shop/cafe is a sugar lover's paradise. The couple behind the shop, Olenka and Ray, turn out chocolate bars ($5), macaroons ($2.50), truffles (about $2), and a slew of in-house ice creams in whatever flavour the mood or season dictates - recently, they've been experimenting with bacon. Resist the temptation to re-enact that musical number at the beginning of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Ice Cream Junction
This ultra-pink ice cream shop keeps things Ontario-local with flavours from Kawartha Dairy and London Ice Cream Company (their hottest seller is Moose Tracks). Ice cream aside, there's handmade fudge, a wall of childhood faves like wax fangs and fizzy candy, and candy collectibles like some ultra-limited Lord Of The Rings PEZ dispensers. There's also a wall of U.K. import products, like Tyrell potato chips and dried peas (for no reason other than nobody in the neighbourhood was selling them).

More Than Pies
This bakery lives up to its name - in addition to flaky fruit pies, it also dishes out lattes and teas, homemade cookies and snacks, daily soups, and basic sandwiches. Local produce and preserves are also on offer, as are frozen lasagnas and meat pies for a quick dinner at home. Of course, you can't forget about those 15 varieties of pie ($3 for a slice, about $17 for a whole one).

CakeStar
Know those sculpted, looks-like-the-real-thing cakes you see on those decorating shows? CakeStar can make those a reality. Even if you don't need a dessert that looks like a stack of handbags for your next party, you can still stop in, grab a cupcake or a cake pop for under $3, and take a moment to watch the decorators at work across the store. Basic cakes start at $30 and go up; elaborate custom cakes start at $250.

What'd we miss? Add your favourite place to grab a bite to eat in Mimico or Long Branch to the comment thread below.


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