10 fast food chains that should open in Toronto
There's no shortage of quick, cheap eats in Toronto - but that doesn't mean there isn't still room in this city for some of the world's favourite international chains. These fast-food joints would introduce favourites with proven mass appeal to the Toronto dining scene, making regional specialties and new fusion cusines mainstream.
Here's my wishlist of the fast food chains that I'd like to see open in Toronto.
This South Korean fried chicken chain is already in the U.S. rivaling the Colonel for the most superior fried chicken around. The menu specializes in golden fried wings, drumsticks and strips individually hand-painted with fiery, red chili hot sauce or a sweet garlic soy glaze. Better still, the side dishes are way heartier than any florescent coleslaw could ever be; chicken comes with a cooling side of pickled radish while extras include seafood scallion pancakes, japchae and tteokbokki (those spicy rice cakes introduced to this city by Momofuku).
This young chain is the southeast Asian spin-off of Chipotle, meaning that food is assembled down a line, starting with a base and topped per order. For those unfamiliar, the choices start with white or brown rice, noodles or salads; proteins like tofu, chicken satay, steak laab, or meatballs; plus a choice of vegetables, sauces, and garnishes like fresh herbs, slaw, pickles, nuts, toasted rice or chilies.
This upmarket fro-yo chain originated in South Korea but has since expanded with 200 or so locations in the States. While Toronto is hardly lacking in the fro-yo category, Red Mango offers the bliss of candy-topped frozen yogurts, as well as yogurt fruit smoothies (which kind of faded away with the popularity of Yogen Fruz) and frozen yogurt granola parfaits.
Pret a Manger
Playing on the fashion term pret a porter (meaning ready-to-wear), this ready-to-eat chain of grab and go lunch counters boasts hundreds of outlets across the United Kingdom and has expanded with locations in New York, Hong Kong, Washington, D.C., Boston, and Chicago. The menu offers a range of ready-made sandwiches, baguettes and wraps, cakes by the slice, desserts, and bakery items, as well as sushi, salads and soups. The corporate-owned chain (meaning not franchised) was inspired by the traiteurs of France and prides itself on ultra-fresh fare made on-site daily.
King of Donair
The originator of the Halifax donair has been an east coast favourite for late night eats since 1973. The menu double majors in pizzas and their signature donairs, a regional take on the Greek gyro done with spit-roasted ground beef shaved onto a pita and dressed with a sweet secret sauce, tomatoes and onions.
Uno Chicago Pizzeria & Grill
More pie (or casserole) than flatbread, Chicago style deep dish hasn't really taken root in Toronto (save for the short-lived Parlour). This North Eastern U.S. chain, established in 1943 is arugably the originator, and over 140 stateside locations prove there just might be a more mainstream audience for the thick-crusted, saucy, cheesy stuff than just in the windy city.
Founded in an Atlanta suburb in 1955, this chain of 24-hour diners is built on a tradition of offering the friendliest service in town. Their jam is all-day breakfast, with fluffy plain and pecan waffles being the house specialty.
Far exceeding any expectations of what a truck stop should be, this Italian turned multi-national chain of quick service eateries is what you'll find populating highways in Europe in the same way Ontario is dotted with Tim Hortons/Wendy's outlets. Here fast food takes a fresh approach, with most rest stops offering cafes that serve espressos, fresh pastries and sandwiches, as well as quick service caffeteria style dining options that serve hot foods like fresh pasta, grilled meats, salads and desserts, and a grocery portion supplying salumi, breads and cheese for eating on the go.
American burger chains have been infiltrating Toronto's already robust burger scene for some time now; we've already got Five Guys, and Wahlburgers and Carl Jr. are on the way. If I had my way, though, we'd be getting Shake Shack instead of Carl's Jr. The chain, founded in New York, has already gone multi-national with its menu of old school burgers, split flat top-grilled hotdogs and frozen custard shakes. Oh, and the burger chain sells booze - it's even got its own signature brew and wines.
Originating in Vancouver, this rapidly expanding chain of carts, food trucks and stores now boasts outlets in New York and L.A. The menu's specialty is Japanese-style hot dogs, topped with east-meets-west condiments like grated radish with soya sauce, or teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed. The menu has grown to offer more than 20 variation - including some over-the-top varieties, where wieners are just the base for gyoza, yakisoba noodles, or a tempura-fried prawn on rice.
Did I miss your favourite? Tell us what food chains should open up in Toronto in the comments.