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Eat & Drink

10 fast food chains that should open in Toronto

Posted by Liora Ipsum / August 6, 2014

fast food torontoThere'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.

BonChon Chicken
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).

ShopHouse
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.

Red Mango
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.

Waffle House
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.

Autogrill
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.

Shake Shack
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.

Japadog
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.

Photo via Shake Shack's Facebook page

Discussion

88 Comments

Burgers / August 6, 2014 at 12:10 am
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I don't think burgers priest would want shake shack coming here. BP is basically an exact copy of shake shack but not as good.
Drew likes / August 6, 2014 at 12:17 am
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Ahh yeah! Bring on Shake Shack! Love to try it!

Location means a lot. Convenience means a lot too! I usually eat from a few different places if the food is good. Competition is good to in Toronto...
Freddie / August 6, 2014 at 12:22 am
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Pret a Manger is amazing! Packaged sandwiches of all types on the go. Great stuff. They have sandwiches on breads, buns, kaisers, rolls, sliced bread. Great spot. Great food.
canadan / August 6, 2014 at 12:24 am
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I can only dream of a Shake Shack in Toronto!!
jd / August 6, 2014 at 12:26 am
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While I agree with many on this list. Shouldn't #1 be In-N-Out Burger? Hell, I'd even be happy with a Carl’s Jr.

Any news on Jollibee's opening that was in the news during the winter?

While not a real chain per say. I WOULD TOTALLY want a Roscoe's chicken and waffles...



Alvin / August 6, 2014 at 12:28 am
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Pret a Manger for SURE. I cannot believe there isn't one here yet.
Chris replying to a comment from jd / August 6, 2014 at 12:32 am
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Ideally I would want In-N-Out Burger as well, but I hear through the grapevine that they want to keep it a West Coast exclusive and Five Guys is the East Coast equivalent. Although I do question the credibility of my sources.

I want a Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles in Toronto.
jeffy / August 6, 2014 at 01:05 am
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Yay I get to complain about something not making the list. Culver's deserves to be on this list. A seriously fantastic Midwest burger chain. Clean, friendly, Butter Burgers and Wisconsin cheese curds.
aDawg / August 6, 2014 at 06:47 am
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"...those spicy rice cakes introduced to this city by Momofuku." Incorrect. Correct: "...those spicy rice cakes introduced to those Korean cuisine neophytes that had never stepped foot in a Korean restaurant before by Momofuku."
Pret / August 6, 2014 at 08:12 am
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Pret a Manger is amazing!!
Evan / August 6, 2014 at 08:15 am
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Autogrill was open in Toronto for a while, but failed. There was one on Adelaide and one on Eglinton.
Pete / August 6, 2014 at 08:19 am
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Moss Burger from Japan would be great!
DL / August 6, 2014 at 08:25 am
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In n Out, anyone?
DL / August 6, 2014 at 08:31 am
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Also, Autogrill runs concessions all over Ontario, including at Pearson.
elle / August 6, 2014 at 08:33 am
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CPK which is California Pizza
Judith / August 6, 2014 at 08:46 am
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There's a small chain in Chicago, DC, and Colorado called Protein Bar (http://www.theproteinbar.com/) that would make a killing in Liberty Village or the Bay corridor. Healthy, filling, and fast.
autodrool / August 6, 2014 at 08:53 am
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autogrill for sure!!!
the shock that i was having the best serrano ham sandwich of my life at a gas station quickly wore off as i ordered my second.
way better than pret a manger (which id also love)

more upmarket sandwiches for sure!
db / August 6, 2014 at 09:05 am
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donair sauce not so secret recipe =

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder

enjoy!
Burgers / August 6, 2014 at 09:19 am
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- In n Out would be best but seems really unlikely as they're not even that many locations in the US
- Roscoes would be amazing but unlikely as well
- La Belle Province would be nice
- Shake Shack of course

Too bad I don't see any of these coming to Toronto
Tim / August 6, 2014 at 09:20 am
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I've always wondering why Pret isn't here. They are great!
iSkyscraper / August 6, 2014 at 09:27 am
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Pret is terrific, and you're right that it is odd a UK company has been in the US for years but not Canada. Apparently they are going to China next.

http://www.businessweek.com/videos/2013-04-22/pret-a-manger-says-shanghai-next-area-of-expansion

One issue might be cost of labour and cost of ingredients, which are high in Canada. In the UK Pret is quite cheap, running 2 to 3.5 pounds for most sandwiches (which in real purchasing terms is even less than the literal $3.70 to $6.50 Cdn). But in the US, for whatever reason, Pret becomes a premium fast food like Chipotle and sandwiches cost a minimum of $6, many running up to $8. In Canada they would be sure to charge $8 to $10 for a simple tuna sandwich or BLT. So be careful what you wish for.

Other suggestions:

http://www.canadianbusiness.com/global-report/10-global-fast-food-brands-we-want/
Sean / August 6, 2014 at 09:28 am
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Shake Shack, Japadog, BonChon Chicken and King of Donair (Canadian-owned) are up my alley.

Everyone here should contact ALL these chains and say, "Hey, what about us?" Why should we be stuck with MacDonald's and Subway?
Herman Menderchuck / August 6, 2014 at 09:31 am
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I want Xi'an Famous Foods from New York http://xianfoods.com/
Hungry Hungry Hippo / August 6, 2014 at 09:33 am
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Shake Shack Forsure, and it should be in the style of the one in NY in Madison Square park!
steve / August 6, 2014 at 09:44 am
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No mention of Chick-Fil-A?
But its so yummy
We need, must have / August 6, 2014 at 09:58 am
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Kenny Rogers Roasters
http://www.kennys.com/

Cracker Barrel
http://www.crackerbarrel.com

PLUS WE NEED MORE PF CHANGS!!! One in Don Mills is not enough!! More PF CHANGS PLEASE!!!
http://www.pfchangs.ca/
Xavier replying to a comment from We need, must have / August 6, 2014 at 10:11 am
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No one ever needs a cracker barrel
What's wrong with you?
KG / August 6, 2014 at 10:12 am
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There used to be a Pizzeria Uno on Front St. serving the deep dish pizza, no idea if they were affiliated with the US chain. It was around in the mid-90s and closed around 1999 maybe. It was next to the Jersey Giant.
Night Night Schnookums replying to a comment from Rick / August 6, 2014 at 10:12 am
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Who cares what it looks like are you a fussy toddler Rick. Need Mommy and Daddy to chop your food up for you, cut the crusts off and make sure no food on your plate is touching each other. Night Night Schnookums.
Alex replying to a comment from Alvin / August 6, 2014 at 10:13 am
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Agreed. This town loves sandwiches.
Todd / August 6, 2014 at 10:16 am
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In N Out
Portillo's

That's it.
Matthew / August 6, 2014 at 10:17 am
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Steak n Shake. Portillo's . Einstein Bros. Gus World Fried Chicken. Umami Burger. Chevys. Primanti Bros.

Also we need some form of Nashville Hot Chicken, there are no dominant chains for this yet but it needs to come here, perhaps the best food on earth.

Also yes to Pret and Shake Shack, both great.
bill replying to a comment from Burgers / August 6, 2014 at 10:21 am
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"La Belle Province" is that that thing they have in MTL? if this is what is called good I will pass. Might as well eat at A&W
chris / August 6, 2014 at 10:23 am
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CiCi's Pizza or White Spot
EC / August 6, 2014 at 10:39 am
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Wagamama!!!!!!!!!!!!! %(*#%(@#$!@)#
Sam I Am / August 6, 2014 at 10:39 am
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How about a Bojangles while we're on this great topic? Or even a Gold Star Chili or Skyline Chili (a la Cincinnati)
Stoner / August 6, 2014 at 10:46 am
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White Castle!!
Pothead / August 6, 2014 at 10:49 am
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Hey rick, they opened up a papa johns at lansdowne and college. It's where dominoes use to be.
iSkyscraper / August 6, 2014 at 11:22 am
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We already have White Castle (or at least a pretend version)...

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0366551/locations
sg / August 6, 2014 at 11:24 am
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Rice burgers! Would love a MOS Burger. Briefly there was a similar place in Richmond Hill run by an ex-MOS franchisee.
Bobby / August 6, 2014 at 11:39 am
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If In-N-Out even came to canada the burgers would be like $7 instead of $3
Vivian / August 6, 2014 at 11:46 am
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In N Out! and Whataburger! Toronto is missing out!
BON CHON LOVER / August 6, 2014 at 11:48 am
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BON CHON BON CHON BON CHON BON CHON
Lindsay / August 6, 2014 at 11:51 am
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... and MELLOW MUSHROOM!
Best pizza everrrrrrrrrr.

http://mellowmushroom.com/
the lemur replying to a comment from aDawg / August 6, 2014 at 11:52 am
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True. But it's 'set foot', not 'stepped foot'.
Stephanie / August 6, 2014 at 11:52 am
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Toronto needs In-N-Out burger!! Also Pret A Manger would be amazing downtown!
Ezra / August 6, 2014 at 11:58 am
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In-N-Out would be great but even the eastern US doesn't have it, so it's not likely to come here before then. What I would most like to see are Yoshinoya or some other Japanese gyudon chain, and Kimpap Heaven (김밥 천국). I think Toronto is ready for a chain of restaurants serving cheap, decent Korean food, although they probably wouldn't be able to afford the free delivery over here.
RS / August 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm
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Shake Shack

Pinkberry

COCO CURRY
jae / August 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm
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In-N-Out is mostly a California thing. Fusiadog seemed to be an attempt at Japa Dog style but it didn't last.
bigfat / August 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm
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Yes, I WAN TOT BE A FAT GREASY AMERICAN!!! MAKE ME FAT AND PUT ME IN A HOSPITAL LIKE ALL OF MY FATTIES BELOW THE BORDER!!!!!!!!!!
ME SO FAT!
Pret / August 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm
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I don't find the Prets in the USA to be any more expensive than the ones in England, after currency conversion. Pret in the UK is more expensive than Boots or Marks and Spencers for a similar product. Labour and supplies should not be any more expensive in Canada than in the UK.
bigKnob replying to a comment from bigfat / August 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm
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Don't worry we have self control here. We've had plenty of Canadian Franchises that offer a great opportunity to get fat as well and we haven't.
Pret / August 6, 2014 at 12:12 pm
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I don't find the Prets in the USA to be any more expensive than the ones in England, after currency conversion. Pret in the UK is more expensive than Boots or Marks and Spencers for a similar product. Labour and supplies should not be any more expensive in Canada than in the UK.
For some reason Le Pain Quotidien didn't work here. It was pretty pricey; if you are going to bring a chain in, it has to ber a similar pricepoint to other countries or it will Targetisize.
Jeanette / August 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm
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Japadog is incredibly overrated.
bigfat replying to a comment from bigKnob / August 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm
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You should come downtown more often... I will agree with you, we aren't as big as the our southern brother... we are on our way there... Give it a couple of years. This is something we need to regulate and control. What happened to healthy eating?
None of these choices equate to healthy eating.
Cal / August 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm
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Pret A Manger is crap, no idea why so many are raving about it in these comments?
Lemon Loaf / August 6, 2014 at 12:19 pm
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Jimmy johns!!
Judes replying to a comment from jd / August 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm
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Apparently, Jollibee's is supposed to open the first one in Toronto in 2015.

I can practically taste the peach-mango pie...
Curious / August 6, 2014 at 12:30 pm
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How is the Nandos doing here? I'm curious. Their food looks pretty boring on the internet, but they are a big international chain. Do they just brush the chicken with hot sauce? Not very appealing sounding.
La Belle Province could work here in the very poorest areas of town. I don't know how they can make such cheap food.
Not sure why it is taking Anchor Wings so long to make it to Toronto.
Japadog / August 6, 2014 at 12:32 pm
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Who wants filthy seaweed on a hotdog? Doesn't sound very "Japanese" to me.
aDawg replying to a comment from the lemur / August 6, 2014 at 12:32 pm
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Not exactly true: http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2014/05/step-foot.html (see the example at the end of the article)
Rachel / August 6, 2014 at 01:03 pm
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Given that BlogTO gets most of its traffic celebrating Toronto's dining scene, I am disappointed that you are promoting bringing in foreign chains. We have an incredible variety of independent restaurants and we should encourage more of that. No chains, please.
Perry Como / August 6, 2014 at 01:50 pm
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we need a new honest eds
TryMe / August 6, 2014 at 01:54 pm
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Hello! We need Souper Salad: http://www.soupersalad.com/
Mark / August 6, 2014 at 01:55 pm
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Do we really need more cheap crappy fast food outlets in the city? Are we not fat enough as it is? How about more green grocers in the core?
Yankee Liberty / August 6, 2014 at 02:27 pm
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Toronto needs a Dunkin Doughnuts! Tim hortons blows.
Jeff Goebel / August 6, 2014 at 02:48 pm
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I miss FUDRUCKERS soooooooo much!
the lemur replying to a comment from Japadog / August 6, 2014 at 03:47 pm
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Uh, seaweed used in cooking is totally not 'filthy', whether it's dried, roasted or whatever. Besides that, seaweed as a garnish or ingredient is very much a Japanese thing, although the 'fusion hot dog' probably started in Seattle or Vancouver.
the lemur replying to a comment from aDawg / August 6, 2014 at 03:48 pm
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Meh, still sounds wrong to me.
tammy / August 6, 2014 at 03:53 pm
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Burger Priest is so overated

wonka / August 6, 2014 at 08:43 pm
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nobody mentioned:

The Cheesecake Factory!!??

also would like

Le Pain Quotdien!
Retarding millennial cidiot / August 6, 2014 at 10:16 pm
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In n out will never expand past an area where they can't ship fresh and not frozen foods. Stupids!
Tamara / August 6, 2014 at 11:56 pm
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Fuddruckers fuddruckers.com
Greg / August 7, 2014 at 12:14 am
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Great list, thanks!
Mr Lemur / August 7, 2014 at 12:58 am
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You took me too literally. I did not mean "dirty", I meant disgusting tasting. Yes, a hotdog with seaweed on it sounds disgusting, and nothing to do with Japanese cuisine. Sorry.
Wonka, there were two Pain Quoditiens here and they did not do well. I ate there a few times, and it was nothing special; pretty pricey for what it was.
Kingmoe / August 7, 2014 at 01:05 am
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In n out? Have you ever tasted food? Fuddruckers? Are you 13?
ellietown / August 7, 2014 at 09:25 am
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'Ddeokbokki introduced to TO by momofuku' is just about the most unintentionally hilarious thing i've ever read about food.
Well done, ignoramous, good comedy!
Rick / August 7, 2014 at 11:07 am
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I definitely agree with Shake Shack. Bring it on!
Jorge / August 7, 2014 at 12:56 pm
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I was in NYC a couple weeks ago. The lineup at Shake Shack in Union Square was around 100 people long both times I walked past.
Jamie / August 7, 2014 at 06:02 pm
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I've had UNO in Boston, it is not good. Mickey's Dragon Pizza in Oakville is a lot better.
HK / August 8, 2014 at 09:13 am
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How about Yoshinoya? Japanese fast food that's more authentic than the *ahem* Teriyaki. They serve udons and rice bowls, at least in the HK one I've been to.
They also opened one in NYC, but it failed miserably. TO, I know you can manage better if you plan to open one.
Donairs / August 9, 2014 at 01:17 am
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Polite to include a Halifax restaurant, and very Canadian.... but how many people would like that weird sauce (other than Haligonians)?
The Colon / August 10, 2014 at 06:51 pm
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Let's push for an expansion of Steak Queen to the east end.
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from Rachel / August 11, 2014 at 09:12 am
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It's just a fluffy, fun post. In any case, the chains are going to happen regardless, so would you rather have more Subways and McDonalds or a broader selection of junk food? Just harmless ranting for the most part.

In'n'Out will never come to Canada, by the way, as they are not a franchise. The stores are company owned which is why they won't expand must out of their west coast base, despite many offers to do so. Five Guys was basically capitalized to take advantage of the market In'n'Out had discovered but refused to serve on the east coast and Canada.

If you really want to get into the US burger wars, this was a pretty detailed comparison of a few years ago:

http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2011/05/in-n-out-vs-five-guys-vs-shake-shack-the-first-bi-coastal-side-by-side-taste-test.html
Khristopher replying to a comment from Rick / September 1, 2014 at 11:36 pm
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Papa John's quietly opened in Toronto sometime in the past year or so.
Khristopher / September 1, 2014 at 11:45 pm
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I'd love a King of Donair to open here!
Ryan Henson Creighton / September 10, 2014 at 07:38 pm
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The only time i've ever shit my pants as an adult was after an ill-advised enchilada plate at Chevy's. That place can stay well South of the 49th, thanks.
Spike replying to a comment from We need, must have / September 11, 2014 at 12:53 am
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Kenny Rogers Roasters came here years ago, and failed.

And I agree with Rachel, we don't need these franchises here.

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