Fresh East is the newest offshoot of Paramount Fine Foods and the first of several planned Toronto locations. The halal certified sandwich shop occupies a tiny storefront on Yonge Street north of Dundas and deals exclusively in take-away.
Inside is standing room only consisting solely a walk-up countertop and cashier. The menu is displayed on screens and illustrates the various options with photos, while fresh toppings on display at the counter offer easy "point to pick" customization.
Every sandwich can be made on a pita, bun, or entirely bread-free in a bowl. Choices include deli meats like roast beef, turkey, and salami while the house specialties offer a taste of the Middle East including chicken shawarma, beef shawarma, shish tawouk, kafta, and falafel.
The footlong buns are baked in house, while the meats are supplied by Paramount's Mississauga butcher . Being halal, the place offers an entirely pork free experience and in the case of the salami, it's all beef, while macon made of veal is available in lieu of bacon.
I'm told the chicken shawarma ($5.49/$8.49) has proved especially popular so far, though I discover that the meat isn't shaved off the spit fresh but is rather pre-prepared and applied from containers. It's missing all those crispy caramelized bits (which in my opinion are the best part), but otherwise it makes for a pretty solid sandwich.
Options like za'taar dusted buns slathered in hummus to order and dressed with pickled turnips, tabbouleh, and garlicky fattoush sauce are where the Middle Eastern flavours come through.
The salami sub ($4.49/$7.49) is an unexpected winner. I'm impressed that meat and cheese take a quick turn under a salamander so that the edges of the salami curl up and crisp before the toppings are applied.
Since seating is nil, we take our sandwiches across the street and sit on the concrete steps of the Ryerson Student Learning Centre. Come colder weather the Atrium on the Bay might be the closest indoor dining option.
Photos by Jesse Milns