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Review: Eleven Madison Park’s Menu Doesn’t Translate to Its $300 Meal Kit


Since Daniel Humm and Will Guidara bought Eleven Madison Park from Danny Meyer in 2011, it has earned a reputation as one of the best restaurants in the world, sustaining three Michelin stars since 2012. It has also become nearly synonymous with exclusivity and luxury. I cannot remember a time when there wasn’t a waiting list for reservations, or when a meal didn’t cost hundreds of dollars (the dining room tasting menu is currently $335 a person, not including tip or alcohol, paid in advance), and friends who have had the opportunity to go have gushed about the attention to detail, the incredible hospitality, and the ability to hang out and drink all the apple brandy you want after the meal. Even after Guidara departed the restaurant in 2019 and Humm turned EMP into a mostly vegan restaurant last year, to somewhat lackluster reviews, it has stayed a destination for the wealthy and all those who aspire to emulate their lifestyles.

But now, Eleven Madison Park is attempting to bring that luxury to your home kitchen. Eleven Madison Home is its new home delivery box, which provides “one day of plant-based meals curated to be as delicious as possible — from breakfast through to dinner, plus healthy snacks and delicious sweets,” for two. (You’d be forgiven for asking why they’re getting into the meal delivery game when everyone is finally getting back to restaurants, because a restaurant like EMP can make its own schedule.) The two-person box costs $285 — with taxes, it comes in at just over $310, or almost the cost of a meal at the restaurant — and there are options to enhance your weekly order with items like a granola trio ($65) or a whole roasted curry cauliflower ($75). Like the restaurant’s pivot to a plant focus, Humm positions the boxes as a step toward a more sustainable future.

“It’s not news to anyone that our current food system is unsustainable,” Humm says in a note that accompanies the first box, and he argues that as a chef, his impact can come through encouraging people to eschew meat once a week. “What could be the impact if we all ate plant-based food more often? We don’t need to eat like this every day, but just one day per week can have an immediate effect.”

When Eleven Madison Park pivoted, many questioned whether the experience would still be worth the price. Some grumbled a menu without meat — and luxury signifiers like caviar and butter-poached lobster tail — could never justify such a cost, both because meat is more expensive to create, and probably due to skepticism that vegetables could ever be as good as a steak. In the switch, Humm is arguing that the skill of EMP’s chefs could make a beet transcendent: After all, what you’re paying for from EMP is not just ingredients; it’s labor, it’s atmosphere, it’s creativity and ambiance and innovation.

Except that’s not what you get with a home meal kit, and Eleven Madison Home’s existence raises questions about what we really do pay for in a fine dining restaurant, and what happens when everything but the food is stripped away. Because what you get is an uneven, mostly fine, single day’s worth of eating, at the cost of what most people spend on groceries over the course of a few weeks.


The first-ever Eleven Madison Home box was sent out last week. The box’s contents change each time, and my order came with the day’s food, as well as descriptors of some ingredients’ origins, and instructions on how to cook what needs to be cooked. “The Weekly Box is designed to make the adjustment to one plant-based day a week as easy — and as delicious — as possible,” Humm writes in the accompanying note. The menu for that one day: breakfast of coconut chia yogurt and a granola bar; vegetable minestrone soup and a gem lettuce salad for lunch; root vegetable chips for a snack; and for dinner, wild mushroom rice with a dessert of double-chocolate espresso cookies that should be made in a convection oven (“if you have a non-convection oven, cooking times may be longer”). Again, that one plant-based day will cost you over $300.

Salad in an aluminum takeout container next to a small bottle of salad dressing.

An EMP lunch under sad desk lighting.

Hand holding up glass jar containing orange liquid and noodles; label on the jar reads “Spring Minestrone Soup” along with an ingredients list.

It’s hard not to harp on the price. For reference, four meals for two people from Blue Apron will cost $85.91 a week. Purple Carrot, which is also entirely plant-based, costs $106 for four dinners a week. A medium recurring box from Daily Harvest, which you can fill with 14 vegan meals of your choosing, is just over $100. But of course, these meal-kit services are not from Eleven Madison Park. Eleven Madison Home makes much of the provenance of its produce, its hyperseasonality, and the recipes that you can sometimes find at the restaurant itself. A portion of the proceeds go to Rethink Food, a nonprofit started by a former EMP chef that distributes plant-based meals across New York City. The service is also hyperlocal itself, not requiring vials of olive oil and single servings of sliced carrots to be shipped across the country. (Of course, this means you have to be in New York City to get it, and even then it’s not a guarantee; I had to get my order delivered to my office in Manhattan, because Eleven Madison Home wouldn’t deliver to my home in Queens.)

When I opened my box in the office, multiple coworkers remarked that its contents did not look like enough food for two people for a whole day. Everything exuded a patina of “health.” The menu noted how chia seeds are a “superfood,” that the chips have been brined so they don’t absorb “too much oil” when frying, and the “protein press” granola bar is made from a protein-rich mixture that includes leftover seed husks from Ulli’s Oil Mill. I started with the coconut chia seed yogurt, strewn with cocoa nibs and topped with a tangy strawberry lime compote; like most things in the box, it came in a twee and expensive-feeling glass jar. The serving felt satisfyingly hefty. The problem is I don’t really like sweet yogurt, so after a quarter of the jar I couldn’t stomach the texture anymore. This would be a frustrating waste no matter what, but at this cost it feels like some deeper crime.

This became a recurring problem as I ate my way through the day. Rounding it out, $300 for two means each meal costs around $50, which made the yogurt about $25. I continued my breakfast with the “protein press” granola bar, which basically tasted like a Kind bar. But the bar and the four bites of yogurt sated my hunger, which made me think I would be able to stretch this food (and its cost) further, giving myself small injections of the luxury over the course of a couple days. Maybe I could have the salad for lunch today and the soup the following, or refrigerate my yogurt and force down the rest tomorrow. I was optimistic I could make this worth it.

“The thing about dinner at [the previous incarnation of] Eleven Madison Park is that even if the food didn’t always blow you away,” Eater NY critic Ryan Sutton wrote in his latest review of the restaurant, “it was often hard to leave without the distinct sensation that the team did their best to make almost every diner feel like a minor celebrity.” Sutton actually appreciated how, in the COVID era, things felt more restrained. So when visiting the location itself, even if the servers are a little less chatty or you don’t get to linger with a cocktail in the same way, you’re still experiencing hospitality in the restaurant space. Someone has plated your food with tweezers, folded your napkin for you, asked you what you wanted and brought it to you.

The intimate, careful pleasures of fine dining are gone with the box; there is nothing to distract you from what you’re eating (and sometimes cooking), which makes for a lackluster experience, and one that obscures the labor involved. Someone did indeed make this salad dressing, season this soup, and painstakingly simmer the mushroom broth I’d later be using. But when everything is designed to be transported and jarred and reheated by someone who may not be all that good at cooking, something about the Eleven-Madison-Park-ness of it is lost. At EMP, I may have thought the salad — gem lettuce with smoked chickpeas, sprouts, large slices of radishes, and a lemon tahini dressing — was a refreshing, flavorful prelude to a larger meal. At my desk under the office’s fluorescent lights, I realized I had successfully turned Eleven Madison Park into a sad desk lunch.

I finished lunch with the root vegetable chips, flavored with black lime and sumac, which I loved so much I desperately wished there were more than five. I was full though, which felt like a win. Maybe I could stretch the box out for the whole week. But around 3:30, my stomach began grumbling again, so I turned to the spring vegetable minestrone. More than any other dish, this seemed to be the one that would transport me to EMP, with the menu reading that the soup “‘has been part of the Eleven Madison Park repertoire for a long time.” I headed to the microwave.

The minestrone boasted a butter chicken-orange broth, flavored, according to the jar, with saffron, white wine, and tomato. It tasted remarkably thin, with a tinny, almost fishy aftertaste reminiscent of a watered-down can of Campbell’s soup. I searched the ingredient list again, hoping to jog my taste buds into picking up any other flavors, but there appeared to be no spice but salt, and no seasoning but the lightest touch of garlic. There was also too much broth compared to the vegetables and orzo, leaving me with half a bowl of liquid by the time I ate everything else. I took another few sips, painfully aware that without the atmosphere and the hospitality, just how little else I’ve paid for.

Around 5:30, I realized I was incredibly gassy.


The criticisms of the Eleven Madison Home box are almost too obvious. Arguing with the concept of the box, however, quickly puts one in a quagmire. You can:

1. Point out that Humm didn’t invent veganism.
2. Balk at the price and say vegetables aren’t as expensive as meat, and
3. Say that a $300-a-week box available to only the most privileged New Yorkers isn’t going to fix our food system.

A glass jar of mushroom broth, two glass jars of pickled mushrooms, bok choy, and a big of rice on a counter.

Ingredients for the wild mushroom rice, our dinner entree.

And the responses will be:

1. Who cares?
2. Meat and vegetable and labor costs in this country are skewed to the point that there’s no way to get an accurate read on what something “should” cost, and
3. Anything is better than nothing, right? It’s hard to imagine anyone signing up for this for any other reason than they want to be able to say they get their lunch from Eleven Madison Park. But if getting this box means 100 fewer eggs and 50 fewer chicken breasts are consumed every week, then maybe it’s worth it.

So let’s take Humm at his word, that this box doesn’t exist to radically change the food system, or even to appeal to vegans. It is just “intentionally designed to make it easier to eat plant-based, one day per week,” for those who choose to order it. The implication is that recipients are eating meat or dairy every day, and that this box will show them that vegan food can be both easy and delicious, a seamless replacement for a dairy yogurt breakfast, a jerky snack, or a chicken-and-rice dinner.

Dinner was indeed a glimmer of hope: Following the instructions, I made my partner and myself the wild mushroom rice, with peak seasonal morel mushrooms, rice from Blue Moon Acres Farm, baby bok choy, and a garnish of pickled hon-shimeji mushrooms. The broth, flavored with lemongrass and Sichuan peppercorn, was rich and earthy, the rice was somehow creamy but with every grain perfectly defined, and the mushrooms pickled in white balsamic and sugar gave a bright burst. We agreed it was one of those dishes that felt like more than the sum of its parts, and that if we ordered it on a date night out we’d be thrilled. At a restaurant, I’d be happy to pay for this plate of rice plus a cookie dessert to be cooked by someone else and brought to me. But at home, I was paying $50 for the ingredients alone, and the privilege of making it myself.

It is on Humm’s qualifications that I say this box fails. Yes, it’s prohibitively expensive for most, but it’s also just… fine. Despite being made with the freshest, most seasonal produce and designed by expert chefs, most dishes feel like nothing special.

When Humm first announced Eleven Madison Park would be vegan, a WSJ reporter posited he could “nudge his customers — and the rest of the world — to find luxury, surprise and delight in a plate of vegetables.” It would be trickle-down change, influencing and inspiring those lower down to emulate those at the top. Except the middle is miles ahead of Humm at this point; there are more, easier options than ever for choosing plant-based for a meal or for a whole day. Plant-based meal services like Daily Harvest and Green Chef deliver honestly comparable meals for a fraction of the cost. There are all manner of plant-based canned and frozen meals at the grocery store, and many people live within ordering distance of an Indian, Chinese, or other restaurant that can easily cater to a vegan diet. Fast-casual restaurants like Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, Starbucks, and more have vegan options on their menus — you could order a vegan Chipotle bowl for every meal for six days and still come out under. And a search for “vegan recipes” brings up hundreds of cookbooks and links.

I don’t know what I wanted out of this box. It’s possible the mythos of Eleven Madison Park overshadowed any realistic expectations. But also, there’s not a version of this product that could accomplish what Humm wants it to: The reasons why people choose not to eat vegan, whether they’re cultural or financial or digestive, aren’t challenged by the box.

And more crucially, a problem this big doesn’t get solved with a product. Even arguments that “at least it’s a drop in the bucket!” can’t hold, because whose bucket are we talking about? Rather than edge the world toward a more sustainable food chain, the Eleven Madison Home box replicates the problems that are already there. The rich get yet another way to get the best of the best, and for everyone else, vegan or not, nothing changes. At least there’s comfort in knowing the best of the best is often pretty mediocre.



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Sign Up for Eater Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Wu’s Newsletter


Since the launch of our From the Editor newsletter in 2017, Amanda Kludt has been recapping the biggest food news — on and off Eater — as well as exciting openings and happenings in the restaurant industry.

As Eater’s new editor-in-chief, I’ll be putting my own spin on this newsletter. Every other weekend I’ll share some of my favorite stories across Eater’s vast network of sites (where we publish hundreds of stories a week), as well as the food-related stories that caught my eye and dispatches from my travels. We’ll be introducing some new features to the newsletter as well: guest takeovers from other talented editors and writers on the Eater team, plus mini interviews and behind the scenes intel on how some of our biggest initiatives get put together.

I hope you’ll follow along as we relaunch on June 4. Sign up below to get From the Editor in your inbox, or take a look back at the archives. Sign up below:



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How to Make Andy Baraghani’s Cold Soba Noodles With Lemony Peanut and Crunchy Veg


“I always have had this intense craving for soba,” says recipe developer Andy Baraghani. Soba really is that noodle — quick-cooking, good at any temperature, and thanks to its use of buckwheat, nutty in flavor, distinct in texture, and naturally gluten-free. Whether he serves it hot with dashi or cold and sauced, Baraghani prefers his soba pared down in terms of accompaniments. In his debut cookbook The Cook You Want to Be — which comes out this week — soba appears with a nut butter-based sauce that’s spiked with soy sauce, black vinegar, lemon juice, sesame oil, and ginger. Cucumbers (or “any crunchy veggie you want,” Baraghani says) and “a ton of herbs” make for a clearly Andy Baraghani finish.

When Baraghani was sharpening his skills as a recipe developer at Bon Appétit, his dishes were recognizable for their bursts of flavor, sense of refinement, and California-honed reliance on fresh produce, which often included showers of herbs. In his new book, “the vegetable chapter and the salad chapter are the biggest chapters,” says Baraghani. “It comes as no surprise for myself and anybody who knows me or who knows my cooking.” Though he’s still changing as a cook, he adds, “I have a strong sense of what flavors I like and what I’m drawn to.” The cold soba, for example, highlights his tendency to layer acids, using more than one kind to add different nuances of flavor.

If The Cook You Want to Be traces the big phases of Baraghani’s life thus far — his upbringing as a first-generation Iranian American in California, his days working in restaurants like Chez Panisse, his time at Bon Appétit, and his recent decision to go out on his own — then cold soba is a dish for more specific moments: the hottest days of the year. “The thing I can have at least once a week is cold soba,” he says. And with this cold soba recipe in your back pocket, you’ll be cool as a cucumber when those sticky nights roll around.

Cold Soba With Lemony Peanut and Crunchy Veg Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1⁄3 cup peanut butter, cashew butter, or tahini
3 tablespoons soy sauce2 tablespoons black vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or as needed
2 teaspoons peeled, finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt
14 ounces dried soba noodles
Thinly sliced scallions for serving
Sliced cucumber for serving
Cilantro sprigs, with as much stem as possible, for serving
Sliced fresh chiles for serving
Crushed toasted peanuts or cashews and/or sesame seeds for serving

Instructions:

Step 1: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you’re waiting, in a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, sugar, sesame oil, and salt to taste and whisk until a smooth sauce forms.

Step 2: When your water boils, drop the noodles into the pot, give them a stir, and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes (refer to the package directions just to be sure). Drain and rinse under cold water to stop them from cooking. Drain again. Divide the noodles among four bowls and spoon the sauce on top. Scatter each serving with scallions, cucumber, cilantro, chile, and crushed nuts and serve.

Reprinted with permission from The Cook You Want to Be by Andy Baraghani, copyright © 2022. Published by Lorena Jones Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Photography copyright: Graydon Herriott © 2022.



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Walmart Sorry for Juneteenth Ice Cream Following Twitter Backlash


Retail giant Walmart is walking back on its new line of partyware and an ice cream flavor released to celebrate Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, nearly two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Known as Black Independence Day, Juneteenth has long been celebrated in African American communities, but only became a federal holiday in 2021 when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

Earlier this week, shoppers at Walmart spotted a new line of Juneteenth party supplies, including Juneteenth plates, napkins, and drink koozies that read “It’s the freedom for me.” Walmart also released a special Juneteenth ice cream, flavored with red velvet and cream cheese, and advertised with the copy, “Share and celebrate African American culture, emancipation, and enduring hope.”

Photos and video of the Walmart Juneteenth product displays were widely mocked on social media on Tuesday. Among those commenting were comedian and Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood, Jr., who tweeted, “Would you like some Juneteenth Ice cream on a Juneteenth plate as you sip your beer in a Juneteenth Koozie?”

By Tuesday evening, Walmart issued a statement to Fox 7 Austin, writing, “Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence. However, we received feedback that a few items caused concern for some of our customers and we sincerely apologize. We are reviewing our assortment and will remove items as appropriate.”

Among the many ironies of Walmart attempting to profit off Juneteenth is the product line’s Pan-Africanist color scheme. The Pan-African black, red, and green flag — designed by activist Marcus Garvey — was created to represent Black liberation and anti-colonialism: The red symbolizes blood shed through subjugation, the black symbolizes Black people, and the green represents the fertility of the African continent. It has become increasingly visible in recent protests against the police murder of Black civilians.

And as Cat Davis and Dorian Warren wrote in an NBC News op-ed in 2020, “Walmart cannot claim to be committed to Black lives while its policies, from inadequate health insurance to poverty wages to insufficient paid leave, have helped lay the groundwork for staggeringly disparate health and economic outcomes in the Black community.”

They continued:

Black workers are disproportionately concentrated in lower-paying nonmanagerial positions. And this is true across the massive 16 million-person retail sector. The country’s largest retailer sets the standards, which perpetuate disparities. Walmart is alleged to have discriminated against its Black employees, racially profiled Black customers (Walmart apologized for at least one such incident) and declined to disclose whether employees of color are categorically paid less than white employees or overrepresented in lower-wage, part-time positions.

Walmart has a long history of labor exploitations, which include paying sub-living wages (in 2021, it raised its minimum wage to $12 per hour). In early 2020, it rolled out a restructuring program that, while touted for creating more full-time positions, was criticized for eliminating roles and simultaneously creating overwhelming workloads for remaining employees. The biggest private employer in the U.S., Walmart has thrived financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the New York Times reporting, “During fiscal 2020, the company generated $559 billion in revenue, up $35 billion from the previous year. But labor activists say too little of that money has gone toward work force protections, which in turn has prolonged the pandemic.”

Under the current time-off system, hourly full-time employees “earn” paid time off (PTO) and are rewarded financially for good attendance. In January 2022, Walmart halved PTO for employees who test positive for COVID. Part-time hourly workers do not receive any paid maternity leave. According to Bloomberg, “Black and African-American recruits made up 28 percent of all new hires in the U.S. [in 2020-21], but accounted for 13 percent of promotions from hourly to management roles, according to the company’s latest diversity report.”

Walmart attempting to market and profit off of Juneteenth — a holiday that represents Black strength, but also the white failure to broadly enact emancipation at the end of the Civil War — is yet another example of bad corporate activism. It’s easy to adopt slogans and flashy colors while waiting for the dollars to roll in. Being called on your bullshit and expected to correct years of abuses against your marginalized employees? It’s the “doing the work” for me.



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Where to Eat at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)


Canada’s busiest and largest airport is cautiously rebounding from the devastating blows of the pandemic as travelers tiptoe back into global exploration. That means more adventures, but it also means the return of long wait times at check-in, security, and gates — more and more time to build up hunger that needs to be satiated.

Thankfully, Pearson has made some strides to improve the variety and quality of pre-boarding fare. It’s offering more diverse cuisines than ever, has partnered with celebrity chefs such as Susur Lee and Lynn Crawford, and welcome a bunch of outposts from restaurants in town.

Navigating Pearson can be a bit tricky. There are two terminals: Terminal 1 and 3 (since 2007, there has been no terminal 2). Terminal 1 has three different security areas for flights within Canada, flights to the United States, and international destinations; you can’t cross between these areas. In Terminal 3, flights within Canada and international destinations are in the same area, but flights to the United States are in a separate section; you can’t cross between the U.S. and Canada/international areas.

Still, it’s worth any hassle to seek out a decent meal before your flight.

YYZ’s Seven Standouts

The Dirty Bird Chicken & Waffles Express: Not all travelers want to pregame a flight (or interminable wait for takeoff) with fried chicken and waffles, but the fiercely delicious Dirty Bird isn’t some generic spot. If you somehow missed visiting its flagship spot in Kensington Market, do yourself a favor and try the gluten-free and halal-friendly OEB (dark meat, crispy and fluffy waffle, buttered maple, and dirty sauce). Or if you prefer something less messy, you can’t go wrong with a handheld like the OG with thigh meat, pickles, and dirty aioli. (Terminal 1 after security, Canadian area, Gate D20)

Boccone Trattoria by Massimo Capra: Opened by local celebrity chef Massimo Capra (Food Network Canada) with his hallmark bushy mustache, this family-friendly trattoria features a generous menu of Italian breakfasts with signature scaccia (Sicilian folded pizza), antipasti and shareables, salads, pastas, pizzas, paninis, and hearty mains like pan-seared pickerel and roasted porchetta. The partitioned seating helps make the place feel more like a legit restaurant than an airport eatery. (Terminal 1 after security, Canadian area, Gate D41)

The Hearth by Lynn Crawford
HMSHost

The Hearth by Lynn Crawford: Helmed by celeb chef Lynn Crawford (Top Chef Canada, Iron Chef America), the restaurant is centered around a large hearth, where staff makes signature flatbreads with toppings like mushroom and leek with Parmesan bechamel. Many menu options are Canadian comfort classics, including Montreal-style poutine, Fogo Island fish and chips, and old-school spaghetti and meatballs. (Terminal 1 after security, American area, Gate F60)

Caplansky’s Deli: If you don’t want to be tempted by overpriced snacks while in the air, look to Zane Caplanksy to stuff you to the gills with his self-described “Jewish soul food.” Options include the leaning tower of Caplansky (high-rise challah French toast), brisket sandwiches, knish pockets, and matzo ball soup. (Terminal 3 after security, Canadian/international area, Gate B39)

Cluny Grill: This is the casual sister outpost to the original Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie in Toronto’s Distillery District. Here, dirty dogs and poutines are given a gourmet-ish makeover: Dogs can be topped with bacon lardons, smoked cheddar, sour cream, and scallions; and the Québecois classic trinity of fries, gravy, and cheese curds gets decked out with beef brisket and crispy chicharrones. (Terminal 3 after security, American area, Gate A10)

Lee Kitchen by Susur Lee: If you prefer shared snacks to a full-on meal, consider celebrity chef Susur Lee’s (Top Chef, Iron Chef America) airport offshoot. Modeled with the same Asian fusion/French-inflected philosophy as the original Lee Restaurant on King West, Lee Kitchen is a streamlined spot for some of chef’s most popular hits (like the cheeseburger spring rolls), strip steak with teriyaki sauce, and all-day dim sum. (Terminal 1 after security, international area, Gate E73/F73)

Vinifera: The primary draw here is the nearly 100 wines and 20 craft beers on offer, which are complemented with a mishmash of mains and handhelds that include flatbreads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and quesadillas. Flavor combinations in dishes like the masala rose pasta are engaging enough to keep your palate piqued, though the simpler lemon rosemary chicken panini is a solid choice too. (Terminal 3 after security, Canadian/international area, Gate C32)

Bolding denotes the better eating options beyond the above highlights.

Terminal 1

Before security

  • Booster Juice: Canadian juice and smoothie chain (primarily found in malls) that offers meals in liquid format. (Level 2 parking and Link Train)
  • Starbucks: Multinational corporation offering overpriced coffee and fancy espresso-based drinks that are even more pricey. (Level 1 arrivals and Level 3 check in)
  • Subway: The one with the funky synthetic yeast smell. This is another American mega-chain that offers “healthy” (not really) foot-long subs for any mealtime. (Level 2 mezzanine)
  • Tim Hortons: Cheap Canadian doughnut chain (bought out by an American multinational) that offers doughnuts, sandwiches, basic coffee, and sugary espresso-based drinks. (Level 1 arrivals)

After security (flights within Canada)

  • A&W: Middle-of-the-road burger chain distinguished by its root beer pairing. (Gate D37)
  • Bar 120: Cuisine transformed: Pared back molecular gastronomy by chef John Placko, with less gimmick and more practicality (think dome-smoked chicken wings). (Gate D20)
  • Bento Sushi: Generic mall sushi, but at the airport. (Gate D22)
  • Boccone Trattoria by Massimo Capra: Local celebrity chef’s rustic Italian fare, including breakfast, pasta, pizzas, antipasti, and bar snacks. (Gate D41)
  • Camden Food Company: An airport chain that attempts organic, fair-trade, and local fare — that all tastes subpar, especially for the price and portion sizes. (Gate D31)
  • Farmer’s Market: (Un)surprisingly, there are no farmers to be found here. Instead, you’ll find packaged wraps, salad, snacks, and the usual suspects of grab-and-go fare. It’s minimally a step up from what’s sold on the plane. (Gate D4)
  • Mill Street Brewery Pub: This pub offshoot at Pearson delivers the convivial vibes found in Mill Street’s Distillery District location, thanks to locally brewed suds on tap along with a combination of typical and atypical pub fare that keeps the taste buds interested. (Gate D20)
  • Starbucks: Exceptionally long lines for expensive coffee and insulin-spiking pastries. (Gates D42, D20)
  • Thai Express: Quick service eatery that allegedly offers Thai creations where the pad thai is gloopy and greasy. (Gate D45)
  • The Dirty Bird Chicken & Waffles Express: Homegrown Toronto joint with a condensed menu at this Pearson offshoot. (Gate D20)
  • Tim Hortons: Sludgy coffee paired with flash-frozen and reheated doughnuts. (Gate D42)
  • Twist by Roger Mooking: Toronto chef Roger Mooking offers a disjointed menu of international dishes, but there are bold flavors and ingredient combinations here, especially for otherwise dull staple airport items (burgers, wraps, salads). (Gate D36)

Pastries at Boccone Trattoria Veloce
SSP America

After security (flights to the U.S.)

  • Booster Juice: Highly caloric smoothies, shakes, and food in bowls; there are also unmemorable wraps and paninis on offer. (Gate F57)
  • Apropos: Standard airport bar with cocktails and small bites. (Gate F62/F65)
  • Cibo Express Gourmet Market: Not to be confused with Via Cibo and Cibo Wine Bar (two other restaurant chains in the city), this airport-specific entity stockpiles sandwiches, drinks, and plenty of other non-edible goods fit for travel. (Gate F61)
  • Starbucks: If you’ve downloaded their app and have star rewards, now is a good time to use them to redeem for free food/drinks. (Gate F60)
  • The Burger Federation: Eatery for those who eat burgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (with major Donald Gorske vibes). (Gate F87)
  • The Hearth by Lynn Crawford: One of celebrity chef Lynn Crawford’s last freestanding restaurants (her popular restaurant, Ruby Watchco, was shuttered in 2020). (Gate F60)
  • Tim Hortons: Doughnuts, with or without the blessing of Justin Bieber. (Gate F66)
  • Upper Crust: Pizzas, baguettes, sandwiches, and pastries on offer here. (Gate F57)
  • Wahlburgers: Burgers slightly a cut above their fast-food counterparts, backed by movie star Marky Mark Wahlberg and his brothers. While meat between buns comprises about 90 percent of the menu, they do also offer non-burger-ish fare that include salads and breakfast scrambles. (Gate F67)

After security (international flights)

  • Built Custom Burgers: Burgers, burgers, and more burgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You may question your life choices afterwards. (Gate E74)
  • Banh Shop: As the name implies, banh mi sandwiches are their primary focus, but they also offer Saigon street food such as spring rolls, soups, and noodles. (Gate E74)
  • Heirloom Bakery Cafe: Food Network Canada personality and This Is Crumb blogger Devin Connell has her name and brand tied to this space, but aside from that, it’s another basic sandwich and snack spot. (Gate E75)
  • Lee Kitchen by Susur Lee: You won’t find Susur Lee’s 20-plus-ingredient, fancy schmancy salad here, but rather more mainstream options with a few Asian fusion dishes (hoisin chicken, jerk barbecue ribs). (Gate E73/F73)
  • Marathi: One of the few airport spots that can actually tickle your taste buds. A pretty robust display of Indian street food is on offer here with dishes that are acutely accentuated with heady spices: mains like coconut prawn curry, jackfruit and chicken, khurma, and masala scrambled eggs for early risers. (Gate E78)
  • Rock Squeeze: Top-shelf whiskies (over 20) are available here, along with a few snacks to accompany them. (Gate E74)
  • Starbucks: Where drinks can easily cost more than the food. And where the food (sandwiches, wraps, bakery goods) is nuked in a microwave. (Gate E75)
  • Tim Hortons: The cheapest place to eat at the airport; it’s actually possible for two people to “dine” (two sandwiches, two drinks) for $10 CAD and under. (Gates E81 and E66)
  • Wahlburgers: The only eatery where you can order an out-of-season cranberry-turkey Thanksgiving burger in the middle of summer. (Gate E67)

A large atrium-like space with huge windows, a large metal structure with orange pendant lights above a seating area and deli cases with food

eskystudio/Shutterstock

Terminal 3

Before security

  • Freshii: Health-conscious meals sold in the form of burritos, tacos, bowls, super smoothies, salads, snacks, and frozen yogurt. (Departures level)
  • Starbucks: The only place left in Toronto where the coffee shops outnumber the weed shops in the city. (Departures level)
  • Subway: Canadian professional snowboarder Mark Lee McMorris is currently the Great North’s spokesperson for Subway, but the subs still taste the same as when Jared Fogel was touting his weight-loss journey with the company. (Domestic arrivals)
  • Tim Hortons: Stereotyped as “Canadian as maple syrup” food icon where you order a “double double” (double cream and double sugar in a coffee) and servers know (for better or worse) exactly what you’re asking for. (Arrivals level)
  • Wendy’s: Square patties, chili, and Frosties are the primary distinguishing features to an otherwise standard fast-food burger chain. (Arrivals level)

After security (USA flights)

  • Acer: Not to be confused with the Taiwainese electronics brand of the same name, this Acer is named after the country’s famous Japanese maple trees. The eatery serves rice bowls, rolls, curry rice, and ramen. Also American/Continental (not Japanese) breakfast is offered here. (Gate C36)
  • Archeo Pizzeria: Another sibling spot modeled after a restaurant, this time Archeo, which offers trattoria fare in the Distillery District. The airport eatery is focused on just its focaccia-style pizzas. (Gate A10)
  • Cluny Grille: Top-tier dogs and decadent poutine. (Gate A10)
  • Distillery Bar: An attempt at recreating the sociable vibes of Toronto’s historic Distillery District with a menu of beers, both draft and bottled available, as well a few wines. A limited number of snack options are here too. (Gate A10)
  • Nobel Burger: Celebrity chef Mark McEwan (Iron Chef America, Top Chef Canada) signed off on this upscale/gourmet burger bar whose options (patty slapped with Brie, truffle oil, and oyster mushrooms) are more interesting than your average humdrum toppings. (Gate A13)
  • Starbucks: Once a quaint Seattle-based coffee shop, it is now found in all corners of the world, including this Toronto airport. (Gate A14)
  • Urban Crave: Described as “global street food,” the menu actually reads more like a Denny’s, with items like an egg breakfast bucket and the chicken chop chop bowl. (Gate A12)
  • Urban Market: 7-Eleven meets Panera Bread with a lot of pre-packaged food. (Gate A9)

After security (flights within Canada or international)

  • Beerhive: A hub for local and international craft beer, paired with pub grub (burgers, wraps, pizza). (Gate B41)
  • Booster juice: Pricey health food chain but ideal for those who prefer to drink their diet than waste their precious time chewing. (Gate B41)
  • Caplanksy’s Deli: Chef Zane Caplanky’s beloved College Street restaurant was shuttered due to landlord issues, but his Jewish deli spirit perseveres inside this airport location. (Gate B39)
  • Corso Pizza and Pasta: Neapolitan style pizza that’s actually cooked in a wood-fired oven. (Gate B29)
  • Fionn MacCool’s: One of the few eateries inside Pearson that actually feels like you’re stepping into a restaurant (it’s walled off and not open-concept). Aside from that, it offers your typical Irish pub grub (pot pie, fish and chips, burgers, shepherd’s pie). (Gate B24)
  • Heirloom Bakery Cafe: The “heirloom” aspect of the name implies that food personality Devin Connell’s recipes have been in the family for generations (and used for dishes here). Ultimately, it’s just another airport eatery with plenty of between-the-buns items, along with packaged sweets and snacks. (Gate E75)
  • Paramount Fine Foods: Lebanese-Canadian Mohamad Fakih’s restaurant chain offers Middle Eastern (such as shish tawouk platters) and Lebanese dishes (fried kibbeh and kafta kebabs). Meals are reasonably priced with generous portion sizes. (Gate C36)
  • Smashburger: Yet another burger chain at the airport. This time, it’s a Denver based-brand whose only Toronto location is at Pearson. This one focuses on smash-griddled burgers. (Gate B26)
  • Starbucks: Although 33 locations swiftly closed in Toronto this year (due to the company’s self-described desire for “business transformation” and internal “restructuring”), none of the locations at the airport were affected (all nine locations remain intact). (Gate B39)
  • Subway: The brand claims to offer over 2 million iterations of their sandwiches but the common denominator is that they all taste like sadness (and sometimes, mystery meat). (Gate B22)
  • Tap & Pour: A pub that also offers local Mill Street brews; the food is exactly what you’d expect from a pub (fish and chips, burgers, wraps). (Gate B3)
  • Tim Hortons: Canadians have a love/hate relationship with Timmies; we’ll shame it, but God help any non-Canadian who bad mouths it. (Gates B22, B3, and B26)
  • Vinifera: Vinifera is open when you need a bar at 4 a.m. because your body is in another time zone where it’s happy hour. (Gate C32)
  • Vino Volo Wine Bar: There are over 30 wine varieties to choose from here, along with snacky options (marcona almonds, charcuterie boards) for those in between meals or stuck on a layover. (Gate B22)



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Where to Eat at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)


Canada’s busiest and largest airport is cautiously rebounding from the devastating blows of the pandemic as travelers tiptoe back into global exploration. That means more adventures, but it also means the return of long wait times at check-in, security, and gates — more and more time to build up hunger that needs to be satiated.

Thankfully, Pearson has made some strides to improve the variety and quality of pre-boarding fare. It’s offering more diverse cuisines than ever, has partnered with celebrity chefs such as Susur Lee and Lynn Crawford, and welcome a bunch of outposts from restaurants in town.

Navigating Pearson can be a bit tricky. There are two terminals: Terminal 1 and 3 (since 2007, there has been no terminal 2). Terminal 1 has three different security areas for flights within Canada, flights to the United States, and international destinations; you can’t cross between these areas. In Terminal 3, flights within Canada and international destinations are in the same area, but flights to the United States are in a separate section; you can’t cross between the U.S. and Canada/international areas.

Still, it’s worth any hassle to seek out a decent meal before your flight.

YYZ’s Seven Standouts

The Dirty Bird Chicken & Waffles Express: Not all travelers want to pregame a flight (or interminable wait for takeoff) with fried chicken and waffles, but the fiercely delicious Dirty Bird isn’t some generic spot. If you somehow missed visiting its flagship spot in Kensington Market, do yourself a favor and try the gluten-free and halal-friendly OEB (dark meat, crispy and fluffy waffle, buttered maple, and dirty sauce). Or if you prefer something less messy, you can’t go wrong with a handheld like the OG with thigh meat, pickles, and dirty aioli. (Terminal 1 after security, Canadian area, Gate D20)

Boccone Trattoria by Massimo Capra: Opened by local celebrity chef Massimo Capra (Food Network Canada) with his hallmark bushy mustache, this family-friendly trattoria features a generous menu of Italian breakfasts with signature scaccia (Sicilian folded pizza), antipasti and shareables, salads, pastas, pizzas, paninis, and hearty mains like pan-seared pickerel and roasted porchetta. The partitioned seating helps make the place feel more like a legit restaurant than an airport eatery. (Terminal 1 after security, Canadian area, Gate D41)

The Hearth by Lynn Crawford
HMSHost

The Hearth by Lynn Crawford: Helmed by celeb chef Lynn Crawford (Top Chef Canada, Iron Chef America), the restaurant is centered around a large hearth, where staff makes signature flatbreads with toppings like mushroom and leek with Parmesan bechamel. Many menu options are Canadian comfort classics, including Montreal-style poutine, Fogo Island fish and chips, and old-school spaghetti and meatballs. (Terminal 1 after security, American area, Gate F60)

Caplansky’s Deli: If you don’t want to be tempted by overpriced snacks while in the air, look to Zane Caplanksy to stuff you to the gills with his self-described “Jewish soul food.” Options include the leaning tower of Caplansky (high-rise challah French toast), brisket sandwiches, knish pockets, and matzo ball soup. (Terminal 3 after security, Canadian/international area, Gate B39)

Cluny Grill: This is the casual sister outpost to the original Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie in Toronto’s Distillery District. Here, dirty dogs and poutines are given a gourmet-ish makeover: Dogs can be topped with bacon lardons, smoked cheddar, sour cream, and scallions; and the Québecois classic trinity of fries, gravy, and cheese curds gets decked out with beef brisket and crispy chicharrones. (Terminal 3 after security, American area, Gate A10)

Lee Kitchen by Susur Lee: If you prefer shared snacks to a full-on meal, consider celebrity chef Susur Lee’s (Top Chef, Iron Chef America) airport offshoot. Modeled with the same Asian fusion/French-inflected philosophy as the original Lee Restaurant on King West, Lee Kitchen is a streamlined spot for some of chef’s most popular hits (like the cheeseburger spring rolls), strip steak with teriyaki sauce, and all-day dim sum. (Terminal 1 after security, international area, Gate E73/F73)

Vinifera: The primary draw here is the nearly 100 wines and 20 craft beers on offer, which are complemented with a mishmash of mains and handhelds that include flatbreads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and quesadillas. Flavor combinations in dishes like the masala rose pasta are engaging enough to keep your palate piqued, though the simpler lemon rosemary chicken panini is a solid choice too. (Terminal 3 after security, Canadian/international area, Gate C32)

Bolding denotes the better eating options beyond the above highlights.

Terminal 1

Before security

  • Booster Juice: Canadian juice and smoothie chain (primarily found in malls) that offers meals in liquid format. (Level 2 parking and Link Train)
  • Starbucks: Multinational corporation offering overpriced coffee and fancy espresso-based drinks that are even more pricey. (Level 1 arrivals and Level 3 check in)
  • Subway: The one with the funky synthetic yeast smell. This is another American mega-chain that offers “healthy” (not really) foot-long subs for any mealtime. (Level 2 mezzanine)
  • Tim Hortons: Cheap Canadian doughnut chain (bought out by an American multinational) that offers doughnuts, sandwiches, basic coffee, and sugary espresso-based drinks. (Level 1 arrivals)

After security (flights within Canada)

  • A&W: Middle-of-the-road burger chain distinguished by its root beer pairing. (Gate D37)
  • Bar 120: Cuisine transformed: Pared back molecular gastronomy by chef John Placko, with less gimmick and more practicality (think dome-smoked chicken wings). (Gate D20)
  • Bento Sushi: Generic mall sushi, but at the airport. (Gate D22)
  • Boccone Trattoria by Massimo Capra: Local celebrity chef’s rustic Italian fare, including breakfast, pasta, pizzas, antipasti, and bar snacks. (Gate D41)
  • Camden Food Company: An airport chain that attempts organic, fair-trade, and local fare — that all tastes subpar, especially for the price and portion sizes. (Gate D31)
  • Farmer’s Market: (Un)surprisingly, there are no farmers to be found here. Instead, you’ll find packaged wraps, salad, snacks, and the usual suspects of grab-and-go fare. It’s minimally a step up from what’s sold on the plane. (Gate D4)
  • Mill Street Brewery Pub: This pub offshoot at Pearson delivers the convivial vibes found in Mill Street’s Distillery District location, thanks to locally brewed suds on tap along with a combination of typical and atypical pub fare that keeps the taste buds interested. (Gate D20)
  • Starbucks: Exceptionally long lines for expensive coffee and insulin-spiking pastries. (Gates D42, D20)
  • Thai Express: Quick service eatery that allegedly offers Thai creations where the pad thai is gloopy and greasy. (Gate D45)
  • The Dirty Bird Chicken & Waffles Express: Homegrown Toronto joint with a condensed menu at this Pearson offshoot. (Gate D20)
  • Tim Hortons: Sludgy coffee paired with flash-frozen and reheated doughnuts. (Gate D42)
  • Twist by Roger Mooking: Toronto chef Roger Mooking offers a disjointed menu of international dishes, but there are bold flavors and ingredient combinations here, especially for otherwise dull staple airport items (burgers, wraps, salads). (Gate D36)

Pastries at Boccone Trattoria Veloce
SSP America

After security (flights to the U.S.)

  • Booster Juice: Highly caloric smoothies, shakes, and food in bowls; there are also unmemorable wraps and paninis on offer. (Gate F57)
  • Apropos: Standard airport bar with cocktails and small bites. (Gate F62/F65)
  • Cibo Express Gourmet Market: Not to be confused with Via Cibo and Cibo Wine Bar (two other restaurant chains in the city), this airport-specific entity stockpiles sandwiches, drinks, and plenty of other non-edible goods fit for travel. (Gate F61)
  • Starbucks: If you’ve downloaded their app and have star rewards, now is a good time to use them to redeem for free food/drinks. (Gate F60)
  • The Burger Federation: Eatery for those who eat burgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (with major Donald Gorske vibes). (Gate F87)
  • The Hearth by Lynn Crawford: One of celebrity chef Lynn Crawford’s last freestanding restaurants (her popular restaurant, Ruby Watchco, was shuttered in 2020). (Gate F60)
  • Tim Hortons: Doughnuts, with or without the blessing of Justin Bieber. (Gate F66)
  • Upper Crust: Pizzas, baguettes, sandwiches, and pastries on offer here. (Gate F57)
  • Wahlburgers: Burgers slightly a cut above their fast-food counterparts, backed by movie star Marky Mark Wahlberg and his brothers. While meat between buns comprises about 90 percent of the menu, they do also offer non-burger-ish fare that include salads and breakfast scrambles. (Gate F67)

After security (international flights)

  • Built Custom Burgers: Burgers, burgers, and more burgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You may question your life choices afterwards. (Gate E74)
  • Banh Shop: As the name implies, banh mi sandwiches are their primary focus, but they also offer Saigon street food such as spring rolls, soups, and noodles. (Gate E74)
  • Heirloom Bakery Cafe: Food Network Canada personality and This Is Crumb blogger Devin Connell has her name and brand tied to this space, but aside from that, it’s another basic sandwich and snack spot. (Gate E75)
  • Lee Kitchen by Susur Lee: You won’t find Susur Lee’s 20-plus-ingredient, fancy schmancy salad here, but rather more mainstream options with a few Asian fusion dishes (hoisin chicken, jerk barbecue ribs). (Gate E73/F73)
  • Marathi: One of the few airport spots that can actually tickle your taste buds. A pretty robust display of Indian street food is on offer here with dishes that are acutely accentuated with heady spices: mains like coconut prawn curry, jackfruit and chicken, khurma, and masala scrambled eggs for early risers. (Gate E78)
  • Rock Squeeze: Top-shelf whiskies (over 20) are available here, along with a few snacks to accompany them. (Gate E74)
  • Starbucks: Where drinks can easily cost more than the food. And where the food (sandwiches, wraps, bakery goods) is nuked in a microwave. (Gate E75)
  • Tim Hortons: The cheapest place to eat at the airport; it’s actually possible for two people to “dine” (two sandwiches, two drinks) for $10 CAD and under. (Gates E81 and E66)
  • Wahlburgers: The only eatery where you can order an out-of-season cranberry-turkey Thanksgiving burger in the middle of summer. (Gate E67)

A large atrium-like space with huge windows, a large metal structure with orange pendant lights above a seating area and deli cases with food

eskystudio/Shutterstock

Terminal 3

Before security

  • Freshii: Health-conscious meals sold in the form of burritos, tacos, bowls, super smoothies, salads, snacks, and frozen yogurt. (Departures level)
  • Starbucks: The only place left in Toronto where the coffee shops outnumber the weed shops in the city. (Departures level)
  • Subway: Canadian professional snowboarder Mark Lee McMorris is currently the Great North’s spokesperson for Subway, but the subs still taste the same as when Jared Fogel was touting his weight-loss journey with the company. (Domestic arrivals)
  • Tim Hortons: Stereotyped as “Canadian as maple syrup” food icon where you order a “double double” (double cream and double sugar in a coffee) and servers know (for better or worse) exactly what you’re asking for. (Arrivals level)
  • Wendy’s: Square patties, chili, and Frosties are the primary distinguishing features to an otherwise standard fast-food burger chain. (Arrivals level)

After security (USA flights)

  • Acer: Not to be confused with the Taiwainese electronics brand of the same name, this Acer is named after the country’s famous Japanese maple trees. The eatery serves rice bowls, rolls, curry rice, and ramen. Also American/Continental (not Japanese) breakfast is offered here. (Gate C36)
  • Archeo Pizzeria: Another sibling spot modeled after a restaurant, this time Archeo, which offers trattoria fare in the Distillery District. The airport eatery is focused on just its focaccia-style pizzas. (Gate A10)
  • Cluny Grille: Top-tier dogs and decadent poutine. (Gate A10)
  • Distillery Bar: An attempt at recreating the sociable vibes of Toronto’s historic Distillery District with a menu of beers, both draft and bottled available, as well a few wines. A limited number of snack options are here too. (Gate A10)
  • Nobel Burger: Celebrity chef Mark McEwan (Iron Chef America, Top Chef Canada) signed off on this upscale/gourmet burger bar whose options (patty slapped with Brie, truffle oil, and oyster mushrooms) are more interesting than your average humdrum toppings. (Gate A13)
  • Starbucks: Once a quaint Seattle-based coffee shop, it is now found in all corners of the world, including this Toronto airport. (Gate A14)
  • Urban Crave: Described as “global street food,” the menu actually reads more like a Denny’s, with items like an egg breakfast bucket and the chicken chop chop bowl. (Gate A12)
  • Urban Market: 7-Eleven meets Panera Bread with a lot of pre-packaged food. (Gate A9)

After security (flights within Canada or international)

  • Beerhive: A hub for local and international craft beer, paired with pub grub (burgers, wraps, pizza). (Gate B41)
  • Booster juice: Pricey health food chain but ideal for those who prefer to drink their diet than waste their precious time chewing. (Gate B41)
  • Caplanksy’s Deli: Chef Zane Caplanky’s beloved College Street restaurant was shuttered due to landlord issues, but his Jewish deli spirit perseveres inside this airport location. (Gate B39)
  • Corso Pizza and Pasta: Neapolitan style pizza that’s actually cooked in a wood-fired oven. (Gate B29)
  • Fionn MacCool’s: One of the few eateries inside Pearson that actually feels like you’re stepping into a restaurant (it’s walled off and not open-concept). Aside from that, it offers your typical Irish pub grub (pot pie, fish and chips, burgers, shepherd’s pie). (Gate B24)
  • Heirloom Bakery Cafe: The “heirloom” aspect of the name implies that food personality Devin Connell’s recipes have been in the family for generations (and used for dishes here). Ultimately, it’s just another airport eatery with plenty of between-the-buns items, along with packaged sweets and snacks. (Gate E75)
  • Paramount Fine Foods: Lebanese-Canadian Mohamad Fakih’s restaurant chain offers Middle Eastern (such as shish tawouk platters) and Lebanese dishes (fried kibbeh and kafta kebabs). Meals are reasonably priced with generous portion sizes. (Gate C36)
  • Smashburger: Yet another burger chain at the airport. This time, it’s a Denver based-brand whose only Toronto location is at Pearson. This one focuses on smash-griddled burgers. (Gate B26)
  • Starbucks: Although 33 locations swiftly closed in Toronto this year (due to the company’s self-described desire for “business transformation” and internal “restructuring”), none of the locations at the airport were affected (all nine locations remain intact). (Gate B39)
  • Subway: The brand claims to offer over 2 million iterations of their sandwiches but the common denominator is that they all taste like sadness (and sometimes, mystery meat). (Gate B22)
  • Tap & Pour: A pub that also offers local Mill Street brews; the food is exactly what you’d expect from a pub (fish and chips, burgers, wraps). (Gate B3)
  • Tim Hortons: Canadians have a love/hate relationship with Timmies; we’ll shame it, but God help any non-Canadian who bad mouths it. (Gates B22, B3, and B26)
  • Vinifera: Vinifera is open when you need a bar at 4 a.m. because your body is in another time zone where it’s happy hour. (Gate C32)
  • Vino Volo Wine Bar: There are over 30 wine varieties to choose from here, along with snacky options (marcona almonds, charcuterie boards) for those in between meals or stuck on a layover. (Gate B22)



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Make Way for Australian Rye Whiskey


Stu Whytcross stands in the dusty stockyard of a dying Australian farm in southwest New South Wales, Australia, a six-and-a-half-hour drive west of Sydney, where the lush farmland of the east coast gives way to the arid interior—or what Aussies call the Outback. He’s there for a clearance auction, the last chance for a destitute farmer to sell what little remains of the family legacy; he bids unopposed on a bag of scrappy, irregular seed rye that would end up supplying the makers of the world’s best rye whiskey.

Whytcross works for the boutique malt house Voyager, which, in addition to its work researching and developing new and heritage grain varieties, buys grains from local farmers and processes them for craft breweries and distilleries. That bag of rye would be propagated and replanted—first in a greenhouse, then a garden plot, and finally to several paddocks—before being harvested and sold to Sydney’s Archie Rose Distilling Co. for its Sandigo Heritage Rye Malt Whisky.


“We’re not even sure of the variety of the rye that was in that bag,” says Whytcross, “but the farmer had been growing it for the past 60 years and replanting the same seed, so it would have changed and evolved in response to its environment.” Whytcross thinks the unique character of Australian rye comes from the land. “The varieties we have here, like Bevy and Vampire, tend to grow in the hot and dry marginal farming areas where it survives better than wheat and barley,” he says. “We get quite a small grain size and yields aren’t massive. But that’s how you get intensity of flavor.”

The concentrated earthy, spicy funk that results from the grain struggling in this drought-hardened land—that defines Australian rye.

Historically, Australia hasn’t had much of a market for locally grown rye, which is used mostly as a hay crop in marginal farmland or exhausted soils. The lack of demand means there hasn’t been a lot of selective breeding for increased yield. “With barley, there’s been 50 to 100 new varieties over my lifetime developed for yield and tolerance,” explains Whytcross. “But a lot of that has been at the sacrifice of flavor and aroma. With rye, most farmers are still planting 60-year-old strains that haven’t had the flavor bred out of them.”

It’s that grain character—the concentrated earthy, spicy funk that results from the grain struggling in this drought-hardened land—that defines Australian rye. And it’s not like anything you’ll find in the United States or Canada. “Rye grown in a dry climate is cereal-forward, unlike most American rye,” says Andrew Fitzgerald, co-founder of Melbourne rye distillery The Gospel. “A lot of American ryes drink like a bourbon with a bit of rye spice. Ours drinks like liquid rye bread.”

In 2020, Archie Rose was awarded World’s Best Rye at the World Whiskies Awards for the distillery’s Rye Malt Whisky, a sort of hybrid rye/single malt that’s both delicious and entirely Australian. Archie Rose, like most Australian rye, is made using techniques learned from single malt Scotch: malting the grains, double-distilling in copper pots and often employing ex-bourbon or ex-wine casks for maturation. “We aim to make something distinctly Australian,” says Dave Withers, master distiller at Archie Rose. “It doesn’t have much to do with the American way of doing things.”

Peter Bignell of Tasmania’s Belgrove Distillery was the first to produce a 100 percent Australian rye, back in 2010, four years before Archie Rose’s first still run. An engineer, farmer, artist and environmentalist, Bignell’s work is perhaps the epitome of grain-to-glass Australian distilling. His whiskey came about in a decidedly pre-industrial fashion, when one year he ended up with a bumper crop of the rye he was growing to feed the sheep on his family farm. Putting his skills to use, he built his own 500-liter (132-gallon) copper pot still, retrofitted a commercial tumble dryer into a malting kiln, and fired them up with biodiesel he makes from discarded deep-fryer oil from the truck stop up the road.

Belgrove rye is deeply earthy and incredibly rich in grain character, like wild rice cooked in bone broth and eaten with a well-worn wooden spoon. It’s as strange and complex and Australian as Bignell himself.

Australian Rye Whisky

“We aim to make something distinctly Australian,” says Dave Withers, master distiller at Archie Rose. “It doesn’t have much to do with the American way of doing things.” | Photo: Archie Rose Distilling Co.

Along with Archie Rose, The Gospel and Belgrove, other Australian ryes, such as Backwoods and Tiger Snake, are each contributing to what is becoming a unique regional character, despite the distilleries’ wildly different approaches to production. This commonality is much harder to find among other Aussie whiskey styles. For context, the vast majority of Australian whiskey is produced from malted barley that’s double-distilled to make single malt. Rye was always an afterthought—a distant foreign cousin to the malts Australians know and love. But for a nation struggling to define itself in a world awash with craft whiskeys, rye, despite its indelible links to North America, offers perhaps the best example of a truly Australian whiskey.

It’s a big part of the reason The Gospel wanted to make rye in the first place. Tucked in the light industrial backstreets of Melbourne’s inner suburb of Brunswick, the brand stays much closer to American production methods than most, using unmalted rye and maturing in charred new oak. Despite the similarities to traditional American rye, The Gospel tastes fundamentally different. “Our rye is very grain-forward, with a bright fruit character that you don’t often see in American rye,” says Fitzgerald. “It tastes like the Australian countryside.”

Part of Fitzgerald’s interest in making rye in Australia is based on practicality. Whytcross neatly sums up the logic: “Compared to corn, wheat and barley, it’s better for the farmers, better for the soils and better for the environment. It needs less water and less nitrogen-based fertilizer, which causes a huge amount of CO2 emissions and runs off into our fragile river systems. It also has deeper roots, so it even helps to regenerate tapped-out soils.” 

As craft whiskey producers in Australia, and across the world, seek ways to differentiate themselves from established brands, terroir is becoming an increasingly important factor. Hyperlocal yeast strains, unique microclimates and heritage grains like the ones used to make Australian rye have become a staple of the craft whiskey playbook. From Bruichladdich’s “Islay Barley” single malt Scotch, made entirely with local barley, to Balcones’ Baby Blue corn whiskey, made in Texas with heritage blue maize, these grains and where they are grown are writing a new chapter in the craft whiskey story.

Australian rye, with its scrappy varieties, resilience, genetic diversity and intense cereal flavor, is emerging as the country’s most singular spirit. As Fitzgerald says, “Making rye is the closest we can get to taking the flavor of an Outback Australian farm to the world.”

The Gospel Rye is available in the U.S. directly from the distillery’s website, shipping to 40 states. Belgrove can sometimes be found in boutique bottle shops. Archie Rose is currently not available in the U.S., but as one of Australia’s biggest modern distilleries, don’t be surprised to see it stateside in coming years.

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Where to Eat Near Portland International Jetport (PWM)


The anemic dining options at the Portland International Jetport (PWM) don’t properly reflect the caliber of the city’s restaurant scene. Shipyard Brewport, with its tall pints, can help pass the time, but L.L. Bean heiress Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster Cafe doesn’t do the state’s signature crustacean justice. Beyond that, travelers are limited to meager options like Starbucks, Great American Bagel, and Burger King.

Better to pick something up on your way to the airport or hop in the car when you arrive to hit any of the great options on or near Congress Street, just a few minutes’ drive away. These eateries are also great for anyone arriving via Amtrak train or Concord Coach bus at the Portland Transportation Center, or anyone who doesn’t want to deal with finding elusive parking in the Arts District or Old Port. From doughnuts to barbecue to pizza to Thai food, here’s how to fuel up near PWM.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.



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The Best Breakfast Pancakes Are Delivery Pancakes


The last time I wrote about pancakes, I said they were easy to make at home. Well, I lied. Or, not lied — I just discovered I was wrong when I attempted to make them from scratch. The main issue is that if you’re not using a boxed mix, every good recipe calls for buttermilk, which is not something I typically have in my kitchen. So a Saturday morning pancake breakfast either requires advanced planning on my part (not likely), a morning run to the grocery store (nope), or making pancakes without buttermilk or with a buttermilk substitute, every recipe for which has so far resulted in dense, sad silver dollars, not the fluffy bites I wanted.

However, I realized that this was a problem I could throw money at. I’ve already advocated for bringing maple syrup to your pancakes. Well, now is the time to bring the pancakes to your maple syrup: Ordering them in is your path to a great pancake breakfast.

I’m lucky enough to live a few blocks from both a pretty stellar diner and some bistros and brunch spots that deliver, so pancakes of the standard and even the lemon ricotta types are not hard to come by. But the first time I did this, I was skeptical. Pancakes did not immediately seem like the kind of food that would survive delivery well — a cold pancake is a sad thing. But it turns out that without any butter or syrup already on the pancake, they stay pretty sturdy. And if they do get cold, it’s nothing a quick flip in a skillet can’t fix.

A good order of pancakes is special. They’re tangy and spongy and sometimes get that buttery caramelization around the edges. But even if my diner is just using Bisquick mix, it’s worth it to me to spend the occasional money to have someone else make them. Even if I do have buttermilk, pancake recipes are difficult to scale, so either my two-person household has to be eating pancakes for days at a time, or the batter goes to waste. By ordering in, I can get the two pancakes I want, for any meal I want. It’s a low-lift treat.

I realized I still had rules in my head about what foods were appropriate for delivery, even after years of relying on delivery more than usual, and even after restaurants figured out how to successfully deliver everything from crisp fries to omakase platters. Before the pandemic, I would not have considered pancakes a takeout food. Now, there are no rules. Free your mind, and breakfast for dinner will follow.



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Butter TikTok Is My New Favorite Digital Rest Stop


TikTok is a beautiful place where perfect spoonfuls of glossy-smooth, softened-just-right butter can become one person’s entire schtick. And for that, I am truly grateful, because the sight of a spoon moving effortlessly through butter to form a pristine quenelle is so viscerally satisfying it makes me feel like I’m putting my brain on ice for a minute or two.

The person responsible for those quenelles is the London chef Thomas Straker. While Straker had found previous success posting recipes on the platform, his “All Things Butter” series, which he launched in mid-April, has made him the face of #ButterTok, a space full of butter mountains and creamy, just-churned swoops. For the series, he has posted a succession of compound butters: crispy bacon, roasted chicken skin, burnt chili and anchovy, bone marrow, and shrimp, to name just a few.

Straker’s concept is simple: he quickly shows us the process of making these compound butters, then shares his satisfaction as he eats a piece of bread smeared with an almost obscene layer of the stuff, or just a dollop of it on his finger. And it works: Almost every video in Straker’s series has reached at least a million views, though they often go much higher (as of this writing, his burnt butter video has racked up 14.9 million). This vastly surpasses Straker’s older recipe content, which drew a comparatively measly tens of thousands of views.

ButterTok is a beautiful fantasy. Straker makes the quenelles look deceptively easy, no more complicated than scooping ice cream, but there’s clearly technique at work: in reality, this is a cheffy move that requires practice (and for some people, very particular spoons). And because butter is butter, Straker’s creations look familiar and, in theory, fairly replicable — but if I’m honest with myself, I surely won’t be smoking my own butter or adding shrimp to it.

In this way, I’ve come to appreciate the butter series as a kind of digital rest stop — an online space where the reality of the world and the rest of the internet is suspended for barely-30-second increments. There, the only thing that matters is butter.



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