I'm taking a break from my Montreal Somoked Meat project to bring information about the food at the EX. We went last night and surprise!!!! I have a couple of words to say.
As I have never been to the EX, I read some posts on this website and others to get recommendations and get a feel of what to expect in terms of food. I read a lot about the tradition of food and the diverse, unique items that will be available. Here goes:
First off, there is a food cart almost every four steps around the entire grounds plus there is also a "Food Pavillion" - a building dedicated to "international delights". Our party of eight decided to snack on carnival food and hit the pavillion last when we were done on the rides.
I started with a slice of Pepperoni ($3.80) from the Pizza Pizza stand next to the "drop-zone" ride. If any of you know my style, you normally couldn't pay me to eat pizza from Pizza Pizza, however, I took a good look at the slices on the lazy susan before ordering. I selected a specific slice and it was incredible. Loaded with pepperoni, loaded with cheese which was evenly distributed from tip to crust and great taste (totally unlike the Pizza they would deliver to your home or the slices at any of their locations in the city). Definite thumbs-up. I had their slice at their Wonderland concession a couple of years ago ($5), and there was hardly any cheese and hardly any pepperoni - but there was really nothing else to eat other than candy so in starvation mode, I ordered a slice. Big mistake.
Our party shared a bag of Tiny Tom donuts. Now folks, I understand that it's an old tradition in Toronto to have these donuts every year, but I think maybe they forgot the recipe this year. What I tasted was mini-donut-shaped FRIED DOUGH. Period. The donuts tasted like the outer shell of chinese chicken balls. There was a hint of confectioner's sugar spaztically thrown on to a few donuts and the rest had not even a hint of sweet taste. Just bland, fried dough.
I then had a 'famous fresh footlong corn dog' ($7) with a freshly squeezed lemonade ($4). I had just seen a news report the other day and the reporter was holding the dog in her hand showing the viewers this masterpiece. It really had me drooling. Folks, it tasted like a pogo. Nothing special about it, no special seasoning, not even that crispy to be honest. It was almost identical to a $1 frozen pogo. The lemonade, I would describe as very refreshing green water. The gentleman teenager took a good 2-3 minutes making my cup of lemonade (which really held up the line for people who just wanted a corn dog), he shook it up professionally like a martini with crushed ice, special lemonade elixir and fresh sliced lemon. I was really dissapointed. It wasn't sweet or tart and had almost no lemon flavour whatsoever.
Later on, I finally had the group ready for the food Pavillion. We made the treck past all the carny's while guarding our wallets (not easy to do) and got into the food pavillion. We had no idea the hours of operation of the pavillion, but half of the concessions were closing (no-one's fault). I will say that the description of this pavillion in the guide book for the EX is a little misleading ... "Specialty International Fare". Folks, it's a freaking food court. Period. Granted, it's eight times the size of a standard mall food court, but still, the EX markets the food court like it's an exhibit to experience ... are they nuts?
We tried a few items from the vendors (we shared some of the items). First I tried half a slice from Mamma's Pizza. It was ok, the same slice you would get at their locations around the city. Consistently 'ok' pizza.
I then ran over to get the "famous $0.99-cent spaghetti" - it was recommended on the web-site, and I love spaghetti. Apparantly, this place is there every year and it's a tradition to many. I tell you it was almost identical to the $0.59 cent can of Heinz spaghetti you could get at any discount grocery store. The difference is that you could heat up the spaghetti at home and shake salt on it if required - two things lacking with their spaghetti. Honestly, it was plain, room temperature spaghetti noodles covered with room-temperature "smart-choice" bland tomato sauce. They actually advertise that this is the sauce that they use. Unless you're starving and only have a loony left in your pocket, maybe you should try something else.
I wanted to get a half-rack of ribs from "Ye Olde Piggery" or "Hungry Heffer" or whatever the catchy name was, but they were one of the places closing. It was recommended on the internet, but I can't vouch for it.
As I was walking past the Swiss Chalet consession and one of the several Pizza Nova concessions to see if there was something special to find, a roller-dog was staring me in the face calling my name. An old-fashioned "foot-long" on a hot roller from the "generic footlong dog concession". I was drooling before my first bite. Unfortunately, it wasn't good. It looked nice and roasted on the outside, but the inside was only half to 3/4 cooked. I split up the dog in four so that we could all share in this 'ok food if you're starving' fare.
At that point, I had enough international delicasies for one day and we left to catch the streetcar.
I was dissapointed with the food, as it was nothing more than a food court plus rip-ff carts around the park serving the same crap as at Wonderland. The vendors also had no enthusiasm or care as they looked at their watches to see when their shift was ending and took turns sneaking in text messages to their friends who are spoiled enough by their parents to not have to get summer jobs. Call me crazy, but I've been to Disneyland and everyone there, right down to toilet cleaners are enthusiastic and excited. My experience at the EX was nothing more than typical travelling carnival with a food court.
A microcosm of the food at the EX would be the dated prizes that you could get if you're one out of 100 who has blonde hair and says "pleeeeeese" really well to get a free $1 stuffed animal. Despite my rugged good looks, I wasn't as fortunate convincing a teen-aged Asian boy to give me a free toy. They are still giving away dated Sponge Bob stuffies and Generic stuffies with no trade-mark. I think the entire park, staffing and food need serious re-vamping.
If I ever have to indulge my relatives again by returning to the EX next year, I'm picking up a bag of sandwiches from Caplansky's on the way for myself and my wife and bringing water bottles.
Just a little warning that the fare at the EX should be reserved for wide-eyed kids aged five to twelve who experience their very first footlong or snow-cone. If you have good memories of the food, keep the memories intact and pack a lunch.