19 March 2010

Torontonian Fast Food

Until relatively recently I assumed that all the ubiquitous fast food chains were multi-national beasts that began in the U.S. However, I've slowly realised that a surprising number of these typically-suburban eateries in Toronto and the G.T.A. actually began in Toronto. For instance, Swiss Chalet, Harvey's, Pizza Pizza, Pizza Nova, and Lick's. We thus have a fairly significant native fast food presence. Is this good or bad? I don't know, but it's interesting.


  1. I like a lot of "fast food" (both typical North American [ie. (veg) burgers] fare and a lot of international "street food" more broadly). But I don't know how to answer your question about whether it's "good" or not. I enjoy some of the offerings from each the establishments you listed (notable exception- Pizza Pizza is, as I'm sure we can all agree, a pox on our city/humanity) but I can't get behind mass franchise type food operations in terms of my personal politics or my personal food philosophy (ie that food should be fresh/inventive/prepared with care based on the culinary interests of the person making it, which is exactly how every corporate "fast food" place, including the ones you've listed, doesn't make food).

    My ideal kind of "fast food" places are those like Ba Le 2, the place where I usually get banh mi on Dundas, or even places in New York like Doughnut Plant or the Dosa cart guy, there's a happy alignment between small, non-corporate business practice, people who genuinely care about making a particular kind of tasty food with fresh ingredients. I don't really know why I felt this was important to point out, except that I guess it makes me sad that although the Harvey's and Lick's of Toronto are doing well, I still feel like our city's food culture is much too dominated by chains generally and has far too few examples of creative, thoughtfully-prepared, non-corporate fast food. In my mind, Torontonian chains play into this problem as much as do other Canadian/American/International chains, so I'm not really comfortable calling them "good," although I think that if one wants to buy a fast food burger, it is probably ethically better to buy it from Harvey's or Lick's than Burger King or Wendy's, for example.

    Anyway, how come you chose to post this on Home of Sky instead of Eat My Love?

  2. I posted this here because it's about Toronto heritage and local/civic pride (or lack thereof, perhaps, in this case) more than it is about food. It's pretty shameful food, is the thing, and not worthy of a food appreciation site like Eat My Love; I only wanted to note that these chains are surprisingly (ostensibly) locally-owned.

    And, of course, I agree with all your fast food criticisms.

  3. Is the food good? I've eaten at Swiss Chalet, Pizza Pizza, and Harvey's. While I like Pizza Pizza, it's only good relative to the other options; it stills leaves a bit to be desired.