Montreal and Toronto are often pitted against each other – which (in my humble opinion) I believe to be entirely unfair.
The two cities are on scales of their own entirely, each with their own unique selling points. Montreal has the whole European “joie de vivre” going for it. Case in point: a Montrealer’s favourite pastime consists of lounging in the park with a baguette. It’s also got a thriving art and music scene and affordable housing. On the other hand the ambitious energy in Toronto is palpable, and overall it has a better job market and easier winters. Both cities are often touted for their vibrant food scenes but to be quite honest, as a Montrealer who recently made the move, my allegiances continued to lie with Montreal. Many of you living in Toronto reading that are probably screwing up your eyebrows in protest, mentally listing off world renowned restaurants in Toronto, while the Montrealers reading nod along with me in approval, further proving my point of the fierce loyalties that lie between two cities constantly jockeying for the title as eastern Canada’s “best”.
The food culture in Montreal is one of the pillars that makes is such a savoury place to live. It wasn’t the poutine, nor the smoked meat I fell in love with while living in la belle province, but the Portuguese chicken. If you’ve ever had Montreal cult favourite Ramados, (or my personal favourite) Ma Poule Mouillee, you will understand the obsession. The thought of never having that tender rotisserie chicken made the decision to move to Toronto a very difficult one.
So naturally, hunting for a worthy alternative once I actually landed in Toronto was top of my list as it was the quickest way I could think of to orient myself and make me feel a little more at home in a new city. After my initial asking around, Love Chix was a recommendation that continued to surface. A word that pops up frequently alongside Love Chix is “simplicity” – a great sign to a foodie because it tends to signal few ingredients with a focus on high impact flavours and quality. I decided to sample the goods at Love Chix’s Assembly Hall stall because the menu there is even further condensed down to the essentials. Notice my skepticism before diving into my first bite.
Let’s dive into the chicken shall we?
I had incredibly high expectations coming in, but my skepticism quickly gave way to happy delirium after my first bite. Love Chix starts by salting their chicken overnight instead of brining, which tenderizes the meat without making it too watery. They soak the salted pieces in buttermilk, massage flour all over (which adds the extra crispy crunch) and fry the coated pieces in canola oil. They then toss their buttermilk chicken in a signature mix of honey, fresh chili oil, and butter, delivering a perfectly balanced sweet tang, followed by a spicy kick.
You have the choice of devouring your chicken in sandwich form or through a serving of gargantuan wings. Love Chix won me over with their ranch dip made entirely-in house. The cool, creamy flavour of the ranch harmonizes beautifully with Love Chix’s signature tangy mix.
Balancing out the bold flavours of Love Chix chicken are their side options. People line up for the fried Brussels sprouts: tossed in parmesan and lemon they were perfectly crispy in all the right places. Those of you who need your greens will revel in their goat cheese and beet salad. The beets add a deliciously earthy note that nicely compliments the hearty flavours of the chicken.
Final verdict: It’s easy to see why Love Chix is included time and time again in Toronto’s “Chicken Hall of Fame”. Though I left my heart in Montreal, it’s restaurants like this one that are slowly winning me over, one bite at a time.