Category Archives: You Gotta Eat Here!

John Catucci: Where You Gotta Take Dad This Father’s Day

For over five seasons now, John Catucci has been sampling the best comfort foods all around the world. When it comes to special occasions like Father’s Day, the host of You Gotta Eat Here! can certainly offer a few tasty recommendations. We talked to the TV star to get his top three picks on where to take your pops for a memorable Father’s Day brunch.

For the Meat Lover

“First of all, if your dad wants to sleep in [on Father’s Day], let him!” says John. He recommends grabbing a table at Caplansky’s located in Toronto. The old-school Jewish deli serves all-day breakfasts and sandwiches, piled high with house-smoked meats.

“Just have a big ol’ honkin’ smoked meat sandwich with your pop. And if he gets mustard on his face, so what? It’s his day. Let him get dirty!”

For the Potato Lover

John Catucci says taking your dad to Holy Grill is a must. Stationed in the heart of Calgary, Holy Grill offers sandwiches, burgers and eggs Benedict. Dishes like the South Beach Benny are the holy grail of breakfast perfection.

“They have this smashed potato that’s so good,” John says. “They smash them and they fry them so they’re crispy on the edges and soft and pillow-y on the inside. It’s a great place to be in!”

For the Trendsetter

Emma’s Country Kitchen in Toronto, is a popular brunch destination offering all-day breakfast, homemade doughnuts and drool-worthy buttermilk biscuits. To really spoil your dad, John has the perfect idea.

“Because Emma’s is always so busy for brunch, go in and wait in line for him. Let your dad sleep in, and call him when the table is ready,” says John. “Let your dad shuffle his way inside in his slippers and robe.”

Visit the location map to plan your next Father’s Day brunch, lunch or dinner!

John Catucci on Where You Gotta Eat During the Holidays

You Gotta Eat Here host John Catucci has sampled food across Canada, so when he offers his suggestions for our nation’s best spots to grab a holiday meal, we just have one question: Where?

John is full of recommendations, so put on your stretchy pants and get your Santa bellies ready, Canada, because there’s plenty of homegrown deliciousness to enjoy this holiday season.

Scandilicious (Vancouver, BC)

Mother-daughter team Anita and Kristina offer a menu of traditional Norwegian family recipes at this Vancouver hotspot, including gluten-free options.  John’s favourite is the ‘Applepieffle,’ a liege waffle topped with spiced poached apples and a gingerbread cookie spread. “It took me a while to be able to say ‘applepieffle’ without getting tongue tied,” says John, but it was worth the effort. “Apple pie + waffle = SO GOOD!”

That Little Place by the Lights

That Little Place By The Lights (Huntsville, ON)

Lasagna is a must-try at this cottage country favourite. Chef Annie’s masterpiece features of layers of succulent homemade pasta, laced with her signature Bolognese sauce and stuffed with a cheese and béchamel filling. John says it’s the best lasagna you’ll ever taste.  “Please don’t tell my Zia Felicetta, or she won’t ever make me lasagna again.”

Saturday Dinette (Toronto, ON)

Grab a seat at the counter, enjoy the rocking tunes and tuck into chef Suzanne’s massive soy-braised beef ribs, served with a hearty walnut dip. Then get back out there and finish your shopping! “Suzanne is an incredible chef and an amazing woman,” says John. “When you walk into her place, she makes you feel like you’re part of the family.”

Yellow Belly Brewery

Yellowbelly Brewery (St. John’s, NFLD)

Can’t decide between cheese pizza and chicken Caesar salad? Then just order John’s favourite, the four-cheese and chicken Caesar pizza, and you won’t have to. “I love being able to pick up my salad, in case I need to go somewhere,” says John. “I’m not going anywhere, I’m just saying it’s a nice option.”

The Satay Brothers (Montreal, QC)

Add some Singaporean spice to your season with the street food favourites at this Montreal establishment. John especially loves the pork belly buns, two steamed buns stuffed with braised pork belly, hoisin sauce, fresh cucumber, and cilantro; they’re the perfect combination of soft and crunchy textures and sweet and salty flavours. “If you’ve never had a steamed bun, do it,” says John. “Chewy, soft clouds of deliciousness stuffed with the most succulent pork belly.  Leave one out for Santa.  I’m sure he’s getting tired of all those cookies”

Still hungry? Check out the You Gotta Eat Here! map for more delicious options.

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John Catucci Predicts What You Gotta Eat Next

Food trends come and go, but no matter what the masses are noshing and Instagramming, you can guarantee You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci will be right there with them. We talked to the food star and sampling savant to find out which treats you’ll be lining up for this summer.

Von-Doughnuts

Artisanal Doughnuts
Fancy doughnuts aren’t new, but they’re not going anywhere either, says John.  One doughy fried treat in particular has convinced him that we’re still at the peak of doughnut popularity. “We went to this place called Cartems in Vancouver, that just did incredible doughnuts like an Earl Grey doughnut,” he says. “That floored me. It was a cake doughnut, and they used bergamot in the cake batter and in the glaze as well. It’s like you’re eating a doughnut and having a tea on the side.”

Get the recipe for The Porky Monkey Doughnut from Von Doughnuts.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken
Just like doughnuts, John thinks fried chicken will continue sticking to your ribs and the popularity charts. He says 2016 is the year of fried chicken, in every form. “Bone in or out, in a sandwich, on a plate, with waffles, or just by itself. That’s always going to be there.” John particularly enjoys the fried chicken sandwiches at Toronto’s The Combine Eatery.

Get the recipe for Fried Chicken from Wallflower Modern Diner.

steak and kidney pie

Posh Nosh
If you’re already a pie and a pint kind of person, prepare to start jostling for elbow room at your British local. Elevated English pub fare will be the next cuisine to capture Canadian palates, says John, citing Toronto’s The Borough as a leader in fancy pub food. He cites their Yorkie Burger, a beef patty served between two Yorkshire puddings, as an example of what’s to come. “It has the flavours of a roast beef dinner that you like, but smashed in a burger,” he enthuses.

Get the recipe for Steak and Kidney Pie from The Dam Pub.

Canada’s Multicultural Food City Is…

With its soaring mountains and beautiful ocean views, Vancouver boasts an enviable landscape, but for You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci, big mountains are a small part of Vancouver’s appeal.

“Sure, Vancouver’s a beautiful city, but you can’t eat scenery!” he says. “Lucky for me, it’s also one of the country’s most exciting food cities. Vancouverites can enjoy food from all over the world without having to leave the Lower Mainland. When you’re this good looking, the whole world comes to you.”

Here, in no particular order, are some of the Vancouver eateries that inspired him to name Vancouver his favourite Canadian city for multicultural dining.

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Calabash Bistro (Caribbean)
Fusion treats like the calabash poutine — jerk-dusted fries topped with melted Brie and jerk chicken — are washed down with delicious rum drinks at this laid-back Caribbean bistro. Visit late at night to enjoy your Caribbean meal with a side of live entertainment; Calabash hosts live reggae, hip hop, funk and poetry five nights a week.

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The Reef (Caribbean)
Trini Roti, Domenica Beef, and Maracas Bay Mahi showcase the Caribbean’s diversity of flavours. Can’t get to The Reef? We’ve got their recipe for Island Thyme Chicken boasting juicy bone-in chicken breasts marinated in coconut milk.

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DD Mau (Vietnamese)
Bahn Mi, or Vietnamese sandwiches, are the specialty at downtown Vancouver’s DD Mau. Favourites include the BBQ Roasted Duck, Crispy Roasted Pork and Lemongrass Tofu, washed down with an avocado smoothie. For a taste of DD Mau at home, try their recipe for Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi.

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La Mezcaleria (Mexican)
This stylish spot on Commercial Drive is beloved for its organic brunches and fresh margaritas. Serving inventive creations like BBQ Tamarind Squid and Barbacoa de Cordero (lamb shoulder roasted in banana leaves and served in volcanic rock) alongside favourites like Enchiladas Classicas and Queso Fundido, La Mezcaleria has something for everyone. Try their recipe for Enchiladas Classicas at home!

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Nuba (Lebanese)
With several downtown locations, it’s easy to find a Nuba to satisfy your cravings for Lebanese treats. Favourites include standards like Chicken Tawook, Falafel and Hummus, as well as Grilled Halloumi Cheese served with fresh tomato, nuts and pomegranate mint dressing and Lamb Hushwie (sautéed minced lamb with onions and pine nuts, served on a creamy base of fresh hummus).

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Campagnolo Roma (Italian)
Simple, unfussy Italian is on the menu at Campagnolo, a busy East Hastings establishment serving comforting classics like Bucatini all Amatriciana (bucatini noodles with cured pork, tomato and Parmesan cheese), as well as fresh pizzas and house-made meatballs.

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Vij’s Rangoli (Indian)
Vancouver has many Indian restaurants, but Vikram Vij’s namesake spot, which features a fusion of classic Indian spices and local delicacies, is one of the most celebrated. Some favourites from You Gotta Eat Here!’s visit include Spicy Pulled Pork on Sautéed Greens with Sour Cream Chutney and Naan, and Split Pea, Lentil and Spinach Mash with Mogo Fries and Bengali Curry. For visitors on the go, Vij’s has an extensive menu of boil-in-the-bag takeout treats.

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Longtail Kitchen (Thai)
Fresh B.C. seafood meets classic Thai flavours in this New Westminster restaurant that serves modern versions of Thai street eats. Enjoy the variety of Thai curries, the classic Pad Thai with Prawns, or try the Som Dtam Green Papaya Salad at home.

Catch all new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! Fridays at 9 E/P. Be sure to visit the location map to plan your next  multicultural dining experience. 

The Sandwich Capital of Canada Is…

Hogtown, the Six, T-dot, the Big Smoke, the Sandwich Capital of Canada. Whatever you call it, Toronto is a big city with big-city pleasures and big-city problems, so it’s no wonder busy residents often eat on the go.

They’ve got sports teams to cheer for and complain about, traffic to get stuck in, and weather to hide from,” says You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci. “Torontonians don’t have time to eat their food with a fork and knife — they want to pick it up with both hands! That’s why you’ll find some amazing sandwiches here in Canada’s sandwich capital!”

Want to know what Toronto’s hiding between its slices? In no particular order, here are some of the GTA’s best sandwiches, as featured on You Gotta Eat Here!

Buttermilk Fried Turkey Sandwich, The ClubhouseFried-Turkey-Sandwich-(2)Can’t get to Toronto’s Kensington Market to sample The Clubhouse’s Buttermilk Fried Turkey Sandwich, smothered in smoky mayo and topped with crispy cranberry cilantro slaw? Luckily, we’ve got the recipe.

 Cuban Medianoche, La CubanaBraised-Shortrib-Medianoche-1Pressed sandwiches are the specialty at La Cubana. With two locations in trendy Toronto hoods Roncesvalles Village and Ossington Village, this eatery knows how to please cool Torontonians. The secret? Fresh, classic fare with a throwback vibe. Be sure to try the Traditional Medianoche, a soft white milk bun filled with molasses pork, ham and Gruyère.

Hogtown BLT, The CureThe-Hogtown-Cure---Hogtown-Ultimate-BLT---IMG_8073If hunger is what ails you, Hogtown’s got a cure — The Cure’s Hogtown BLT. The Cure (formerly The Hogtown Cure) piles its signature sandwich with house-made bacon, peameal bacon, arugula and tomato, layering it on a bun smothered with bacon jam and remoulade. Yum!

The Beastwich, BeastBeastwichYou can’t beat the Beast…but you can try. (For real, you CAN try: with this recipe). Or, head on over to this Toronto hotspot for its Beastwich, an intimidating tower of a buttermilk biscuit filled with a fried chicken thigh, pimento cheese, pork sausage gravy and a fried egg.

Smoked Meat Sandwich, Caplansky’s DeliCaplansky's-Smoked-MEat-SandwichCaplansky’s is an old-school Jewish deli, serving all-day breakfasts and sandwiches piled high with house-smoked meats. Chef Zane Caplansky‘s signature dish is not to be missed!

Sloppy Joe, White Brick Kitchen IMG_3291---White-Brick_Bacon-Brisket-Sloppy-JoeIf the only Sloppy Joe you’ve ever had came from a can, prepare for a revelation. White Brick Kitchen’s version is hot mess of ground chuck, bacon, sour cream and BBQ sauce. Try it yourself at home, if you’d like — we’ve got the recipe.

Pulled Pork Beanasaurus, Sul Irmaos Smokehouse BeanosaurusSul Irmaos is a GTA favourite, celebrated for its Portuguese BBQ and comfort food. Their Pulled Pork Beanasaurus is a medley of Southern slow-cooked pork, kettle-cooked baked beans, creamy coleslaw and crunchy fried mac and cheese bites. Prefer to make the Pulled Pork Beanasaurus at home? Here’s the recipe.

Catch new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! Fridays at 9 E/P. Be sure to visit the location map to find the nearest sandwich shop near you.

Ravioli Fatti

John Catucci on Why You Gotta Eat in Italy

Arrivederci, Canada! On Friday, April 8th, 2016, host John Catucci of You Gotta Eat Here! heads to Italy to sample some the finest cuisine the country has to offer.

First, John heads to Rome to discover three must-eat restaurants in the Eternal City.

john-in-italy

“It’s an incredible eating experience,” he says of the trip. “There’s a difference in just the freshness of the food. There’s something about the soil, about the sun. We can’t get it here.”

The host raves about one restaurant in Rome called Flavio that offers the most delicious pasta he’s ever eaten.

“They had a ricotta pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, it wasn’t cooked. It was just fresh tomatoes that [the chef] squeezed with his hands and put mint, thyme and a whole bunch of other fresh herbs and tossed the pasta in it. That was probably the most delicious pasta I’ve ever eaten!”

Flavio's Ravioli Fatti in Cas alla Velaveodetto

Ravioli Fatti in Cas alla Velaveodetto from Flavio

Unlike here in Canada, Italians believe in smaller portions. Dining is an experience and according to John, Italians don’t rush their meals like we often do.

“There’s no rush to turn over tables. They have an appetite for food. They want the best food possible and they’ll wait around for it. That’s part of the culture. It’s waiting around for a table, being seen, enjoying the moment and having a glass of wine with your meal.”

All'Antico Vinaio's Favalosa

Favalosa from All’Antico Vinaio

Just when he thought he was full, it was off to Florence where John tasted paninis — worth lining up all day for — at the busy All’Antico Vinaio. He notes the sandwiches, made fresh to order, cost only 5 Euros.

“There was one fennel-based salami that was so delicious. It was thin and shredded. The bread, they bake fresh all day. There are two other restaurants across the street, so they bake the bread there and bring it back across to cut it,” he says.

But what’s a trip to Italy without pizza? That’s exactly what John ate at Tonda.

Tonda's Capricciosa

Capricciosa from Tonda

There, they make their cacio e pepe pizza by shaping the dough, then laying ice on it before putting it in the  oven. This slows the cooking process of the top of the dough, leaving it moist, while the bottom becomes crisp. John adds that chef and owner Stefano Callegari uses 200-year-old sourdough for the tasty pies.

Tonda's Cacio e Pepe Pizza

Cacio e Pepe from Tonda

Tune in to a special one-hour episode of You Gotta Eat Here! Italy Edition on Friday, April 8 at 9 E/P. No passport required!

John Catucci is Bugging Out on April Fools’ Day

Want to mess with your kids this April Fools’ Day? Of course you do, and our resident joker, You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci, has got just the prank.

“Find a big plastic bug and when you make food for your kid, put that in the food when they’re not looking.”

YGEH-John-Catucci

Maybe don’t do it if your kid suffers from entomophobia, or fear of bugs, or you might “have a kid that’s traumatized by a plate of pasta,” says John.

No kids? No problem — this simple prank works on adults, too.

“That’s what my wife did on one of our dates,” says John. “She put a fake bug while I went to the bathroom. The food was at the table. I come back to spoon my pasta and there’s a bug in it! And she’s just laughing at me.”

Want to celebrate a gentler, yet still bug-themed April Fools’ Day with your little ones? Try our recipes for Ladybug and Spider Salad, Spider Burgers and Lady Bug Pops, instead.

ladybug pops

Looking for more foodie April Fools’ Day ideas? Fool all your friends with these sneaky fake foods.

John Catucci’s Italian Easter Traditions

If you’ve ever been a guest at an Italian holiday or family celebration, you know Italians cook up the most delizioso feast. Easter is one of the great Italian feasts of the year,  where a spread of savoury meats, cheeses and salumi, a bounty of seasonal vegetables, and rich sweet desserts are devoured to celebrate this important spring holiday.

John-Catucci-You-Gotta-Eat-Here

You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci, whose family hails from southern Italy, told us that an antipasto platter called a Benedetto (John calls it a “pyramid of deliciousness”) is a big part of his family’s Easter feast. This traditional dish is made by layering slices of different savoury cured meats, creamy ricotta, oranges, lemons and hard boiled eggs. John’s family would make a special trip to buy the cured meats and other Easter ingredients at Diana Meat and Grocery, a traditional Italian grocer  in Toronto’s Corso Italia neighbourhood.

Benedetto-Italian-Easter
Image credits (from left to right): michelaalicino.it; cucinasuditalia.blogspot.ca; cucchiarando.wordpress.com

A large platter of Italian meats and cheese sounds satisfying enough but that was just the beginning. The feast culminated with John’s dad’s roast lamb, the traditional choice for the Catucci family’s Easter feast. To make your own Easter roast lamb,  check out these great recipes from Food Network Canada chefs:

Lynn-Crawford-Roast-Lamb

For more great Easter ideas and recipes, visit our Easter Guide.

Watch new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! with John Catucci Fridays at 9 ET/6 PT.

You Gotta Eat Here: Dining for One on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day can be tough for single people but going out to dinner that night can be a nightmare! With restaurants full of annoying couples smooching through overpriced prix fixe menus, it’s enough to make you hide at home with a pizza.

But this year is going to be different. This Valentine’s Day, don’t hide your single self inside your house, go out and eat your feelings! And these restaurants from the upcoming 5th season of You Gotta Eat Here! have meals so good, you’ll want to enjoy all to yourself.

Prohibition Montréal -  Fried Chicken and Deep Fried     French Toast - IMG_20016

1. Prohibition (Montreal, QC) – Fried Chicken and Deep-Fried Challah French Toast

If no one’s making you hollah at home, get yourself some of this deep fried challah French toast with crispy fried chicken instead. Prohibition takes chicken and waffles to the next level with deep fried French toast, which is exactly as delicious as it sounds.

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2. The Cure (Toronto, ON) – Southern Pork Chop

Is there anything better than a pork chop to make you feel better? How about a pork chop that’s been marinated in butter milk then pan fried in crispy, golden cornmeal? With a plate of cheesy grits and cucumber relish, you’ll be glad to have this meal at The Cure all to yourself.

Flavio al Velavevodetto - Ravioli Fatti in Casa alla Velavevodetto - IMG_98326

3. Flavio al Velovevodetto (Rome, Italy) – Ravioli fatte in casa alla velavevodetto

While those other suckers are spending their money on roses and chocolates, why not treat yourself to a trip to Rome! Flavio’s handmade ravioli stuffed with creamy fresh ricotta, smothered in fresh tomatoes and more ricotta will make you forget your own name.

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4. Cartems Donuterie (Vancouver, BC) – Earl Grey Cake Doughnut

So no one sent you flowers for Valentine’s Day? Who cares? Cartems Donuterie makes an Earl Grey tea glazed doughnut with rose petals sprinkled on top. Flowers wilt, love fades, but a doughnut sprinkled with roses is forever!

Catch the season 5 premiere of You Gotta Eat Here! Friday, February 26 at 9 E/P and catch up on episodes online.

 

10 Best Comfort Food Spots from ‘You Gotta Eat Here!’

Do you ever get jealous of John Catucci? I mean, I certainly do; traipsing around North America, diving into unique and tasty food, and getting all of those tried-and-true recipes to boot? You’re a lucky man, Catucci!

Here are 10 You Gotta Eat Here! restaurants from coast-to-coast that are even more delicious when it’s cold outside and you’re looking for some down-home comfort food.

2 Doors Down (Halifax, NS) 
Good ol’ comfort food with a little refinement is something everyone can appreciate, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at this popular joint in downtown Halifax. The classic cheeseburger is quality through and through with a house-made “processed” cheese slice, tangy pickles and a big, juicy patty sandwiched between a pillowy sesame seed bun. Then there’s the more unique interpretations of popular classics like a Korean-inspired gnocchi, and mac ‘n cheese that’s loaded up with kale, roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts, oh, and lots of cheese, too!

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2 Doors Down

Calabash Bistro (Vancouver, BC) 
Caribbean spices like nutmeg and cinnamon are coupled with the heat from spicy scotch bonnet peppers, resulting in a residual heat that may overwhelm your taste buds at first — but will settle down to a gentle warming that will make you feel cozy and satisfied. The oxtail stew with fried coconut dumplings, or classic the Jamaican meat patties are good examples of the comfort food fare you can find at Vancouver’s premier Caribbean eatery.

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Calabash Bistro

EE Burritos (Saskatoon, SK)
It’s no secret that it gets cold in Saskatchewan starting mid November — like bone-chilling, wear-a-snowsuit-to-work sort of cold. So why not shake off the snow and warm up at this lively Latino eatery, with a big bowl of pozole soup or the beef flauta (think jumbo-sized taquito), or maybe a side of refried beans for good measure.

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EE Burritos

Murray Street Kitchen (Ottawa, ON)
This nose-to-tail spot in the country’s capital is known for its meat-heavy menu, house-made charcuterie and bold, cozy flavours. More adventurous eaters can find comfort in a plate of braised ox tongue with cheese curd creamed corn, while Murray’s ode to Newfoundland, “Dan’s Beef” — a mix of cured, smoked and braised beef shank, cabbage and veggies, with bone marrow “buttered” garlic toast — would be just right for, well, just about anyone.

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Murray Street Kitchen

Naina’s (Calgary, AB)
A go-to restaurant in Calgary for grilled cheese sandwiches, poutine and Naina’s famous stuffed burgers, it should come as no surprise that the comfort level of these plates of food are off the charts. Order up a big burger topped with pulled pork, barbecue sauce and mozzarella cheese to see what all the cool kids have been raving about.

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Naina’s

Rock Lobster (Toronto, ON)
As the name implies, lobster is the name of the game at Matt Dean Preddit’s duo of restaurants in Toronto. As satisfying as lobster rolls are, they’re more of a warm-weather sort of meal, so stick to the rich and creamy dishes like the lobster cheese dip, lobster mac ‘n cheese or lobster poutine. Too much lobster, you say? I say, there’s no such thing.

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Rock Lobster

Saint John Ale House (Saint John, NB)
There’s a double whammy of Food Network Canada show history here as you’ll find one of Top Chef Canada’s most charismatic and bubbly chefs, Jesse Vergen running the kitchen. Being a family man, Vergen makes sure there’s plenty to choose from for kids, like chicken fingers (with local chicken meat, no pre-packaged frozen strips here) or grilled cheese, while adults can look forward to things like warm rock crab and cream cheese dip, pork sausages with mashed potatoes, braised cabbage and more.

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Saint John Ale House

Smoke and Spice Southern Barbeque (Windsor, ON)
Pulled pork sandwiches, smoky, fall-off-the-bone smoked ribs and cornbread are just a few of the Southern-style dishes you can sink your teeth into at this family-friendly joint. Swing by midday any weekday for some Southern-inspired lunch with such fare as smoked meatloaf, waffle fries, collard greens and their specialty, the pulled pork sundae.

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Smoke and Spice Southern Barbeque

The Tallest Poppy (Winnipeg, MB)
Since appearing on season one of You Gotta Eat Here!, The Tallest Poppy has relocated to a bigger and better space at the front of the Sherbrook Inn in Winnipeg. The cozy comfort food remains the same though, with big bowls of homemade matzo ball and chicken soup, bison meatloaf and other large plates of goodness that are ready and waiting to warm you up on a chilly night.

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The Tallest Poppy

Topanga Cafe (Vancouver, BC)
Some Mexican food, like tacos and tostadas, doesn’t always have the same charm on a chilly day as they do when you’re soaking up some sun and sipping on a cold beer. So stick with this restaurant’s more comforting dishes like burritos, enchiladas, black bean soup and tamales. A friend told me that their chocolate cake, baked fresh every day, is to die for. Chocolate is comfort 365 days a year, right?

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Topanga Cafe

Canada’s Most Creative Burgers from You Gotta Eat Here!

John-Catucci-Burger
When you eat as many burgers as I do, you become thankful for the creativity and ingenuity of chefs across Canada.

Canadian restaurants are busy flipping the classic burger on its head. From coast to coast to coast, they take the art of burger making to the next level. As the host of You Gotta Eat Here!, my taste buds are consistently spoiled. How many people can say they’ve been able to sample everything from mac and cheese to chicken balls, chili to oysters and sausage to soft shell crab on top of their burgers? And that’s just a small sampling of the mouth-watering menu options I’ve encountered.

Take a mouth-watering trip through You Gotta Eat Here! burgers from season one and two. Select ‘Caption’ to see burger description. Click on image to get the recipe.

In Season Three we were treated to The Outlandish Oyster Burger at Mile One Eating House in Pemberton, BC. This burger is the best of BC on a bun. Chef Randy Jones takes three big, ocean-fresh oysters and breads them in panko before pan frying them and finishing them off in the oven. Once they’re hot and golden, the oysters are loaded onto a fluffy potato bun smeared with smoky, creamy chipotle mayo and topped with crispy bacon, fresh tomato and lettuce.

The Surf and Turf Burger special at Little Louie’s Burger Joint & Soupery in Cambridge, ON, is the owner Steve Allen’s tribute to his hometown of Cape Breton, NS. In order to make his signature beef patties, he starts with ground beef and adds hoisin, soy sauce, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Sriracha, eggs and diced onions. To build the burger, he spreads house made tartar sauce on a bun, then places the patty down and adds a generous helping of sweet cabbage before finishing with the deep fried lobster tail. For presentation, a beer-battered lobster claw is skewered on top.

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The Surf and Turf Burger Special at Little Louie’s Burger Joint & Soupery in Cambridge, ON

What makes an exceptionally good burger? It’s all about flavour and texture. And it can even be done without the meat. I ate a vegan burger at Boon Burger in Winnipeg — Canada’s first all-vegan burger joint — that was unforgettable.

Shooting for Season Three, I worked with one chef who outdid himself in the number of burger toppings. Erv Salvador at Lucy’s East Side Diner, Vancouver, BC, does an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink hamburger creation that features four, 5 oz. hamburger patties, each covered in melted thick-sliced Canadian cheddar and topped with crisp bacon, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. A thick, crispy onion ring is balanced on top of the mushrooms and the center is filled with homemade chili and topped with a fried egg.

Finally, the chef adds a butterflied smoked sausage and a handful of ultra thin and crisp deep fried onions. The list of tasty treats we sampled goes on, whether it’s the nachos-inspired, The Rebel, at Burger Revolution in Belleville, ON or the Country Road Pizza Burger at St. Joachim Diner in Belle River, ON.

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The Rebel Burger at Burger Revolution in Belleville, ON

We live in a massive, diverse country, full of endless possibilities for travel and long road trips. It’s nice to know that you can eat a burger at practically every step of the way and feel like you’re eating something different each time you sit down for a meal. Keep up that kitchen creativity, Canada.

This is an abridged version of a blog post that originally appeared in The Huffington Post Canada. To read John Catucci’s full post go here

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