Where Barberian’s chef Jesse Vallins gets to-go chicken balls, burgers and kebab wraps in Scarborough

Where Barberian’s chef Jesse Vallins gets to-go chicken balls, burgers and kebab wraps in Scarborough

We’re asking Toronto chefs and restaurateurs which takeout dishes have been getting them through the pandemic

If there’s one thing Jesse Vallins doesn’t do, it’s rest on his laurels: he’s a certified sommelier and cicerone, a part-time teacher at George Brown, a contributor to Food & Drink magazine, a partner of Hamilton’s Merit Brewing and, most recently, the executive chef at Toronto steak institution Barberian’s.

The steak house (and now butcher shop) has set up a CafeTO patio and is still offering food to go. The “steakout” menu offers a combination of classic and new items, including grilled beef salami flavoured with the Barberian’s steak spice, potato-gouda croquettes, broiled oysters with ’nduja butter and two burgers: a traditional recipe and one meant to pair specifically with red wine.

During the pandemic, Vallins found himself working longer hours (due mostly to the fact that his kitchens were operating with smaller teams), so he ordered takeout at least two or three times a week. “It’s nice not to have to cook sometimes,” he says. These are his go-to spots for takeout in Scarborough, where he was born and raised.

Johnny’s Hamburgers

2595 Victoria Park Ave., 416-491-7222, johnnyshamburgers.com

“I’ve been going to Johnny’s for decades. There might be objectively ‘better’ burgers in the city but these are always hot, fresh and delicious. For me, it’s a combination of nostalgia and the fact they do what they do very well.”

Go-to dish 1: Banquet burger
Tasting notes: “This is your normal burger shack–style burger, grilled over charcoal. They’re always so busy, though, so you know the meat and toppings will always be fresh.”


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Go-to dish 2: Fries and gravy
Tasting notes: “No matter how much high-end food I make or eat, diner-style beef gravy is one of my favourite flavours. I always find fries and gravy comforting.”


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Go-to dish 3: Souvlaki on a bun
Tasting notes: “I grew up eating souvlaki at numerous spots in my neighbourhood. Johnny’s is one of a handful of places still doing it.”


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Wok and Fortune Family Restaurant

2900 Eglinton Ave. E., 416-289-9833, wokandfortune.com

“This is my local Chinese takeaway. They do the traditional North American–style classics but they offer some Guyanese-influenced dishes, as well.”

Go-to dish 1: Chicken balls
Tasting notes: “They’re better than almost any of the other chicken balls I’ve tried in the city. The batter is light and stays crispy longer than any version I’ve tried. I don’t know how they do it.”


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Go-to dish 2: Chili chicken
Tasting notes: “This is their signature dish. It’s crispy, spicy, sweet and sour all at once. It has a firm but even level of heat.”

Go-to dish 3: Guyana lo mein
Tasting notes: “This style usually includes five spice but can be made spicier.”

Paradise Shawarma

#5-4352 Kingston Rd., 647-348-5654, paradiseshawarma.ca

“My son’s favourite food is falafel. I used to pick him up from school once a week to get wraps for lunch, but now it’s our go-to place for ordering in. My favourite thing here is their hot sauce, which you can buy in half-litre containers. It’s not like hot sauces in most shawarma joints, it has a real kick and you can taste that they’re using fresh chillies.”

Go-to dish 1: Shawarma plate
Tasting notes: “The shawarma platter has tons of vegetables and one serving is a meal and a half at least.”

Go-to dish 3: Keto bowl
Tasting notes: “I’ve definitely put on the ‘Covid 19’ over the last year. Sometimes you need to cut out carbs, and this is a great option when you do. It’s super tasty and filling.”

Go-to dish 3: Kebab sandwich wrap
Tasting notes: “I love the beef kebab wrap. The meat has great texture—it’s almost like a good casing-less sausage.”