As a newbie to the country, I tried 8 Canadian foods and these 4 are not worth the hype

As a newbie to the country, I tried 8 Canadian foods and these 4 are not worth the hype

This opinion piece is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

Ever since I landed in Canada, I’ve been on a mission to discover the country’s most famous flavors—and it’s been a great journey.

As someone who didn’t know much about Canadian food before arriving from Dubai, where I’ve spent the last eight years of my life, I’ve had plenty of learning opportunities. There are so many foods that keep moving me (I’m looking at you, poutine). And yet some of the foods I try I can’t help but think… why?

So here’s a look at some dishes that absolutely lived up to expectations… and some that sadly fell short.

Lived up to the hype: poutine

Poutine from Montreal’s La Banquise.

Janice Rodrigues | Narcities

Canada’s most famous food is the absolute winner — and for good reason. Cottage cheese, sauce, fries… it’s an absolutely wonderful combination of ingredients that’s hard not to love.

That being said, a local warned me that the poutine can sometimes be hit or miss. So far I’ve only had good experiences and a lot of respect for this Canadian star. But I can see how being in the wrong place could result in cold fries drenched in gravy, to which I say…ugh.

They didn’t live up to the hype: butter tarts

I think a large part of my disappointment came from having very high expectations for this classic Canadian dessert.

Admittedly, I tried one from the local supermarket and not a specialist bakery of any kind, but I found it too sweet and tasteless.

Maybe the store bought one just wasn’t right? I want to try again and will keep an open mind. I promise.

They lived up to the hype: Caesars

Classic Caesar in Toronto.

Caesar class in Toronto.

Janice Rodrigues | Narcities

When I first heard about Caesar – Canada’s unofficial national drink – I was scared.

I mean, Clamato juice, vodka and hot sauce in a drink together doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. But then I tried one and was surprised. Nicely surprised. The drink tasted smoky, rich, flavorful. Like a bloody mary, but better.

All I can say is don’t knock it until you try it!

It didn’t live up to the hype: ketchup chips

As a newcomer to Canada, I’m a little confused by the obsession with all things tomato. From Caesars to ketchup popsicles, there seems to be an alarming amount of this, well, rather unusual flavor.

And while I certainly don’t have anything specifically against ketchup chips, I’m not sure I’ll do either. They are something I would pop in my mouth if I were at a party. But it’s not something I would buy.

It lived up to the hype: Montreal-style smoked meat

Janice Rodrigues with a sandwich from Schwartz's Deli.

Janice Rodrigues with a sandwich from Schwartz’s Deli.

Janice Rodrigues | Narcities

I didn’t really know how popular Canada was for smoked meats, but that was before visiting Montreal. A few kind people recommended that I try the signature at Schwartz’s Deli, and it’s been my go-to sandwich ever since.

The meat was so tender it fell apart on the plate. Paired with rye bread and some mustard, it was the stuff dreams are made of. No really, I was still dreaming about it for months afterwards.

It didn’t live up to the hype: Tim Hortons’ birthday cake did nothing

Tim Hortons Birthday Cake Donut.

Tim Hortons Birthday Cake Donut.

Janice Rodrigues | Narcities

Don’t get me wrong about Timmies. I’m an absolute fan and can probably survive on a steady stream of their hot chocolate and French vanilla. But if there’s one item that always strikes me — especially because of her popularity — it would be her birthday cake, well, whatever.

Birthday Cake Timbits taste like sugar and look like something you’d make just to get a toddler’s attention. It just confuses me because it’s usually listed as one of the brand’s most popular flavors, but I feel like they have a lot of better options on offer!

Lived up to the hype: Jamaican beef patties

I fully acknowledge and understand that this is a beloved Caribbean delicacy and its placement on this list in no way detracts from its rich cultural history. If anything, it’s a tribute to the humble Jamaican patty that has become such an important part of the Canadian food scene.

I tried a lot of them on a whim and have been hooked ever since. After all, the food is so rich, flaky, warm, filling, easy to eat on the go and just plain delicious. Since then, I have also come to love and accept patties of all fillings. The vegetarian ones are absolutely delicious.

It didn’t live up to the hype: the bagels

\u200bEverything bagel with cream cheese.

Everything bagel with cream cheese.

Janice Rodrigues| Narcities

I know I might get some hate for giving this away, but I still don’t understand the fascination with bagels. After hearing (and reading) so much about them, I remember taking my first bite to think… bread? Well, not quite bread, but denser, thicker, more bready bread. I am still will not receive an appeal.

I’ve since tried slathering massive amounts of cream cheese on them, as well as variations like a cinnamon raisin bagel with better results… but for the most part, I think maybe I’m just eating it wrong. Admittedly, I have yet to try a Montreal style bagel… maybe that’s where the magic really happens?

What am I doing wrong? Canadian bagel lovers, HMU with advice please!

Regardless, I enjoyed every bit of trying these dishes and wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. Next on my list of things to eat are Nanaimo bars and BeaverTails and I’m already really excited.

Wish me luck!


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