Kimchi Fried Brown Rice with oyster mushroom, soft tofu, and steamed greens. But it’s vegan.

I do my white-collar toiling down by Queen & Bathurst most days and I’d been hankering after a place that could give me quick and tasty lunches. Now, that isn’t to say there aren’t a few places that fit the bill, but one cannot live by kimchi fries alone! Though I had initially ignored the fact that White Squirrel was opening an outpost on Queen near Spadina, a tingle of anticipation ran across my tongue as I perused the menu. You see, I had wrongly assumed that this was going to be another coffee joint. But it’s not – and so I went to check out the appropriately named White Squirrel Snack Shop.

The shop is pretty bare-bones. A row of swivel chairs anchored to the floor line the front window and east wall. There are two four-tops past the cash for slightly larger groups. But the space is not built for people to loiter. Which is fine with me, since I want my food quickly and without fuss when it comes to workday lunches. Over several visits, I managed to try a good sampling of their menu (which has since been tweaked slightly).

Their Cubano sandwich: with slow-roasted pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, slaw, and grainy mustard. My dining companion enjoyed their order, and though I had only a bite, I enjoyed it well enough too. We especially liked the bun it came on – a steamed egg bun with a shiny lacquered exterior and a moist, chewy interior. Would revisit this after trying a few more items on the menu.

By far, my favourite thing White Squirrel Snack Shop offers: their Spicy Sweet Wings. Grilled and tossed with chili, maple, lime, and cilantro. Great charring, really nicely cooked, and entirely too delicious. There’s a good bit of fire on these and the lime cuts the fattiness of the wing. I might be making this up, but I’m pretty sure there’s a good  hit of fish sauce in there too. Whatever the case, they’re worth ordering.

I’d heard positive reports on the Snack Shop Burger and decided to give it a go. This is 1/2 lb of house-ground chuck, caramelized onions, pickles, and Dijon on a steamed egg bun. Quite a good burger – nice char, holds together, juicy, and just a bit pink inside. And I love that bun. Though Burger’s Priest is now open, this is a totally different burger (and to my preference).

In my initial scan of the menu, the dish I was most excited about was the Kimchi Fried Brown Rice (left). I should have clued in, but I swear the first iteration of their menu didn’t state that it was brown rice and vegan. With oyster mushrooms, soft tofu, and steamed greens on top, this is pretty far from the more traditional pork-fat preparation I’d been hoping for. Too bad. Their Sabich (right) consists of a medium-boiled egg, grilled eggplant, and cucumber salad in a pita. I’m not an expert, but a smear of tahini or hummus would have been welcome. I enjoyed the runny yolk, but it also made it messy and hard to eat. I think this one needs tweaking.

A simple side of Guacamole & Chips to supplement your lunch if you’re extra hungry or sharing. Very lime-heavy, to my happy discovery. Needed more garlic though (traditionalists will thumb their noses at me). In the back is their refreshing iced tea – only slightly sweet and steeped with chai.

I’d had a disappointing “s’mores” ice cream sandwich the day before and wasn’t sure I wanted to risk having a repeat of the previous day. But I found out the ice cream was from Greg’s and so I rolled the dice on White Squirrel’s Ice Cream Sandwich and got it with a dollop of Toasted Marshmallow. So glad I did! The cookies were nice and chewy; the texture was more reminiscent of molasses cookies than chocolate ones. Went really well with the generous scoop of ice cream. I haven’t tested for consistency, so I’ll be sure to get on that the next time I’m in.

One of the things I enjoy about the Snack Shop is that they have dual sizing of “snack” and “full” for a good number of menu items. Meaning that if I’m not that hungry, I can get something. Or I can try a whole bunch of things if I’ve discovered a black hole has replaced my stomach. There are also a surprising number of items on the menu that appeal – it’s not often it happens that I’m torn between so many options. And everything is $10 or less.

Though they’re not open for dinner (they close at 6 at this time), White Squirrel Snack Shop is a great addition to the neighbourhood. Worth a visit if you’re peckish and in the area. Oh, and you can grab a decent coffee while you’re there to boot.