Concept Watch: Chinese comfort food, classic Americana and gourmet donuts

By Sophie Mir

Why be a jack-of-all-trades when you might end up a master of none? The three featured franchises in this edition of Concept Watch are all masters of their particular craft, bringing form and focus to handmade noodles, house-ground burgers and fresh-made donuts. They also just so happen to trafficking in trending menu items, giving these three chains an additional boost.

Magic Noodle

Facebook: 63 likes | Instagram: 945 followers

Locations: 4 (Toronto, Scarborough and Richmond Hill, Ontario)

The Concept

Unsurprisingly, noodles are the focal point of the menu here, with hand-pulled and hand-shaved varieties making up the bulk of the menu. They’re menued in huge variety of ways, though, from cold vegetarian noodles dishes to rich, beefy stick-to-your-bones comfort food. Just in case that craving comes late at night, some locations are open 24 hours.

Menu Snapshot

  • Hand-pulled noodles: Popular varieties include silk string, classic, mid-round, mid-triad, mid-flat, ribbon and curtain.
  • Hand-shaved noodle dishes: spotlight Magic Lamb D.X., featuring braised lamb, red dates and goji berries, and Pot Belly, featuring braised pork belly and bok choy.
  • Stir-fried noodles: Both hand-pulled or hand-shaved noodles include chicken, beef, lamb and vegetarian options.
  • Cold noodles: Varieties highlight vegetarian sesame and spciy Szechuan featuring spicy sesame sauce.

Burger Factory

Facebook: 1,966 likes | Instagram: 16,498 followers

Locations: 11 (Mississauga, Toronto, Milton, Oakville, Vaughan, Ajax, Windsor, Scarborough, Markham, Cambridge and Oshawa, Ontario)

The Concept

Ground in-house from halal-certified beef, Burger Factory lives up to its name. The list of available burgers is long, and the sides and desserts are burger joint staples, albeit with an eye toward fresh, local ingredients. Third-party delivery is also available.

Menu Snapshot

  • Burgers: Made to order with house-ground beef, burgers come in several varieties, including the Juicy Lucy on Fire, made with mozzarella cheese and jalapenos; the Utility, made with thinly sliced steak, grilled onions, peppercorn mayonnaise and cheese; the Cheesy Lucy, stuffed and topped with cheese; and the Vegi Burger, featuring a vegetarian patty that is made with fava beans.
  • Sides: The usual, burger-adjacent suspects are on hand, including fries, poutine and onion rings.
  • Desserts: Eight-inch funnel cake is topped with powdered sugar and strawberry or chocolate ice cream.

Cartems Donuts

Facebook: 8,300 likes | Instagram: 32,188 followers | Twitter: 6,423 followers

Locations: 3 (Vancouver, British Columbia)

The Concept

While Cartems’ main offer is donuts, it’s nevertheless trying to put a less-bad-for-you spin on them by making them from local, sustainable ingredients. Additionally, Cartems hosts open mic and storytime events at its locations, while also partnering with Mealshare to provide free meals to youth. As is required these days, Cartems is also available via two third-party delivery services, Foodee and Foodora.

Menu Snapshot

  • Doughnuts: Yeasted varieties are available in Chocolate Glaze and Apple Fritter; Specials, such as Almond Butternut and Apple Crumble; vegan and gluten-free selections; and baked doughnuts that provide a lighter alternative to fried doughnuts
  • Cake Doughnuts: vanilla cake in Classic and Honey Parmesan selections; Earl Grey-infused cake with Earl Grey glaze and rose petals; and chocolate cake with salted caramel
  • Coffee: Partners with Vancouver-based Elysian Coffee Roasters to offer espresso-based drinks. Espresso-based drinks are also on hand, as is house-made Earl Grey soda.

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