Eating Halal Food at the CNE
Eating halal food at the CNE is fairly easy thanks to the organizers who have thought about satisfying various needs of their projected 1.4 million attendees. Aside from food options, they also make sure people have a dedicated space to pray with two Prayer Rooms, one of which is open right until midnight.
Note of caution: please avoid purchasing seemingly vegetarian or halal items from places that also sell non-halal meat items. For example, there were several funnel cake and deep-fried vendors that had halal-friendly items cooked in vegetable oil, but they also had pork and other non-halal meats on the menu. With tight cooking quarters and shared fryers throughout the Canadian National Exhibition, cross-contamination is inevitable. There’s no harm in questioning before you buy.
The Canadian National Exhibition is open from August 19 until September 5, 2016!
CNE 2016 Food Building Look for the halal symbol but ALWAYS ask for meat sources! On our visit, many of the halal vendors turned out to be partially halal — meaning they also had non-halal meat on the menu.
Halal Food at the CNE
Despite the fact that most halal joints at the CNE serve shawarma, there are plenty of options when you do some out-of-the-box thinking and ask the right questions.
Quick Pita and Steak & Cheese Factory had the strongest halal presence with over 3-4 locations throughout the Exhibition grounds, indoor and out. Can’t complain about the Philly, it was easy to eat, tender meat and savoury flavour with a spicy and tart kick. As the picture clearly illustrates, it was also messy, and a mouthful. If you’re not about getting sauce in your hijab or beard, skip this one. The chicken and rice was also noteworthy, and a lot easier to eat!
Moving on, we found some more halal food at the CNE with the help of this directory: CNE 2016 Food Building
However, since it’s not confirmed how the CNE’s process works to gain this halal icon on their restaurant listing, it’s best to double-check with the restaurant directly. Plus they could have a partial halal menu, serve pork, etc. So please don’t use this as a halal pass — make sure you investigate!
Next up, Anoush and The Original Shawarma and Falafel, two Middle Eastern spots that both get all of their meats from Solmaz (chicken is all hand-slaughtered).
Staying with the Lebanese theme, Family owned and operated Ghazala caught our eyes with their colourful spread of fresh salads, stews and of course, shawarma. A quick energizing salad from their impressive line up is a great lunch idea if you’re trying to escape Toronto’s sweltering summer heat. They get their chicken from Al Ahad (who sources their chicken from Sargent Farms which is hand slaughtered halal) and beef is from Corsetti Meat Packers.
Other than that, the other places we checked out didn’t meet our criteria for halal because they either wouldn’t disclose meat sources or they had non-halal meats including pork also on the menu — a big concern with tight cooking quarters as cross contamination is inevitable and often times unavoidable. This goes to show, even if the organizers label a vendor “halal” in their directory, we still have to do our due diligence and get more info.
Vegan & Vegetarian
Venturing off the halal track, why not approach some vegan and vegetarian stalls? With the right questions answered, you can safely eat, and most likely eat well. We purchased some mango lassi from Kala’s Kitchen (all vegetarian with no alcohol served or used) then went across the lane to Wild Child’s Kitchen.
Paulette and her Wild Child’s Kitchen team are fun, energetic and passionate about their food. Even with lineups they took time to chat with us and answer our questions. Vegan, gluten-free, raw, their tagline is delicious, honest food — truth!
Even though we had limited choices while we ate our way through the CNE, we still felt the gluttony so this was saving grace at the end of a long afternoon of fryers upon fryers.
For an icy treat, their all natural lime and mint ice lolly sweetened with agave, hit the spot but was more of an adult taste with very strong fresh mint flavour. Opt for tropical or mango if you’re in a more fruit-minded mood.
The owners of Quick Pita and Steak & Cheese Factory and have also introduced a new dessert branch called One Sweet Mama’s with a variety of apple dumplings containing no animal by-products.
Another must-try is deep-fried cookie dough from Cookie Dough Me!
Also – who can forget a classics like Tiny Toms and Beavertails? Both present at this years Exhibition!
Food Truck Frenzy
If food trucks are your thing, Food Truck Frenzy happens between August 26-28 along Princes’ Boulevard across from Direct Energy Centre — this year only The Holy Grill has a halal menu. Vegetarian trucks include CORNehCOPIA and I Love Churros (Pancho’s Bakery).
Our experience was a great one at CNE 2016! Monday to Thursday take advantage of their $6 after 5pm ticket price (purchase at the CNE Gate). This deal excludes holiday Monday.
Let us know which halal food at the CNE you tried by leaving a comment below and remember to tag your pictures with #CNE2016 🙂