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Sandwich Smackdown – Mark McEwan vs. Fidel Gastro

What happens when you put one of Canada’s beloved and renowned chefs against a Rebel without a kitchen? Insert witty joke here… Ole! On June 23rd, a major Sandwich Smack down or Throw down or *cough* Love fest took place at the Shops at Don Mills. The two competitors, Mark McEwan vs. Matt Basile of Fidel Gastro. Now you may recognize Mark McEwan through one of his many wonderful restaurants such as North44 or Bymark. Or maybe, you may have seen him on a television show called, Top Chefs Canada as the head judge of the whole competition. And Matt Basile? Well, you may have tried and fallen in love with his infamous sandwiches, or the constant OLE’s happening all over Toronto… he’s known as the man behind one of Toronto’s favourite pop-ups, Fidel Gastro.

1090 Don Mills Road
Toronto, ON M3C 3R6
(416) 447-6087

The Sandwich Smack down was a simple boxing match between these two great chefs. Well, not literally of course, but definitely some sweat and tears were put into this competition. The rules… very simple; two sandwiches each, the best one wins. As the date drew closer, there was obvious smack talk all over the twitterverse. How it wasn’t even a competition or that this would be annihilation. Yes, both were hoping to come out victorious. Either way, we knew that we were in for some great sandwiches from some really well-respected chefs. If that wasn’t enough, a portion of the proceeds went to Second Harvest. They’re a great non-profit organization here in Toronto that helps fight hunger through delivering donated and excess foods to communities around the city.

The Urban Craze - Shops at Don Mills
TUC_Sandwich_Menu TUC_Second_Harvest

So myself, Scott and Denice were given the opportunity for an exclusive pre-fight interview to see what they had lined up for one another. We decided to hear what the ‘Rebel’ had to say first. Some of our questions that we decided to ask were what made their sandwiches unique and if there was a story behind them. Matt took the Sandwich Smackdown as an opportunity to debut his Osso Buco sandwich. He said to us, his sandwiches are unique because he tries to bring different influences and fusion to his creations. And we quote Matt, “I try to hit every animal”. He even mentioned that he may try a lamb sandwich or maybe incorporate a lamb shank into the mix in the future. To us, we love that creativity where he’s always making adjustments and creating new sandwiches all the time. We await his new Food Truck named, Priscilla that’ll come into commission in about a month’s time. The two sandwiches that he decided to run with for the event were:

Sgt. Slather – Pulled Pork, Creamy Guacamole and Tortilla Chips
Osso Buco – Green beans braised in Tomato Sauce with marrow butter

Sgt. Slather & Osso Buco
The Urban Craze & Fidel Gastro Interview Fidel Gastro's Lineups

Soon after our interview with Matt, we spoke with Mark McEwan for the second part our interviews that day. We asked Mark the same questions as we did with Matt (as that would only be fair) about what makes his sandwiches unique and if there was a story behind it. He decided to go with Asian flavours but in a North American style deli. And we quote him on his sandwich description, “Based on a classic with a twist.” His beef brisket was cooked for almost 4 hours and his pork shoulder, over 5 hours. But what was interesting, was the story behind his beef brisket. This was the same beef brisket that’s been used at North44 for over a dozen years. So this was tried, tested, and true. And who can hate that right? Mark’s two sandwiches were:

Beef Brisket with Caramelized Onions and Horseadish Aioli
Asian Style Pulled Pork Shoulder with Yuzu Mayo, Cucumber-Sesame Slaw and Coriander

Pork Shoulder & Beef Brisket
The Urban Craze Mark McEwan Interview Lineups at Mark McEwan

Everyone on our team that day order 2-3 sandwiches with me being guilty of ordering all 4. They were delicious and a portion of the proceeds went to Second Harvest. The event lasted from 11am-4pm and the turnout was great. We loved the opportunity to get into all the action with Mark and Matt and were happy to provide coverage with an exclusive pre-fight interview added in. Mark even shared a little secret; he prefers to do sandwiches where the bun (baked fresh on site at McEwan’s Foods) is meant to melt away with each bite. That way for him, he believes you taste the sandwich and not the bun as it can be overwhelming at times in certain sandwiches. It was great advice as we tasted the difference, note taken. =)

The whole gang at the Smackdown
With appearances by Yvonne from th3hungrycat First Sandwich with the Team (Scott, Denice & Brian)
The Urban Craze with Mark McEwan & Matt Basile

So overall, this wasn’t really a smack down… and no there was no blood. Mark and Matt both have worked together before and this was a great opportunity for them to basically kick off the summer with some great sandwiches for a great cause. It truly was a relaxed environment where it felt like you were simply spending time with your friends over some amazing food. And hey, we’re not complaining. Awesome sandwiches on a beautiful day, can it get any better than this? But sure fine fine, if we must choose a sandwich we would have to say we really enjoyed the Beef Brisket by Mark, and the Sgt. Slather by Matt of Fidel Gastro. Just talking about those sandwiches, *drools*… maybe we should ruffle up some feathers and get them in for a round 2. We’ll gladly host this rematch. Time and place fellas? Oh no worries, we’ll be sure to take care of the rest. =P

The Damage: $5 for each sandwich

About the author


best possible description of Brian: Works wayy too hard, but enjoys the simple things in life with a passion to give back to the community. He's interested in how things are started up and believes there are a ton of hidden gems within and just outside the city. Last but not least, continually grateful for all that has happened... the good and the bad. Cause honestly, we're more than blessed.


  1. Shirley
    July 4, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    My desk is a dripping mess…

    Sandwich goodness…mmmMMmmmm

  2. Live at the Shops
    July 5, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Wish we hadn’t seen this first thing this morning – it’s so long until lunch!!

    • Brian
      July 5, 2012 at 9:14 am

      Oh we’re in the same boat… we are “patiently” waiting for round 2. =P

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