CNE 2022! I felt incredibly blessed and excited to be back at the Canadian National Exhibition for another year of fun food adventures! For the first time, we decided to go on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds. DH was able to take a day off to make this happen and we got a discount off of the regular admission price byusing our Presto cards (corporate sale). We paid $16 for admission per adult instead of the $25 admission. (Children under 4 years old are free.)
We parked on the CNE grounds, $35 this year for a flat rate. It’s $40 on the weekends (Friday to Sunday). Parking is definitely not cheap, but we worked out the logistics that while it would have been cheaper to drive to a TTC station and take transit, it was ultimately safer for the four of us to drive directly to the grounds and park there.
We arrived at around 11:40 a.m. on Tuesday, August 23 and waited in the line-up to park. Once through the gates, we found a parking spot easily inside the gigantic parking lot. Already, we could see riders riding on the Sky Ride, people screaming on the midway rides, and lots of people walking around. I loved how easy it was to get a parking spot as we were there early to beat the crowds.
We headed straight for the Food Building as it was lunch time anyway. I was shocked to see that there were no crowds inside the Food Building. In my oldest memories of the CNE, this building has always been packed with people. It definitely paid off to visit early and during a weekday.
(Download coupons for select food vendors: www.theex.com/food-building-special-offers/
After visiting the ladies’ room (the one that’s upstairs is the biggest and cleanest with no line-ups because no one wants to trek up the stairs lol), we browsed the food vendors before we decided what we wanted to order.
I was craving for some good meats so a good ol’ Montreal smoked meat sandwich was the first item for me and then a small size of spaghetti for the toddler from Primo Foods. DH then got a lobster roll from Jake’s Seafood Co. as well as Combo #2 from Supreme Pierogies Inc.
The Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich was so great and a standard classic sandwich. I haven’t had silky savory smoked meat like this in a while. The white bread was soft too, and the pickle on the side helped to open up our appetite. This whole sandwich was $12. The Original Montreal Deli vendor also sells “steamie” Montreal hot dogs too.
Unfortunately, once the toddler saw the sandwich at the table, that’s all she wanted and she didn’t even touch the small bowl of tomato sauce spaghetti ($1.99) from Primo Foods. I felt that the pasta was a bit too al dente for me, but the tomato sauce was thin but very concentrated. I liked how steaming hot the pasta was too.
The Lobster Roll from Jake’s Seafood Co. came with fries for $21. Not a cheap price to pay for some lobster on a crunchy roll and fries, but the portion was huge. That is, the portion of fries that the lobster roll came with. The lobster roll itself was actually delicious though and it’s also been a while since I last had a lobster roll. I wasn’t a big fan of the fries as I felt like they were dry and overdone.
The Combo #2 from Supreme Pierogies Inc. was incredibly delicious. It included a plate of one sausage, two pierogies, and one cabbage roll for $12.99 — a fair price. When the cashier asked if we wanted sour cream, we instinctively said ‘yes’ without thinking that it was an additional 99 cents. Oh, well. So the total came to $15.80 after taxes.
I absolutely loved the sausage which was so juicy, savory, and moist. It’s just one of those perfect sausages that you come across. The pierogies were pretty good. I also loved the cabbage roll. The inside of it was like comfort food with some rice while the cabbage itself was so thin and barely there. It went well with the sour cream too. For another $5, I could have easily ordered another one because it was so good. This cabbage roll ranks as one of my top favourite cabbage rolls of all time. This Supreme Pierogies Inc. vendor is so underrated. There was barely anyone else ordering from them that I saw. Give them some love because their prices and food quality are commendable.
To finish our lunch, we also had The O.G. from Eva’s Original Famous Chimney Cones. I love that all of their listed prices already include tax, so there’s no guessing involved for how much change you have to scrounge up. It was both my mom and DH’s first time having this decadent dessert treat. I myself have had it at least twice on two other occasions (blogged about here and here).
We watched the kitchen prepare the chimney cones. (We were told it was a five-minute wait after we paid.) The cinnamon sugar cone was freshly made and hot. We watched as the staff cooled it down before inserting the marshmallow base, toppings, and vanilla ice cream. The O.G. simply has the sugar cone filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with a fresh strawberry. I loved how ice-cold the vanilla ice cream was and how rich and creamy it was. The cinnamon sugar cone was sweet and a little hard, and the ice cream-soaked marshmallow at the bottom 0h-so-sweet. Surprisingly, my mom, an ice cream lover, wasn’t a huge fan of this dessert. She thought that the cinnamon sugar cone was too much and filling.
Before we left the Food Building for sights and sounds around the rest of the CNE, I wanted some more protein. We searched around the vendors and eliminated all the fried chicken options and I was left with ordering three meatballs from Primo Foods lol. I didn’t want anything fried and honestly for meat options, I felt like there wasn’t much to choose from. Each meatball was $2.49 and we worked out the price that it was probably a better deal to order the Meatball Sandwich at $6.99. I loved how the meatball was so tender and soft, almost so soft that you didn’t need to chew it.
We left the Food Building and ventured through the midway games and rides into the Enercare Centre for some relieving air conditioned sights and sounds. There, I saw the Yeti Puffs Nitro Snacks vendor selling liquid nitrogen snacks. I remember the last time we were at the CNE, I also tried such chilly snacks but from another vendor.
After some fun and rest at the Enercare Centre, we returned back to the Food Building for more food to finish out the day of eating. This time, I had the PB & J Beef Brisket Smash from Fran’s Restaurant. I had actually seen this on the way back from getting the meatball sandwich as this would have been a great protein item too but it was too late at that time. I’m so glad we came back to try this because it was amazing! (Also, 4 to 4:30 p.m. at the Food Building is a great time to dine in because most tables were empty and available.)
The PB & J Beef Brisket Smash had beef brisket on a burger bun with BBQ sauce, peanut butter, and jam and served with a side of waffle fries. First of all, the waffle fries were AMAZING. They were so freshly made and crisp and crunchy! All hail the waffle fries from Fran’s Restaurant. Secondly, the unique brisket burger was delicious as well. The beef brisket was so tender and fatty and complemented well with the salty peanut butter and sweet jam. The soft burger bun tied it all together too. I’m glad we shared this too because even half of it might have been too filling (but it would have been a worthy stomach filler). It was so delicious, and I was so pleasantly surprised with this burger!
Next, I got the Original Fried Cheese Curds from Hungry Husky Waffle Dogs and Deep Fried Cheese Curds. They sold fried cheese curds as well as corn dogs and poutine. For $11.60 after taxes, it was a nice thing to try at the CNE. This was a “new food” a few years ago and while I was tempted to try back in 2017, I just wasn’t hungry enough to try it.
This time, I went all in and went for it. I was given a choice of two dipping sauces after the order was ready (it was ready for us so quickly after we paid) — buffalo (spicy) and ranch (so tarty). Both sauces worked really well with the fried cheese curds. I really enjoyed this snack. I was bewildered that the cheese curds stayed so moist and fresh beneath the thin batter. It was so good. My mom thought it was a bit too salty. This was a highlight for sure and you can’t find deep fried cheese curds just anywhere in the city. If you’re at the CNE, this is a great snack to share with friends.
We had a large lemonade from Terry’s Old Fashioned Lemonade to hydrate (there is no air conditioning inside the Food Building and does get hot and a little stuffy).
Before we left the exhibition grounds for the day, there were three more food items we wanted to try. We failed on one of them. We couldn’t find the Korean Squid Ink Corndogs in the Food Building nor in the Midway. Does anyone know which vendor sells them? (Edit: Found it while writing this blog. It’s from Saltspring Concessions in the outdoor booths.)
We got the “new CNE food of 2022”, the Mac & Cheese Pizza from Wood Fired Pizza. I highly dislike how the food vendor did not display any of their prices for the food. It feels like an unfair practice not to show the prices upfront. How do I know that they’re not changing the prices at the spur of the moment? Nevertheless, DH wanted to try the Mac & Cheese Pizza so we did order it at $24 for an entire pizza. We were told that they only sold them as entire pizza and not by slice. My inkling is that perhaps the pizzas were not doing so well and thus they would rather sell whole pizzas as opposed to leaving behind separate pizza slices here and there. We took the pizza to go in a box to try at home.
Lastly, before we left home for the day, we tried the much-hyped about 2022 CNE food which was the Ketchup Ice Cream (and Mustard Ice Cream) from So Cute Ice Cream. The guys at the Wood Fire Pizza vendor wore shirts to promote this ice cream too (are they related?), but the So Cute ice cream booth was located right near where the parking entrance/exit is.
The So Cute Ice Cream vendor also did not list their prices for the ketchup and mustard ice cream. We already knew we wanted to try the ketchup ice cream, so we ordered one. It wasn’t until we placed the order that we found out it cost $12 for the cone. We were one dollar short in our handful of change and rummaged around for the last loonie. I didn’t appreciate how the staff member gave us dirty looks and didn’t seem to comprehend that we were digging for coins and needed some time. I would have appreciated a little more patience and compassion from a food vendor staff.
Anyway, we did pay the $12 for the ketchup ice cream. The ketchup soft serve was pink in colour, resembling more than strawberry flavoured ice cream to me and not at all what its promotional picture looked like in the advertisements. The top of the cone was coated with actual ketchup. There was a single French fry dipped with ketchup sticking out of the soft serve as well as a plastic spoon. There were also some red sprinkles at the top of the soft serve (I’m not a fan of sprinkles).
The ketchup soft serve tasted plain weird. It was a mix between having refreshing cold ice cream and the taste of ketchup. There was a weird aftertaste to each bite/lick too. The ice cream itself didn’t actually taste like ketchup though. It was just… weird. I wasn’t a big fan of it, but we were still able to share and finish the cone between the four of us. The toddler didn’t seem to pay attention or mind the unique ice cream flavour. It was just something refreshing and sweet for her lol. I wasn’t interested in finishing the cone, especially with the ketchup smeared all over the top of the cone.
Interestingly, my mom said that she liked the ketchup ice cream more than the O.G. chimney cone (what!) AND that had we didn’t eat the OG cone, she would have wanted to try the mustard ice cream too. Wow. I was floored lol.
That night, we heated up the Mac & Cheese Pizza. It was surprisingly good. Visually, there was a lack of macaroni scattered on the pizza itself. But taste-wise, it was a solid pizza. It being a wood fired pizza though, I didn’t like how there were some very charred bits on the bottom of the pizza. For $24, it’s a little pricy too, but I guess it’s an entire pizza, so… 🤷♀️ (But honestly, mac and cheese itself is so cheap. They could have scattered more on the pizza. But again, maybe they taste-tested it and an overload of cheesy pasta on it wouldn’t taste as good.) I also don’t think it’s ethical that they didn’t display their prices outright and you have to ask for them.
Anyway, that’s the end of our food adventure at the CNE in 2022! How great it was to be able to share so many interesting varieties of new and old foods amongst the four of us this time. We really indulged and ate the majority of what we wanted to try at that moment. The CNE opened on August 19 and ends on Labour Day on September 5, 2022.
There were basically no line-ups to order food for any of the food vendors that we visited. Either we were the only one ordering at the time or we were the next person immediately in line. It was so great and I wonder if it had to do with attending the CNE on a Tuesday. The only ones that had a small line-up was the Lobster Roll from Jake’s Seafood and the spaghetti from Primo Foods.
(For anyone who is concerned about masking and safety precautions at the CNE, know that the vast majority of people there, guests and staff, are not wearing masks. I would estimate less than 5% of everyone there had masks on. There also aren’t many stations for hand sanitizers as compared to other large-scale events. They do have plenty of garbage disposals in the Food Building and Enercare Centre.)
Other notable vendors for 2022 that were inside the Food Building but which we didn’t eat from: