I Ranked The Best Food Court Restaurants At Shopping Malls & A Canadian Spot Took The Top Place
What food goes best with shopping bags from Gap?
This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
Malls were once the cornerstone of so many of our childhoods and lives. And while the Canadian shopping mall still exists and is filled with customers, no one can deny that it's a very nostalgic place for many people.
And what unlocks that nostalgia better than food? If you've spent any time in a shopping mall, there's a good chance you've eaten at a food court.
And if you've eaten there, you will know the paralyzing fear of looking around and seeing that there are so many snack options.
Your choices are bountiful from famous fast food chains to places you seem to only ever see in a mall food court. So, which ones are the places actually worth going to?
To give you an idea of the best mall food court options, I ranked seven of the most popular, quintessential spots for mall eats that you will find across Canada.
Of course, a bunch were left off the list, but this is just a sample of some of the most ubiquitous and common ones you'll see, so if a fave you have is off the list, I'm sorry!
Now, without further ado, here's how I rank the mall's food court eats and drinks from worst to best.
For some reason, without fail, there always seems to be a Subway in nearly every mall food court I've been to. Likely because it's one of the biggest chains in the country believe it or not — at least according to data company ScrapeHero.
There was maybe a time when I loved Subway, but when you're no longer a kid you put away childish things and for me, that was Subway being a regular part of my fast food diet.
My biggest problem with the sandwich chain is that every single item tastes the same. I'm not sure how it happens, but I can taste the Subway essence in every type of bread, meat and topping.
It's just a place I never really want to check out and the fact that you see them in malls in 2023 still baffles me. There are almost always better food options!
Again, this might be the fervour of apostasy, but Sbarro is another place at your local food court that I feel is not up to snuff.
They have the benefit of often being the only spot for those who have a pizza craving. But once you order a slice and take a bite, you realize why you never see Sbarro outside of malls.
It's bland, tasteless and often can feel especially greasy. The crust can feel cardboardy and I think, if you're going to go for the indulgent choice of pizza, it should give you something.
Maybe the other items on the menu at your local Sbarro are more worth it than the pizza. But as someone who's only jumped into the world of Sbarro pizza, I can safely say it's one of the places I always skip over when I'm looking to eat at the mall food court.
Maybe when you're feeling like something a little different than your classic fries and other fried food from your local mall, a shining beacon of Thai Express shows its face.
And while I personally haven't had a whole lot of experience with this place, Canadian star Simu Liu has gone on record to say that it is one of his favourite restaurants in Canada.
So, it's hard to deny an endorsement like that.
Another mall staple that almost seems to be fully and completely ingrained with the idea of a mall. It's hard to imagine sipping on an Orange Julius outside of a mall.
You need to be blasted with A/C and carrying bags from Gap to truly get the real Orange Julius experience.
And as someone who's not done a lot of mall shopping and hanging out in the last few years of my life, I've also not had an Orange Julius in a while. But they have such an incredibly nostalgic taste that it's hard not to love the idea of them.
While, yes, the classic orange and vanilla drink is maybe not the most 2023 decision with the amount of sugar and dairy in them, what is life for but for a living?
That being said, I don't think there's much more worth getting than the the Orange Julius, so while iconic to the world of shopping malls, they don't have a lot of draw outside of their namesake drink.
Speaking of synonymous with malls, what is more, "mall" than the smell of soft, baked pretzels wafting through the giant corridors, intermingling with the fabric from H&M?
And the mall standard of a soft baked pretzel isn't just betting a mention because of how much they are associated with the mall, but they're actually good.
What can beat a warm, salty pretzel dipped into a cheese or mustard sauce while you look at the kiosks selling phone cases? It's so much fun!
Of course, Mr. Pretzels only does that one thing: pretzels and versions of it. So it's a hard choice for if you're feeling a bit hungry for something other than bread and salt.
Jimmy The Greek/Opa!
I've lumped these two chains together because they serve the same function for different parts of the country. As someone who grew up in western Canada, Opa! was the Greek/Mediterranean joint for nearly every single mall I would wander into. While in Ontario, my new home, it seems that the place for that type of food is Jimmy The Greek.
And I will say whenever I went to a mall that had a place like this, I would almost always end up ordering from there. So I have to say, a place that offers up a tasty gyro, maybe a kebab plate is almost always going to be my go-to.
It almost always was light, tasty and felt a little more wholesome than French fries (spoiler alert for the number one slot), but it's obviously nowhere near the quality of a real Greek restaurant. But still, a fun novelty and one of my childhood favourite food court restaurants.
New York Fries
And in walks, the king, which has a name that makes you think that it's a chain from the United States, but believe it or not it's as Canadian as maple syrup.
New York Fries is a chain that you can see across mall food courts in Canada. They're famous for their, you guessed it, fries and with their poutine is said to be among the best you can get in Canadian fast food.
Add in their many other interesting and fun fry dishes and you got a place made for the mall.
Again, this is another joint you basically never ever see in any place other than a mall, and they got some of the tastiest fries you can likely get at any mall in the country. Or maybe, depending on who you ask, at any fast food chain in the country.
They're that good!
And so, hopefully, this rundown of local mall spots is enough to give you some guidance on your next shopping trip.
Of course, this is all based on my own subjective opinion, so if you like the places I disapprove of or hate the places I love, that's just life baby.
So check them out and let me know if you agree.