All stories by Caroline Aksich

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Kanga, the Aussie-inspired pop-up’s standalone meat-pie shop

Introducing: Kanga

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Name: Kanga Aussie Meat Pies
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Contact Info: 65 Duncan St., 416-324-9174, eatkanga.com
Owners: Megan Chan and Erynn Mayes, who left their corporate jobs last fall to follow their meat-pie-shop dreams

The Food: It was while living in Australia that Kanga owners Chan and Mayes got the idea to bring the country’s national snack—miniature, meat-stuffed pies—back home with them to Canada. After spending a year selling their pies at pop-ups, they raised $16,575 on Kickstarter to fund their first standalone shop. Their palm-sized pies have buttery pastry crusts and gravy-soaked interiors, and they come in flavours both traditional (beef-and-Vegemite) and unconventional (butter chicken). Diners with unusually healthy appetites can opt to “poutine their pie”—i.e. smother it in gravy and cheese curds.

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Introducing: Peoples Eatery, a new Chinatown restaurant from the 416 Snack Bar team

Introducing: People’s Eatery

Name: Peoples Eatery
Neighbourhood: Chinatown
Contact Info: 307 Spadina Ave., 416-792-1784
Owners: The team behind 416 Snack Bar: Adrian Ravinsky, David Stewart, Matthew See and Dustin Gallagher
Chefs: Dustin Gallagher and his chef de cuisine Jonah Snitman

The Food: The one-page snack menu is meant to reflect Spadina’s past, present and future. Gallagher pays homage to the area’s Jewish roots with deli standards like potato knishes and smoked whitefish salad, while Chinese-inspired menu items—pork bao and cold chicken with daikon—reflect the strip’s present. Gallagher sees international influences, including Israeli and Indian cuisine, shaping Spadina’s future. Like 416 Snack Bar, the mostly shareable bites and platters are meant to be consumed without cutlery. The restaurant’s soon-to-open second floor will serve a more refined chef’s menu designed to be eaten with (gasp!) utensils.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Sparrow, a new upscale pub in Bloor West Village

Introducing: Sparrow

Name: Sparrow
Neighbourhood: Bloor West Village
Contact Info: 2197 Bloor St. W., 647-349-2211, @SparrowBloor
Owner: Michael Derbyshire, who also owns the Kennedy Public House next door
Chef: Matthew Ness, formerly of Patria. He’s being overseen by executive chef Tristan D’Souza, who helms the kitchen at Kennedy Public House.

The Food: Sparrow’s artfully composed plates set it apart from the area’s homey pubs and burger joints. Chef Ness borrows from French, Italian, Spanish and even Korean cuisine to create dishes that look almost too pretty to eat, like his saffron-infused branzino escabeche, pictured above, which is topped with olives, eggplant and fried chickpeas. On the all-day brunch menu, pulled pork hash comes crowned with a sunny-side-up egg and kimchi. Around 3:00 p.m. the smoothie bar gets swapped out for oysters.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Hummus Smackdown: our search for the city’s best chickpea spread

Hummus Smackdown: our search for the city’s best chickpea spread

The Middle Eastern trend has Toronto restaurants re-imagining one of the oldest Arabic staples: hummus. Here are our five favourite variations on the mashed chickpea theme.

1. ME VA ME

For the past decade, uptowners have been enjoying Me Va Me’s fresh, fast Israeli grub. With the recent opening of their Queen West location, Toronto’s shawarma standards have been raised. Our favourite version of the velvety, tahini-packed hummus is served with sautéed button mushrooms, although a pile of freshly sheered shawarma is an equally enticing option. The clay oven-baked luffa bread is phenomenal: flaky, chewy and still warm. $7.45. 240 Queen St W., 416-546-3770

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Openings

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Introducing: Farmer’s Daughter Eatery, a pescatarian destination in the Junction Triangle

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Name: Farmer’s Daughter Eatery
Neighbourhood: Junction Triangle
Contact Info:1588 Dupont,  416-546-0626, @DupontDaughter
Owner: Darcy MacDonell, who also owns the nearby Farmhouse Tavern

Chef: Swiss-born Léonie Lilla’s impressive resume includes Daishō, The Libertine, Oliver and Bonacini Café Grill and Rodney’s by Bay.

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The Dish

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Introducing: The Passenger, a cute new gastropub in the Junction with a little retro flair

Introducing: The Passenger

Name: The Passenger
Contact Info: 2968 Dundas St. W., 416-762-0777, thepassenger.co
Neighbourhood: The Junction
Owners: Michelle Vella and Heather Osler, who also co-own The Beet across the street
Chef: Kahle Flaherty (previously of The Beet)

The Food: The Passenger shares The Beet’s ethical-eater ethos, which means its food is seasonal, local, humanely raised and sustainably caught. The menu is a bit of a hodge-podge, with items ranging from a very on-trend Mediterranean plate of Berbere chicken and pearl couscous, to an hors d’oeuvre platter plucked straight from the pages of a 1950s-era Good Housekeeping mag, complete with deviled eggs, mini gherkins and bacon-wrapped dates.

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Restaurants

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Farmhouse Tavern is the latest Toronto restaurant to open a spin-off

(Image: Farmhouse Tavern/Facebook)

(Image: Farmhouse Tavern/Facebook)

Why have one great restaurant when you can have two? That seems to be the logic behind Toronto’s new run of culinary spin-offs. In just the last few months, Buca begot Bar Buca, The County General launched County Cocktail, and now Farmhouse Tavern, the Junction Triangle spot known for serving côte de boeuf on giant wooden slabs, is opening Farmer’s Daughter, a new eatery located just down the street at 1588 Dupont Street. Similar names aside, the new spot won’t have much in common with its progenitor. “There aren’t going to be any antiques, no chalk board, no knickknacks,” says owner Darcy MacDonell. The sleeker, more feminine decor will complement a very on-trend menu of light, seafood-focused dishes crafted by ex-Daishō and Libertine chef Leonie Lilla. The new spot opens in May—just in time to make good use of its roomy, 40-seat patio.

The Dish

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Introducing: Tavern by Trevor, a new spot for brunch and bar snacks (deep-fried foie gras!)

Introducing: Tavern by Trevor
Name: Tavern by Trevor
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Contact Info: 147 Spadina Ave., 416-546-3447, tavernbytrevor.com, @tavernbytrevor
Owners: Mike “Yuker” Yaworski (owner of Wide Open) and Trevor Wilkinson, the man behind Trevor Kitchen and Bar on Wellington
Chef: Trevor Wilkinson

The Food: Wilkinson calls his food “new Canadian cuisine.” Menu-wise, that translates into over-the-top comfort dishes drawn from a bunch of different global cuisines: Japanese-inspired shrimp tempura, for instance, and Cajun po’boys, plus a handful of rejigged Canadian classics, like bison-and-pork tourtière and pork-belly poutine. In an extremely haute take on the jalapeño popper, hunks of foie gras are deep-fried and served with ice-wine grape jelly.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: S. Lefkowitz, Toronto’s first all-hummus restaurant from the owner of Ezra’s Pound

Introducing: S. Lefkowitz

Name: S. Lefkowitz
Neighbourhood: Trinity-Bellwoods
Contact Info: 913 Dundas St W., 647-346-8448
Owner: Ezra Braves, who closed the Dundas West location of his coffee shop Ezra’s Pound to open the hummuseria

The Food: At Toronto’s first hummuseria, the chickpea dip isn’t just an accoutrementit’s the star of the meal. Owner Ezra Braves blends re-hydrated organic chickpeas into a protein-packed dip, which he serves warm with pita bread. Plates of hummus come drizzled with olive oil and topped with things like braised beef, warm olives, boiled eggs or tahini, plus a dusting of harissa powder.

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The Dish

Coffee and Tea

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A new coffee shop brings fresh-baked croissants (and cheesy bacon rolls) to the Roncey strip

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

The savoury bacon bun from Extra Butter. (Image: Caroline Aksich)

For awhile it seemed like Roncey was in danger of losing its indie-coffeehouse cred, what with the recent closure of Alternative Grounds and the influx of corporate beverage behemoths, like David’s Tea and the much-maligned Timmy’s. Brand-new arrival Extra Butter hopes to prove that there’s still room for small business on the busy strip. “Extra Butter is a shop that the community made,” says co-owner Cassie Germann, who met her business partner, Ian McPhedran, while working down the street at Cherry Bomb. “If you ask for it, we’ll try to find it.”

The cozy shop, which takes its name from a luxuriously oily blend of Dark City coffee, has five tables and a cool, Art Deco aesthetic, with faux-tin wall tiles and a collection of covetable Italian vintage chairs. In addition to standard espresso beverages, the café turns out an enticing lineup of made-in-house pastries, including croissants, breakfast tarts and a savoury spin on the cinnamon roll, stuffed with bacon, cheese and maple-mustard sauce. Smoothies and sandwiches are in the works, as is the shop’s namesake beverage: an experimental coffee-and-coconut butter concoction that’s currently in the development phase.

Extra Butter, 283 Roncesvalles Ave., 647-340-7791, facebook.com

The Dish

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Introducing: The Citizen, an unusually sophisticated sports bar in Brant House’s former digs

Introducing: The Citizen

Name: The Citizen
Neighbourhood: King West
Contact Info: 522 King St. W., 416-703-2800, thecitizento.com, @thecitizen_to
Owners: An anonymous cabal of investors
Chef: Amanda Walti, previously chef de cuisine at Origin on King Street

The Food: The menu breaks down into gussied-up bar snacksjalapeño croquettes with tarragon-ranch sauce, for instanceand fancified pub dishes, like a compressed cube of smoked mac ‘n’ cheese topped with quarter-inch-thick slabs of seared pork belly.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Starving Artist, the gourmet waffle house’s new St. Clair West location

Introducing: Starving Artist, the gourmet waffle house’s new St. Clair West location

Name: Starving Artist
Neighbourhood: Corso Italia
Contact Info: 1078 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-901-7079, starvingartistbar.com
Owner and chef: Bryan Jackson, owner of the original Starving Artist on Lansdowne Avenue. He also owns Kitch, the casual lounge at Dupont and Dufferin

The Food: “Everything is made of waffles, on waffles, between waffles or made in a waffle iron,” warns the restaurant’s menu in extra-large type. A handful of dishes are unique to the new location, including “waffle bacon”—i.e. strips of bacon baked into golden waffle fingers—and a fried-egg brunchwich sandwiched between two mini waffles. For dessert, the Split-This brings a waffle-encased banana topped with ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries.

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Introducing: Come and Get It, the Queen West pop-up’s new permanent digs

Introducing: Come and Get It

Name: Come And Get It
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Contact Info: 676 Queen St. W., 647-344-3416, comeandgetit.ca, @ComeAndGetIt416
Owners: Jon Polubiec (Mistura, Windsor Arms and Prego)
Chef: Adam Brown, who trained under Libretto chef Rocco Agostino at the Silver Spoon on Roncey

The Food: Fans of the pop-up will be happy to know their favourite full-size meals are still available for lunch. Like before, customers choose a flavour profile (e.g. mango jerk chicken, chipotle short rib) and then order it as a sandwich, a poutine, a salad or a naan wrap. At night, the restaurant transforms into a cocktail bar, and the same flavours are translated into snack-size skewers, sliders and mini-poutines.

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Openings

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Introducing: Scaddabush, a 6,500-square-foot Italian restaurant in the Aura condos from the owners of Reds

Introducing: Scaddabush
Name: Scaddabush
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Contact Info: 382 Yonge St., 416-597-8838, scaddabush.com
Owners: SIR Corp, the same mega-corp that owns nearby Reds Midtown and Duke’s Refresher, as well as the first Scaddabush location in Mississauga
Executive Chef: Steve Silvestro

The Food: The simple Italian menu includes pizzas, house-made pastas, sandwiches and traditional appetizers, like calamari fritti and a caprese salad made with hand-stretched mozzarella. Half-pound beef meatballs come three ways: over spaghetti, on a bun or “straight-up,” with crostini and cheese sauce.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Grasshopper, a new vegan restaurant near U of T where nothing costs more than $10

Introducing: Grasshopper

Name: Grasshopper
Neighbourhood: University
Contact Info: 310 College St., 647-340-3666, grasshopperrestaurant.ca
Owners: Roy Qian and Oliver Chen
Chef: Roy Qian

The Food: The mostly vegan menu specializes in hearty comfort food—minus the meat, dairy and at least some of the grease. The lineup includes faux pork and “chick-un” banh mi sandwiches (made with seitan), four different veggie burgers and a meat-, dairy-, soy- and gluten-free mac ‘n’ cheese.

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