With rents rising and condos encroaching, Kensington Market’s patchwork of international shops, bodegas and restaurants is ailing. This month’s casualty is Le Ti Colibri, a teeny spot that served up home-style French Caribbean sandwiches in its backyard tiki hut. “We had been looking for a new location since it was too difficult to obtain an alcohol license where we were,” explains co-owner Kristen Procida. The Guadeloupe native (and one of our reasons to love Toronto) is thinking about opening a food truck or maybe even moving south of the border to open a new restaurant. “We’d been looking to sell the business for over a year, but one of the first buyers wanted to also buy the name, which we didn’t want to sell,” says Procida, who hopes to get back to slinging saltfish bokits sometime soon. Meanwhile, a café called Blintz and a Bong—which is announcing itself as the “home of the all-day stoner breakfast special”—will be taking over the Augusta Street space. (No word on whether or not that special is just a bag of chips with a pint of ice cream.)
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Looks like the Bovine Sex Club doesn’t have Queen West’s tiki bar scene all to itself anymore: Miss Thing’s, a Pan Asian restaurant and cocktail bar under the same ownership as next-door neighbour Wrongbar, has opened in Parkdale. There, chefs Jasper Wu (from Bent) and Paul Hadian (from Momofuku) are turning out their take on Polynesian dishes—raw conch with mango and jicama, Spam pintxos, steak with coconut rice and lobster ramen—to go with bar manager Reed Pettit‘s (from Miller Tavern) tropical cocktails, like the Toucan Sam Shake made with rummy Froot Loop milk. As for the space itself, it’s Hawaii meets mid-century hotel lobby. Currently, the bar is open for dinner and drinks from 5 p.m.–2 a.m., Wednesday to Sunday.
Name: Corktown Kitchen
Contact: 354 King St. E., 416-901-1188, corktownkitchen.com, @CorktownKitcn
Owner and Chef: Matt Griffiths (Air Canada Centre, Ultra Supper Club, Five Doors North)
The Food: A few bistro standbys (burgers, steak frites, half chicken), as well as a couple dishes influenced by time Griffiths spent in Southeast Asia (fresh rolls, grilled shrimp) and a chalkboard of daily specials. “The chicken wings are what people have been talking about,” says Griffiths, of his applewood-smoked, bourbon-sauced wings. At the moment, Corktown Kitchen is open for dinner and weekend brunch.
The Drinks: A selection of tallboys (draught taps are in the bar’s future) and classic cocktails, each made with 2.5 ounces of booze. To prove customers are getting their money’s worth, the drinks are served in two parts: a glass of mix and its accompanying shot on the side. “People are taken aback by it at first,”says manager David William Martel. “But we’re doing this because we want to show you that you’re getting a huge amount of liquor.”
The Space: Brighter than Weezie’s (which had a ’70s rec room feel to it) with a much bigger bar. “I dismantled the old bar myself,” says Griffiths. “It was a bit of an eyesore.” Right now, he’s working on getting his liquor license increased by another 10 people. When that happens, just as many more stools will sidle up to the bar.
Name: Broncos Slider Bar
Contact: 127 Strachan Ave., 647-748-4800, broncosrestaurant.com
Owner: James Bateman (Branca)
Chef: Drew Alexander Fleming
The Food: Baby burgers, pint-sized sandwiches and a few small sides. Right now, the list of three-bite options sits at 18 items, but there are still 30 creations on the short list that might make special guest appearances on the menu. Bateman (whose love of sliders comes courtesy of many visits to Detroit’s Green Dot Stables) says his current five favourites are the cheeseburger, the Buffalo fried chicken, the bo ssam, the schnitzel and the Carousel—a nod to the popular St. Lawrence Market bakery’s peameal bacon sammie. For dessert: soft-serve ice cream (with optional toppings like Cap’n Crunch and Pop Rocks) and Belgian waffles.
The Drinks: A tap list that includes offerings from a couple Toronto breweries (Left Field, Great Lakes) and some imports (Rogue, BrewDog, Le Trou du Diable, Les Trois Mousquetaires). There’s also a short and sweet wine selection (one red, one white), mixed drinks and shots of bourbon. Reserved for the patio: cans of Miller Lite.
The Space: Communal tables and cactus-lined windowsills inside, and a patio licensed for 90 outside. “We initially wanted to have more cacti, so we contacted the Ontario Cactus Society,” says Bateman. “The guy emailed us back and the subject line was ‘DON’T DO IT.’ He said there’s a class-action lawsuit in place right now because someone at a bar got drunk and fell into a cactus.”
It’s official: the only way to beat the heat is to go on a strict ice cream diet. And luckily, the city’s parlours and pop-ups are hitting peak creativity, rolling out fresh and wacky flavours. Here, your bucket list for the summer of 2015
This Sunday between 5 p.m and 10 p.m., Home of the Brave plays host to Momofuku Noodle Bar for one night of Tex-Mex madness. Hans Vogels, Noodle Bar’s chef de cuisine, will be whipping up a few southwestern dishes (all with Asian influence, of course) alongside the HotB’s Nate Middleton. Some of the evening’s one-offs from Vogels include crispy nukazuke jalapeños, bourbon-laced queso fundido and a chicken-fried steak ssam with kimchi. Courtesy of Middleton: a trio of good ol’ hard-shell tacos (marlin ceviche, rockfish and chili). And the Sweet Jesus dessert geniuses get in the spirit with a banana split made with Mexican coffee–flavoured ice cream and churros. Reservations aren’t required for the event and all of the special menu items will be sold à la carte. But, if it’s some fried bologna or a fowl sandwich that you’re after, Home of the Brave’s regular menu will be available, too.
Home of the Brave. June 28, 5 p.m.–10 p.m., 589 King St. W., 2nd Fl., 416-366-2736.
Name: Flock Rotisserie and Greens
Contact: 330 Adelaide St. W., 647-483-5625, eatflock.com, @EatFlock
Neighbourhood: King West
Owner: Cory Vitiello and Chris Shiki (The Harbord Room)
Chef: Etienne Regis
The Food: Exactly what the name suggests—chicken (naturally raised without hormones or antibiotic, natch) and salad. The golden-brown bird is served four ways at this quick-service spot: whole, halved, quartered and pulled, but Vitiello insists, “Just because there’s over a dozen mesmerizing self-basting chickens in plain sight, that doesn’t mean you have to get one—our salads are just as much the main event.” Customers can choose from five pre-designed salads or create their own custom greens. What sets the grab-and-go salad bar apart from the rest of the (ahem) flock are the interesting mix-ins: wheat and goji berries, pomegranate seeds, orange segments and French lentils can all be tossed into a bowl. And for folks looking for a quick dinner, there’s an after-work special that includes a whole rotisserie chicken, a large salad and two sides (steamed acorn squash and rotisserie-roasted sweet potatoes).
The Drinks: Right now, the boozeless bird joint just has a selection of San Pellegrino sparklers.
The Space: It’s all function over fashion at this 14-stool spot. Save for a multi-tiered chandelier, the rotisserie itself is the main attraction. Vitiello wanted all of the customers’ attention to be focused on the slowly rotating flock of fowl.
Every good Canadian worth his or her celery salt knows that the sodium-packed caesar is our national cocktail, and this year the Bloody Mary’s clammy cousin turns 46. While it may have been born in Calgary, the drink is being perfected right here in Hogtown: Tabasco is swapped out for homemade hot sauces, and crushed tortillas, powdered seaweed and candied bacon rim our mugs. Maybe the caesar is having its mid-life crisis, but if that means topping one with fried chicken or an entire Peking duck, then it’s something we can definitely get behind. Here, 15 of the city’s caesars, ranked from traditional to over-the-top.
New Zealand’s moderate maritime climate produces refreshing wines made for summer sipping
New Zealand has more than 700 wineries growing diverse grape varieties, and it’s delivering an impressive output: excellent rieslings, pinots grises, gewürztraminers, pinots noirs, merlots, cabs and syrahs. The renowned sauvignons blancs from the Marlborough region still dominate the LCBO shelves, but new producers and modern styles are making inroads. Here are the best of the Kiwi bottles available in Ontario, all of which showcase typical fruit purity, freshness and precision. They’re what I reach for on warm summer nights.
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Last November, ex-Acadia chef Patrick Kriss announced he was opening his own restaurant in Toronto. Alo is now slated to start serving guests at the end of July. For this project, Kriss has paired up with Amanda Bradley (George, and France’s Michelin-starred La Grenouillère) to bring refined but approachable dining to a city that’s seen its share of tacos and ramen. Housed two floors above Hero Burger at Queen and Spadina, Alo (which comes from the Latin for “nourish”) will bring a touch of class to the intersection but will still be “fun, not fussy and no tablecloths,” says Kriss.
The tasting menu–only spot will serve guests a selection of seasonal courses (with options available) prepared using French techniques, as well as a longer menu to the folks who manage to snag one of six kitchen-facing stools. Dessert will come courtesy of ex-Canoe pastry chef Cori Murphy, who most recently worked at Montreal’s Patrice Pâtissier. For those who don’t feel like committing to a tasting menu, Bar Alo, the restaurant’s 20-seat section manned by John Bunner (Byblos, Toronto Temperance Society), will serve shareable small plates inspired by the restaurant’s main dishes.
“We’ve never even tried to go downtown”: food truck folk tell us what they think about the new bylaws
Toronto’s city council loosened its grip on food trucks last month, but truck owners are still locked in a turf war with traditional restaurateurs. Even though the recent bylaw changes increased the number of serving hours from three to five and decreased the mandatory buffer between a truck and a licensed eating establishment (which can include some gas stations, by the way) to 30 metres, some mobile restaurant owners believe that, while the change is good, there needs to be more. Here’s what 10 of them had to say.
After seven years of service, Table 17 is closing. The popular Riverside restaurant will serve its last meals on July 11. Owner Erik Joyal says his other spots, Ascari Enoteca and Hi-Lo Bar, will continue to operate, quenching Queen East’s thirst with Italian wine and craft beer, respectively. The closure fuels rumours that Joyal, along with business partner John Sinopoli, will be moving just a few doors down into the Broadview Hotel (once the home of Jilly’s). The revitalized strip club (which will look like this once Streetcar Developments is done with it) is expected to have a restaurant on the ground floor with a boutique hotel above, à la The Drake. Joyal says he’s unable to comment on what’s happening next, but he did say there’s a “very exciting new project for the future and we look forward to sharing our plans in the months to come.”
Street Wise: how spots like Hanmoto and Lucky Red are bringing the pleasures of Asian street food indoors
318 Spadina Ave., 416-792-8628
2 Lakeview Ave., No phone
How our star system works »
There are two types of cities in the world: those with terrific street food and those without. For most of its life, Toronto, land of the boiled hot dog cart, has been without. No doner kebabs, huaraches, chicken ’n’ waffles, bhel puri, gruyère and ham crêpes, curry puffs, or octopus stews for us. City hall is downright hostile to food truck operators, who are required to pay $5,000 for a permit and park a minimum of 30 metres away from bricks-and-mortar restaurants, and then for only up to five hours a day. But matters are improving. We have summer street festivals like Night It Up (happening later next month), where 120 food and trinket vendors set up in a Markham parking lot, and you can try that peculiarly enrapturing Taiwanese oddity, stinky tofu. And a bunch of entrepreneurial Toronto chefs are opening restaurants that serve street food–style dishes indoors. Technically, anything you eat under a roof doesn’t count as street food, but I’d argue the term loosely applies when your meal doesn’t require utensils and you’re encouraged to use condiments—the spicier the better. Many of these street food restaurants only open for dinner and don’t really fill up until late—they’re adjuncts to the bar scene. You perch on a stool, which isn’t so terrible when you’re usually done and gone in under an hour. They serve the kind of stuff I crave in the moment, on a hot summer night.
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Review: Kanpai, Cabbagetown’s new Taiwanese snack bar, is more of a rowdy pit stop than a dining destination
Cabbagetown’s new snack bar is more of a rowdy pit stop than a dining destination: pop in for $3 shots of Jameson, a healthy dose of Tupac and Biggie, and a few capable but forgettable Taiwanese bar snacks. From the long menu, zero in on pig’s ears, served in delicate cured strips and seasoned with chili oil; thick morsels of squid coated in a subtly sweet batter and fried to a perfect crisp; and chunks of chicken tossed with a fiery combination of scallions, green pepper, dried red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. Vegetables are treated as an afterthought: the kung pao cauliflower is woefully under-seasoned, and the cumin-scented mushrooms are leathery. The OG bao is equally disappointing: the stale bun overwhelms the thin slices of overcooked five-spice pork. And on a recent visit, the much-hyped fried chicken was sold out by 7:30 p.m.