An old-timey bar, fancified fried chicken and haute milk and cookies
Museum Tavern ½
208 Bloor St. W., 416-920-0110
Walking into the new restaurant across from the ROM, you half expect the tipplers at the bar to shout, “Norm!” The place, styled as a classic American brasserie with dark wood and brown leather galore, looks like a high-class version of Cheers, although the cocktails are fancier than the pints Norm and Cliff swilled. They’re created by Moses McIntee, the former bartender at the Ritz-Carlton, who plies the ubiquitous formula—classic cocktail plus premium booze plus modern twist—better than almost any mix master in town. For example, he upgrades his apricot bourbon sour with Maker’s Mark and black pepper–apricot syrup for zip and sweetness. Stephen Gouzopoulos, who ran the kitchen at L’Unita in Yorkville, executes the ultra-trendy pub menu with skill (and a heavy hand on the condiments). Steamed buns, piled with duck confit, are drenched in hoisin and sriracha but make for compulsive snacking nonetheless. The steak frites is a straight-forward rendition—a fat cut of rare flatiron ladled with a sherry-bacon gravy. A buttery house-made egg bun, smothered in spicy mayo and mashed avocado, cradles an enormous pink tuna steak—it’s a luscious, somewhat healthy take on the pub burger. The servers, who introduce themselves by name, are intense people pleasers, which likely suits the clientele of tourists and buttoned-down gentlemen just fine. Mains $20–$38.
Moo Milk Bar
1918A Queen St. E., 647-343-4272
Chef Danielle Oron, who trained at New York’s prestigious French Culinary Institute, has opened Toronto’s first organic milk bar in the Beach. She infuses two per cent from Hewitt’s, a family-run Hagersville dairy, and almond milk with natural flavours. The banana-chocolate, made with cocoa berry powder and house-made banana syrup, has the rich taste of a shake without the calorie guilt. Instead, that guilt comes from Oron’s mini fruit pies and CD-sized cookies. The classic chocolate chip, made with hunks of milk and dark chocolate and unspeakable amounts of Alliston Creamery butter, is all crispy edges and gooey centre. The shop is takeout only, so the cookies will have to be dunked at home (or on the sidewalk immediately after you leave).
Riverside Public House ½
725 Queen St. E., 647-348-0880
After a stint at Grace on College Street and a season on Top Chef Canada, chef Dustin Gallagher has taken over the kitchen at this new Queen East pub. The space, painted black and dominated by a white marble bar, strikes a balance between moody watering hole and elegant gastropub. The menu features a parade of well-made comforts. Gallagher’s take on bangers and mash includes a good house-made lamb sausage that requires a dollop of garlicky mashed potatoes to take off the gamey edge. Fantastic fried chicken on red-checked wax paper begs to be devoured by hand. Every piece is crunchy and juicy. The cocktails are so-so (except for the basil gin smash, which tastes like summer and Christmas all at once) and the wine list is predictable, so opt for one of the nine beers on tap instead. There are plans to host live Motown music on weekends. Mains $14–$24.