A modern beer-and-sausage hall on King and a quintessential wine bar on Queen
609 King St. W., 416-703-7775
Chef Aldo Lanzillotta’s modern “sausage and beer hall and other wonders,” as he’s called it, is exactly what it sounds like: long plywood communal tables and bench seating run the length of the stripped-down space that used to be Marc Thuet’s convict-run restaurant, Conviction. There are 18 house-made sausage options, from traditional (Italian, boerewors, kranjska) to vegetarian (tofu kolbasa that tastes like malnutrition) to game (venison, kangaroo and duck, which tastes like chicken liver). The crowd is young and worldly, for the most part: plaid shirts and Topshop playsuits who see the delicious irony in conservative Bavarian-Italian fare served on King West. The food is good, though limited—fennel-rich pork sausage, for instance, grilled over a gas flame and topped with caramelized onions on a grilled bun. The duck fat–fried French fries are crispy and intensely potato-y, though they’re only marginally different from the ones fried in plain vegetable oil. The beer list, curated by Stephen Beaumont of Beerbistro, is one of the best in town and includes bottlings from Quebec’s outstanding Dieu du ciel microbrewery, plus plenty of local independents like Flying Monkeys, and one-litre steins of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Lanzillotta’s self-service concept is bold and a little annoying. Customers order and pay at the open kitchen, and runners then bring out the food when it’s ready. You have to leave your credit card at the bar or settle your bill each time you get another round. If you want to order more, you have to line up again. “Please tip,” the menu nonetheless advises. “The runners who deliver your food and happily clean up after you would truly appreciate your generosity.”
676 Queen St. W., 416-214-9429
This casually stylish Queen West room might just be the perfect wine bar. The tightly edited wine list leans predominantly toward esoteric, small-production, high-character wines, many refreshingly inexpensive and all available by the glass. There’s a constantly changing chalkboard menu of meats and cheeses from the Cheese Boutique and a short menu of grape-friendly grazing dishes that are competently, if not beautifully, prepared. The lobster rolls in particular are superb: creamy, tasty, jammed with lobster meat and cheap at $13 for two. The poutine is disappointing by contrast: the gravy is flat-tasting, and the cheese one night—a generic-tasting white one—doesn’t have the spring that fresh curds should have. Try the hard-to-find Hinterland vidal from Prince Edward County. Servers are happy to talk about the wine.