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Introducing: Hopgood’s Foodliner, the new Roncesvalles restaurant from Hoof Café vet Geoff Hopgood

It’s been while since Geoff Hopgood, best known (and beloved) for the innovative brunch he served at the now-closed Hoof Café, first told us of his plans to open his own restaurant. Now, the friendly Haligonian has opened Hopgood’s Foodliner on the laid back (yet still booming) Roncesvalles strip, in a bid to introduce Torontonians to the East Coast comfort food of his youth.

Previously Brad’s Takeout and Eatery, the 1,600-square-foot space contains 50 seats in two dining rooms with a long open kitchen between them. Styled by Hopgood’s sister Sarah, the rooms exude the warmed-up industrial gruffness common to most new places these days (exposed air ducts, reclaimed hemlock barnboard flooring, salvaged fixtures and industrial pendant lights from Smash). Ten metal high school lab chairs (some still inscribed with the teacher’s name) surround the cherrywood-topped bar, behind which is a light box displaying a blown-up slide of a location of the Hopgood’s Foodliner chain of grocery stores owned by Hopgood’s family back east. Other tributes to the family business include the wallpaper that lines the hallway between the front and back rooms, on which a printed black and white photo from one store’s aisles, and a playful display of Triscuit boxes, Tabasco sauces and evaporated milk cans stacked along the back room’s south wall.

Although he’d initially planned to open a small late night eatery, the restaurant instead focuses on childhood favourites from the Maritimes, like playful palm-sized donairs ($12 for two) made from a mix of beef and pork on fluffy house-made pitas and dressed with an evaporated milk–based sauce. The hot crab dip with Triscuits ($14) is based on a popular snack Hopgood’s mother serves at parties. The menu’s simplicity is deceptive—the chef employs modern gadgets like a sous-vide setup (for the quarter chicken and grits, $26) and a paint gun (to spray cocoa on the crispy toffee bar, $8), an approach which he tells us gives him control over every aspect of his food, something his mentor Robert Belcham (Vancouver’s Refuel and Campagnolo) instilled in him. Hopgood is assisted in the back and front of house by other Hoof Café alumni, including restaurant manager Jenny Smith (ex-Woodlot), who’s also responsible for the unique drink list which features rare old-vine wines and a small selection of food-friendly cocktails like the Bronx with bitters ($10) and Arnaud’s Special ($12-26). Hopgood fans from the Hoof days will be happy to hear that Foodliner takes reservations (two weeks in advance). Oh, and plans for a brunch service are in the works, naturally.

Hopgoods Foodliner, 325 Roncesvales Ave, 416-533-2723, hopgoodsfoodliner.com

Our Introducing series explores newly opened restaurants, bars and shops throughout the GTA
This is not a review.
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  • Nas Ty

    The hoof cafe brunch was awesome, unfortunately this sounds gross.

  • DOWNTOWN MAN

    COULD THIS PLACE LOOK ANY WORSE !

    IS THAT A RESTAURANT????

    OMG AND THYE EXPECT US TO PAY TO EAT THERE?

  • cathie

    I think the decor is very cool. However, the prices are high ($26 for chicken and grits – ummm, no, I wouldn’t pay that). And sorry, but evaporated milk sauce and triscuits have no appeal to me at all.

  • k

    this looks disgusting and is helping in slowly turning one of Toronto’s last great neighbourhood’s into a tourist trap.

  • jenny

    phone number is actually 416-533-2723!
    we are very happy to be in the neighbourhood, being residents of it ourselves (the chef and i, the manager). apologies that our ideas have caused any repulsion but please know that we care very much about what we are doing.

  • erin

    I was really intrigued by the article! The decor is so charming and the food sounds carefully selected. I love it when a chef is inspired by the flavours of their childhood..I think it makes for a memorable meal.

    I could barely contain my laughter when I scrolled down to the comment section. Those nameless, faceless trolls can be found on any given site at any given time on any website…don’t let them get you down! They keep the Jack Astor’s And Kelsey’s chains in business. Can’t wait to come check out Hopgood’s!

  • Krystle

    I can’t wait to try out Hopgood’s the next time I’m in Toronto, looks amazing and sounds delicious!

  • Fatchance

    Opinions are like a–holes, everyone has one.
    Do any of faceless trolls own a resto, bar, lemonade stand?
    Until they do they should keep blogging little mouths shut.

  • Basil

    I’m curious as to how on earth a crispy toffee bar sounds gross? Sounds delish to me. As to triscuits with crab dip? I’ve had the most amazing shrimp dip served with saltines so don’t judge until you’ve actually tried the food.

  • kyle

    Best of wishes dudes! cant wait to try it out. the menu and concept look amazing, im sure in no time there will be line ups to try it out.

  • ROMEO

    HEY , THESE BLOGS ARE FOR OPINIONS , IF U CANT TALK IT DON T READ IT ,

    FOR THE RECORD I WONT PAY HIGH PRICES FOR FOOD INA PLACE THAT COST NOTHING TO BUILD , IF THATS THE CASE DONT CHARGE THE PRICES THAT COMFORTABLE , WELL DESIGNED PLACES CHARGE TO HAVE A COMFORTABLE , RELAXED EYE PLEASEING MEAL

    GOT IT?

  • parkdaleeater

    romeo, some people like minimilist design, some find comfort in surroundings that aren’t plush and over done. nobody is asking you to go to this particular establishment and frankly it would seem you wouldn’t enjoy it because your mind isn’t open to the experience. no worries-there are plenty of alternatives for you and others in this city-life is too short to worry about places that aren’t for you-enjoy what you can and leave the rest behind. i don’t find grand electric appealing, from decor to hip hop-i don’t complain about it-i just know it isn’t for me. i hope all who enjoy it have a great time-but i will find something else.

    now blogs and bloggers as journalists are a pet peeve of mine that i won’t go into here…

  • Amy

    I would rather pay a restaurant for good food than for good decor.

  • Nic

    Look forward to many great meals here!!!
    Dont let the arm chair bloggers hinder your passion and vision.
    menu looks great

    Cheers

  • danielle

    Any time I see a commenter write in caps, the first thought that comes to mind is that THEY’RE CRAZY!!! Can’t wait to check out Hopgood’s. It looks and sounds charming and delicious.

  • Roncesvaller

    Very excited to hit up this place! I’ve only heard good things thus far.

    I think part of the challenge is how to market Maritime food. Most people out here don’t know much about it and there’s a character to it that takes some getting used to.

    Doing the whole “this features this and that ingredient” breakdown might not work for food which these days uses a lot of boxed or canned ingredients (ie tricuits, evaporated milk). It sounds a bit odd in the locavore age.

    For example, having lived in Halifax, I can tell you donairs were never advertised as having evaporated milk sauce. They were just Halifax donairs.

    So letting the food speak for itself might get around the hesitance some people have about what is really a new kind of food for most people in Toronto.

  • Meg

    We went for drinks and loved it.
    Staff were exceptionally friendly and attentive.
    Would go back in a heartbeat.

  • Dan

    Anyone tried the donairs yet? Are they real donairs or what passes in some places up here? I would love a donair place somewhere close in Toronto….I can not believe Toronto doesn’t have donairs….its like not having Coke!

  • Maritime Gypsy

    I had the Donair. Being from the east coast I’ve been dying for a good one for years.

    It was tasty. But the staff made it very clear we weren’t the kind of clientele that they were hoping to serve. We didn’t know about the reservation requirement so we walked in. Hostess was iffy if we could get in before 15 mins; despite there being 3 perfectly open tables by the door. So I gave her my number (watched her write it down) and went to get coffee at Roncy Bean (great place) and she’d call when the table settled up and we’d have a seat.

    Didn’t get called after 20 mins so we went back down. She came over with some sob story that she had the wrong number but covered the paper when she read my number back to me. And then changed the last digit by one number 2 instead of a 3. Yeah. Sure I’ll believe that. So she proceeded to hum and haw over the tables and decided we could choose from one of the three (still empty) tables from when we were first there. Awesome. That is not Maritime hospitality. If you are booked, or only take reservations, tell me. Honestly is a bit more of a Maritime tradition.

    The Server swore he’d be ‘around so just grab my attention’ when we were ready to order. But he floated away in the back for 10 mins.

    The staff may be ‘polite and hospitable’ but they need to work on their condescending tone.

    While we were seated I saw 2 more walk in w/out reservations and were seated at the 2 remaining open tables. Without a second glance back or any of the production we got.

    And as for those that actually had reservations. I saw a group of ladies sitting there when we arrived and they were still there after we left. Clearly they don’t hustle out the diners to keep people on time.

    And we weren’t poorly dressed. I came from work. The wait staff are all snobby hipsters wearing cuffed jeans and kicks. So I feel that I was at least not the most under dressed person there by far. A guy walked in and was cheerfully greeted in his lumber jack style coat.

    I was unimpressed. The donair being the real deal is the only saving grace for me. Not one Nova Scotia wine on the menu. So much for that ‘down home’ feel. I’ve never felt so out of place in my life.

    We proceeded to go to our local pub Bar With No Name, up on Bloor between Dundas West and Keele. Got the regular super warm greeting. That guy knows hospitality. Hands down.

  • DOWNTOWN MAN

    looks comfortable , yea right, my back hurts just looking at those seats

    when i eat , comfort is important , if not eat on the street

  • DOWNTOWN MAN

    another tourist resto

  • Stacey Melidoniotis

    Hopgood’s is a lot of hype about nothing. Although the staff is friendly and the atmosphere cozy, the food is below average. It’s definitely not worth the money.

  • SD

    Wow – can’t find a menu online anywhere.

    Where is it please. I am not search engine challenged, but I cannot find it.

    Thank you.

  • Fartface 69

    If you’re into paying $15 for store-bought Triscuits and a tiny ramekin of crab dip then this is the place for you!

  • DJ Laval

    Very disappointing. My husband, son and I went on a weekday evening. We arrived at 6:30pm and there was lots of room. But it filled up by 7pm. We found the wine list expensive – nothing under $45. Our bill came to $91 for 3 appies, 1 main, 1 glass of wine and a beer. Nothing was outstanding. That evening there was a weekly special – fried chicken with grits. The menu is small to begin with but we were told because of the special that evening, they couldn’t do 2 main dishes on the regular menu as they were fried and they only had one fryer and the chicken was being cooked in it. I can’t eat gluten (thus not the batter on the chicken) and the mains not offered that evening were the ones I could have ordered – eg fried pork hock. So we opted to start with a crab dip with triscuits (yes the ones from Loblaws). Crab dip was very tasty. I asked if they had a rice cracker and was told no. There was no attempt to provide me with an alternative. My husband ordered a salad – which was served on a small amount of mashed veggies – apparently tasty but not filling. My son ordered steak and scallop tartare which arrived in the middle of a dinner plate with not another thing on it. Not even parsley. I ordered a seafood chowder. My cup of soup was tasty. Portions are small and we left having to go to pick up a snack on the way home.

 

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