When the bold new 60 Richmond Street East co-op building was completed in 2010, the builders left open a medium-sized space on the ground floor for a restaurant, hopefully one with a social mission that would complement that of Unite Here, the hospitality industry union that runs the co-up. More than two years later, chef Eric Wood, fresh off launching Fabarnak at the 519 community centre, has opened up Hawthorne in that space. Wood serves an ever-changing menu of dishes with flavours inspired by Toronto’s vast assortment of ethnic cuisines—and runs a three-month paid training program for young cooks fresh out of school and hoping to learn the ropes.
The restaurant, whose name is both a literary (Nathaniel) and botanical (the hawthorn plant) allusion, was designed by Squarefoot and features warm woods, shelves of jarred preserves and floor-to-ceiling windows. The focal point of the menu is the cheekily named #FourSquare meal ($16), a carry-over from Fabarnak’s Square Peg bento box (a one in four chance that something will “blow you away,” Wood quips). When we stopped in, the geometric lunch featured a whole grain salad with toasted squash and black walnuts; chestnut gnocchi with charred kale, onion fondue, bee pollen and vanilla-poached tomato; nam pla barbecue ribs; and chocolate oatmeal torte with dark chocolate gelato. Sandwiches, sharing plates and proper main courses round out the menu. For drinks, there’s an all-Ontario beer list and a short selection of wines; a cocktail menu is still in the works (we’re told their house-made sodas will play a starring role). Though Hawthorne is currently only open for lunch, the New Year will mark the introduction of a dinner menu too.