Fans of The Pie Commission’s stuffed pastry pockets no longer need to trek to Etobicoke to curb their cravings for butter-chicken pot pie: the ex-Happy Hooker digs on Dundas West have been revamped into a 15-seat pie shack. Over at the west-end factory outlet—where up to 500 pies fly out the door daily—the braised beef rib number reigns supreme, but who knows which flaky creation will be a home run with the city’s hipsters? Odds are, collaborations that involve local flavour (like the Caplansky Pie) are likely to be a hit. On top of the regular savoury offerings, the menu at the new outpost also offers fruit crumble served with Ed’s Real Scoop vanilla ice cream. Something else new to this location: a liquor license. Right now, Great Lake Brewery’s Pompous Ass English Ale is the only beer on tap, but the plan is to add other brews to the draught list. And because the small space can only fit so many people, there are benches out front with built-in “pie platforms” (designed to fit a pie and a side) to provide extra seating for al fresco eating. Oh right, and to celebrate their grand opening on July 16, The Pie Commission will give the first 100 customers at its new store one free braised rib or veggie pie each.
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Review: Bay Street’s Via Vai is the most gorgeous space to enjoy a slice (and the pizza’s pretty great, too)
As Toronto’s artisanal pizza craze enters its second decade, the debate over which of the many brick-oven contenders makes the best thin-crust pie has only intensified. But let’s be clear: there is no more beautiful a space in which to enjoy a slice than this Bay Street pizza palace. Sheathed in four storeys of glass, the dining room features massive marble tile walls and hanging glass panels splashed with streaks of Pollock-esque colour. At opposite ends of the room stands a pizza oven shaped like a geodesic dome and a vertebral floor-to-ceiling tower of vino. The overall effect is nothing less than breathtaking. And how’s the pizza? Pretty great: the Diavola—topped with ribbons of spicy sopressata, gooey fior di latte and a mess of mushrooms—features a yeasty, delicate crust that’s thin yet pliable. The tortellini—chewy husks of undercooked pasta flanking bland braised beef and crunchy baby onion—are skippable. The amazingly attentive service is worthy of Via Vai’s splendorous surroundings, as is the short, predominantly Italian and somewhat pricy wine list.
Loka Snacks’ Dave Mottershall is Kickstarting a restaurant (and he’s looking for a west-end location)
Chef Dave Mottershall, who operates Loka Snacks out of Riverside’s Hi-Lo Bar, has a goal: to open his own restaurant. But what sets him apart from his peers is that he’s hoping to do it with the public’s help. After leaving PEI’s award-winning Terre Rouge last year Mottershall moved to Toronto, working at The Chase before setting up his own business (and tempting Instagram followers with his feed). In this video, Mottershall shares his concept for Loka. With endorsements from some of the city’s culinary heavyweights including Carl Heinrich (Richmond Station), Rob Gentile (Buca), Nick Liu (DaiLo) and celebrity chef Michael Smith, the all-or-nothing campaign is seeking crowd funding to help raise $25,000. In true Kickstarter fashion, project-backers will be rewarded with swag, exclusive dinners, culinary experiences and more.
From now until the end of August, the new-and-improved plaza outside Canada’s busiest transit hub is an open-air food market. Open daily, the summer-long pop-up will give commuters, office workers and tourists a chance to taste dishes and drinks from some of the city’s best chefs and food vendors. It’s a welcome sight after years of ugly construction and snarled traffic along Front Street, and the strip’s hot dogs now have to share their street meat title with pollo-pibil tacos, jamon serrano pintxos and snow crab–topped fries. Weekly highlights include breakfast service by a select number of vendors, a licensed bar open Wednesday through Saturday, live music during weekday lunches and a farmers’ market every Wednesday. The current crowd favourites might be Holy Chuck’s freshly ground burgers and Uncle Tetsu’s spongy cheesecakes, but here are 16 other snacks to consider.
Monday–Sunday, 7 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.–6:30 p.m., 65 Front St. W., frontstreetfoods.com
Anthony Rose’s sixth spot, Bar Begonia, will be located at 252 Dupont Street just steps away from his trio of Annex eateries. The strangely shaped building has been empty since 2005 when its former occupant, a bar called Nite-Caps, closed. “I feel like every restaurateur has taken a tour through it because it’s said ‘For Lease’ on it forever and ever and ever,” says Rose, who has already started working on getting the place in shape for a November opening.
Rose says Bar Begonia will be a Parisian-style cocktail bar—with a dose of Brooklyn for good measure, of course. “Parisian to me sometimes can be a little too refined, even the dirty places,” says Rose. “I find that Brooklyn has a lot of French influence to it, but it’s a little more country. And I lived in New York for about five years, so I definitely have a lot of that in me.” Although the building itself is on the small side, the real party will be in the back: the current parking lot is being converted into a grassy backyard oasis, complete with an outdoor grill (“à la Francis Mallman,” says Rose) and—in the spirit of reviving old-timey lawn games—the potential for tetherball or ga-ga courts.
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.)
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.