In 2011, we walked into a dinky taco shop in Parkdale and found the future of Toronto dining: blaring ’90s hip-hop, beautifully bedraggled wait staff and, in the kitchen, a crew of tattooed, fist-bumping, F-bomb dropping cooks. The little spot was Grand Electric, of course, and it didn’t take long for other restaurants to adopt a similar irreverence: La Carnita with its graffiti-plastered walls, Gangster Burger with its self-proclaimed “good f@$%in’ burgers” and a whole new clan of swaggering chefs and restaurateurs turning the hospitality game into a thugged-out boys’ club. These dudes—and they’re all dudes—have ditched Piaf and Davis for Biggie and Wu-Tang, and catapulted the city’s dining scene into a murky bouillabaisse of racial, sociological, culinary and musical confusion. Here, seven symptoms of the identity crisis afflicting Toronto’s up-and-coming culinary brass.
They give props on Twitter
They feature on each other’s projects
Bread by Woodlot at Bar Volo. Snacks by The Grove at Churchill. It’s like the hook in any good hip hop song: a fresh collaboration that takes the whole thing to the next level.
They engage in performative throwdowns
There’s an east-west rivalry
They divide into factions
Sometimes there’s beef
They fetishize flesh
They party like it’s 1999