Dining trends come and go really fast—so fast, it would seem, that one west-side restaurant just can’t keep up with them. The business at 785 Queen West has yet to open, but it’s already changed its name and concept five times (in six months). It started as an Indian-themed burger bar called New Delhi Burgers. Next, it turned into a trendy sandwich shop called Sammy’s Sandwiches—an idea that was scrapped around Christmastime in favour of a Southern barbeque concept called, perhaps tellingly, Smoke and Mirrors. When another barbeque shop threatened to open just down the street, a new sign went up, this time for a cupcake shop called Cakehole. And then, just as we were about to publish this article, another switch—this time to an American-themed restaurant called God Bless ‘merica.
And that’s just the beginning of the weirdness. The restaurateurs behind the ever-changing operation—purportedly three Western grads with lots of money and zero restaurant experience—call themselves The Three Game Changers. They also keep a blog, which reads like an exaggerated parody of bro-y chef culture (e.g. “Greetings from Tijuana, bromigos!”). And then there’s the Kickstarter campaign, which was originally started to raise $18,555 to convert the team’s Southern Pride smoker into a cupcake oven. (They managed to raise $78 .)
We’re tempted to think this is all a big Dumb Starbucks-style joke, or another Chef Grant Soto stunt, or perhaps a piece of performative social satire, meant to lampoon Toronto’s trend-obsessed dining scene. Some evidence points that way, like the real-estate agent who told us the building suffered structural damage a few years ago, making the space uninhabitable. (Or the fact that the latest online menu includes a dish that seems to be named after me—i.e. the reporter who kept asking them lots of questions.)
We exchanged a few emails with game changer Jay Smith, who insists that the business is legit. For those who suspect otherwise, he had this to say: “Let the haters drink the haterade!” Somehow, we’re not entirely convinced.