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Grand Electric takes cottage country with a new Muskoka spin-off

(Image: Stephen Wong/Twitter)

(Image: Stephen Wong/Twitter)

Here’s yet another reason for Muskoka cottagers to feel blessed and superior: Grand Electric, the hip-but-grungy taco shop in Parkdale, is branching out with a seasonal lakeside spin-off up north. Details are still being worked out, but co-owner Ian McGrenaghan was able to share some basic info, like the general setting—a lakeside property in Port Carling—and the menu, which won’t stray far from the original (i.e. tacos). The summertime-only restaurant is expected to open on May Two-Four weekend and will run through Thanksgiving. “We’re still piecing it together,” says McGrenaghan. “But yeah, it’ll be Grand Electric for cottage country, with all that entails.” It’s a pretty savvy move, really—a way to avoid the competitive chaos of the city’s restaurant market while still targeting idle Torontonians with cash to spend. Plus, Muskoka doesn’t really have much of a food scene. (Except Webers. Webers is always magic.)

 

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Chef’s Choice: Grant van Gameren of Bar Isabel picks his favourite restaurants

Chef's Choice: Grant van Gameran of Bar Isabel picks his favourite restaurants

Who better to guide a fantasy food tour than a chef? We asked some of the city’s top culinary talents to walk us through their ideal day in Toronto restaurant meals.

grant van gameren
Bar Isabel

BREAKFAST
The Federal on Dundas West is my breakfast local. I always get the Cubano sandwich and freshsqueezed orange juice.”
1438 Dundas St. W., 647-352-9120.

LUNCH
Grand Electric’s squid hoagie is insanely rich. You may want to split it.”
1330 Queen St. W., 416-627-3459.

DINNER
“I love a blind tasting at ­Hopgood’s Foodliner for interesting combinations like Triscuits and crab dip.”
325 Roncesvalles Ave., ­416-533-2723.

DRINKS
Chantecler’s Toronto cocktail is rye, bitters, Fernet Branca and orange. It goes down a little too easily.”
1320 Queen St. W., 416-628-3586.

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Straight Outta Parkdale: the mystifying hip-hoppification of Toronto chef culture

La Carnita

La Carnita’s graffiti-plastered decor (Image: Renée Suen)

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.

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Parkdale taqueria Grand Electric is now doing takeout

Grand Electric Takeout

(Image: Twitter)

Grand Electric fans can scarf their pork tinga tacos and squid hoagies without enduring the hours-long waits and blaring ‘90s gansta rap that, along with sublime Mexican food, have made the little shop one of the city’s buzziest taquerias. The restaurant, whose efforts to add a second floor were thwarted earlier this year by the Parkdale moratorium, announced the news over Twitter yesterday with characteristic insouciance. Still, if this guy’s into takeout tacos, then we are too.

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Critic: How tequila-fuelled taquerias like Playa Cabana became the city’s buzziest places to eat—and party

Playa Cabana Cantina

Playa Cabana Cantina in the Junction is the latest in a string of buzzy new taquerias. Right: Tequila is a serious concern at Cantina—this oak-aged Burdeos sells for $90 an ounce

Grand Electric One Star ½
1330 Queen St. W., 416-627-3459

La CarnitaOne Star
501 College St., 416-964-1555

Playa CabanaTwo Stars
111 Dupont St., 416-929-3911

Playa Cabana Cantina Two Stars
2883 Dundas St. W., 647-352-7767


Playa Cabana is on the ground floor of a slim Dupont semi just off Davenport, a convenient pit stop after a wardrobe binge in Yorkville. Regulars call the restaurant “Playa,” like it’s their clubhouse. On weekends, a bouncer poses at the door. There always seems to be a posse of chatty smokers blocking the sidewalk out front, the volume of their squeals in direct proportion to tequila consumed. Last summer, the restaurant’s back patio grew so loud that a group of neighbours from the million-dollar lofts next door called their lawyers and the cops.

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Openings

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Introducing: Electric Mud BBQ, the raucous new barbecue joint from the owners of Grand Electric

Introducing: Electric Mud

Name: Electric Mud BBQ
Neighbourhood: Parkdale
Contact info: 5 Brock Ave., 416-516-8286, @ElectricMudBBQ
Owners: Colin Tooke and Ian McGrenaghan of Grand Electric
Chefs: Tooke and Benjamin Denham (Veritas, Grand Electric)

The food: Down-home but not particularly traditional Southern barbecue, including peanut-crusted ribs ($13.50), pork belly ($12.50) and “duck ham” (duck that’s prepared like black forest ham, $13.50).

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The Dish Power Rankings: muddied waters edition

The-Dish-Power-Rankings

Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

After four weeks in the top spot, Edulis gets bumped for a red-hot new barbecue restaurant. Meanwhile, OddSeoul continues its steady rise.

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The Grand Electric team opens Electric Mud BBQ around the corner from their taco joint

(Image: Twitter)

The pair behind Grand Electric pulled a fast one last weekend, quietly opening Electric Mud BBQ on Saturday with barely a lick of advance press (owners Ian McGrenaghan and Colin Tooke had coyly refused to respond to rumours that they’d taken over the old Stampede Bison Grill space). While their first restaurant specializes in not-quite-authentic tacos, bourbon and blaring hip hop, the new one serves not-quite-authentic Southern barbecue and bourbon with a soundtrack of blaring rock ’n’ roll. As ever, the restaurant’s dining room is tiny, the demand is fevered and there are no reservations. Fun! [The Grid]

Electric Mud BBQ, 5 Brock Ave, 416-516-8286

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The Dish Power Rankings: buzzing diners and taco insurgents

Toronto Life’s weekly assessment of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

The Hoof Raw Bar steals the top spot this week, now that Jen Agg has revived the mega-popular Hoof Café brunch (see last week’s rankings). Over in Parkdale, a new southern Italian restaurant is gaining ground and in The Junction, there’s a new contender for Toronto’s top taco.

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Grand Electric’s second floor falls victim to the Parkdale restaurant moratorium (UPDATED)

Grand Electric’s second-storey expansion, which would’ve added 40 seats to perennially packed taco bar, is on hold due to the Parkdale strip restaurant ban. Co-owner Ian McGrenaghan told Post City the suspension came as a surprise, since GE applied for the necessary permits prior to the ban and had nearly finished construction. Barring a successful legal challenge, the second floor is unlikely to open until the moratorium expires in November, contrary to what local councillor Gord Perks indicated at the time it went into effect. [Post City]

UPDATE: Councillor Perks confirmed to us that Grand Electric did indeed get their application in before the deadline. That application, however, did not conform to the building code and zoning bylaws, and was consequently rejected—after the moratorium was already in place.

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Year in Review: 2012’s biggest food trends, from the shadow return of fusion to the reign of ramen

Taste moves in waves: one year tall food is on every menu in town, and the next year, it’s a half-forgotten embarrassment. Sometimes, though, those embarrassments come back in a new guise. This year saw the quiet return of certain tendencies that we thought were long-buried, like fusion cuisine and wine bars, as well as the full-blown emergence of others that were bubbling away just below the surface, like tacos and, of course, ramen. Below, a roundup of what was hot in 2012.

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Grand Electric now open for lunch on weekends

(Image: Twitter)

Shrewdly avoiding the use of the word “brunch,” Grand Electric, the wildly popular Parkdale taco emporium, announced earlier today that it would begin serving “weekend lunch” starting this week. Foodies with a particular masochistic fondness for never-ending lineups are advised to convene at 1330 Queen Street West around, say, 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. Hey: the forecast is only showing a 60 per cent chance of rain.

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Momofuku Fever: we review David Chang’s new four-in-one mega-restaurant

David Chang’s new complex on University Avenue—three ­restaurants and a bar—puts a Toronto spin on a New York phenomenon

Momofuku Fever: we review David Chang’s new four-in-one mega-restaurant
Noodle Bar star ½
Daishō star
Shōtō star
190 University Ave., momofuku.com

In the foodie era, standing in line for a table is a rite of passage. We wait for caviar-topped tacos one week, bacon doughnuts the next, and the longer the wait, goes our logic, the more rewarding the eats. At places like Grand Electric and Guu, the 20-somethings pose as if they’re about to enter a nightclub. This past September, a three-storey temple called Momofuku opened next door to the new Shangri-La Hotel, on University Avenue. The Momofuku lineup is something altogether different, in both its composition and its devotion: no other Toronto restaurant appeals to the same collision of suited bankers, hipsters in their beards and plaids, extended Asian families and, one night, a smirking Ken Finkleman. As the line inches closer, people take out their iPhones and snap pictures of the restaurant’s neon peach logo above the door.

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Parkdale strip hit with Ossington-style restaurant ban (but Grand Electric’s expansion is safe)

(Image: Marc Falardeau)

Last week, city councillor Gord Perks quietly pushed through a moratorium (like the one on Ossington in 2009) on new restaurants and bars opening on the Parkdale strip (Queen Street West between Dufferin and Roncesvalles, to be exact)—but fear not Grand Electric fans, the second-floor expansion we told you about recently will survive the ban. When we spoke to him, Perks expressed his concerns about the growing imbalance of businesses in “Partydale,” with too many new restaurants and bars (like Wrongbar, Keriwa, Chantecler, The Yukon and more) and not nearly enough amenities like hardware and corner stores. Existing operations, like Grand Electric, can still apply to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario for additional or expanded liquor licenses as per usual, but no new “restaurant, take-out restaurant, patio, bake-shop, place of amusement, place of assembly or club” will be permitted. The moratorium is in effect for a year, while city staff work on a study of how best to manage the changes happening in Parkdale. In any case, Toronto’s taco-hungry hordes should have somewhere to tromp upstairs and warm up this winter.

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Edulis tops En Route’s Toronto-laden list of Canada’s best new restaurants

In her introduction to En Route’s latest ranking of the country’s 10 best new restaurants, Sarah Musgrave declares 2012 “the year of Toronto”—and given the frenetic pace of openings in this city, we’re inclined to agree. Musgrave backs up her bold claim by naming six Toronto restaurants to the list, up from just two last year, reserving the top spot for Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth’Edulis, which moved into the former Niagara Street Café space this year. Musgrave fell in love with the restaurant’s quaint, comfortable atmosphere and, like our reviewer, felt that Caballo’s rustic yet adventurous cuisine skirted some of the pieties of the farm-to-table trend.

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