Hrvati

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Eastern Promises: hearty, meaty, carb-heavy Eastern European food is Toronto’s next big comfort cuisine

The Way We Eat Now: Eastern Promises

Wvrst Sausage Hall on King West

In the ’60s, Toronto had a bustling Eastern European food scene. Polish, Hungarian and German immigrants opened up humble cafés and grocery stores along Schnitzel Row (the stretch of Bloor between Spadina and Bathurst), in Kensington Market and on Roncesvalles Avenue, servicing mostly the expat community, and a few WASPs who fancied themselves adventurous for ordering fried chicken livers or cabbage rolls. By the ’80s, much of that first wave of Eastern Europeans had retired to the suburbs, taking their goulash and spaetzle with them (RIP Hungarian Goulash Party Tavern). The remaining downtown restaurants, like The Prague on Queen West, have turned into haunts for hungover students scarfing cheap smoked salmon palacinky or doughy pierogies.

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Restaurants

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All-Beef Party: Toronto’s 25 best burgers ranked in order of heart-stopping, messy magnificence

25 BEST BURGERS

Nine years ago, Mark McEwan scandalized Torontonians with his $35 truffled Bymark burger. That was before words like “grass-fed,” “heritage” and “dry-aged” entered into the burger lexicon. The city is now crammed with craft burgers, and carnivores no longer flinch at steep price tags. Competitive chefs bring in whole cows from nearby farms, bake their own buns, smoke their own bacon (twice), replace ketchup with tomato chutney and source the most pungent cheeses they can get their patty-flipping hands on. Thankfully, the mom-and-pop shops haven’t been artisinalled out of business—there are still plenty of sublime greasy-bag burgers around, as well as a few new-school diners ironically replicating them. Here, the very best of the city’s boundless burgerdom.

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Restaurants

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Where to Eat Now 2012: five of our favourite sandwiches of the year

Where to Eat Now 2012: 5 top sandwiches

This year, a handful of sandwich-centric restaurants tapped into the primitive appeal of meat plus bun. Here, five hearty two-handers.

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Drinks

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Best Bars: Toronto’s top seven spots to commune over a pint of beer (or three)


Best Bars: Beer

CHECK OUT ALL SEVEN PICKS »

JUMP TO: BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE LEAFS GO DOWN | BEST LOCAVORE TAP ROOM| BEST PUB FOR BEER GEEKS | PUREST IRISH PUB | ROWDIEST BEER AND BOWLING | BEST OLD-WORLD BEER HALL | TOP SPOT FOR DRUNKEN TABLE TENNIS

By Denise Balkissoon, Ariel Brewster, Andrew D’Cruz, Matthew Hague, Malcolm Johnston, Emily Landau, Jason McBride, Alexandra Molotkow, Mark Pupo, Peter Saltsman, Courtney Shea and Eric Vellend. Photographs by Jess Baumung, Emma McIntyre, Liam Mogan, Sean J. Sprague and Christopher Stevenson

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The Dish

Restaurants

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New Reviews: The County General, Modus Ristorante, F’Amelia and Hrvati Bar

One of these things is not like the others: sandwiches, pasta, pizza and pljeskavica at the city’s hottest new restaurants

<!--more-->The County General$30 Gourmet
936 Queen St. W., 416-531-4447
The owners of Splendido, Toronto’s long-standing fine dining institution, know exactly what sells right now: cheap sandwiches and pricy cocktails. In their minuscule new bar at the corner of Queen and Shaw, they’re working those trends so effectively there’s a lineup out the door at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and the beleaguered servers greet newcomers with exasperated sighs. The crowd is typically Bellwoods, with women in ushankas and neon lipstick, men in girlfriend-repelling overgrown beards. The short menu is part South Carolina, part South Korea. Sides include mustardy devilled eggs, bland apple-cabbage slaw and good kimchee. The steamed pork buns, made with perfectly charred belly, are tender and toothsome. For every good sandwich, though, there’s a gaffe, like an excessively fatty Reuben that’s abandoned after three bites, and a desiccated cupcake that could have emerged from a day-old bake sale. Ignore the desserts and stick to what the place does best—knee-weakening bourbon cocktails like the Figgy Dew, made with Bulleit, fig syrup, cucumber, lemon and ginger beer. After one of those, you’ll be chair dancing to “Da Doo Ron Ron” with abandon.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Jessica Pollack explores pljeskavica, the “Balkan burger” (now at Hrvati)

Over at the National Post, Jessica Pollack digs deep into an unlikely 2011 food trend: pljeskavica, a meat patty–based dish common to various parts of southeastern Europe. Armed with a copiously annotated graphic, Pollack deconstructs the “Balkan burger,” spending a full fifth of the article on the lepinja, its unique, spongy bun (a sample: “the doughy bun has a spongy quality that lends an unexpected lightness, the closest references that come to mind being naan or the crust on Toronto hotspot Pizzeria Libretto’s pies.”). After tasting an authentic raw onion pljeskavica in Ottawa, she turns to a more Americanized smoked-mozzarella version at Toronto’s Hrvati Bar, the new Croatian watering hole with a menu by Rodney Bowers. It’s worth a read—not only will you learn what kajmak and ajvar mean, but you’ll also know how to pronounce them when you order. Read the entire story [National Post] »

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Hrvati Bar, Koreatown’s new Croatian watering hole (with a menu by Rodney Bowers)

A little slice of Zagreb in Koreatown (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Rodney Bowers is a busy man. In addition to launching his Little Italy meatball shop, Hey Meatball!, a couple weeks back, he’s designed the menu at Hrvati Bar, a Bavarian-style beer hole with a Croatian twist. Standing out from Koreatown’s bulgogi and soon tofu houses—in part thanks to a giant standing sign with Glagolitic script—the bar has a pared-down food menu, keeping much of the focus on the beer. The interior was designed by Brenda Bent (a.k.a. Susur Lee’s better half), who’s created a space that’s both lively and intimate, with nods to Croatia spotted on the walls, beer barrels dotted about and a 14-foot, custom-made communal table in the middle of it all.

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