Banh Mi Boys should brace itself for some competition on the steamed-bao front. Mean Bao is already beloved amongst visitors to the Village by the Grange food court near Dundas and McCaul, where it’s been operating since mid-2013. The food counter has a knack for being right on-trend—its menu currently includes steamed-to-order dim sum, hot quinoa boxes with various toppings, and (of course) fluffy Chinese bao stuffed with interesting fillings (braised beef with Taiwanese pickle, for instance, or pulled pork with apple slaw). Now the business is expanding with a new location on Bathurst Street, just south of Queen West. The signage is already up, and recent tweets from the restaurant suggest that the opening date isn’t too far off. In the meantime, the prices alone are worth salivating over.
Anyone who’s tired of waiting 20 minutes in the takeout line at Fresh may appreciate this: the strip of Queen West near Trinity Bellwoods will soon have a new grab-and-go lunch option. An “Opening Soon” sign recently appeared in the window of 920 Queen West (the space formerly occupied by lingerie shop Nearly Naked) announcing the impending arrival of Delica Kitchen, the café and lunch counter that already has locations in Rosedale and Leslieville. Delica is known for its big baguette sandwiches and wonderful baked goods, including doughnuts from owner Devin Connell’s side business, Paulette’s. Which is all just to say—next year’s Bellwoods picnicking prospects are looking better than ever.
Garb, a new consignment shop on Queen West, is more discriminating than most. (Case in point: its website lists over 100 labels that it absolutely refuses to carry.) Shoppers can stop by to browse the high-end designer stock, which includes silk Hermés scarves, cute Kate Spade backpacks and chic Erdem frocks. Most items are steeply discounted—by up to 75 per cent, depending on the condition (Garb has comprehensive rating system starting with A++, meaning the item is new with tags). We spotted some great deals, including a Vera Wang top for just $45, a Vince cocktail dress for $115 and never-worn Valentino kitten heels for $215. The menswear stock is surprisingly impressive, too: there are sharp dress shirts from brands like Paul Smith and Hugo Boss alongside sophisticated accessories like this printed Giorgio Armani tie. For those who’d prefer to purge their closets, consignors receive an impressive 50-per-cent commission on each item sold.
1046 Queen St. W., garb.ca
In this provenance-obsessed city, we swarm to farmers’ markets to discuss soil conditions with the people who grow our organic veggies and supply us with sustainably raised meat. It was only a matter of time before someone applied the same principles to our bouquets. That someone is Natasa Kajganic, a 29-year-old communications consultant who decided Toronto needed its own version of London’s Columbia Road flower market or Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt—especially since nearby Niagara is home to more than 100 commercial greenhouses. Last year, she launched the Toronto Flower Market, held one Saturday a month during the late spring and summer outside a factory turned event space on Sudbury Street. Local growers laid out rows of fluffy, fragrant peonies, spiky succulents and rainbow-hued gerberas, attracting thousands of people over the course of the season. This May, the market returned with several more vendors and a new, foot traffic–friendly location in an empty Queen West lot across from CAMH. The florists and growers relish the chance to chat with buyers about in-season varieties and proper plant care. And the shoppers get to feel virtuous, knowing their flowers weren’t flown in from farms thousands of miles away.
Sensitive-stomach owners, take note: there’s a new store on Queen West that specializes in stuff that’s unlikely to send you to the ER (or ruin your new diet). The foods for sale at FEAST—which stands, a bit awkwardly, for Fabulous Eats for the Allergic and Sensitive Types—are free from most common food allergens, including gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. The store isn’t just catering to a fad; it’s the brainchild of chef Neil Lomas and his wife, Wendy Zeh, both of whom have spent years struggling to accommodate their respective food allergies and intolerances. The shop’s inventory is the result of their decade-long search for allergy-friendly pantry items, including sauces, pastas and seasonings, each of which has been thoroughly tested for flavour, texture and aroma. Among the prepared foods, shoppers will find jerk-chicken pocket pies, gluten-free cake doughnuts, raw vegan truffles and frozen avocado pops by in-house chocolatier Stacey Burgess, creator of vegan chocolate brand Live On Chocolate.
FEAST, 881 Queen St. W., 647-350-1881, thisisafeast.com, @thisisafeast
Two years ago, Bacon Nation combined two of Toronto’s great guilty pleasures—bacon and deep-fried fairground food—to much fanfare (and really long CNE lines). Now, brothers Andrew and Dan Motta have graduated from snack booth to downtown storefront. Bacon Nation will officially open on Canada Day, but we were curious to see what kind of bacon-on-bacon action was going down at their new shop, so we dropped by for a preview. Here are nine items on the menu, ranked in order of bacon-y ridiculousness.
Bacon Nation, 170 Spadina Ave., baconnation.com
Name: The Bristol
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Contact Info: The Great Hall, 1087 Queen Street W., 647-716-6583, @BristolYardie, facebook.com
Owners: Former Bristol Yard owner Davy Love and Nav Sangha, owner of The Great Hall and Wrongbar
Chef: Love is still the exec chef, but he’s hired his old culinary-school pal, Joice Phillip, to act as head chef
The Food: Fans of the Christie location will recognize a similar lineup of British brunch dishes and other pub standards (bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie). New to the menu are five British-style curries, each made with a classic BIR (i.e. British Indian Restaurant) gravy that takes 17 hours to prepare. The curries range from mild to “hallucination-inducing”—the Phall of the Empire curry, for instance, is spiced with ghost peppers. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
The Food: Southern-smoked (sorry, smoqued) meats, prepped by self-taught Q-er Alex Rad. Pork ribs are carved at the bar and served naked, while butts are smoked for 16 hours, then pulled and piled high on soft buns with creamy coleslaw. Classic Southern sides include pulled-pork potato salad and collard greens, which are steamed to order and served with hunks of ham hock. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
For anyone wondering about all the pro-bacon propaganda plastered across the storefront at 170 Spadina Avenue, here’s what’s going on. The address, formerly home to long-term sandwich pop-up Come and Get It, has been taken over by Bacon Nation, the CNE food stand that’s been simultaneously repulsing and fascinating us since 2012 with its Nutella BLTs and pork-encased wieners. The building is owned by developers, who have been threatening to turn it into condos for over two years. Apparently, there’s been some type of snag in that plan.
“We’re going to be here for at least a year,” said co-owner Andrew Motta, who founded Bacon Nation with his brother, Dan. At their new sit-down spot, the brothers plan to serve a more refined lineup of gourmet sandwiches and sides, including some options made with—gasp—turkey bacon. (“We’re trying to get away from the CNE thing,” said Andrew.) The menu is still being fine-tuned, but fans of the fairground kiosk will recognize some holdovers, including an update on the intriguingly pork-heavy Canuck Burger. The Mottas are aiming to open the restaurant by mid-June. Until then, locals can get their pig fix at the Bacon Nation food truck, which will be parked nearby.
Name: Come And Get It
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Contact Info: 676 Queen St. W., 647-344-3416, comeandgetit.ca, @ComeAndGetIt416
Owners: Jon Polubiec (Mistura, Windsor Arms and Prego)
Chef: Adam Brown, who trained under Libretto chef Rocco Agostino at the Silver Spoon on Roncey
The Food: Fans of the pop-up will be happy to know their favourite full-size meals are still available for lunch. Like before, customers choose a flavour profile (e.g. mango jerk chicken, chipotle short rib) and then order it as a sandwich, a poutine, a salad or a naan wrap. At night, the restaurant transforms into a cocktail bar, and the same flavours are translated into snack-size skewers, sliders and mini-poutines. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
The Place: A two-bedroom suite in a building with a landscaped central garden, located just down the street from Grange Park and the AGO.
August: Osage County star Julia Roberts stopped by Magic Pony on Queen West yesterday to buy Christmas presents for her three kids. Starstruck owner Steve Cober reported via Facebook that the actress “was super cool and had great taste,” but he stayed mum on what she bought. We don’t blame him: no one wants to be the guy who ruins Julia Roberts’s Christmas morning.
Name: Floorplay Socks
Sells: Socks for men, women and kids, plus pantyhose, leggings and underwear
Contact info: 762 Queen St. W., 416-504-7325, floorplaysocks.com
Hours: Mon–Sat 11–7, Su 12–5
See it on a map »
The look-at-me sock trend has become so ubiquitous that Queen West now has a shop solely for the intermediary between foot and shoe. Floorplay has socks of every stripe, colour, and pattern, including hard-to-find label Richer Poorer’s suit-appropriate pairs, Pook’s colourful twists on the reliable work sock ($12 for 2 pairs) and Sock It To Me’s knee-highs printed with sock monkeys or moustaches ($10).
Weddings never go out of style—not even Figaro’s. Mozart’s comedy of manners and erotic power-brokering is more than two centuries old, but the pleasures and perils of getting hitched are exactly the same in 2013. Or so believes Against the Grain, a group of restless young opera pros who have reimagined The Marriage of Figaro as the tale of a contemporary hipster couple fending off a lecherous best man (who also happens to be the groom’s boss). Figaro’s Wedding, with its new English translation by founder and artistic director Joel Ivany, will feel nothing like a conventional opera, which is exactly what the group wants. (Their first hit was a 2011 production of La bohème that was staged in a bar, with many of the performers posing as patrons.) The new show comes complete with ushers, a string quartet and all the usual vows, tears and recriminations. The excitement of putting on these shows, Ivany says, lies in taking chances. And what’s a wedding without the potential for catastrophe?
The Burroughes Building
To June 2
Name: North Standard Trading Post
Sells: Clothing, shoes, and accessories for men, women, and kids; items for the home; grooming products
Contact info: 1662 Queen St. W., 647-348-7060, northstandard.com
Hours: T–Sa 11–7, Su 12–5
See it on a map »
North Standard Trading Post, which opened in Parkdale last week, is banking that the current enthusiasm for all things rustic and Canadian won’t run out. Co-owners Pamela Hopson and Francesco Fiore tried to select a mix of home goods and apparel that caters both to the area’s stylish young families and the hipster spillover from Queen West. The result is part heritage, part urban, with Hudson’s Bay blankets and Minnetonka moccasins next to trendy tops by Mink Pink and denim by Vancouver-based Standard Trade (for men) and J Brand (for women).