You don’t have to settle for lowly pub grub any more now that watering holes have made a point of raising the bar in their kitchens
Irony is delicious. Bar Fancy is rather drab, a hole in the wall, but we’re not here for the ambience. We’re here for great food. It is, after all, chef Jonathan Poon’s (of Chantecler) more laid-back digs. We come for the fresh oysters and the fried chicken platter. With a hint of five-spice, these are fat pieces with crispy, ragged edges and juicy interiors. Eat them with starchy-sweet Wonder Bread to sop up the juices. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
Open Monday to Saturday 5 pm to 2 am. @BarFancyTO.
Exposed bricks and Edison lights reflect the modest aesthetic of this Ossington eatery, but don’t be fooled: chef Tom Thai’s dishes are showstoppers. For eight years, he’s given the city fresh, vibrant and inventive tapas. Ceviches are his forte – try the Arctic char, voluptuous coral pieces fanned out on a bed of citrus, Sriracha, green onions and sesame and garnished with a teepee of Granny Smith matchsticks that play off the heat and buttery fish. Another must-have: Asian-style pork ribs braised until meltingly tender and finished on the flat-top with crisp, caramelized edges, then glazed with a sauce at once sweet, sour and spicy. You may be reluctant to share them with others.
Open Monday to Saturday 6 to 11 pm.
A bit hip-hop, a lot loud and very fun, 416 Snack Bar is underground chic. Eat by candlelight with a DJ blaring beats in the background, and choose your cocktail from bookshelves brimming with booze. Listing munchies at their finest, the menu, which tries to represent the diversity of the 416, is a tossed salad of cultures: Jamaican jerk fish, South American empanadas and Japanese spicy tuna hand roll. Go for the Korean fried chicken, buttermilk-marinated nuggets dredged in cornstarch, deep-fried and glistening in a red sweet and sour Gochujang sauce with a devilish spice hit. A kid of the 90s? Try the Snack-a-Roos, icebox cookies with both vanilla and chocolate dipping sauces and finished with (yay!) sprinkles.
Open Monday to Sunday 5 pm to 2 am. @416snackbar.
Industrial accents meet bustling trattoria at this popular, busy but welcoming Italian outpost. Gorgeous plates zip out of the L-shaped kitchen, which has marble countertops and concrete walls. You’ll feel fashionable while perusing the extensive wine list and ordering porchetta focaccia with soft roasted Tuscan pork, rich mascarpone, apple mostarda and garlicky agliata. Still have room? Opt for Uova Strapazzate, golf-ball-sized burrata nestled in creamy, farm-fresh eggs showered with shaved black truffle. Smear it on crusty bread drizzled with olive oil.
Open Monday to Friday 7 am to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday 8 am to 2 am. @barbucatoronto.
God bless ’Merica. The food here is in your face, messy and sometimes tongue-in-cheek. And that sass is what makes HOTB so delicious. Take, for instance, the rather menacing chicken claw in the Kentucky Fried Handshake Sandwich. Chef Nate Middleton blends familiar favourites with elegant ingredients. For the 76er Philly Cheesesteak, shaved beefy prime rib-eye gets topped with caramelized onions and red chili and sauced like a boss with melted Cheez Whiz-style cheddar. Don’t forget to toast your compatriots: there are loads of inspired cocktails, plus booze and beer on tap.
Open Sunday to Tuesday 5 to 10 pm, Wednesday and Thursday 5 to 11 pm, Friday to Saturday noon to midnight. @theHOTB.