Elevated eats underground

Time for a lunch break? Check out these three new dining destinations in the PATH


Maman

It wasn’t long ago that the cafe options in the PATH took a leap forward with the arrival of Sam James Coffee Bar and M Square – but Maman, a French-inspired, New York-born bakery-cafe making its Toronto debut nine months after opening in Soho, is on a whole new level. A corner of the First Canadian Place second-floor food terrace has been transformed, with shabby-chic furnishings, fussy china and armloads of greenery, into a rustic cafe straight out of the south of France. 

The office crowd has done just as much swooning over the interior, which also includes a sunlit terrace decked out with blue-tiled tables and enormous glazed urns, as they have for the Gallic grab-and-go fare. “It’s classic cuisine that you can find at home in France – this is why it’s called ‘maman,’ French for ‘mom’,” explains Laure de la Moussaye, one of the five partners in the new location.

Their chouquettes, madeleines and caneles, displayed on china stands up and down the long service counter, are a hot commodity at breakfast, along with coffee in Instagram-worthy floral takeaway cups. Though the house-made baked goods stick closely to the classics, their biggest hit just might be a massive, melty chocolate chip cookie studded with macadamia nuts. For lunch, there’s seasonal quiches, hearty salads, twine-tied baguette sandwiches, and a classic croque-monsieur (rechristened the “croque-Maman”): Two massive slabs of farmhouse bread layered with ham, Bechamel, and a crust of gruyere on top. 

With breakfast and lunch already covered, they’re hoping to transform the spot into an after-work destination, with a new cocktail program and snack-ready charcuterie boards in the works. 

100 King West, at Bay, 647-879-3642​, mamantoronto.com

McEwan

Instead of a croissant, perhaps you, PATH-dweller, are hungry for some Indian food. Or whole marinated octopus tentacles. Or artisanal marshmallows.

You’ll find all of those, along with edible flowers, Barberian’s steaks, and other exotic delights, at McEwan’s new downtown location. The upscale grocer, a popular destination at Shops at Don Mills, opened up in the in the TD Centre last month, a stone’s throw away from chef/owner/namesake Mark McEwan’s ritzy Bymark.

“Our kind of style of food – there’s nothing like it downtown, that fast, grab-and-go, ‘gourmet grocery’, as we call what we do,” says general manager Eric McEwan. “We took a smaller footprint from what we have uptown – about a third of the size – and took all of our bestsellers, and brought it downtown.”

The star of the show here is the hot lunch bar, where colourful Le Creuset casseroles filled with curries, stews and saucy Chinese favourites are wheeled out piping-hot from the kitchen at 11 am. The usual counter of prepared eats, here featuring mouthwatering proteins like grilled scallops and maple salmon, gets topped off with a roster of mix-and-match munchies like arancini and crostini. An adjacent refrigerator shelf is full of McEwan-brand prepared meals, including lasagnas, sandwiches, pastas and pizzas, available for post-work reheating (McEwan says the case is usually emptied out by mid-afternoon).

The rest of the shop is full of eye-catching morsels: Jewel-like chocolate truffles, uncommonly gorgeous prepackaged sushi rolls, unusual condiments and pantry items like rainbow-hued pastas, fine cheeses and meats, fresh produce, and confections from local producers like Bobbette & Belle (they of the aforementioned marshmallows). Oh, and there’s a dozen or so flavours of McEwan-branded kettle chips and popcorn, in case your desk snack reserves are running low.

66 Wellington, at Bay, 416-444-6262, mcewan.mcewangroup.ca

Crave Healthy Habits

You can’t swing a dead raccoon in the PATH without hitting an organic quinoa box. A few key franchises – Freshii, iQ Food Co. and Kupfert & Kim – dominate the healthy grab-and-go offerings in the Financial District, but now that up-and-comer Crave Healthy Habits has added a third location, they might be poised to steal the other guys’ lunch money.

Crave’s new counter in the TD Centre’s food court dishes out hot and cold lunch boxes, each one created with an eye toward both nutritional content and taste. Not that flavour takes a backseat here – options include arugula-watermelon salads, espresso-infused toast topped with smoked salmon and goat cheese, and yogurt bowls smothered in fruit and housemade lemon curd.

Crave was founded by three best friends and longtime athletes fed up with their strict, nutrition-oriented diets. As the concept went from business-school project to reality, public relations head Salma Hamidi says, they expanded their focus to anyone seeking a healthy meal. “At the same time,” she says, “healthy food gets such a bad rap in terms of taste that we wanted to fix that.”

Their flagship offering might be their steamed lunch boxes: In a departure from the usual lunch box, which often consists of cold, raw ingredients, they par-steam their veggies (including pesto-tossed zucchini noodles or garlic-swathed asparagus and mushrooms) to give them a satisfying warmth while still maintaining crunch. Proteins include house-marinated chicken, tempeh, tofu and salmon the latter is so popular, Hamidi says, folks will queue up to buy it and stick it on their rice and veggies from home. 

While their two previous locations (145 King West and the Richmond-Adelaide Centre) are on the small side, the TD Centre outpost features a pleasant little seating area with communal tables, so folks can chat over lunch, as well as a mini lending library – because, as Hamidi says, healthy habits go beyond clean eating.

66 Wellington West, at York, 416-855-4441, ucrave.ca

nataliam@nowtoronto.com | @nataliamanzocco

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