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Stuffed chicken wings with peach cobbler cocktail await.
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Patrons dining on the second-floor patio at Museum Tavern.
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Kirk Loftman preps the spicy baby back ribs.
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Museum Tavern co-owner Kyle Kristenbrun shows off the stuffed chicken wings.
MUSEUM TAVERN (208 Bloor West, at Avenue Road, 416-920-0110, museumtavern.ca) Complete dinners for $65 per person (lunches $40), including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $28/$18. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to 11 pm. Bar till close. Closed Sunday, some holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Patio. Rating: NNNN
Foodies of a certain age can't help but grow noshtalgic whenever long-gone Hogtown restos like Fenton's, Three Small Rooms or Paul's Deep Sea Shantung come up in conversation.
Perhaps the most fabled beanery of them all was Bemelmans, that glamorous Manhattan-style saloon on Bloor at Bay famous for serving eggs Benedict well past midnight. After an impressive 17-year run, the Studio 54 of Toronto fizzled out in 1994.
That party spirit is alive and well at Museum Tavern, no surprise when you learn that the six-week-old Yorkville brasserie is helmed by brothers Kyle and Glen Kristenbrun. Their dad, Tom, was the major-domo behind not only Bemelmans but Bistro 990 and the Bellair Café as well. With a pedigree like that, the new joint's sure to be seriously slammed come TIFF.
But here it is a sunny Friday afternoon and we've got the Tavern's second-storey terrace overlooking the ROM and the Royal Conservatory virtually to ourselves. Imagine club king Charles Khabouth's nearby La Société minus the botox 'n' spray tan crowd and one-third the size. We like.
We skip the pricier stuff like dry-aged rib-eyes with rosti ($38) and Tamworth pork chops over fingerling potato salad ($27) and focus on what ex-L'Unità chef Stephen Gouzopoulos calls "classics."
That translates as the Tavern's substantial double cheeseburger, two correctly cooked-to-order prime beef patties in the Burger's Priest fashion on a house-baked egg bun dressed with local aged cheddar, lettuce, onion and a sauce appropriated from the Big Apple's legendary Shake Shack (mayo, mustard, ketchup and chopped-up pickles, if you're taking notes). A pile of terrific twice-cooked frites and a snappy fennel slaw complete this very meaty main ($16).
Though it's listed on the menu as a "small plate," chef's playful spin on the pub grub cliché that is the Buffalo chicken wing is hardly Lilliputian. First, he batters them in cornflakes, then stuffs them with double-smoked bacon and stinky blue cheese before serving them with buttery hot sauce, dilled mayo and a handful of heirloom carrot sticks ($16).
The kitchen sends out baby back ribs ($18) with the warning that they're "sticky and "spicy." No argument here, as their Asian-inspired honey-garlic glaze lodges in our dental work and their garnish of slivered Thai chilies causes a coughing fit. Quite tasty otherwise.
And what's a contemporary carte without tostadas ($12 for two), especially if they're perfectly seared whitefish piled with marinated cabbage and coriander sprouts drizzled with squiggles of adobo-spiked mayo and crema fresca?
Steamed Chinese buns (also $12 for two) layered with shredded duck confit and strafed with Sriracha reference David Chang's Momofuku by way of Queen West's Banh Mi Boys (and deliciously so), while the house's chopped salad in plum vinaigrette ($8 small/$12 large) will be a hit with those who like their beets raw and finished with fried shallots.
Only the Mexican street corn ($22) and fried strawberry pie ($11) are flops, the former a bowl of grilled corn tossed with pickled jalapeños and a few cubes of quinoa-dusted tofu, the latter a pair of pricey empanada-like turnovers.
The 80-seat room is sure to charm the A-list, from its retro copper ceiling overhead to its deeply padded banquettes under bum. Why, they've even hung the old Bemelmans sign over the bar. Somebody wake up Conrad and Babs. The 80s are back!