Rebel with a cause

REBEL CHOP HOUSE (2197 Bloor West, at Runnymede, 416-604-0704), and REBEL HOUSE (1068 Yonge, at Roxborough, 416-927-0704) These rustic restos.


REBEL CHOP HOUSE (2197 Bloor West, at Runnymede, 416-604-0704), and REBEL HOUSE (1068 Yonge, at Roxborough, 416-927-0704) These rustic restos feature so much meat, there’s even meat in the salads. Figure in a variety of game on the menu and a large selection o’ suds and this Rebel really rocks. Complete meals for $40 per person ($17 at lunch or brunch), including all taxes, tip and a pint of micro-brew. Bloor West open Sunday to Tuesday 11:30 am to 11 pm, Wednesday to Saturday 11:30 am to 1 am. Yonge open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to 1 am, Sunday 11:30 am to midnight. Brunch at both on Saturday and Sunday 11:30 am to 3 pm. Licensed. Bloor West access: barrier-free. Yonge access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Rating: NNN

Now that the temperance league no longer keeps it dry, Bloor West Village is slowly becoming a dining destination. Mad Apples — one of the few neighbourhood spots that wasn’t an Eastern European eatery — tried for years to get off the ground but gave up the gourmo ghost last December. In its place, Rebel Chop House now offers anything-but-revolutionary meat ‘n’ potato dinners to locals who equate sushi with bait.

Once past the front pub, you find a homey room, all dark wooden wainscotting, creamy stucco walls and hardwood floors, compelemented by blond tables and brocade banquettes. Noise is minimal, conversation easy over an almost inaudible Celtic soundscape.

When Brit wit Jonathan Miller was asked if he was a Jew, he replied that he was Jew-ish. Similarly, Rebel’s Arctic crab cakes ($6.95 a pair) are pleasantly crab-ish, doughy deep-fried pucks red-pepper-flecked with a vague suggestion of shellfish. Nice ancho chili dip, though.

Spinach-and-apple salad ($7.95 main/$4.75 side) sees organic baby spinach leaves tossed with too-mild grated cheddar, crunchy strips of apple and slivered toasted almonds, dressed in a lovely maple-syrup cream.

The Canadiana continues with lamb-and-ale stew ($13.95 dinner/$10.95 lunch), an assemblage of slightly fatty meat, parsnips, red-jacketed spuds and shiitake ‘shrooms in velvety gravy. Jalapeno-spiked cornbread adds authenticity. Some swear that Rebel’s buffalo/beef burger ($8.95) is the best in town, but others might be put off by its strong, smoky gaminess.

The meaty mains include Brome Lake duck ($18.95), Provimi veal liver ($14.95) and Bison Bolognaise ($12.95 dinner/$11.95 lunch). But we zero in on the chops, a trio of capably grilled lamb chops in a minty red-wine reduction ($23.95/$10.95) and a hefty pork chop ($16.95/$9.95) sauced with nippy Dijon. Entrees come with a choice of delicious roasted-onion mashed potatoes or unevenly deep-fried kettle chips, as well as lightly buttered steamed veggies.

The original Rebel House on Yonge shares much of this menu but seems a lot more relaxed than the Bloor location. Here, rough-hewn timber gets off-kilter accents — coonskin caps, a musket, forgotten golf clubs — while a stuffed Mountie stands on guard for thee in a corner.

A steady crowd of lunchtime regulars know a good deal when they see one. A juicy slab of meat loaf ($11.95/ $8.95) arrives with more mash under mushroom gravy and a tasty mound of lima bean succotash.

Don’t bother adding the optional blackened chicken to the nicely grilled veggies wrapped in a hummus-spread tortilla (Rebel Wrap, $11/$7.25 minus bird). The poor fowl emerging from the skillet tastes like an accident in a spice rack. Alongside, commercial mesclun comes drizzled with a tart wild-blueberry-cider vinaigrette.

While it comes in a massive portion loaded with white chocolate chips and raisins, bread pudding ($5.95) is more bread than pudding. Puddles of blueberry sauce and a double squoosh of aerosol whipped cream complete the plate.

Both Rebels feature a short pub-grub lineup of things like Rebel Poutine ($5.75) and a first-rate sausage plate ($6.95) served with hellishly hot grainy mustard. But bland Maple Baked Beans ($2.85) won’t worry Mr. Heinz, and Barrelhouse Pickled Beets are strictly BYOB — bring your own Bicks.queen west’s xxx diner has ex-pired. Owner Drew Degeer closed up shop a few weeks ago and expects to focus on the catering side from a King East location. Taking over the Crawford-Queen corner is Ruth Tal Brown’s Fresh by Juice for Life. Note the expanded handle. Brown says she wants to stress that her juice joint is about food. For this third operation, she’s hired Bar One/Bar Italia architect Ralph Giannone to give the smallish 40-seat room what she calls a modern organic feel. Watch for a projected summer launch, complete with licence and patio. stevend@nowtoronto.com

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