Trendy tacos and smooth service are big draws at La Carnita.
124 Ossington, at Argyle, 416-535-4586, bellwoodsbrewery.com. As you'd expect from the name, the focus at this bustling west-side pub is the artisanal suds they brew on the premises. Former Brockton sous Rob Julen puts a definite stamp on a short shareable carte that ventures beyond the predictable pickled eggs. Best: creamy-centred soft-boiled eggs dressed with house-pickled ramps; grilled izakaya-style duck hearts drizzled with charred jalapeño oil; platters of black Kalamata olives, pickled beets, buttery lima beans, spicy peanuts and whipped anise butter served with porous Woodlot sourdough made from leftover malt; barbecued Perth County pork banh mi on crusty buns dressed with pickled daikon and peanut sauce; purposefully stone-cold fried smoked chicken on fiery banana pepper hot sauce; to finish, seasonal berries tossed with crushed house-baked biscotti in heirloom beet gastrique. Complete meals for $35 per person, including tax, tip and a pint of house-brewed beer. Average main $9. Open for dinner Saturday 5 pm to midnight. No reservations. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
744 St Clair W, at Arlington, 416-658-0568, catchit.ca. If the Rushton is the Drake of west Forest Hill, its slick sister resto-lounge is its Starfish. Though the room's decor and service might be better suited to some King West boîte, chef Nigel Finley's predominently sustainable seafood lineup cuts right across the board. Coolest patio on the Clair? Best: to start, one of the better bread baskets in town, served warm and wrapped in napkins and spilling with rustic cornbread, olive focaccia and cranberry-molasses whole wheat, all dipped in buttery Spanish olive oil; the cured fish and meat plate of house-made duck prosciutto, headcheese terrine, smoked salmon and Portuguese chorizo sided with mussels, periwinkles and crisp zucchini fritti; grilled Arctic char sided with skinny thyme-flecked frites; to finish, perfectly flaky butter tarts. Complete dinners for $50 per person (lunches $40), including tax, tip and a glass of Prosecco. Average main $18. Open for lunch Wednesday to Saturday noon to 5 pm. Dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5 pm to close. Closed Monday, some holidays. Licensed. Rating: NNN
501 College, at Palmerston, 416-964-1555, lacarnita.com. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Grand Electric in Parkdale must be particularly chuffed. So what if both taquerias appropriated the formula - trendy tacos, hard liquor and harder tunes - from Big Star Tacos in Chicago? Smooth service and the lack of a lineup most nights make the somewhat higher prices that much easier to stomach. Best: owner chef Andrew Richmond's signature In Cod We Trust fish taco of battered wild Atlantic cod, pickled red cabbage and Granny Smith apple lashed with lime, crema fresca, tahini-like Voltron sauce; Pollo Frito with southern-style fried chicken in peanut mole sauce dressed with pickled napa cabbage and tomato salsa; charred corn on the cob slathered in crema fresca, lime and anejo cheese. Complete meals for $40 per person, including tax, tip and a pint of micro-suds. Average taco $5. Open Tuesday to Saturday 5 to 11 pm, Sunday 5 to 10 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN