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Robin Verduyn (left), Malcolm Johnston, Rob Cranston and Kelly Simpson enjoy AFT’s patio.
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Grasslands owner/chef Stephen Gardner shows off his new vegan charcuterie board.
AFT Kitchen & Bar 686 Queen E, at Broadview, 647-346-1541, aftbar.com, @aft_bar Taking its name from the acronym for "about fucking time," Paul Campbell's southern-fried bistro delivers considerable ‘cue on one of the loveliest backyard patios east of the Don Valley Parkway. Best: free-range half chickens slathered with sweet Kansas City-style sauce sided with purple cabbage slaw and German potato salad; nicely barked and perfectly pink pork side ribs optionally mopped with sauce; for the wayward vegetarian, deep-fried strips of panko-dusted portobello mushrooms with thyme aioli; shareable weekend-only platters with peppercorn-crusted brisket, those meaty ribs and saucy chicken sided with baked beans; cheddar-studded ground-brisket burgers on eggy Harbord Bakery buns;. Complete dinners for $40 per person, including tax, tip and smoked habanero Caesar. Average main $18. Open for dinner Monday to Friday 5 pm to 1 am, Saturday and Sunday 4 pm to 1 am. Weekend brunch 11 am to 3pm. Bar nightly till 2 am. Closed some holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
Marky & Sparky's Smokehouse 520 Annette, at Runnymede, 647-748-4227, @MarkySparkys Despite being featured on an upcoming episode of Restaurant Takeover, Marcus de Simone and Frank DiGenova's Baby Point barbecue joint rises above the 10-seat takeaway's generic decor. And while they offer an extensive carte of ‘cue - all sourced from DiGenova's Butcher by Nature across the street - get the best of the bunch in their $60 all-inclusive Ultimate Combo. Best: half-racks of baby-back ribs slathered with mustard and a sweet paprika rub; a dozen dry-rubbed chicken wings with sweet 'n' sour cherry sauce; half-pounds of slightly fatty pulled pork and lean machine-sliced brisket; two fennel-flecked pork sausages with caramelized onion jam; four jalapeno-studded cornbread muffins; dill pickle spears; sides of creamy cabbage slaw and baked beans laced with smoked brisket tips. Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches $20), including tax, tip and a lemonade. Open Tuesday to Saturday noon to 8 pm, Sunday noon to 6 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. No reservations. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
Grasslands 478 Queen W, at Denison, 416-504-5127, grasslands.to, @grasslandsto Urban Herbivore's Stephen Gardner relaunches Fressen as a stylish cocktail lounge and tapas bar that just happens to be vegan. Inventive and beautifully constructed plates along with snappy, informed service will make even hardcore carnivores true believers. Best: to start, gluten-free corn fritters and gently battered popcorn "chicken," both sided with basil-scented pineapple salsa; larger plates like seared polenta and meaty shiitake mushrooms with garlicky wilted spinach in Italian-style tomato sauce; rice-flour cannelloni stuffed with tofu "ricotta" and walnut pesto; veggie sliders on house-baked buns dressed with pickled red onion, arugula, smoky house ketchup and hot Dijon mustard and sided with twice-cooked rutabaga 'n' parsnip frites; to finish, house-baked ginger snaps and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with dark chocolate cashew mousse. Complete dinners for $40 per person, including tax, tip and an organic lager. Average tapas $11. Open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday 5:30 to 10 pm. Bar till close. Closed Monday, Tuesday, holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN