This time last year, it looked like the only eateries with any future were soup kitchens. But the majority of.
This time last year, it looked like the only eateries with any future were soup kitchens. But the majority of the restaurants that went under in 2009 were the expense-account joints that catered to the crowd – stockbrokers, bankers, real estate speculators – that got us into this economic mess in the first place. When times are tough, those who offer substantial bang for the buck rarely lack for business.
699 St Clair West, at Christie, 416-658-9666
Former model and long-time server Tom Davis takes his Southern U.S.-style barbecue so seriously, his amazingly smoky ribs ‘n’ chicken are only available Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 5 pm. Show up early at this 14-seat take-away or miss out on some of the most righteous ‘cue (sided with down-home potato salad, coleslaw ‘n’ onion rings, y’all) this far north of the Mason-Dixon line.
1226 Bloor West, at Brock, 416-536-1883
Who says vegetarian food is synonymous with mock meat and mung bean casseroles? Not ex-Fressen chef Jared Davis (no relation) who proves that a locally sourced all-veggie menu can be just as sophisticated as the grub dished up in the swankiest steak house, especially when much of it’s grown in his own backyard.
70 Fraser, at Liberty, 416-588-0005
Those who slam Xacutti chef Brad Moore’s academically themed luncheonette have obviously never made it past the long lineups that snake out the door every noon. Otherwise, they’d have learned the reason why we gladly queue: retro comfort food classics like meat loaf with mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese delivered with considerable panache. And you’re in and out in under an hour.
International Student Centre, 33 St George, at College
They’re young, they’re idealistic and they sometimes give their food away for free. They’re also university students, and their volunteer-run organic vegan cafe only opens Thursdays for lunch, so what did we expect? Certainly not food of this calibre – black-eyed pea fritters, a stir-fry of soul-food-style collard greens, pears poached with cranberries, say – all served with a side order of ethics.
609 King West, at Portland, 416-603-2777
When bad boy chef Marc Thuet announced this spring that he was changing the name of his popular bistro yet again from Bite Me! (worst.restaurant.name.ever) to Conviction to reflect the reality TV series he, partner Biana Zorich and a bunch of ex-cons and crackheads were filming for what was left of Citytv, local foodies yawned. But what at first seemed like a publicity stunt gone wrong has produced Thuet’s best work yet. And if you don’t agree, he’ll send Biana and the boys over to convince you.
35 Elm, at Yonge, 647-347-2712
Gastro pubs were all the rage in the UK 10 years ago, so it figures that a slew of them – Ceili Cottage, My Place, Prohibition – have opened here recently, right on schedule. Of them, only Jamieson Kerr’s Crush spinoff gets the formula right: outstanding pub grub (marrow-laced burgers, cods’ cheeks ‘n’ tongues, the tastiest fish and chips in town), cask beer on tap, Rover’s Return decor, two patios and several large-screen TVs permanently tuned to a soccer game. Book your World Cup table now!
492 College, at Palmerston, 416-413-0005
Instead of merely duplicating their wildly successful Sidecar, Bill Sweete and Casey Bee introduce Little Italy to authentic panini. Coals to Newcastle? Not when chef Melissa Halloran stuffs super-stringy bufala mozzarella, juice-squirting oven-dried tomato and nippy basil pesto into pressed Boulart ciabatta.
119 Harbord, at Brunswick, 416-850-8330
It might not be as trendy a trat as the Double Deuce or Nyood, but Jean-Charles Dupoire and Sylvain Brissonnet’s restaurant-row bistro offers first-rate takes on quintessentially French dishes in a thoroughly adult space free of Technics turntable and molecular mixologists.
72 Ossington, at Humbert, 416-850-0093
Get past the blog hype, the baying crowds and the uneven dinner service and find a fairly solid kitchen devoted to the locavore cause. Better yet, show up for lunch and have the joint virtually to yourselves.
1710 Queen West, at Roncesvalles, 416-534-6700
Forget Il Mullino and Via Allegro. When we kick it La Dolce Vita-style, we want rustic rib-sticking southern Italian pasta dishes just like Mama – well, maybe somebody else’s mama – used to make.