Weekend eating: April 26-27

Dinner Saturday night, brunch Sunday morning.


Saturday

County Cocktail & Snack Bar

798 Queen E, at Boulton, 416-781-4743, countycocktail.ca, @countycocktail Carlo Catallo’s County General expands into Riverside with an abbreviated menu of the General’s greatest hits and an expansive – if not unexpensive – cocktail card. Despite the cozy room and friendly service, those expecting candlelight and quiet dinner music should look elsewhere. Best: from the all-day menu, General signatures like deep-fried chicken thigh sandwiches and beefy house burgers made with aged Cumbrae chuck, both sided with greens in creamy shallot vinaigrette, soup du jour (vegan carrot purée spiked with ginger, say) or commercial kettle chips at dinner, start with tapas like warm cornbread spiked with jalapeño and dolloped with sweet potato jam free-range devilled eggs topped with cod fritters steamed Chinese bao stuffed with braised beef cheeks ‘n’ trumpet mushroom marmalade boudin noir sausage with rum-soaked raisins and pickled mustard seeds larger plates like leafy Swiss chard tossed with slivered almonds and shredded Thunder Oak Gouda pulled pork shoulder tacos with pickled carrot slaw and spicy salsa verde for dessert, warm pumpkin cake drizzled with pear butter. Complete dinners for $45 per person (lunches/brunches $30), including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $15. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Hawthorne Food & Drink

60 Richmond E, at Church, 647-930-9517, hawthorneto.ca, @hawthorneto With the exit of former Cowbell owner/chef Mark Cutrara, ex-Starfish and Frank chef Martha Wright takes the reins of this very under-appreciated bistro in the downtown core. A locally sourced seasonal carte, rock-bottom prices and polished service deserve a larger audience. Those standing in line for tables at the very similar Richmond Station two blocks away, take note. Best: to start, crostini smeared with salty smoked tomato purée layered with deep-fried zucchini and buttery Monforte Dairy pecorino shareable aps like quinoa salad with roasted eggplant, garlic and goat feta in a VQA Riesling vinaigrette pan-seared Lake Erie perch with crispy polenta fries and caper-rich sauce gribiche chicken liver mousse “brûlée” with caramel sauce and stewed blackberries larger plates like grass-fed beef-cheek ravioli smoky Memphis-style side ribs with roasted fingerling potatoes in chicken schmaltz to finish, preserved cherry panna cotta with candied ginger. Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches $28), including tax, tip and a glass of VQA wine. Average main $18/$12. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN

Steady

1051 Bloor W, at Havelock, 416-536-4162, thesteadycafe.com All-day café, late-night alterna-queer dance club and early-evening supper spot, this Bloordale storefront is one of T.O.’s few beaneries with a card that caters to both herbivore and carnivore. Ex-Hogtown Vegan chef Vanessa Robak’s colourfully plated mains more than make up for the lack of decor. Best: crab cakes with mustardy dill dressing grain-fed cheeseburgers laced with oatmeal and spinach, sided with jalapeño potato salad vegan pizza (no, really!), a barely there kidney bean crust dressed with peppers, tomato, onion and faux cheese slow-cooked side ribs in bourbon barbecue sauce with cashew-carrot slaw at brunch, cornbread waffles stuffed with collard greens in chipotle maple syrup. Complete dinners for $35 per person, including tax, tip and an UnSteady cocktail. Average main $12. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: bump at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Sunday

Grasslands

478 Queen W, at Denison, 416-504-5127, grasslands.to, @grasslandsto Stephen “Urban Herbivore” Gardner reinvents his long-running Fressen as a stylish downtown lounge with culinary scope far beyond most vegan restaurants. Best: the Monster Burger, a beefy baked black-bean patty finished with a veritable avalanche of avocado, lettuce, tomato and house-made ketchup deep-fried and cornflake-battered “chicken” sandwiches with maple syrup on gluten-free Belgian buckwheat waffles retro mac and “cheese” sided with meaty mushroom breakfast sausage the Hangover Helper, a substantial fry-up thick with spicy tofu, mushrooms and peppers topped with both salsa and guacamole, both sided with a heap of bistro-classic frites and a mini-mountain of greens in a sweet tahini vinaigrette faux French toast crusted with house-baked Snickerdoodle cookies and dolloped with coconut cashew cream. Complete brunches for $30 per person, including tax, tip and a mocktail. Average main $13. Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN

Momofuku Noodle Bar

190 University, at Adelaide W, 647-253-8000, momofuku.com/toronto/noodle-bar-to, @momofuku For those who’ve experienced celebu-chef David Chang’s original storefront on Manhattan’s funky Lower East Side, the imported version in the super-luxe Shangri-La Hotel will come as something of a disappointment. Sure, the new joint’s bigger – making for shorter lineups, and there almost always is one – but the space itself looks like a Spring Rolls franchise from 10 years ago. The menu is also much shorter and includes none of Chang’s sensational Milk Bar desserts. To get those, you have to pony up the big bucks at his Daisho or Shoto upstairs. Best: in whatever random order the kitchen sends out, Chang’s signature ramen, toothsome of noodle, intense of bacon-infused pork broth, dressed with very soft-poached egg, sweetly roasted pork belly and shredded shoulder al dente vegetarian mein in ginger-scallion sauce toasted rice cakes with sesame seeds in spicy sweet ‘n’ sour Red Dragon sauce atomic kimchi stew with more Chang-style pig but while they’re tasty enough, his pork-stuffed steamed buns smeared with hoisin pale next to those of the Banh Mi Boys. Complete meals for $35 per person, including tax, tip and a Steam Whistle. Average main $15. Open for lunch Sunday 11:30 am to 3 pm, dinner 5 to 11 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN

Skin + Bones

980 Queen E, at Carlaw, 416-524-5209, skinandbonesto.com, @skinandbonesto Lady Marmalade this ain’t. Though ex-Enoteca Sociale partner Daniel Clarke’s stylish Leslieville wine bar might look more at home on the King West bottle-service strip, its moderately priced à la carte Sunday brunch menu and supplementary all-you-can-eat buffet (buy any entree and get access to chef Tara Lee’s exceptional spread of house-cured charcuterie and house-baked pastries for an additional 3 bucks) fit this brunchiest of nabes like a glove. Bonus: kids five and under eat from the buffet for free! Warning: kids five and under eat from the buffet for free! Best: from the mains, gluten-free porchetta Bennys with sous-vide poached eggs in textbook hollandaise over cheesy polenta laced with kale fried chicken in buttermilk batter with Asian apple slaw sides of triple-cooked potato wedges with house-made ranch dressing from the kids’ menu, peanut butter ‘n’ jelly French toast from the buffet, house-baked cinnamon buns, cheese puffs and palmiers house-cured bresaola and fennel-flecked salami granola with high-fat yogurt and pears poached in syrup. Complete brunches for $30 per person, including tax, tip and a mimosa. Average main $15. Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 2 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN

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