Weekend eating: April 5-6

Dinner Saturday night, brunch Sunday morning.


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 in the one-time Toucan Taco/Le Rossignol/Pop space delivers considerable ‘cue on one of the loveliest backyard patios east of the Don Valley Parkway. Best: to start, smoked and briefly deep-fried chicken wings in the Buffalo style sided with a whack o’ hand-cut fries for the wayward vegetarian, deep-fried strips of panko-dusted portobello mushrooms with thyme aioli mains like free-range half chicken 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 weekend-only platters with peppercorn-crusted brisket, those meaty ribs and saucy chicken 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 Saturday 4 pm to 1 am. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN

Big Crow

176 Dupont, at St George, 647-748-3287, roseandsonsbigcrow.com, @roseandsons Ex-Drake chef Anthony Rose rebounds with a year-round backyard barbecue located behind his popular Rose and Son diner. Where else will you find picnic tables loaded with shareable church-social plates, Zeppelin on the turntable and the occasional passing freight train? Best: to start, chopped country-style salads of chickpeas, baby plum tomatoes, cubed English cuke and pitted black olives, all tossed with sheep-milk feta and crunchy dill pickle retro Shrimp Louie salads with shredded iceberg, sliced avocado, hard-boiled egg and a handful of Quebecois cocktail shrimp in Thousand Island dressing mains like uncut jerk chicken wings with grilled pineapple splashed with coriander hot sauce smoked Cornish hen in garlicky pesto whole grilled rabbits with buttery hot sauce on the side, baby red potato salad with grilled cremini mushrooms grilled corn salad with crumbly feta-like queso and crema fresca to finish, profiterole-like s’mores ice cream sandwiches with fire-roasted marshmallows. Complete dinners for $50 per person (lunches $40), including tax, tip and a mai tai. Average main $18. Open dinner Saturday 5 pm till close. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: three steps at door, three steps to washroom. Rating: NNNN

Marky & Sparky’s Smokehouse

520 Annette, at Runnymede, 647-748-4227, markynsparkys.com, @MarkySparkys Despite being featured on an upcoming episode of Restaurant Takeover, Marcus de Simone and Frank DiGenova’s Baby Point barbecue joint manages to rise above the 10-seat take-away’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: large enough to feed four Fords, the Combo includes a half-rack 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 jalapeño-studded cornbread muffins, dill pickle spears, sides of creamy cabbage slaw and baked beans laced with smoked brisket tips to finish, deep fried Mars Bars with chocolate sauce. Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches $20), including tax, tip and a lemonade. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 8 pm. No reservations. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN



96 Tecumseth, at Whitaker, 647-352-6000, thebeastrestaurant.com, @BeastRestaurant We weren’t terribly impressed with this snout-to-tail bistro’s brunch three years ago, but a recent revisit suggests that owners/chefs Scott and Rachelle Vivian are currently firing on all cylinders. Who else would have the audacity to send out a starter of gnocchi dressed with shredded beef cheeks and squeaky cheese curds in demiglace, the lot dolloped with crème fraîche ($10), or pair a frittata-like hash of corned-beef tongue (!) with buttermilk biscuits? They brilliantly plate crisply fried pigs’ ears over scrambled eggs and kimchee (both $12 with home fries) and top French challah toast with whipped cream, duck confit and house-made cranberry moustarda ($13). Their bacon brisket cheeseburger arrives alongside a mountain of greasy-good onion rings. But not everyone can handle the Beastwich (both $14, the latter with spuds), a great whack of southern-fried chicken thighs layered with pimento-studded cheese, house pickles and one of them them thar runny fried eggs. Eat your heart out, Micky D’s! Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washroom on same floor. Rating: NNNNN


244 Jane, at Horshaw, 647-346-2267 Anyone remember when the Beaver had one of the better brunches on the west side? Those who do will fall head over heels for ex-owner Megan Whiten’s kitschy all-day café in deepest, darkest Baby Point. Decked out with enough Canadiana to stock a Muskoka time-share, the room’s not much more than a three-seat lunch counter and a few tables at the rear. The grub’s just as retro, with scrambled eggs sided with gargantuan Italian sausages and Whiten’s mom’s recipe for scalloped potatoes with roasted red peppers ($12) a particular crowd-pleaser. Quiche du jour – one time shredded brisket with havarti, another day smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill – gets served with organic greens in a classic red wine vinaigrette. Why, she even steams eggs on an espresso machine and stuffs them into grilled ciabatta along with thinly sliced peameal, tomato and cheddar (both $10) just like she did at the Beaver back in the good old days. Open for brunch Sunday 9 am to 3 pm. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, one step to washrooms. Rating: NNNN


744 St Clair W, at Arlington, 416-658-0568, catchit.ca, @CATCH_TORONTO As one would expect from someone whose culinary CV includes stints in the kitchens of Café Belong, Atlantic and Hooked, Charlotte Langley knows all about sustainable fish. In fact, most of her inaugural carte at the stylish spinoff of the Rushton contains Ocean Wise-certified seafood. She sends out warm buttermilk biscuits ($3) finished with whipped molasses butter and tart Granny Smith apple, and an East Coast clam bake ($20) littered with Portuguese chorizo and maple-glazed pork belly, its temporarily AWOL littleneck clams replaced by a half-dozen unshelled shrimp and a couple of cracked crab legs. She pairs Nova Scotia-style haddock ‘n’ chips with roasted garlic mayo ($18) and a side of down-east fiddleheads ($9) if they’re still in season. Why, the lobster roll ($22) sided with a spin on Pringles is worth the price of admission alone. The self-described potty-mouthed chef even turns out a very good bacon-brisket cheeseburger ($16 with frites). Too bad her smelts ($5) and wild BC sardines ($10) are only available at supper. Open for brunch Sunday from 11 am. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN

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