Mid­town goes to Philly

Plus, snackin’ in Chi­na­town, a lo­ca­vore resto in the Junc­tion Tri­an­gle and a park­side spot for car­ni­vores

Midtown Post - - Counter Culture - by Jon Sufrin — With files from Paul Han­tiuk


Around two years ago, Julie and Jack Steven­son opened I Went to Philly — their first restau­rant — near Yonge and Col­lege, serv­ing some of the most au­then­tic Philly cheese steak sand­wiches in the city. Ap­par­ently Toronto liked it be­cause, ear­lier this month, the hus­ban­dand-wife team ex­panded their oper­a­tion to mid­town.

“I grew up eat­ing in that area,” Ms. Steven­son says. “It’s one of my favourite ar­eas in the city.”

The new lo­ca­tion is pretty much a dead ringer for the first one, though at 40 seats it’s slightly big­ger. So ex­pect lots of Yoo-hoo — there are cases of it all over the place — and a menu that’s an­chored by Philly cheese steak sand­wiches (made with thinly sliced AAA rib­eye beef). It also has the added ben­e­fit of a park­ing lot.

In ad­di­tion to cheese steaks, I Went to Philly does other over-thetop Amer­i­can fare, such as the Lib­erty Bell ($10.75), which sees a six-ounce ham­burger patty stuffed be­tween two grilled cheese sand­wiches with ba­con, cheese and a Lester’s hot dog. There’s also fried chicken ($10.65) dredged in frosted flakes and served in­side a house­made waf­fle cone.

We’re told that more I Went to Philly lo­ca­tions are a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity. Cur­rently, the Steven­sons are con­tem­plat­ing head­ing far­ther north.


I Went to Philly, 997 Eglin­ton Ave. W., 416-781-9995 Sib­ling restaurants are all the rage in Toronto these days — see Buca and Bar Buca; the Har­bord Room and THR & Co. — but restau­ra­teur Darcy Mac­Donell didn’t have that in mind when he opened Farmer’s Daugh­ter Eatery. Sim­ply look­ing to open a new busi­ness in the city, Mac­Donell hap­pened to find a great lo­ca­tion just down the street from his first restau­rant, Farm­house Tav­ern.

Aside from the brand­ing, the two venues have sur­pris­ingly lit­tle in com­mon. At Farmer’s Daugh­ter, the vibe is more mod­ern than rus­tic and the food is less meat-cen­tric. But like Farm­house Tav­ern, Farmer’s Daugh­ter makes a point of show­cas­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, and the menus are pared-down and con­cise.

Mac­Donell — a front-of-house vet­eran who has man­aged restaurants across the city, in­clud­ing La So­ciété — has taken on Léonie Lilla as chef. Pre­vi­ously a sous-chef at Mo­mo­fuku Daishō and, most re­cently, the open­ing chef at Dun­das West’s the Lib­er­tine, Lilla em­pha­sizes seafood and veg­eta­bles over meat.

Her take on surf ’n’ turf ($21) sees chunks of grilled hal­ibut cheeks served with spring peas and ravi­oli stuffed with braised veal cheeks. Her salad ($9) is rife with grilled ro­maine hearts and grilled baby cu­cum­ber along with quinoa, al­monds, sul­tanas and yo­gurt spheres. Roasted cau­li­flower ($18) is ac­com­pa­nied by chick peas, po­lenta fries, mus­tard greens and olive oil pow­der. For those who want to keep things sim­ple, there’s a burger, too, ($18) — fea­tur­ing the same patty as the one at Farm­house Tav­ern.

The new eatery is a fur­ther tes­ta­ment, if one were needed, to the Junc­tion tri­an­gle’s fast-grow­ing sta­tus as a new it spot.

Farmer’s Daugh­ter Eatery, 1588 Dupont St., 416-561-9114


There was once a time when snack­ing meant some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent in Toronto than it does now. Back then, snack­ing prob­a­bly in­volved chips or some­thing, and it prob­a­bly went down in front of a tele­vi­sion at home. Then 416 Snack Bar opened at Queen and Bathurst, and ev­ery­thing changed. Torontonians re­al­ized that snack­ing can and should hap­pen all the freak­ing time.

These days, fine din­ing restaurants are on the de­cline and snack bars have gone vi­ral. But Toronto’s lat­est one, Peo­ples Eatery, is im­por­tant. It’s the se­quel to the place that started it all.

In open­ing their sopho­more restau­rant, 416 founders Adrian Ravin­sky and Dave Ste­wart teamed up with bar­tender Matt See and chef Dustin Gal­lagher.

Im­por­tant stuff first: the snacks. There are Jewish ones and Chi­nese ones, for the most part. On the Jewish side, a tra­di­tional deli white­fish salad ($6) is topped with wasabi-cured roe, and it’s served on bagel crisps from Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket’s Nu Bügel. There’s also a re­vamp of chopped liver ($9) with chicken liver mousse, seared foie gras, caramelized onion and French’s mus­tard on chal­lah. Mov­ing east, a take on Gen­eral Tso’s chicken fea­tures cubes of tofu in­stead of chicken ($4), and steamed oys­ters ($6 for two) are sea­soned with black beans and yuzu.

In­side, it’s kind of sim­i­lar to 416 but more re­fined. The 44-seat ground level is cur­rently walk-in only, but a soon-to-be-com­pleted up­stairs space will take reser­va­tions. The face of Chi­na­town is about to be­come very dif­fer­ent.

Peo­ples Eatery, 307 Spad­ina Ave., 416-792-1784


The life of a pit­mas­ter can be a com­pli­cated one. The lengthy list of con­cerns can in­clude any or all of the fol­low­ing: mari­nades, brines, in­jec­tions, rubs, wood, fire, sauces, smoke and, of course, meat. Just about ev­ery­thing in­volved is time­con­sum­ing. But Alex Rad, owner and chef of the newly opened SmoQue N Bones, is keep­ing things sim­ple: “You shouldn’t com­pli­cate food too much,” he says.

His beef brisket ($14.90 per half pound), for ex­am­ple, is rubbed with a clas­sic spice mix (pa­prika, cayenne, brown su­gar and other herbs) and then smoked for around 12 hours. No brines, no in­jec­tions. Same with the pork side ribs ($16.90 per half rack): they’re rubbed and smoked for four hours. Most items are served with the sauce on the side, rather than slathered on dur­ing the cook­ing process.

Like many suc­cess­ful pit­mas­ters (in­clud­ing Bar­que’s David Ne­in­stein), Rad is self-taught, and he does his smok­ing on a top-ofthe-line South­ern Pride ma­chine. His wood of choice is hick­ory, but he’ll also use pecan, maple, cherry and oak. He uses a mish­mash of south­ern U.S. bar­be­cue styles.

“I don’t have to fol­low rules with bar­be­cue,” he says. “Ev­ery­one has their own way of do­ing things.”

Cur­rently, the menu is an­chored by ribs, brisket and pulled pork ($12.90 per half pound), but a SmoQue N Bones burger will be added to the menu shortly.

SmoQue N Bones, 869 Queen St. W., 647-341-5730


West Bar has rein­car­nated it­self along the King Street West strip, hop­ing to rekin­dle what it once was a few years ago in the neigh­bour­hood. Glen Bax­ter is one of the own­ers.

Brazil­ian cui­sine meets Park­dale at 1690 Queen St. W. The up­com­ing restau­rant will go by the name Mata Petisco Bar, and it sits in the for­mer Keriwa Cafe space.

The Dis­tillery District is about to get a help­ing of French cui­sine with Cluny, a bistro and boulan­gerie.

Last fall’s TIFF favourite, Hud­son Kitchen, at 800 Dun­das St. W., is ramp­ing up to launch a pa­tio.

Chef Matt Blondin’s new spot, Junk, has found a home. The of­fi­cial big re­veal is to take place June 1 on Twit­ter. Keep your eyes peeled.

Beloved resto Fat Phill’s is back! Slated to open by June, the eatery is lo­cated at 1921 Yonge St., serv­ing up burg­ers, sou­vlaki and more.

By­woods has opened at 760 St. Clair Ave. W. with a Mediter­raneanin­spired menu. Picks in­clude Moroc­can spiced lamb and pasta.

From top: Wa­ter­melon salad from Peo­ples Eatery; grilled ro­maine hearts at Farmer’s Daugh­ter; and a clas­sic Philly cheese steak at I Went to Philly

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