Midtown goes to Philly
Plus, snackin’ in Chinatown, a locavore resto in the Junction Triangle and a parkside spot for carnivores
SLICE OF AMERICANA
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
FOR THE 99 PER CENT
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
JUST THE PITS
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