John Maxwell in his own words...

DINE and Destinations - - ALLEN’S -

John Maxwell is a restau­rant pi­o­neer in Toronto. Allen’s is a con­stant fix­ture, be­cause Maxwell’s val­ues and in­tegrity are en­dur­ing and “carved in stone.” And with a keen ear to the ground, he has kept Allen’s at the fore­front of the din­ing-out scene. It is the ul­ti­mate ex­am­ple of hos­pi­tal­ity, and he has earned the re­spect of his peers and his loyal clien­tele. “Ten staff mem­bers have been work­ing here 20 years or more. I’ve been work­ing with the same chef since 1981. That’s very com­fort­ing to cus­tomers,” he says. “I’m proud of my con­tri­bu­tion and hope to be around a lot longer.”


Farm­ing is im­por­tant to me. So I’m rais­ing beef my­self now and strive to pro­vide hor­mone- and an­tibi­oticfree meat. I think our food chain is very com­pro­mised. I strongly favour the nat­u­ral rais­ing of food, and serve meat at Allen’s that is gen­er­ally not com­mer­cially sourced. We have a pro­gram here called “meats of des­ig­nated ori­gin,” where we pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on the farmer, his lo­ca­tion, the breed and the feed.


I am in­ter­ested in wines that are ex­pres­sive of our land, and have com­mit­ted my­self to build­ing a cel­lar that shows the di­ver­sity of styles and grape types in VQA Cana­dian Wines. Our list com­prises about 175 dif­fer­ent wines, with an­other 100 in the cel­lar. Allen’s re­mains a place where you can ex­pe­ri­ence the ag­ing po­ten­tial of our wines. We have many bot­tles dat­ing back to 1995 on our list, and many by the glass from 2002 to 2008 vin­tages. On­tario wines are com­pet­i­tive, and I want to give our wine­mak­ers a fo­rum in which they can be sure their wines are pre­sented in some kind of cel­lar­ing of the wine. In most coun­tries around the world, restau­rants take great pride in serv­ing the wines of the re­gion. Canada is one of the few coun­tries—with such a deep-seated cul­tural in­se­cu­rity—where we’ve con­vinced our­selves that what is pro­duced here is not as good as that which is pro­duced else­where. I fun­da­men­tally dis­agree, and think that in a wine-grow­ing re­gion, you drink your own wines.


To­day I have 14 draft beers and 145 bot­tle op­tions. I have al­ways stood firmly for the great breadth and di­ver­sity of the world of beer, but we’re mak­ing won­der­ful beer in On­tario, too, and at Allen’s, we try to fea­ture craft beer made here while main­tain­ing a nice core of in­ter­na­tion­ally cel­e­brated brews as well.


We have a list of more than 300 whiskeys—which are a pas­sion of mine—and amongst the whiskeys of the world, the Scotch whiskey is per­haps the most fas­ci­nat­ing, but Cana­dian whiskey is very wor­thy also, and we gen­er­ally keep a list of 25 to 30 Cana­dian whiskeys, as well as a sim­i­lar num­ber of Ir­ish, Amer­i­can and 250 or so Scotches. The world of whisky cer­tainly re­wards those who wish to ex­pand their range of tastes. There is much to learn from whiskey; it is a chal­lenge to put into words ones taste sen­sa­tions, and there­fore of great in­ter­est.


It’s an oa­sis of calm in a very busy ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment. Two wil­low trees, which Toronto ar­borists say are two of the oldest liv­ing trees in Toronto, grow on our pa­tio. They pro­vide a won­der­ful shade and are a great source of in­spi­ra­tion. We present a ter­rific bar­be­cue ex­pe­ri­ence through­out the sea­son, with sal­ads and eight to 10 choices ev­ery evening.

Allen’s Bar, Restau­rant and Back­yard 143 Dan­forth Av­enue, Toronto ON 416-463-3086­

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