Welcome to the third Food Trend Power Ranking of 2014. In our monthly(ish) round-up, we look at the most pervasive ingredients, hashtagged cuisines, and Instagrammed half-eaten meals we’ve all come to know and love in the city.
1. Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine (up from No. 2)
No surprise here—Middle Eastern cuisine is hot right now. This summer, we’ll be ordering pitchers of labneh and eating popsicles of shakshouka. In addition to the places we featured on the last FTPR (Byblos’ food is really good, by the way!) we’ve now also got Midtown’s Cleo, the first downtown location of Me Va Me, and S.Lefkowitz, a “Hummusia” from Ezra’s Pound owner Ezra Braves.
2. Snack bars (new)
Tapas-style dining is getting a second wind with the proliferation of snack bars, whose menus are blurring the lines between appetizers and bar snacks (fried artichokes: bar snack or appetizer? Discuss). Bar Buca got a rave review in the Globe. Come and Get It is now a snack bar at night. County General opened an east-end spinoff called County Cocktail & Snack Bar. The just-opened Tavern by Trevor has a bar food menu. You can also argue that S.Lefkowitz is a snack bar, albeit a daytime one.
3. Food trucks (new)
The warmer weather means food trucks are revving up to…plead with city hall so that they can rev up in Toronto. The seemingly unending debate between food truck owners and city hall (plus BIAs) continues because, if history is any indication, all cities that have food trucks (eg: LA, Miami, New York, Austin, San Francisco, Seattle) now have zero restaurants because the trucks stole all their business. There’s no denying that, no siree. Mayor Ford is siding with the trucks when it comes to loosening current legislation, leaving many non-Ford supporters befuddled for agreeing with him. In the meantime, Pretty Sweet cupcake truck is opening a midtown shop.
4. Dim Sum (up from No. 6)
Chinese brunch gets a bump up from the last FTPR due to Susur Lee’s Luckee opening inside the Soho Metropolitan Hotel. The restaurant is serving chef Lee’s take on dim sum. Elsewhere, food event organizer Suresh Doss is hosting the sold-out Yum Cha Dim Sum Fest in Chinatown next week with cooks from Nota Bene, Splendido, GwaiLo, Richmond Station, and Momofuku. Also, Dazzling Modern Restaurant, one of the “Restaurant Row” spots across from the TIFF Bell Lightbox on King West, is turning into Pearl King, a dim sum-barbecue restaurant.
5. Pies (new)
This transition weather means it’s still cold enough for a savoury meat pie. Etobicoke’s Pie Commission is now selling out of Busters Sea Cove in the St. Lawrence Market and Aussie-style pie company Kanga is opening a store just off Queen West (both are Grid approved). This good news balances out the bad news for pies: The Canadian Pie Company shuttered a few months ago to become the County Cocktail, and The Pie Shack’s Beaches and Junction locations also shut down.
6. Noodles (up from No. 7)
Momofuku Noodle Bar now delivers! Also: The noodle-y arms race continues as signs for a third Kinton Ramen have gone up at Queen and Spadina—mere weeks after the seventh Kenzo Ramen opened steps away at Queen and Bathurst.
7. Ice cream (new)
Look, we know temperatures are still in the single digits, but dammit, we’re celebrating the thaw with brain freeze! Ed’s Real Scoop opened in Roncesvalles and Dutch Dreams is getting ready to set up its new location just south of the original spot. La Carnita is launching a second location in the Beaches this summer with a separate stall called Sweet Jesus devoted to soft serve, ice cream sandwiches, and paletas.
8. Donuts (new)
Hey donuts, nice to see your cinnamon sugared face again after a brief hiatus. Beast restaurant announced last week that it’s extending weekend brunch service to Fridays and Mondays, meaning there are more days to get Rachelle Caldwell’s donuts. Le Dolci is giving “do-cros” another go. And while it’s not a Toronto story, Dominique Ansel’s Bakery—the place that unleashed all this cronut biz on to the world—was shut down by the health department for a “severe mouse infestation,” showing that while adorable on screen, “Ratatouille” is a terrible idea in real life.
9. Sandwiches (down from No. 8 )
Come and Get It has opened its permanent location and is still doing its popular lunchtime sandwiches. When the sun goes down, however, the place turns into a late-night snack bar where the sandwiches turn into sliders. The downside is that the sandwiches are now only available at lunch. Keeping sandwiches from plummeting off the charts, however, is the fact that the new coconut shrimp flavour is really good.
10. Old-timey drinking establishments (down from No. 9)
We already have tequila bars, whiskey bars, and bourbon bars. Now, we also have another rum bar, in the form of The Rum Exchange in the Entertainment District. But unlike the speakeasy-themed spots where you can’t turn around without seeing a monocle-wearing bartender, the crystal chandeliers, shiny tiles, and backlit bars of Rum Exchange suggest less Mumford and Sons and more of that sexxxy club you see at the start of an episode of CSI. Meanwhile, The Senator diner is now doing late-night (well, till midnight) cocktails catering to the cool cats at the adjacent Jazz Bistro. The place is more 1940′s than 1840′s, so not really old timey, but old enough to keep it at No. 10.—Karon Liu
Honourable mentions: All the April Fools–related food trend stories out there, especially the camel cheese press release Cheesewerks sent out that did, in fact, fool a few people.
Fallen off the power ranking: Grilled cheese, Danforth and Pape, French, poutine, third-wave big box restaurants.
The Food Trend Power Ranking usually appears on Crumbs at the end or beginning of each month, depending on how hot kale is.