Welcome to the second Food Trend Power Ranking of 2014, our monthly(ish) look at the most pervasive ingredients, hashtagged cuisines, and Instagrammed half-eaten meals we’ve all come to know and love. There’s been a lot of activity since last month, take a look:
1. Poutine (up from No. 2)
A few just-opened takeout-friendly spots are serving their own versions of poutine. The Greek has a tzatziki and feta-topped Greek poutine and Rose City Kitchen has a Middle Eastern–inspired hummus and tabule version (see photo above). It’s not poutine in the traditional curds-and-gravy sense, but nowadays poutine is kind of accepted as the catch-all term for fries topped with whatever. The Carbon Bar calls their version The Hot Mess (thar be curds but no gravy) and the just-opened Come and Get It makes a lunch version, as well as a smaller bar-snack iteration at night with a richer, reduced gravy.
2. Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine (new)
The city’s chefs and restaurateurs are hitting Middle Eastern cuisine from all sides: casual, cheap lunch, upscale, and loungy. The guys at Rose & Sons and Big Crow are opening their third casual spot on Dupont called Fat Pasha; newly opened Rose City Kitchen is making delicious pitas to go; and 93 Harbord branched out with District Oven, which serves refined Middle Eastern food. Ink Entertainment’s growing list of restaurants (La Societe, Weslodge, Patria) now includes Byblos, which opens in the Storys Building on March 17 and will feature the flavours of the eastern Mediterranean.
3. Third-wave big box restaurants (new)
First came the Mother’s Pizza and Pizza Huts where you’d take the family on a Sunday evening. Then came the Boston Pizzas and Jack Astor’s where you’d partaaay on a Friday night. Now comes the newest iterations, like SIRr Corp.’s Scaddabush and Duke’s Refresher, which are opening downtown and trying to strike the balance between mass appeal and house-made cuisine. (For example, Scaddabush makes its own burrata.) These places also have better beers on tap (Duke’s Refresher has beer samples) to appease the city’s more discerning palates, eager to write 140-character reviews.
4. French (new)
Pastis and Mogette Bistro are changing hands, Patachou is closing after 35 years, Ici Bistro is moving to The Windsor Arms, Corner House Restaurant closed, Petite Thuet’s One King West location is shutting down at the end of April, and the people behind The Chase are opening Colette Grand Café and Bakery in the Scarpetta space. Someone make a confit-rabbit taco or a bouillabaisse ramen and, by golly, French cuisine will move up the rankings next month.
5. Danforth and Pape (up from No. 8 )
The second location of Mother’s Dumplings has opened at Danforth and Pape, along with all-day breakfast place Bite Me Grill. And the intersection has a donut shop and a barbecue joint. Also, that Lick’s outside Pape subway station is now an A&W. Next month is the (planned) arrival of contemporary Canadian restaurant The Forth, with executive chef Chris Kalisperas (formerly of Brassaii) running the kitchen.
6. Dim sum (new)
Chinese bites get re-interpreted on Chantecler’s Sunday brunch menu. (Try the daikon cakes.) Chef Nick Liu has finally found a space for his Gwailo restaurant; it will be at College and Palmerston and will feature his take on dim sum brunch. Of course, these little dishes of har gow and siu mai have long been enjoyed by people in the city and the outer burbs. Speaking of which, writer David Sax gave Chinatown a hat tip for its culinary influence on the rest of Toronto in The Grid. Heads up: We’re capping the obligatory “Richmond Hill and Markham are so much better than Chinatown” comments to five this time.
7. Noodles (no change)
Kenzo Ramen is keeping noodles steady at no. 7 with a seventh location at Queen and Bathurst, replacing Murray’s Sandwich Emporium (see No. 8 below).
8. Sandwiches (new)
There’s this new, fandangled creation called the sandwich. You might have never heard of it—it’s hot. Kale hot. Cauliflower hot. Grilled cheese aside (see No. 10), sandwich-oriented restaurants continue to open, catering to tighter dining-out budgets. Acadia is now the more family-friendly Red Sauce, California Sandwiches is opening a spot in the downtown core, and the just-opened Bite Me Grill also has some under-$10 options. Porchetta and Co. announced that the increased cost of pork is resulting in a 50-cent price hike starting in April, though its customer base doesn’t seem to mind.
9. Old-timey drinking establishments (new)
The early 20th century was a glorious time for cocktails and design, and bars continue to focus on the theme. Speakeasy21—the not-so-hidden restaurant and lounge that’ll be on the main floor of Scotia Plaza—is slated to open at the end of March. D.W. Alexander opened last week and is a cocktail bar that’s opted for an Edwardian look in an old building that was formerly Moroccan-themed club The Foundation Room. (Mediterranean: still hot. So hot.).
10. Grilled cheese (down from No. 6)
Last month’s oversold Toronto Grilled Cheese fest didn’t do the humble sandwich (or food events) any favours. At least Cheesewerks, one of the vendors at the event, got some new customers by offering free sandwiches to those who were still hungry. —Karon Liu
The Food Trend Power Ranking usually appears on Crumbs at the end or beginning of each month, depending on how hot kale is.