Lobster-roll purveyor Rock Lobster Food Co. is taking the next step by going from a pop-up to a full-service, sit-down restaurant on Ossington.
Owner Matt Pettit (pictured above) is moving into 110 Ossington Ave. (at Argyle), currently home to Watusi. The bar’s last day in operation will be Oct. 31, and Watusi owners Alan Thomson and Darryl Fine will become partners at the new restaurant, with Pettit being the main owner and chef (which explains his absence at the Kensington Market food court). Aiming to start dinner service on Dec. 1, Pettit will be transforming the retro bar into what he calls a casual “rock ’n’ roll seafood restaurant and bar” that combines east-coast and downtown Toronto vibes.
Besides his well-received lobster rolls, there will be a raw bar stocked with Atlantic snow-crab legs, oysters, cooked lobster tails and whole ones, and peel-and-eat shrimp. “We’re also going to do a seafood tower in two sizes, and we can do hand-cut chips now that we have our own kitchen,” says Pettit, who is also a seafood wholesaler that supplies restaurants including Origin and Colborne Lane.
Other lobster-centric dishes include mac and cheese, bisque, deviled eggs, and a poutine reminiscent of the one he made at a cook-off this past summer (it was delicious). Non-seafood plates in the works include hanger steaks, seasonal game like bison and elk, duck tacos, and a few vegetarian options. The place is slated to be open late for snacks Thursday to Saturday.
Although the move from operating a foldout table to a 75-seat restaurant is a huge leap, Petitt says being a pop-up for the past eight months gave him lots of practice cooking for hundreds of people over a few hours. Plus, he has a customer base already familiar with his food. (La Carnita and Fidel Gastros used a similar strategy before opening their restaurant and truck, respectively.) Before starting his pop-up biz, Pettit worked in the corporate world for a decade, and in various kitchens before that.
“I want this to be a place where you can get a quick meal but still have cheerful and fun service with some of that Atlantic hospitality,” he says. “You can come in for a beer and some cocktail shrimp at the bar, sit down for a full dinner, or host a party here.”—Karon Liu