It’s time to look back on all the calories consumed in the last 12 months as the year draws to a close. From highly anticipated openings to sad closings, not to mention a certain hybrid dessert, here’s all the stuff you ate in 2013.
1. The cronut, the crookie, and all things hybrid-y
While the cronut was popularized by Dominique Ansel in New York, the little pastry that could made waves across the globe due to a mania-inducing scarcity comparable to a Tickle-Me-Elmo on Christmas Eve. Soon it made its way to Toronto in the form of… ahem …homages. At the CNE, Le Dolci bakery and EPIC Burgers and Waffles teamed up to make a cronut burger, which we all know was very well received by everyone and that was that.
We also got into it by asking Clafouti owner Olivier Jansen-Reynaud to create a hybrid dessert for a Grid feature. His Oreo-croissant creation, The Crookie, immediately became a hit with international press (The Telegraph, Time, The Today Show, Good Morning America, etc.) going crazy for it. The Grid gets action.
2. The return of the big bars and restaurants
Nope, the economy is still in the dumps and there’s a good chance your next email will inform you of a special meeting with human resources. However, the city’s dining scene seems to be doing well enough that millions were poured into building massive restaurants that seat hundreds of people. By people, we mean largely those in the financial district with expense accounts. Still, many of these places are led by chefs with good track records like Michael Steh (The Chase), Ted Corrado (Drake 150), and Valdez (Steve Gonzalez). Here are some big venues that opened in 2013:
Amsterdam Brewhouse: 14,000 square feet
Boots ‘n’ Bourbon: Fits 350, plus another 150 on rooftop patio
The Chase/The Chase Fish and Oyster: 10,000 square feet in total
Cibo Wine Bar: 8,000 square feet
Drake 150: 6,000 square feet
Duke’s Refresher: Seats 158
El Catrin: The patio alone is 5,000 square feet
Mill Street Beer Hall: Seats 600
Osteria dei Ganzi: Seats 280
Red’s Midtown Tavern: 6,800 square feet
Richtree: 20,000 square feet
Valdez: 3,000 square feet
3. Fresh starts
The year brought on a lot of mulligans for chefs and restaurants in the city. After a drawn-out legal battle, The Real Jerk opened in its new location on the eastern edge of Chinatown and pop-up Come And Get It has finally closed their year-long temporary location to move to a permanent spot westward.
A few restaurants went through complete revamps with the same owners:
Centro > Vita Sociale
The Commissary > Bero
Fressen > Grasslands
Hoof Raw Bar > Rhum Corner
The Junction Eatery > Roux
Kultura > Olé Olé
Lucien > Olde Towne Oyster Bar
Paulette’s Original Chicken and Waffles > Delica
White Squirrel Snack Shop also turned into P&L Burger with the former’s owner, David Ginsberg, staying on as part-owner. Same goes for Riverside Public House, as owner Nav Sangha helped turn it into Boots ‘n’ Bourbon Saloon. A number of longtime chefs branched out to first-time restaurant ownership. O&B alum Basilio Pesce went solo with Porzia. After cooking for others for decades, Bruce Woods opened his eponymous Woods Restaurant. Same goes for Matt Kantor, whose Secret Pickle Supper Club is taking a bit of a back seat after his east-end spot Bero opened to good reviews in the summer.
4. I’m not a bar, yet not a restaurant
A slew of new bars this year offered better-than-usual snacks, such as The Libertine, Hitch, Food and Liquor, Geraldine, Happy Child, Hi-Lo, The Steady, Bellwoods Brewery, and Montauk Bar. Some of these even have chefs cranking out these nibbles.
5. Latino street parties
Tacos: still caliente. However, restaurants are slowly shifting away from hipster Tex-Mex and focussing on other elements of Latin cuisine. Dyne fuses Spanish with Asian; Bero touches on Basque cuisine; La Cubana hits up Cuba; Valdez visits Colombia; and Pisco and Ardor go for Peru. Bar Isabel, which also got the title of Canada’s Best New Restaurant by enRoute, has old-world Spanish influences throughout its menu.
6. Big-time exits
With every restaurant that opens, chances are another one closes. Quite a few old-guard restaurants that trained the city’s most well-regarded chefs have shuttered in the past months, like Centro, Didier, Colborne Lane, Cowbell, Lucien, and Xoxocava. The brief re-introducion and subsequent cancellation of The Hoof Cafe also sent some diners to a downward spiral of emotional eating, just not at that short-lived brunch spot.
7. Non-brown liquors
Bourbon and whiskey bars are still popular (as evidenced by the opening of a bar called Boots ‘N’ Bourbon) but other spirits have been pushed into the spotlight this year. Rhum Corner does rum; Fonda Lola and El Catrin love their tequila; Midtown’s Pisco is named after Peru’s national drink of grape brandy; and Serbia-inspired Rakia Bar’s fruit brandies are popular enough for them to open a second Toronto location and go retail at the LCBO.
8. Gross domestic products
Doritos Locos Tacos hits Canada and McLobsters roll into Ontario. PC offered chocolate soda while Jones Soda did poutine pop. For being able to get free press by offering less-than-tasty treats, we give hereby present the aforementioned companies with the Guy Fieri Flavortown Achievement Award.
9. Crack… pie
Even if you already have plenty to eat at home, there’s no resisting Momofuku Milk Bar’s signature crack pie that had dozens of people lining up on its opening day inside the Momofuku fortress. (People do love all things Momo.) More shop than bakery, the first Milk Bar outside of the states was a closely guarded secret right up until it opened in late July.
10. Working out the glutes
The surge of people with gluten intolerances—be it genuine or self-diagnosed—means restaurants are catering to that market so the lone celiac suffer in the group can have more than a house salad. For example, at P&L Burger you can opt out of the buns and get your patty wrapped in kale; Kupfert and Kim in the PATH is doing gangbusters with office workers; and Luce Italian restaurant on King has gluten-free pasta. Outside of restaurants, Rexall pharmacy unveiled its first urban concept store at the corner of College and Spadina with shelves upon shelves of gluten-free house-brand snacks.
Other notable news:
—Ikea Canada says neigh to horsemeat
—Jonathan Gushue lost then found in January
—Haymishe Bagel Shop burns down
Alimento and Bar Mozza
Amaya Global Food Bazaar (Baldwin location)
Barootes and Quotes Bar
Le Canard Mort
Earth Bloor West
Elle M’a Dit
Hoof Raw Bar/Hoof Cafe
Indian Rice Factory
The Junction Eatery
Obikà Mozzarella Bar
Poor John’s Cafe
Prague European Kitchen
Que Supper Club
Riverside Public House
Sotto in the Village
Vicki’z Vegetarian Eatery
White Squirrel Snack Shop