New Order: Me Va Me Kitchen Express
Neighbourhood: Queen West.
Signature: Laffa wraps.
Open: Monday to Sunday, 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
The place: Thornhill had Me Va Me all to itself for a decade until the Mediterranean spot recently decided to move to the big city and settle down in an old Spring Rolls location on Queen West. Laffa wraps reign supreme here, as do house-made dips and spreads. The space itself is slightly slicker than most fast-food restaurants (subway-mapped walls!) and with a surprising amount of seating.
What the Food?: Why don’t we tip at fast-food joints?
Welcome to What The Food?, a column that explains why things are the way they are in Toronto’s dining scene. Last time we looked at why you’ll rarely see a washroom at small takeout shops. In this edition, we find out why fast food places don’t accept tips.
This latest query comes from a friend after he was told at a donut chain that they weren’t allowed to accept tips. “Is this legal?” he asks. In a nutshell, yes.
Tipping is a hot-button issue (and one helluva click-bait subject!), as it comprises a big part of the dining experience and the staff’s income. You can tip the barista, the bartender, the server, and even treat the kitchen staff to a round of beers. (The last is an option at places like Parkdale’s Local Kitchen and Wine Bar.) So why are tip jars seldom seen at fast-food stalls?
Vittles: Weslodge’s Cutting Board
While barbecue platters aren’t new, what is peculiar is that they’re showing up in more upscale restaurants like The Carbon Bar (when it opened last winter), and more recently here at Weslodge on King West. Available on Sundays and Mondays after 5:30 p.m., The Cutting Board is a $60 platter of slow-cooked meats and sides to entice regular diners and off-duty cooks on these traditionally quiet nights.
Opening: Sam James Coffee Bar no. 4
A fourth location of Sam James Coffee Bar has opened today at 1000 Queen St. W., at Ossington. Despite the address, the entrance is actually on Ossington, right behind the big Stussy store on the northeast corner (look for the door with the little diamond logo). The menu is the same as the other locations with straight-up espresso-based drinks, owner Sam James’ own brand of beans to-go, and pastries from La Bamboche. What’s different is the space, with high ceilings and a long indoor stoop (pictured below). ”I used to co-manage a small skate shop in Kensington and it had this stoop in front of the shop where I’d just sit and watch the world go by,” says James. The coffee bar is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.—Karon Liu
Crumbs: April 9 to April 16
Welcome to Crumbs, the online version of the weekly restaurant news roundup that appears in The Grid’s print edition. Keep checking this page, as it will be continually updated throughout the week to keep you on top of what’s opening and closing. Here’s a look at last week’s Crumbs.
Opening: Fat Pasha opens for dinner tomorrow
Fat Pasha (414 Dupont St., at Bathurst), the third restaurant from chefs Anthony Rose and Chris Sanderson—owners of the nearby Big Crow and Rose & Sons—is getting ready to open for dinner service tomorrow at 5 p.m. (here’s the menu).
“At first we were trying to do Middle Eastern-Israeli but as I got into it I realized it’s not really who I am,” says Rose. “We really took a lot of those flavours and combined them with European Jewish food, which is what I ate growing up, so there will be a lot of schmaltz and gribenes.”
With 50 seats inside and another 70 outside (though it’ll be another month or so before people can dine outdoors) this is the largest of the three restaurants. “We like to call this our real restaurant,” Rose says. Kevin Gilmour, who previously cooked with Rose at The Drake Hotel, will be running the kitchen here.
The extra room will allow for some table-side services. “We’re doing a fattoush, which is like a tossed salad and we’re also doing chopped liver à la Sammy’s Roumanian, which is my favourite restaurant in New York,” Rose says. Chopped chicken liver is mixed with hard-cooked egg, schmaltz onions, gribenes, and grated radish and then tossed with schmaltz. For hungrier diners there’s also the Fat Pasha Feast: a two-person platter of hummus, tahini, amba, fries, a pile of shwarma, and kebabs of lamb, beef, and tongue.
For now, the place is open for dinner seven days a week (reservations are accepted), with brunch and lunch service to follow in a month.—Karon Liu
Opening: Farmer’s Daughter Eatery, from the Farmhouse Tavern team
Darcy MacDonell of Farmhouse Tavern announced earlier this morning that he’ll soon be opening a new restaurant called Farmer’s Daughter Eatery. Launching in early May, just one block east of Farmhouse at 1588 Dupont St. (at Franklin), the new spot will be, as MacDonell says, “more urban, more modern, and more feminine.” It will also have chef Leonie Lilla (previously of Daisho and the Libertine) helming the kitchen.
Ask a Bartender: Bar Isabel’s Josh Lindley on a financially troubled friend
“Ask a Bartender” is an advice column in which we pose problems to the city’s best listeners: bartenders! This week, wise words from Josh Lindley of Bar Isabel.
“My roommate has a hard time coughing up her share of the rent most months, but I’ve noticed that she always has enough to support her growing shoe collection and taste for expensive wine. I might make more money than she does, but I’m tired of covering for her. At the same time, I don’t want to be evicted. What can I do?”
Food Trend Power Ranking: Cuckoo for couscous edition
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.
Staff Meal: Chilli time at Khao San Road
Welcome to Staff Meal, a feature where we take a look at what restaurant staffers eat before they serve you. In the last edition, Ursa served up healthy bowls of rice and pickled veggies. This month, Khao San Road ups the spice factor with home-cooked Thai food.
If you stick around Khao San Road (326 Adelaide W, at John) well after the lunch rush, you’ll see tables being cleared and trays brought out for the 20 or so servers and cooks sneaking in a half-hour meal before they start prepping for dinner service. On Wednesday this week, cooks Big and Aum made gang liang, a spicy shrimp vegetable soup much loved in Bangkok, and nam prik pao, a northern Thai specialty consisting of spicy chili paste and ground chicken served alongside raw cucumber slices. Big and Aum, who make most of the staff meals, ensure there’s always a soup and a stir fry dish of some sort to go with rice.