Staff Meal: Brown rice and pickle bowls at Ursa
Welcome to Staff Meal, a new feature where we take a look at what restaurant staffers eat before they serve you. In the last edition, we saw Splendido’s grand feast. This month, West Queen West’s Ursa goes for a lighter touch.
Ursa (924 Queen St. W., at Shaw), the little restaurant known for modern plating and seldom-used ingredients (elk velvet, anyone?) keeps it simple and healthy for staff meals. Just after 5 p.m. on a snowy Tuesday, steam billows from a big rice cooker plopped on the kitchen pass, surrounded by colourful jars of pickles and Japanese sauces.
Vittles: Any pita from Rose City Kitchen
Occupying the space in which The Big Fish flopped, Rose City Kitchen (co-owned by Shontelle Pinch, one of the Gourmet Bitches) serves up a pita sandwich–centric menu ($3.50–$5). Customers choose from five creations (RCK Original, Moroccan, Egyptian, Greek, and Lebanese) then add in a protein (chicken breast, steak, crispy falafel, or salty and spongy halloumi).
Each half moon is on the small side, but stuffed to capacity: One is recommended for a snack, and two, a meal. Toppings are country-specific and each provides an interesting touch: dates (Egyptian), almonds and couscous (Moroccan), pickles (Lebanese) and in the best-selling, origin-less RCK Original, home fries. The proof is in the pita, as the doughy pockets, fired on-site, remain intact from start to finish.
While the pitas and their toppings are tasty enough, Rose City Kitchen’s sauces add that extra oomph. No matter which filling you choose, each signature sandwich comes slathered with a crazy good house-made dressing. Stand-outs include a bold cherry harissa and a creamy, tart tzatziki that would go just as well with a spoon, if not a pita.
If you’re more of a fork fan, try the restaurant’s take on poutine that sees a substantial portion of hand-cut, sumac-spied fries smothered in hummus and halloumi—the Mediterranean play on gravy and curds. As with the pitas, the fries can be accented with a choice of protein for an extra dollar or two.
Goes great with: The restaurant’s signature hot sauce. Don’t be fooled by its initial Turkish rose petal sweetness—this stuff packs some serious Scotch bonnet heat that fades slowly into your next bite, at which point it plays that whole sweet act again. Use it liberally on your pita of choice. —Rebecca Fleming
406 Queen St. W., 416-603-8102, rosecitykitchen.com
What The Food?: Why is the term “happy hour” banned in Ontario?
Welcome to What The Food?, a new column that explains why things are the way they are in Toronto’s dining scene. In this edition, we find out why bars in Ontario cannot use phrases like “happy hour” or “cheap drinks.”
To help boost sales during the lull between lunch and dinner service—or on traditionally slow days like Mondays or Tuesdays—restaurants and bars might offer drinks at lower prices to the after work-crowd, a.k.a happy hour. However, the process is far from straight forward.
Ask a Bartender: The Home of the Brave’s Veronica Saye on your best friend’s unlikeable other half
“Ask a Bartender” is an advice column in which we pose problems to the city’s best listeners: bartenders! This week, wise words from Veronica Saye of The Home of the Brave.
I don’t like the guy my best friend is dating. He’s disrespectful of her—or at least I think so—and he has a horrible attitude. Being around him is unbearable but avoiding plans would mean spending less time with my friend. What should I do?
Well, here’s the good news: You are not alone. Myself, as well as throngs of other men and women have been here before. Hell, this is basically the subplot to every rom-com ever written. The question you have to ask yourself is this: Do you dislike your best friend’s boyfriend more than you like your best friend? If the answer is no, then there a lot of things you can do to make this better.
Deals on Meals: A week of specials at The Happy Hooker
This Wednesday marks the first anniversary of seafood-centric snack shop The Happy Hooker (887 Dundas St. W., at Claremont) and, to celebrate, they are offering a different special every day this week, including free fish and chips on Mar. 5! Check out the line-up and plan your lunches and dinners accordingly:
Closing time: Au revoir Patachou
After 35 years in business, family-run café and patisserie Patachou (1120 Yonge St., at Rowanwood Ave.) will be serving its last croissants this spring. Owner Elizabeth Sidi says that May 3 will be the last day for both the Summerhill and the newer St. Clair West (835 St. Clair W., at Winona) locations.
Deals on Meals: Milk Bar giveaways and cake walkways
Momofuku Milk Bar is bringing its cake walk tradition to its Toronto location (190 University Ave., at Richmond) this Sunday, March 2. If you’re not familiar with a cake walk, it’s when participants (Walkers? Rovers? Gadabouts?) play musical chairs in an attempt to win a six-inch dulce de leche cake (here’s a demo conveniently uploaded on the Milk Bar site). There will be a few chances to win, with one cake walk happening every hour from noon to 3 p.m. Milk Bar owner Christina Tosi (pictured above), in town for the annual CRFA show, will be there to answer any Milk Bar–related questions.
Opening: Come And Get It 2.0 opens Thursday
Longtime pop-up Come And Get It will open the doors to its permanent location (676 Queen St. W., at Euclid) tomorrow for lunch and dinner. While the sandwich and poutine spot will continue to do the takeout service it’s become known for, owner Jon Polubiec says having an actual restaurant space means offering a better product and dining experience.
“I’m positioning Come and Get It 2.0 as an evolution from the first version. Part of that means having a liquor licence and also stepping away from the volume takeout model and being more of a full-service restaurant,” he says.
Opening: JP Challet moving Ici Bistro to The Windsor Arms
French chef JP Challet will be moving his 25-seat corner restaurant Ici Bistro (538 Manning Ave., at Harbord) into The Windsor Arms hotel (18 St. Thomas St., at Bloor) in May. The restaurateur first relayed this information to longtime food writer James Chatto, and we followed up with the chef to find out more about his future plans.
Opening: Local Public Eatery comes to Liberty Village
Last month, chef Claudio Aprile spoke about closing the Liberty Village location of his Origin restaurant and hinted that a successful, Canadian-based company would be taking over the spot. Well, the windows of 171 East Liberty St. (at Hanna) are now covered with logos for Local Public Eatery, a large pub (beers on tap, lengthy menu with lots of options like burgers, sandwiches, salads, finger foods, etc.) owned by the Joey’s Restaurant Group.