Sure, bacon’s trendy, but the owners of Leslieville’s Rashers just want to make you a really good sandwich.
On a bright, chilly Saturday, a half-dozen people stand outside Leslieville’s newest take-away spot. Some are waiting for their order, but a few lucky ones are already eating. Steam rises from sandwiches held between mittened hands. Inside the joint, the crackle of bacon is almost musical—it always sounds like breakfast at Rashers.
John Clark, 34, and Richard Mulley, 37, don’t have culinary backgrounds—Clark runs an aviation business while Mulley is an industrial designer—and they aren’t food geeks. They’re just a couple of guys who realized that for all the abundant love Torontonians have for bacon and sandwiches, there wasn’t a single shop in the city dedicated to bacon sandwiches. Rashers is one of a kind, not only in the city, but the country as well.
Inspiration struck Clark when he couldn’t find a quality breakfast sandwich to go. During his nine years in Dublin, he’d often grab a bacon butty, Ireland’s take on a back-bacon sandwich. But when he returned to Toronto, he couldn’t satisfy his hankering. Mulley became involved when he rented desk space at Clark’s office—the two hit it off and hatched their porky plan. Both men live in Leslieville, and although they considered opening in the west, they decided to invest in their own neighbourhood. Suzanne Baby of The Gallery Grill signed on as consulting chef and Mulley designed the small, four-seater store to resemble a butcher shop.
The signature item, the Hogtown, is made with Perth Pork Products bacon and Fred’s Bread ($6.64). Three thick slices of peameal come on a soft butter bun that has the richness of a croissant. Order it with cheddar cheese and a runny fried egg, then slather that all with house-made brown sauce. A condiment known by many different names (HP, A1, Daddies), brown sauce is a generic term for the U.K. staple. Rashers’ version is made from scratch using about 40 ingredients. A healthy dose of molasses gives it a sweet and full flavour, and tamarind adds a tang that cuts through the fattiness of the bacon. “A bacon sandwich is simple,” Clark says. “People are coming in and expecting the best sandwich they’ve ever had, but it isn’t going to be the best sandwich they’ve ever had.” For all of his humility, Rashers’ sandwiches are delicious—and messy. Don’t leave the store without napkins.
The rest of the menu offers a lot of variety considering that it’s short and bacon-focused. The seven-sammie list includes a butty ($6.64) made on white bread with the British-style bacon that gives the restaurant its name (the cuts of loin and belly are otherwise known as rashers). Smaller but even more decadent are the Mini Brioche ($4.42), which pairs Brie with smoked strips of bacon, and a grilled cheese ($7.04) that takes smoked bacon and layers it with cheddar on flax bread smeared with crunchy house-made ale mustard. The only side is potato wedges ($2.95), which can be flavoured with smoked paprika or roasted garlic. For the carb-conscious, there’s bacon-in-a-cup ($3.50). Clark also claims they make “one of the best veggie sandwiches in town”—with mushrooms, fontina cheese, arugula, and white truffle oil ($6.42). The Vegetarian has won over some meat-lovers, but they add bacon to it, of course.
The pair are planning to sell their breakfast butties pop-up style in the early morning hours to the Bay Street crowd. Clark admits to having one gimmicky idea: a delivery van converted to run on bacon grease. “People would smell us coming and say, ‘Yep, they’ll be here in five minutes.’”
Rashers, 948 Queen St. E., 416-710-8220.