Bar Raval
By Grace Scott

Keeping It Simple

Since opening in 2015 in Little Italy, Bar Raval has learned to roll with the punches. “I think the whole game is to let people do what they want; they deserve it,” says co-owner Robin Goodfellow.

The bustling corner restaurant was originally conceived to be a café in the morning and transition to offering a lunch menu, dinner fare and cocktails into the evening. “And then it just kind of turned into opening at 8 am and people just showing up all the time,” Robin says.

With the restaurant’s near-instant success, customers were filing in with barely any lulls, even ordering cocktails right at 11 am. The game plan went out the window and Raval decided to go for a full food menu all day, 8 am to 2 am. “No breakfast, no lunch, no dinner, it’s the full thing all day,” says Robin. “The joke between me and my partners, the chefs, and some of the front of house staff here is that since we’re open three times a day, we’ve actually been open three years.”

We see parents coming in with their kids at 9 am and then showing up again with their friends at 11 pm. It’s the best. - Robin Goodfellow, co-owner

Inspired by Spain

Bar Raval really does feel like the kind of place that’s always been there. Its whimsical atmosphere, accomplished by carved wood walls and upbeat music, gives the space an old-world, European vibe, while the patrons — hip young professionals and Little Italy locals — lend a welcoming buzz that lasts from morning to night. Robin says the best way to describe Bar Raval is like a community centre. “We see parents coming in with their kids at 9 am and then showing up again with their friends at 11 pm. It’s the best.”

The restaurant aspires to offer Spanish counter culture, Toronto-style. Inspired by a variety of tapas from the San Sebastian region called pintxos, small, delectable portions are displayed on the bar to order, or cooked up quick in the kitchen. By happy hour, you'll find locals gathered around Bar Raval's barrel tables inside and on the covered patio (one of TO's most be-seen-worthy), snacking on Manchego cheese, Serrano jamon, and canned specialties like squid in ink and razor clams. A mouthwatering tapas menu offers options like charred shishito peppers, Sockeye salmon tartare, and grilled skirt steak on fresh bread that's baked in house each day.

The food is still fast, but Bar Raval’s vibe encourages you to stay a few moments during your routine to enjoy a small taste of Spain. Those popping by in the morning for an Americano and pastry soak in the inspired interior before once again hitting the beaten College Street path. “Instead of just having a packaged gluten-free cookie or a muffin, you can have a cojunado croissant with piquillo pepper and chorizo or quail egg. In the same amount of time for the same cost, and then you’re gone,” says Robin.

As for the libations, Raval's cocktail menu bears cheeky drink names and rarely seen ingredients like salted absinthe, Pepe Fino (an extra-dry sherry), and Akvavit (a clear Scandinavian spirit that pairs smoothly with caraway and dill). Fortified wines and craft beer are also available, plus off-the-menu classics (including one of Toronto's best gin martinis).

New Creations

Although the menu is available from morning to night, don’t expect it to stay the same. The chefs are constantly changing up the fare, and cocktails and wine will shift too, all in an effort to provide the freshest ingredients and tastes to your plate.

“When something is no longer at its peak, it’s gone,” says Robin. If what you loved last time isn’t available the next time you visit, fret not, it’s all part of the Bar Raval experience. “We keep coming up with new creations,” says Robin. “Our new pork steak, the lamb sausage, are all incredible works of art. It’s sometimes hard to keep up but if it’s on the menu, you just know it’s going to be good.”

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