Toronto’s best restaurant spinoffs and new locations: 2015

Out with the old and in with the new: successful restaurants are rebranding and expanding all the time in Toronto. This means more great food at more locations and creative spinoffs of popular themes. Less-successful eateries are renovating and overhauling their menus to try to win back your loyalty. It’s a win-win for local foodies. [Feature Image: Barque]

Porchetta & Company

1
545 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1M1

This wildly popular takeout joint started in 2010 as a small outpost on Dundas Street West, where it built its reputation on porchetta (roasted pork) sandwiches. The second branch opened in November 2015 on King Street West in collaboration with Pizzeria Libretto. Porchetta & Co. now offers their beloved fried chicken sandwich special as a regular menu item and a new pork-studded poutine to go with the legendary porchetta sammy ($8.95 with all the fixings). Oh, and there’s room for sit-down eating in the new place.

Barque Butcher Bar

2
287 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R 2M3

Barque Butcher Bar is a spinoff of Barque Smokehouse, located just down the street. It’s a butcher shop by day and a snack bar at night. Before 5 pm the butcher counter is well-stocked with local meats and everything you need to make a good barbecued meal, including specialty rubs, sauces and wood chips. While they still serve lunch and even alcohol alongside the butcher shop fare, the real transformation begins later: after 5 pm the place turns into a busy bar and dining room. The evening menu features a selection of meat-centric dishes with an international flair.

Mean Bao

3
181A Carlaw Ave, Toronto, ON M4M 2S1

Bao is a traditional Chinese steamed bun — often filled with pork and beef — and Mean Bao makes some of the best in the city. Their new location in Leslieville recently opened its doors, becoming the third in their chain. Leslieville natives lucked out and can enjoy tasty bao or dim sum any day of the week, especially with options for online ordering and delivery to a select part of the city. They also offer catering services.

Cibo Wine Bar - Yorkville

4
133 Yorkville Ave, Toronto, ON M5R 1C4

Only the best-loved restaurants multiply with more venues, and Cibo is one of them - few can match their quality in authentic Southern Italian cuisine. Their new Yorkville location is their third in Toronto and their sixth in North America, including three in south Florida. They specialize in pairing wine with handmade, rustic Italian classics like cannelloni, pizza, calzone and pasta. Their Yorkville location features sleek, modern decor in a three-level venue.

Café Boulud

5
60 Yorkville Ave, Toronto, ON M4W 0A4

Daniel Boulud, a classically trained French chef, opted to reboot after his original Café Boulud, located in the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, closed in June 2015 following poor critical reviews and public indifference. Instead of giving up, he was inspired to start over. He completely revamped the menu with the help of chef de cuisine, Sylvain Assié. The team also renovated the decor in rich, brown tones and leather bench seating. The menu is truly French, and includes the chef’s favourite dishes from his beloved home country.

OM Grilled Cheese

6
66 Nassau St, Toronto, ON M5T 1M5

Grilled Cheese, which recently closed its doors, is now OM Grilled Cheese. The new and improved OM Grilled Cheese serves this comfort food classic in a laid-back style from their busy counter. Visit them in Chinatown, and enjoy a creative spin on the basic grilled cheese sandwich, with gourmet blends of international cheeses and specialty ingredients. It’s mouth-watering and overflowing with ooey, gooey cheese - no wonder this place gets a lot of attention. Sidewalk seating is available in warmer months.

La Carnita Leslieville

7
780 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M 1H4

Serving a tasty selection of Mexican street food, La Carnita now offers a second location in Riverside. The menu focuses on tacos with options including cod, tuna, beef cheek, pork, chicken and a vegetarian version. A small selection of starters and desserts — Mexican street-style, of course — rounds out this spicy menu, which also features a daily special. Talented executive chef Jonathon Hamilton runs the back-of-house. What makes this location different? Explore the local craft beer options.

Antler

8
1454 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1Y6

This End Up, a former sandwich takeout joint, closed and a new star was born at the same address. Antler Kitchen & Bar is a unique restaurant serving seasonal, local wild game. Their name suits them well, since deer is on the menu. Rustic and elegant describe this restaurant, where the decor has a wooden cabin feel but the menu is gourmet. When entrees include Duck Yakitori and Spice Ash Crusted Rack of Deer, people who previously cringed at the thought of eating game birds and animals might have second thoughts.

Playa Cabana Cocina Economica

9
141 Berkeley St, Toronto, ON M5A 2X1

Berkley Café in Corktown has been transformed into Cocina Economica, a radically different concept. The Berkley Café served traditional sandwiches and soups, while the Cocina Economica is a Mexican restaurant serving guacamole and tacos. The new place focuses on home-style Mexican cooking and models itself on cocina economicas – family-run restaurants that serve affordable fare to neighbourhood residents. The cozy, vibrant decor has an authentic Mexican feel, and they serve comfort food at affordable prices.

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