First Look: Riverside Public House, a new east-end resto-bar with a menu by Dustin Gallagher
By Anna Silman
The ploughman's plate (Image: Anna Silman)
Riverside Public House, which has taken over the Queen East space formerly occupied by Blue Moon Pub, has some impressive names behind it. Co-owners Michael Homewood (of Ossington’s Baby Huey and Leslieville’s The Curzon) and Nav Sangha (owner of west-end party hub Wrongbar) have taken on former Top Chef darling Dustin Gallagher (Grace, Susur) to give birth to the new resto-bar, currently in its soft-opening stage.
The hardened veterans of Toronto’s nightlife scene are changing things up for their east-end venture — meaning you definitely won’t find any dubstep here.
“This is certainly going to be very different than Wrongbar,” Sangha says. “It’s time to focus on the food now, and this is where we want to do that.”
The vast pub/restaurant/concert-venue seats 65 people, including bar seating, but can hold as many as 250 for concerts and other events. The team has high hopes for the multi-faceted space, including a musical lineup focusing less on, say, electro than on classic rock, country, folk, blues and jazz.
Despite its capabilities as a concert venue, the food and drinks ultimately take centre stage. One of the reasons the team chose the east end was for its great culinary culture, and Riverside, in the able hands of chef Gallagher, seeks to become a landmark destination within the east end’s burgeoning foodie landscape.
Having worked at high-end establishments around the city, Gallagher explains that middle-ground dining in Toronto often seems overlooked. While fine dining and cheap eats are both given their due, there are relatively few places in the city offering high quality food without the price point or pretence that tends to come along with it. The Riverside hopes to close that gap.
“I’m mostly making stuff that I like to eat myself, nothing too technical, but really focused on quality ingredients and doing it properly,” Gallagher says.
The idea was to create a family-friendly space where affordability, approachability and comfort would be the name of the game. The food is inspired primarily by traditional pub fare, but don’t call it a British pub.
“We’re not trying to be a traditional English pub. We want to be a proper Canadian pub,” Gallagher says.
The menu includes conventional pub-food stalwarts, like the Riverside burger with smoked mozzarella and fries ($14), chicken pot pie with seasonal salad ($18) and fish and chips ($20) featuring tempura-and-beer-battered halibut from Hooked. Some of Gallagher’s more whimsical items include a ploughman’s plate ($16) with house-smoked beef brisket, pork pâté, house-made pickles, blue cheese and more, or mussels on grilled bread ($11).
Along with the substantial selection of wines, beers and spirits, Riverside’s cocktail menu is currently being developed by Matty Gregoris, also formerly of Susur. Gregoris demonstrates his innovative mixology with a not-so-classic Caesar ($12), garnished with homemade beef jerky, sea asparagus and a variety of house-made pickles.
“Food is our main focus, but we really want to be able to cater to all sorts of things,” Gallagher says.
“We just want to be a local hub, a neighbourhood spot,” Sangha says, and Gallagher seconds him: “We’d love to become an institution.”
Riverside is currently serves dinner only; after its Aug. 9 grand opening, it will serve brunch, lunch, dinner and late-night eats.
Riverside Public House, 725 Queen St E., 647-348-0880