Undiscovered Eats: Move over Parkdale, Gerrard East is the new cool foodie ’hood
Pinkerton’s steamed bao
Everybody wanted a piece of Parkdale. Once considered to be the wild west of Toronto, the nabe has witnessed a blossoming like no other, with hot-to-trot restaurants spilling out from the Queen strip and beyond. When the Grand Electric boys got their mitts on restaurant space, things started to shift foodwise. Now Grant van Gameren has both PrettyUgly and Harry’s; folks flock to the Shameful Tiki Room for volcano bowls and brunch at the Commodore; and, well, restaurateurs started looking eastward to Gerrard.
Much like Parkdale, Gerrard and Jones has a bit of an unsavoury history. Pre-reno, the Maple Leaf Tavern was the mother of all dive bars. Not exactly what one wants as the keystone to a neighbourhood. But its recent reno (which took a cool three years) has helped energize the area, transforming it from rough-around-the-edges to foodie magnet and helping to act as bait for those looking for a place to set up roots.
This new Gerrard is worth the trek.
This eatery devoted to the pillowy parcels is one of the first new-wave settlers on Gerrard. Adam Dolley sunk his teeth into the strip before the Maple Leaf’s reno, starting five years ago with Great Burger Kitchen.
“We were really the first ones,” the co-owner says, calling it the bridge between Queen East and the Danforth. Dolley followed up the burger joint with McGugan’s Pub, then Aprile Bambina Cucina, then Loaded Pierogi, his fourth business in the area.
“We really believe in the neighbourhood,” Dolley says. “It seems more and more businesses are starting to realize this, too, and within a short time it will become a very trendy neighbourhood.”
Patrons head here for signatures like the wild mushroom and truffle perogies, stuffed with portobello, oyster, shiitaki and button ’shrooms and Québécois goat cheese.
Loaded Pierogi, 1044 Gerrard St. E., 647-348-0088
Pinkerton’s Snack Bar
Plucking its roll-off-the-tongue moniker from Weezer’s second studio album, Pinkerton’s Snack Bar is the doing of ex-Queen Westers. Pulling up roots from the former Czehoski, affable owner Marc Baglio opted to set foot east, inviting his former Czehoski co-worker Andy Wilson along to helm the kitchen.
With a dude-heavy team, it’s all high energy and hijinks round here. (They’ve also coined a name for the area: Gerrones.) Chef Wilson spins out inspiring pub grub with Asian flavours, like the steamed bao buns and a kimchi-stuffed pancake topped with braised pork neck.
Baglio is so enamoured with the area, he’s debuting a diner across the street.
“Poor Romeo is still in its infancy,” he says. “However, it plans on making a big splash this spring.”
1026 Gerrard St. E., 416-855-1460
The hottest slice to hit the strip right now has to be Toronto’s sole destination for Chicago-style pizza, having just settled into the area with much surrounding fanfare.
For the uninitiated, the Chicago-style pie looks like a lasagna cake, rather than your paper-thin Neapolitan pie. The wacky rounds come in flavour combos like the Chicago Classic (pepperoni meets Italian sausage) or the Farmers’ Market, with roasted red peppers, ’shrooms, red onion and spinach. Just be ready to wait.
1020 Gerrard St. E., 416-727-5411
This British café is all about two standup offerings: brunch and booze. Brought to the strip by west end vet Davy Love, known for the Bristol, the intimate space comes complete with plenty of reggae and a 1959 Vespa hanging from the ceiling.
“It really is a great up-and-coming ’hood with some amazing food already happening,” says Love. “It’s only going to get even better in the near future.”
Highlights from Love’s menu include the homemade bangers and mash with red onion gravy, and a Bengali fiery prawn curry with dill rice. Almighty comfort food.
As for the caff’s name, it refs an English cabaret singer known for throwing rather scandalous house parties back in the ’70s. Naturally, the Clash named a song after her.
1030 Gerrard St.
Sitting a bit further afield but creating a huge draw is new kid in town Lake Inez. With ties to Danforth pub the Wren, the team of Zac Schwartz, Patrick Ciappara and Dennis Kimeda nabbed chef Robbie Hojilla (Harbord Room) who is doing good things in the kitchen.
Inside, the upscale space has a vintage feel, having been dolled up with a gigantic mosaic of Virginia Woolf and Kate Bush.
Menu finds might include a Vietnamese-style grilled pork chop with a sweet potato purée and pineapple salsa.
1471 Gerrard St. E., 416-792-1590