Grant van Gameren’s tantalizing tavern


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Image: Lorne London

In the last six years, Grant van Gameren has now opened just as many notable restaurants and become the country's most exciting restaurateur.

Friday was the first night at his latest endeavour, The Tennessee Tavern. This culinary venture takes the eater deep into Parkdale, and we loved it. 

Forget the Toronto Star's new tout of Hamilton as Ontario's Brooklyn. Parkdale is the real heir to the coolness throne and van Gameren knows it.

The menu here is chef's ode to Eastern Europe, starting with Polish cucumber salad (a sauce reminiscent of Bar Isabel's escabeche dressing drizzled over crisp cucumber spears), then a wooden platter of smoked mackerel with pickled onions, caper berries and sour cream go well with a side order of still-warm, perfect pita wedges.

The cevapi — an even larger platter of caseless, gorgeously-spiced, pan-browned sausage comes with chopped white onion, smoked eggplant spread and pita. The lone misstep of our entire meal is a flat (meh) shredded carrot salad.


(IMAGE: LORNE LONDON)

 

The bar is dingy and gorgeous all wrapped in one. In its previous life, the bar top resided in a Polish ironworkers' bar in Buffalo, crafted 130 years ago when ice was the only refrigerant.

Old school neon signs adorn exposed brick walls. A silver, casino wheel-of-fortune from the 1970s, a stuffed owl and a shelf of minibar-size liquor bottles round out the look. 

Seating consists of comfortable, wide chairs and overstuffed barstools. Lighting is low and the playlist neither inspires nor offends.

Alec Colyer, a front-of-house veteran from Bar Isabel, is a co-owner with van Gameren and Max Rimaldi. The clientele, at least on this opening night, seemed to be a mix of uptown foodies and Parkdale locals.

With the Tennessee, Grant veers back to the path he set out on with Bar Isabel and Bar Raval. The Tennesse is the real deal and with it, GvG proves yet again that so is he.

The Tennessee Tavern, 1554 Queen St. W., 416-535-7777

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