Cardinal Rule offers a refreshing and quirky alternative. Owners Marta Kusel (head chef) and Katie James (interior designer) have created a diner with just a hint of retro throwback and a menu that is at once familiar — like the Sunday dinners that Mom used to make — and innovative.

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First Look: Cardinal Rule, a new diner in Parkdale


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On a stretch of Parkdale largely dominated by expensive bistros, coffee shops, and antique stores, Cardinal Rule offers a refreshing and quirky alternative. Owners Marta Kusel (head chef) and Katie James (interior designer) have created a diner with just a hint of retro throwback and a menu that is at once familiar — like the Sunday dinners that Mom used to make — and innovative.

The concept: “Basically, we wanted to have a restaurant that has a comfortable feel with really good, well-made food that isn’t overpriced,” Kusel says. Cardinal Rule caters to just about every type of eater, with vegan options for pretty much everything on the menu. The menu itself, which was created entirely by Kusel, plays to the owners’ sense of humor and Kusel’s wholly original approach to cooking. The space itself is bright, and while it's not spacious, has been lovingly decorated with hand decoupaged tables and argyle walls that James painted by hand. “It’s sort of a ‘hat tipping’ to a Mom and Pop kind of shop with a diner feel,” James says.

The eats: Food can be shared tapas-style, which works particularly well with Kusel’s signature maki and cheese ($9), cheesy macaroni rolled sushi-style in panko, or the meat muffins ($6), which is a classic meatloaf served in mini phyllo cups. Other highlights include the pork quesadilla ($10), a pleasantly sweet take on the Tex-Mex classic, with granny smith apples, raisins, peppery spinach and a cheese curds to give it a satisfying bite. In addition, James creates handmade desserts like the pie squares (two for $5), which include key lime and chocolate caramel with a pretzel crust. There's also a great selection of beer on tap, including Steam Whistle ($6.50) and Wellington County dark ale ($7).

The hood: Parkdale, on Roncesvalles, just north of Queen.

The chef's favourite: The brisket panini ($9), a melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket sandwich. The meat is marinated for seven hours in a combo of cola (yes, cola) and Sailor Jerry spiced rum, topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms and then served on a ciabatta bun with aged cheddar.

The brisket panini (above) and the pork quesadilla (below)

Grand Opening party: Saturday, May 14, from 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Local band Hibou is providing entertainment.

Cardinal Rule, 5 Roncesvalles Avenue, 647-352-0202

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