First Look: Poor Romeo is an all-American snack bar with craft beer on Gerrard East


Published:

Image: Yvonne Tsui

Gerrard East has become a hot spot in the east end for new restaurants with up-and-coming chefs. Andy Wilson, executive chef of Pinkerton’s Snack Bar (an anchor on the strip) is now a first-time restaurateur with Poor Romeo, just across the street.

Teaming up with Pinkerton’s owner Marc Baglio and long-time industry veteran, Adam Graham (formerly with the King Street Food Company for 17 years and a bartender by training), the trio hopes to make their dive bar a neighbourhood staple. 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

As with Pinkerton’s, Poor Romeo is a spot that marries music with great drinks and food. Its moniker is a nod to a Thin Lizzy song from their Jailbreak album.

Beer is a big part of the beverage program at Poor Romeo. “We have a mix of hyperlocal craft and grandpa beers, a nod to old Gerrard,” says Wilson, who is a “big beer nerd” and whose girlfriend is a cicerone and Prud’homme sommelier. 

Indeed you’ll find Molson Stock Ale and Hofbrau Original Munich Lager on draught next to “stuff you’ve never heard of” such as Halo Tokyo Rose Saison and Blood Brothers Shumei IPA. The by-the-bottle beer is stubbies-focused with local brews such as Beau’s Lug Tread, Woodhouse IPA along with the old-timer beers, like Coors Banquet and Red Stripe.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

“We’ve all done cocktail culture; we’re familiar with tinctures but we’re a local bar and we’re here to sling some pints,” says Graham. The cocktail menu is a smaller list of signature creations by Graham and it’s definitely a “whiskey-focused kind of bar.” 

There’s even a cocktail named after local “rock and roll star” and whiskey ambassador David Mitton, made with Lot 40, maple syrup, Fernet and Angostura. The Beast of Bourbon, Graham’s take on a shandy is also a nod to the famed Rolling Stones song, made with Four Roses, Spicebox, simple syrup, lemon, and stock ale float.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

Charlie Lamont (formerly DaiLo) has created piña colada slushies that are “fun, cheerful and reminiscent of high school,” made from coconut milk, a trio of rums and pineapple juice.

The space formerly housed Chinese restaurant Ruyi, a place that Wilson’s girlfriend frequented in her 20 years of growing up in the neighbourhood. “We definitely want to open up to that happy hour crowd because people are kind of coming home to this neighbourhood,” says Graham about the demographic of young families and young workers who live nearby.

The décor continues to riff on the whiskey and music themes. There’s a wall of vinyl records, a Schenley Whiskey sign that the team scored from Kijiji that was a quarter of a 3-piece billboard panel in the days where it was the ration whiskey of choice for soldiers. “Schenley’s was called black death because it was so awful.”


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

Lining the stairway down to the bathrooms are throwbacks to pixel-game era days of Pac Man and Alien Invaders. It’s a throwback to the times 80s kids spent in their parents’ basements.  There’s also a sketch drawing of Phil Lynott, the singer and bassist of Thin Lizzy by Greg Court. The bar was designed by George Taxidis (Pizzeria Libretto, Enoteca Sociale) and features lampshades from the Kliegl Bros., said to be the first to create prop camera lighting.

Wilson’s approach to the menu is that of a “fast-food eating mentality in America with quality ingredients and chef-driven; it’s all about the pickles and special sauce,” he says. The menu fuses a lot of Latin influences with ingredients like queso fresco, which Wilson makes in-house, chorizo and chimichurri, like “Southern states intersecting California baja.”

You’ll find Avocado Toast, grilled sourdough bread topped with shrimp ceviche, pickled onions, pickled chilies, jalapeño and housemade queso. There’s also KFP (Kentucky Fried Perch), a nod to Wilson’s days as a fishmonger at Hooked.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

The PR Smash Patty Burger, however, is Wilson’s pride and joy. It sees a pair of three-ounce patties sandwiched around cheese and some “good old-fashioned pickles” and a side of thyme-tossed fries.

There’s also the Fried Green Tomatoes, panko-fried with cream cheese and smoked peperonata – a riff on a jalapeño popper.

As Gerrard East continues to grow as a restaurant neighbourhood, more establishments like Pinkerton’s and Poor Romeo are bound to open.

Poor Romeo, 1029 Gerrard St. E.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Yvonne is a freelance food and drink writer and the Director of Brand Experience at U-Feast, which curates unique, off-menu dining experiences.  Always in search of delicious. Decor and service be damned, food is king. Follow her @life_of_y and @u_feast.  Warning: don't look at her "feed" if you're hungry.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

First Look: Cheesecake Factory gives diehard fans a local outpost at Yorkdale Shopping Centre

First Look: Cheesecake Factory gives diehard fans a local outpost at Yorkdale Shopping Centre

Whether overtly or just secretly, Torontonians are buzzing with excitement for The Cheesecake Factory’s Canadian debut at Yorkdale Mall on November 21, 2017.
Posted 3 days ago
Thornhill deli gets new life at Yonge and St. Clair as Zelden’s Deli and Desserts

Thornhill deli gets new life at Yonge and St. Clair as Zelden’s Deli and Desserts

Irene and Shelley Zelden recently opted to return to their roots with Zelden’s Deli and Desserts.
Posted 4 days ago
Eat This Minute: Yonge ’n’ Blythwood’s newest resident Koek Koek is both healthful and stylish

Eat This Minute: Yonge ’n’ Blythwood’s newest resident Koek Koek is both healthful and stylish

Bowls are another main draw. The Obi Wan Bulgogi ($15) has been the top seller to date. (We’re pretty sure that name has helped steer its path to popularity.) Beginning with a bed of black rice, the meal-in-a-bowl is loaded up with purple cabbage, roasted broccolini and a poached egg.
Posted 1 week ago
First Look: Howard Dubrovsky returns to Toronto restaurants with Bar Sybanne

First Look: Howard Dubrovsky returns to Toronto restaurants with Bar Sybanne

It seems Toronto restaurateurs are still enamored with Mediterranean cuisine and Ossington Avenue. The latest addition is Bar Sybanne in the former home of Yours Truly, near the intersection with Dundas West.
Posted 1 week ago
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module