Eat this Minute: ‘The Pile’ at Parkdale’s Tennessee Tavern


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Image: AJ Fernando

This quirky new Grant van Gameren haunt offers up a smorgasbord of eastern European fare.

What a find
When Parkdale’s scruffy watering hole by the name of The Tennessee came on the market, there were only two options. 

“It was either going to become another really bad bar,” says co-owner Alec Colyer, “or we could take it and do something a little more fun with it.” Colyer, along with partners in crime Grant van Gameren and Max Rimaldi, opted to snap the space up, transforming it into an eastern Euro tavern that has little to do with Tennessee.

Inside, the cavernous space acts as a backdrop to a hodgepodge of antique curiosities, reaching from a collection of wall crucifixes to a gigantic birdcage to a gorgeous wooden bar that lived a former life as a Polish steel workers’ bar in Buffalo, New York.

Authenticity be damned
“The great thing about being Canadian, being a tavern and being an easygoing place in Parkdale is that we don’t have to be true to any country or region or style,” says Colyer, who skipped over to Tennessee after managing Bar Isabel for years.

Although Colyer, van Gameren and Rimaldi all have ties to Europe (Lithuania and Poland), there was never any desire to do an entirely authentic eatery. “The style of food that comes out of the Balkans and Poland are very different,” says Colyer. Picking and choosing regional favourites excited the team, making for a far more dynamic menu. And although there was no doubt that there’d be cabbage rolls and perogies anchoring the offerings, a carnivore’s dream platter was another must.

That pile though
Charmingly dubbed “the pile,” the Tennessee Platter boasts a heaving mass of meat that skips from region to region ($42.95). 
In the kitchen is Brett Howson, who hopped into the tavern thanks to his enthusiasm. “Brett was really interested in exploring a style of food that none of the chefs in the city are playing with,” Colyer says.

The platter begins with schnitzel, six-ounce veal cutlets that are dried out overnight, pounded until super thin, dredged in spices, egg yolk and flour and finished with bread crumbs. Next up, the smoked pork loin is brined and cured, smoked and then sliced per order. The Hungarian-style debrecyna sausage isn’t made in house. After many a gruelling testing session, they settled on the Sikorski’s version of the paprika-spiced pork links. 

“I ate endless amounts of sausages,” Howson says and laughs. He notes that the smoke levels on the Sikorski ones are what cemented the love. Finally, the house made ćevapi (which are found across the Balkans) are caseless sausages made with a ground beef mix from local producers.

Lest we forget, pickles, carrot salad and hard-boiled eggs are also housed on the platter. 

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

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Karolyne Ellacott is senior editor at Post City Magazines. She can oft be spotted at Toronto’s most nostalgic diners wearing glittery heels and pink faux fur. Follow all of her eclectic writing interests on Twitter @kellacott and Instagram @itismekar.

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