First Look: Bar Hop Brewco is the new three-level craft beer emporium with Mark Cutrara at the stove
On tap at Bar Hop Brewco at 137 Peter St.
Image: Ola Mazzuca
In Toronto, beer is no longer considered a cheap beverage that comes in a can, consumed solely for inebriation and paired with a delivery pizza. No. In this city, barley and hops are meticulously brewed with zeal to produce something unique. It’s called “craft beer” and Bar Hop Brewco is a testament.
“Craft beer drinkers aren’t college beer drinkers. It’s a refined palate,” says Chef Mark Cutrara, formerly of Parkdale’s now-defunt Cowbell, and a recent stint at Concession Road. Known for his background in locavore and nose-to-tail cuisine, Cutrara is bringing a curated menu of thoughtfully-paired plates to Bar Hop’s second location. With owner/partner Robert Pingitore, there’s an unparalleled expertise in beer. Rather than providing the standard hamburger or fish and chips, they believe guests should dine on sweetbreads deep-fried in clarified butter, washed down with a local IPA.
Chef Mark Cutrara, well known for helping introduce Toronto to nose-to-tail eating while he owned Cowbell, leads the kitchen at Bar Hop Brewco. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
What used to be the three-storey, 350-seat home to a slew of ever-changing nightclubs (OhSo, Reign), is now an establishment to house the overflow of Bar Hop’s parent location at 391 King St. W. The first floor is open for business, and although pretty raw, the vibe is warm and welcoming. The romantically-lit interior features long communal wood table tops, bar stools and barrel lampshades. There are currently 36 beers on tap, with plans for a repertoire of 200 bottles and 1,200 litres of Amsterdam’s saison (a light ale aged anywhere between six months to two years) available for vertical tastings. Dividing the construction process into phases, Cutrara says it will take some time to develop their library.
“Up here is really going to be something else. At night, it will be incredible. So [right now] you gotta use a bit of your imagination,” says Chef Mark Cutrara of the Brewco’s summer digs. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
Walk past the bar and you’ll find a caged, sparse room. “This whole area is purposed to be a brewery,” Cutrara says, pointing to the many casks and pipes, sitting on hexagon tiles imported from Germany. The steep staircase at the entrance leads to a middle floor, which may be used as an event or casual space for diners. This is where the food is being pumped out from a strong kitchen team of six, including Cutrara’s “most awesome” sous chef Tara Lee.
Cutrara proudly declares the rooftop patio will be “something else.” He talks plans of growing hops, dressing up the rafters with sails and setting up a raw bar complete with oysters and shellfish for 100 diners, comfortably. The early fall sunset is only a prelude to warm summer nights out on Queen West.
This Thick Cut Bacon Steak is Argentenian-inspired, topped with fried quail egg and tangy chimichurri. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
At the dinner table, items are divided by tapas, salads and sandwiches, and small to large entrees that are meant for sharing. The Shaved Fennel & Apple Salad, is a bright, crisp way to begin (aged cheddar fritters, pistachios, apple cider vinaigrette) before indulging in the acquired tastes of House-made Giardiniera Pickles paired with Kensington Market’s Blackbird Baking Co. bread and cultured butter from Société-Orignal. Fresh Cold Smoked Trout crostini is topped off with crunchy, fried capers, while Argentina inspires the Thick Cut Bacon Steak with a fried egg and chimichurri. Upscale bar snacks include plump, Scotch Olives stuffed with Italian sausage and spicy pimento cheese and the Seared Digby Scallops with chorizo and sherry butter sauce.
Roasted Pig Head Nachos (fried tortilla, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, guacamole, honey mustard, cabbage slaw) defines Cutrara’s love for nose-to-tail cuisine. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
Cutrara’s top pick is the Pig’s Head Nachos — an innovative rendition that’s an edible piece of art. He enjoys it with a pint of Great Lakes Brewery’s brand new Maniacal Hopshop — a fruity, bitter IPA that cuts through the fats. All pork and dry-aged beef are sourced from Heritage Farms, while the Mennonite chicken comes whole-roasted on a board, dressed with buttery brussels sprouts. Order this just for the side “Trini hot sauce” — the chef’s nostalgic interpretation of a mandatory condiment ordered with post-work chicken wings at the former Mitzi’s Sister in Parkdale.
A dark stout from breweries like Dieu du Ciel! or County Durham are perfect for fall. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
On tap, Pingitore is pouring Great Lakes Brewery’s Chill Winston Grisette, a light and refreshing saison/farmhouse ale. Local favourites from Collingwood and Left Field Brewery to Quebec’s renowned Dieu du Ciel! and Trou du Diable are also available.
As the seasons change, cold weather will creep in. Bar Hop Brewco is a warm embrace for this transition: whether it’s the ABV levels rising, piping hot food, or the company you’re with, it’s a much-needed stomping ground for those with a penchant for their pints and palate.
Sans eggs, just olives: a spicy take on a favourite pub snack stuffed with pimento beer cheese and Italian sausage. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
Panko Sweetbread Skewers with tomatillo yogurt are an eclectic treat of beef thymus glands, deep-fried. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
Bar Hop’s second home had more than one first life as a nightclub. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
Crostini topped with cold smoked trout with sour cream and fried capers. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
The Glazed Pork Belly Steam Buns (Veggie slaw, chilies, kimchi) are a popular snack. The succulent, fatty pork pairs well with the piquant kimchi. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
East coast Seared Digby Scallops with Chorizo sausage and Sherry butter sauce. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
A pint of Collingwood Brewery’s Rockwell Pilsner is versatile beer that compliments many dishes on the menu. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
The whole-roasted chicken is top of the list and perfect for sharing. The Piri Piri rub and Trini hot sauce are deciding factors. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
(IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
On the board: Cold Smoked Trout on crostini, with sour cream and fried capers, All Beef Pepperettes with grainy mustard, Chicharron with Ranch seasoning. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
The bright and bold Shaved Fennel & Apple Salad is paired with aged cheddar fritters, topped with crushed pistachios and dressed in apple cider vinaigrette. (IMAGE: OLA MAZZUCA)
Bar Hop Brewco, 137 Peter St.