There were some 180 new restaurants, bars and lounges that opened in Our Lady of Toronto in 2012. (Interesting fact: The team at View the Vibe grew by about 180 pounds altogether. Coincidence…? You decide.) Italian food was still prime on the docket, and cocktailiers were still in high-demand. The big brisket still had a place in our collective clogged arteries, as did the boom of the burger. Sliders found themselves growing in followers, though it’s doubtful these two-bite wonders – akin to sex without the orgasm – will ever truly stake a solidified claim on our culinary scene. Food trucks became the underdogs of gastronomy, tantalizing our tastebuds one street corner at a time. And who could forget the resurgence of oysters on menus casual to contemporary…
All these considered, our favourite Toronto restaurant trends in 2012 run the gamut from subversive to conspicuous, awe-inspiring to belly bloating. These five observations of vogue can be seen from Leslieville to Ossington, St. Clair to Lake Shore, and everywhere between. Our explorations begin by simply craning one’s head up…
Let There Be Light
Lighting took center stage at a new crop of restaurants this year, adding visual intrigue without the cacophony of artistic installations or the offensiveness of design pieces. From industrial to sophisticated, lighting became the a la mode creativity in restaurants like Patria, Michael’s on Simcoe, and URSA.
From Farmhouse Tavern to Strada 241, Gusto 101 to Actinolite, Skin + Bones to Museum Tavern, there’s been no shortage of farmhouse meets industrial alley meets glorious gastronomy. Taking queues from comforting aesthetics, a wave of restaurants have helped to cultivate what many see as Toronto’s latest design sensibility. Curating that at-home feeling has helped to deliver an atmosphere of casual cool. It’s mostly great… but what’s with the uncomfortable chairs? Sometimes form does not, indeed, meet function.
From izakayas – DonDon, Hapa, Kingyo – to ramen restaurants – Santouka, A-OK Foods, Sansotei, Raijin, Kinton – to sushi sites – Kanji, JaBistro – Japanese cuisine was at the forefront of the new restaurant climax in 2012. Lineups have yet to wane, but unfortunately we can’t say the same for our waistlines. Thanks kindly, Barons of Broth.
You see them at Weslodge and Grand Electric. Rock Lobster Food Co. and La Carnita, too. And dozens of other restaurants and bars have embraced old school/prohibition-era cocktails like the second coming of Christ. (Sip on a Manhattan with tobacco bitters and tell me you don’t feel the hand of God on your palate.) Brown liquor has become the prodigal son of mixology… so heed its commandments and embrace the dogma of the drink.
Arts & Crafts
Craft beers have finally hit the mainstream, being grandstanded by hipsters and locavores in previous years but taking a backseat to mass domestics. Now, the art of craft brewing has finally received its dues. Bellwoods Brewery and Indie Ale House opened to much fanfare, as did BarHop and Tall Boys Craft Beer House. Bar Volo is still the undisputed champ of craft beer revelry, and Habits Gastropub embraces the little guys with open mouths and glasses raised.