There is no shortage of exciting culinary news, and our Buzz column on page 53 offers plenty of proof of that. We think it’s obvious editors here at Eatdrink are always on the lookout for quality businesses that our readers will want to know about. There is also real consternation about the constraints on the number of stories we can print in any one issue, in any one year. This column is an effort to help remedy that.
After a great deal of discussion, we are putting an extra spotlight on five new businesses of merit, with a bit more attention than the Buzz column can afford. Here they are, in no particular order, and with some exceptionally enticing enterprises left on the back burner for a future issue.
Harris Electric Eatery
159 Queen Street East, St. Marys
Tuesday–Saturday 11:30–2pm; 4:45–8:45pm
The location will be familiar to many as the former home to some great restaurants, most recently Chris and Mary Woolf’s Little Reds. But chef Jordy Carr reached even further back into the building’s history, when it was home to Harris Electric until 1979. Given that his mother’s maiden name was Harris (no relation), the homage to both town and family felt right.
Chef Carr worked across the country before returning to his hometown with a young family in tow. Having been in the industry for about two decades (he started when he was 14!), Carr had run kitchens but not his own restaurant. He made a commitment to a farm-to-table approach, making everything in house, from preserves to smoked meats and charcuterie. The atmosphere is family-friendly and cozy, with an interesting range of craft beers on tap. Chef’s goal is to have “something for everyone” but he keeps the regular menu manageable and fresh. Expect great sandwiches and burgers, salads and perhaps steak frites or a creative take on tacos. Changing specials frequently reflect Carr’s interest in Asian and Latino cuisines. Just ensure that you leave room for dessert!
38 Erie Street, Stratford
Friday & Saturday 4:30–10pm
Sunday & Monday closed
AO Pasta is the creation of Kris and Suzy Schotzhauer, with the name inspired by their young children, Axel and Olive. Chef Kris, Stratford-raised, honed his love for pasta at Toronto’s Enoteca Sociale. Chef Suzy made her mark as a pastry chef in Calgary. Together now for almost a decade, their restaurant is as family-centred as the business name. Open hours are structured to maintain a balance between work and home life, and the menu is inventive but accessible, anchored by — no surprise here — pastas and made-to-order sauces. Craft beers and a good wine list are complemented by Italian soft drinks.
Striking a balance between great food and affordability means counter service without wait staff and no reservations, with the goal of filling the gap between fast food joints and Stratford’s sit-down restaurants. The space, previously home to The County Food Co., offers comfortable seating and a casual ambiance. Procure a table, peruse the “simple and honest, Italian-inspired menu using seasonal, locally-sourced products and authentic Italian ingredients,” then get up to order. You’ll find all is as advertised, simply delicious. The signature Arancini — deep-fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella — are highly recommended.
Streamliners Espresso Bar
767 Talbot St., St. Thomas
Thursday & Friday 7am–8pm
First, while Streamliners can hardly be called “new” (having been open about two years) it has grown into a truly chic hotspot of note. It’s located in the heart of “Railway City,” across the street from the marvelously restored CASO Station that is also home to the Las Chicas del Cafe coffee roastery. Those are the same “coffee chicks” behind Streamliners, and along with award-winning coffee, hearty and healthy breakfast and lunch options, and delicious pastries, this a great all-day spot. Open Mike Nights bring in music, and even a Poetry Slam. As one fan said, “Go for the coffee. Stay for the atmosphere. The people here are amazing!”
587 Oxford St E., London
Friday & Saturday 5pm–11pm
Closed Sunday & Monday
At a time when so many are turning to a less formal approach, it’s both a surprise and refreshing to see “the best of Italy” presented with classic fine dining accoutrements, white linen tablecloths included. In the former home of Bourbon Street on Oxford St. at Adelaide, owners Michael & Karla have transformed the space with elegant and romantic touches throughout.
The menu is as classic as the decor, with a wine list offering predominately Old World choices. The menu is unabashedly upscale, with a wide variety of the Italian canon presented with a dedication to tradition.
190 Fairway Rd, Woodstock
Friday & Saturday 11am–late
This is the second location for Upper Thames Brewing Company (the first locale at 225 Bysham Park Drive in Woodstock also has an appealing taproom). Twelve taps are dedicated to their own beer, with their small-batch approach ideal for experimentation and limited hard-to-find seasonal offerings. Another dozen taps rotate other Ontario craft beers. This is a production facility too, so there’s a store for bottles and growlers to go, but a full kitchen makes this a popular destination for more than great beer.
A casual pub vibe includes counter service for traditional pub fare that often incorporates Upper Thames beer. Think Lazy Fox Amber Ale-Braised Pork Side Ribs with a Gunn’s Hill cheese-loaded baked potato, or Beef & Ale Pie filled with local beef, onion, carrots, potato, mushrooms and Timberbeast Brown Ale. The food is hearty, the atmosphere is warm and friendly. Watch the website for special events, including live music, comedy and more.