Happiness is living in an age where addresses that used to house a Burger King are being turned into Japanese izakayas and the gringo-ised TexMex joint Johny Banana becomes the comfortable 416 Snack Bar that is earnest about serving good food.
On a visit last week we pulled two stools up to the central bar and did our best to eat a sizable hole out of the menu. The 416 Snack Bar menu seems to change pretty frequently but the photo above is where it stood on our visit. Food highlights were the two spieces of breaded, deep-fried pickles a.k.a. “The Fried Thing” ($3), napolitano pizza pocket ($4), and the latkes with gravlax ($5).
The beer and wine lists draw heavily from some of my favourite local breweries (like Flying Monkeys (would have linked but their web site is ridiculously cumbersome), Duggans) and VQA wineries (Fielding, Ravine).
Most of the introductory profiles (on the Eye, blogTO, and Toronto Life websites for example) make a big deal of owners Adrian Ravinsky and David Stewart’s long experience with front-of-house jobs in Toronto’s restaurant scene. I worry that this expertise hasn’t filtered down to staff as our server spent several minutes debating with a belligerently drunk prospective customer the reason why he cannot be served instead of just asking him to leave.
The dish I had been most looking forward to was the pork belly bun. But because of the glutinously sticky steamed bun and other preparation missteps this will not be cutting into the business of either Chef David Chang, who made the dish wildly popular through his Momofuku empire, or home cooks that know there is no better way to impress women and make men jealous than by serving this at a party. Especially when they charge five bucks per bun.
And that’s really the catch-22 at 416. I’ll be back to try it again but for now I feel that unless you’re getting full value from the ambiance of re-purposed telephone poles as beer pumps and the Blue Willow china you’re paying too much for the food and drink. In the area there is no better place for this kind of delicious bite and quick sip but it’s not worth a trip across town for a whole meal.
416 Snack Bar: 181 Bathurst St. (just north of Queen); 416-364-9320