Introducing: The County General, Splendido’s younger sibling on Queen West
When we heard that Splendido co-owners Carlo Catallo and Victor Barry were taking over the Queen West space formerly occupied by Oddfellows, we were eager to see how they were going to bring their high-end background into a new spot and neighbourhood that were anything but. The result is The County General, a casual restaurant and bar where, it turns out, Catallo and Barry have a few new tricks up their sleeves—and aptly, in Catallo’s case, a bunch of tattoos as well.
The room, designed by Michael Rietta of Giannone Petricone Associates, features clean wooden lines running along the ceiling, which culminate in a bold stack of wood at the end of the bar reminiscent of a giant game of Jenga. Everything is local, down to the tables made of reclaimed Douglas fir from London, Ontario. Recycled barn windows frame bucolic photographs of Cumbrae’s farms, whose meat is featured on the menu.
Chef Garth Legree was plucked from Splendido’s staff to run the kitchen because, as Barry told us, “he was already making food we all loved to eat” (in other words, we can expect to see their cooks here after service). The trio of smoked pork belly and steamed buns ($12) come topped with kimchee, avocado chutney and green apple slaw, respectively, and are accompanied by a small squeeze bottle of hot sauce. A buttermilk-fried chicken thigh looks positively mammoth on its soft milk bun ($14) complete with homemade smoked ketchup on the side. Traditional lowball glasses are reimagined as receptacles for frites ($3). For dessert, a seemingly straightforward chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting ($3) has a hidden pocket of salted caramel in the center. The beer and wine list is proudly Canadian (seriously: it’s written on the menu) but the “Grog and Hooch” list is the real page-turner, with a selection of over 50 rums, bourbons, whiskeys and scotches (amateurs take heart: flights are available for educational purposes).
The seasoned staff (they’ve been dubbed generals and colonels) bring to the County some of its bigger brother’s sophistication and thoughtful service, not to mention a willingness to entertain special requests (gluten-free bread, say, or dairy-free chocolate). The platoon will be serving brunch, lunch, dinner, late-night snacks and even takeout.
The County General, 936 Queen St. W. (at Shaw St.), 416-531-4447, thecountygeneral.ca