Origin Liberty replaced by Local Public Eatery, the latest big-box restaurant chain to hit Toronto
Last year, Claudio Aprile decided to close the Liberty Village outpost of his local Origin chain. West-end condo dwellers, it seemed, were not hungry for hoisin duck wraps and miso-glazed cod. What they wanted instead were burgers, booze-spiked milkshakes and 18 flat-screen TVs per 1,000 square feet. At least, that’s what the Joey Restaurant Group is betting on. It’s turning the former Origin Liberty space at 171 East Liberty Street into an outpost of Local Public Eatery, a rowdy Vancouver-based restaurant chain known for serving cocktails in a giant glass boot.
This is the latest in a string of “premium casual dining” chains to move downtown in the last half-decade. In 2011, Earls opened on King West, followed shortly by Joey Eaton Centre at Yonge and Dundas. Last fall, the Aura condo compound at Yonge and Gerrard became home to three new gargantuan dining halls—Duke’s Refresher, Scaddabush and Reds Midtown—all owned by culinary mega-player SIR Corp. Most of these places look and feel more or less the same: they’re huge, slick, relatively inexpensive, and outfitted with just enough trendy touches—reclaimed wood on the bar; fish tacos on the encyclopedic menu—to feel vaguely cosmopolitan.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The takeaway, perhaps, is that in the midst of Toronto’s flourishing culture of foodie-ism, there seems to be a pretty strong counterculture as well—one that’s grown alongside the city’s cookie-cutter condo boom, and that craves the simple, expansive ease of suburban big-box hospitality. Clearly, some people would rather not spend $18 on a Manhattan, no matter how painstakingly crafted.