Tracking the changes at the Wine Bar and Hank’s

Tracking the changes at the Wine Bar and Hank’s

Out with the old: the former sign in front of what is now the Wine Bar (Photo by 416style) 

It’s been four months since foodie power couples Ted and Mary Koutsogiannopoulos (Joy Bistro) and Scott Vivian and Rachelle Caldwell (Jamie Kennedy Kitchens) bought the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar and adjoining Hank’s café. Their rebrand is evident everywhere: Hank’s now has table service and dinner (a barbecue-inspired evening menu debuted this week), but the big change that has locavores squealing like whey-fed pigs is that the Wine Bar now takes reservations. “I got a lot of shit about it,” says Vivian about the old policy, “especially from people like Joanne Kates.”

At Hank’s, the space now opens up almost directly onto the Wine Bar, and new signage and seating improve the flow of the place. On the menu, Vivian’s talent for southern accents (most of which he learned during his years in Atlanta) is emphasized, including baby back ribs, mac and cheese, and grits and cornbread. There is also a new weekend brunch featuring eggs Benedict, fresh preserves and house-brined peameal bacon. The famous fries are still on order, though Vivian says he does them slightly differently, blanching the potatoes in water, not oil, for a lighter shoestring fry. The menu remains all Ontario and all seasonal, so expect changes every few months.

The Wine Bar is seven years old, so a new identity is more difficult to assert. “What am I going to do so that people aren’t constantly comparing me to Jamie Kennedy?” mused Vivian when he first bought the spot. He appears to have found the answer: ethnic roots (his father is Italian, his mother Indian). Small plates get playful, like grilled naan served with black bean purées, and marinated Moroccan carrot salad, with pairings from sommelier Richard Healy. “It’s more elegant food,” says Vivian of the symbiotic concepts. “In Hank’s, it’s down-home comfort food and kick-your-shoes-off laid back.”