What’s on the menu at Tennessee Tavern, Grant van Gameren’s new Eastern European bar in Parkdale

What’s on the menu at Tennessee Tavern, Grant van Gameren’s new Eastern European bar in Parkdale

Name: Tennessee Tavern
Contact: 1554 Queen St. W., 416-535-7777, @tennesseetavern
Neighbourhood: Parkdale
Owners: Grant van Gameren (Bar Isabel, Bar Raval, Harry’s, El Rey, PrettyUgly), Max Rimaldi (Pizzeria Libretto), Alec Colyer
Chef: Brett Howson (Parlor Foods and Co.)

The food

A menu that travels from the Baltics to the Balkans, stopping in just about every Slavic-speaking nation along the way. While some plates are straight-up traditional, including the goulash and schnitzel, others—like ćevapčići (Bosnia’s national dish) or the cabbage rolls—stray from babcia’s recipes. (Also: a corn dog.)

A couple of gigantic pretzels ($7.95 each) are flanked by a duo of mixed pepperette cups ($9 each).

 

The most interesting pepperette to come out of the cup.

 

This cucumber salad is topped with feta cream, sumac and dill. $7.95.

 

The assorted pickle plate includes mouth-puckering beets, carrots, tomatoes (green and red), and onions. There’s sauerkraut and dill pickles, too. $10.95.

 

Boiled eggs crowned with kielbasa, dill pickle and grainy mustard. $4.95.

 

Cheddar potato pierogies. $11.95 for 12.

 

Tennessee’s ćevapčići are made with straight-up beef. These skinless sausages are typically made with a mix of meats—some folks from the Balkans have called blasphemy on these all-beef links. “Everyone always thinks their version of something is the best,” says Colyer. “Ultimately, we’re a Canadian tavern, so we aren’t beholden to any one way of making something.” $11.95.

 

The cabbage rolls went through a bunch of recipe testing as van Gameren worked his way through the different variants before settling on his favourite, the super-saucy Croatian kind. $12.95 for two.

 

Why order a basket of fries when you can order a basket of sausages? $10.95.

 

The smoked fish plate comes with eel, salmon, trout and mackerel. $27.95.

 

Servers affectionately refer to the Tennessee Platter as “the pile”; it comes with two giant veal schnitzels, debrecener sausage (a paprika-spiced pork sausage), smoked pork loin, ćevapi, dill pickles, hard-boiled eggs, sauerkraut and carrot salad. $39.95.

 

A spread.

 

Chef Howson.
The drinks

The extensive wine card is dedicated to cold-climate grapes. “Basically, I only chose bottles from cabbage-eating countries,” Colyer says. (Even the French and Italian offerings are from the Alpine regions.) Beers—and there are a whole bunch on offer including a dozen rotating draughts—are mostly hyper-local brews from the likes of Blood Brothers and Bellwoods. There’s also a super-short cocktail menu and a much-lengthier whiskey list.

On the Money: brandy, Byrrh and Cointreau. $13.

 

Don’t Mention the War: gin, elderflower liqueur, lemon and soda. $13.

 

And of course, there are Eastern European fruit brandies (rakija) on offer, because you can’t start a feast here without a few shots.

 

The space

The 88-seat restaurant is decked out in an eclectic assortment of antiques, including rocking horses, taxidermy and oversized birdcages. The trio of owners rounded up every tchotchke they could find and experimented with whether or not it worked in the cavernous room. And of course there’s custom-made neon signage, like a sausage-eating Pac-Man on the back patio.

The dining room.

 

Some nooks have been given special names. This area is called the cathedral.

 

(You can see why it’s called that.)

 

Van Gameren found this bar, originally built in the late 1800s, in Buffalo; it was originally from a Polish steel workers’ bar.

 

Here’s the back patio.