The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Late-Night Dining
We’re dining around the clock and the options for a midnight feast are suddenly excellent
At some point over the past year, around the time Rob Ford was smoking crack in a drunken stupor, we became a city that eats at all hours. It now takes weeks of planning to get a table at 10 p.m. at the hotter spots. And if you want a meal after midnight, there are finally options other than greasy all-night diners and those Chinatown backrooms where the only thing anyone orders is “cold tea.” After a three-hour Scorsese opus at the Revue, I’ll go to La Cubana, Corrina Mozo’s new restaurant on Roncesvalles, where the cooks make a mean medianoche, the traditional Havana sandwich stacked with roasted pork, ham and gruyère—they also have versions with chorizo, or guava-glazed short rib, or avocado and queso fresco. The kitchen at the County General, the Queen West gastropub, officially closes at 11, but the place is usually full until last call, patrons scarfing down pork buns and devilled eggs while sipping bourbon cocktails. (They’ve expanded to Riverdale and Bloorcourt.) Even the owners of the prim Nota Bene wanted in on the fun, opening Carbon Bar on Queen East. They serve perfectly smoked southern-style barbecue, fried chicken skin, and intricate cocktails with citrus oils and rare tinctures until late-late-late.
It was always possible to grab a slice in the middle of the night in Toronto, but now we can find one with a thin crust and luxurious toppings. The kitchen at the sprawling Terroni outpost at Yonge and Price is open until at least 11 from Thursday to Saturday—proof that not all midtowners are asleep before Mansbridge signs off. They serve a margherita pizza with the creamiest buffalo mozzarella at Drake One Fifty, which opened late last year and has become the best spot in the downtown core for a post-show bite. The snack menu is available until 2 a.m., and offers burgers, tartare and poutine—the ideal grub to soak up another round of microbrews. Buca on King West—the room reached through an unmarked alley and down a flight of steps—has all the glitz of an exclusive nightclub, but one with an Italian menu of roasted squab, house-made octopus salami and pizzas with shavings of fresh truffle. To cater to the late-night crowd, they’ve opened a spinoff, Bar Buca, around the corner on Portland, where bearded servers deliver glasses of chianti and tiered trays of deep-fried smelt, baby artichoke and pig’s ear. It’s open until 2, seven days a week.
When Grant van Gameren opened Bar Isabel on College last spring, he staked a claim on the late-dining crowd by focusing on tapas and bar snacks like devilled eggs with bits of salt cod, blistered shishito peppers, and a dozen cured meats and Spanish cheeses. My favourite Isabel dish, the one that everyone who goes there raves about, is a plate of deep-fried chicken thighs with buttermilk sauce. But, this being a van Gameren restaurant, once something is too popular he experiences a small crisis as an artist: he recently cut it from the menu.
Which is why I’m grateful for Parkdale’s Electric Mud BBQ, where a plate of excellent deep-fried chicken thighs is a constant. They’re boneless, breaded and coated in gravy and hot sauce. When the place opened a year ago, it felt a little contrived—an instant replica of a breezy Memphis rib joint, complete with picnic tables, neon beer signs and blues records playing from a vintage turntable. But it’s grown into a crowded west-end institution, all the more so because the grill is hot until midnight.
The sidecar receives a tropical boost with Havana Club, orange and lime juices, and a shot of baller favourite Courvoisier.
This bracing merger of Campari, Tromba Blanco tequila, grapefruit bitters and ginger beer makes a fine toast after a big day on the Street.
Citrusy, chai-infused Grand Marnier mellows the harsh edge of reposado tequila and Rittenhouse rye.
What sounds like hell in a glass—Devil’s Cut bourbon, “death wish” syrup and tobacco bitters—is warming and spicy.
Wild Turkey bourbon, grapefruit juice and agave syrup go down dangerously easy.