Where chef Danny McCallum eats sourdough bread, spaghetti bolognese and Italian desserts in his Junction neighbourhood
Executive chef Danny McCallum of Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse is one busy jet-setter. “What most people don’t realize is that half of the job is travel,” he says. When he’s not at the restaurant, he’s seeking out the top artisans and farmers devoting their time and effort to breed the prime cuts that McCallum selects for his menu—from Northern Japan for A5 Wagyu to Sekai Ranch in Ontario, both of which offer what he calls “unicorn-calibre” cuts. “Sekai has a cult following. And we only get about three animals a year, so when one arrives in our kitchen, I have a call list to run through,” says McCallum. “We have one person from New York who will drop everything, hop on his jet and fly here just for a taste.”
With the restaurant and travel keeping him busy, McCallum only has small pockets of spare time, which he mostly uses to explore the Junction, where he’s lived for four years. “It’s more peaceful than the Annex, where my wife and I were living before, and the housing prices here are more reasonable than what you find closer to the core,” he says. “Besides, where else can you find such wonderful eclecticism and enriching culture? That’s what makes the place so lovable—the diversity—and yet, somehow, it all works together.” Since he’s lived in the area, he’s already noticed more eateries, farmers’ markets, bars and bookshops popping up here and there. “It makes the area perfect for walking, wandering and grabbing a bite or two.” Here, a few of McCallum’s favourite spots to eat and drink in the Junction.
1617 Dupont St., 416-519-1010, mattachioni.com
“It’s like a trattoria meets a bar meets a mini grocery store.” The decor is thanks to chef and owner David Mattachioni’s friends at Terroni, where he worked for 14 years—the orange stools and stainless steel tables came to him from one of the restaurant’s locations. McCallum loves to come here for brunch and dinner for the pizzas, panini, big salads and half-priced bottles of wine on Sundays.
Go-to item 1: Sourdough boule
Tasting notes: “I love to pick up one of these house-made boules, slice it and freeze it. It has a pleasant chew and sour twang that lingers in the back of your throat. I’d argue it’s as good as the sourdough you can find in San Francisco. And you can always tell when you have quality bread: when you freeze it and then reheat or toast it, the good stuff like this will hold up in flavour and texture compared with poor-quality loaves that fall apart.” At home, McCallum serves it with poached eggs on top. “The holes of the bread are the perfect pockets for the egg yolk to seep down into the crevices.”
Go-to item 2: Burrata salad
Tasting notes: “Burrata is one of my favourite things. It tastes as good as it looks, and it’s incredibly fresh here,” McCallum says. At Mattachioni, the tomatoes come from the local farmers’ market and everything is drizzled with olive oil and finished with basil. It’s paired with toasted slices—and more olive oil.
Forno Cultura MOCA
158 Sterling Rd., 416-516-6999, fornocultura.com
“I really enjoy wandering through art galleries and museums. So having MOCA near my home is a treat,” says McCallum, who also has a big sweet tooth. “I love chocolate desserts and anything fruity.” A perfect day for him would be to grab a few snacks here and then visit the gallery. He then points out the liquor licence. “They’re opening up a small full-service restaurant in addition to the bakery,” he says.
Go-to item 1: Apricot crostata
Tasting notes: “This is right up my alley. I love the texture and taste of the buttery crust.” The crostata with a lattice weave is made with an almond base, a layer of white marzipan and apricot preserves.
Go-to item 2: Chocolate torte
Tasting notes: The torte is a multi-layered delight: an almond flour base topped with lemon curd and chocolate studded with organic chocolate chips. The chips remind him of his famous muffins that diners receive at the end of a Jacobs meal. “Fun fact: They’ve actually become a form of currency,” he says. “If you’re heading to a bar in the Entertainment District and the staff see you with a Jacobs & Co. bag, you won’t have to pay cover if you give them the muffins instead. We sometimes have diners ask us for extra because of this.” McCallum enjoys the decadent torte with a cortado. “They have a great coffee program here. Right now, they’re featuring fully washed single-origin Ethiopian and Kenyan beans.”
Junction Craft Brewing
150 Symes Rd., 416-766-1616, junctioncraft.com
“This is probably the best example of capturing the idea of restoration and the concept of giving buildings in the Junction a second life,” McCallum says. “This brewery is definitely a diamond in the rough.” The 1930s Art Deco building started life as an incinerator and waste transfer facility before a developer saved it in 2012 and renovated it. “I have a love of beer and all things beer-centric,” says McCallum. “They have at least 15 beers on tap here, along with some wine and cider.”
Go-to item: Trainspotter Craft Lager
Tasting notes: “It’s a classic lager. It’s German style, easy drinking and refreshing. I really like its crisp, clean finish, and there’s with no strong, lingering aftertaste.”
1281 Bloor St. W., 416-535-1717, sugotoronto.com
A motley crew of current and former boxers who met at 99 Athletics all got on board with Alex Wallen, Scott Pennock and Conor Joerin’s collective vision for a restaurant. Head server Steve Kakamousias explains that it was difficult to hold down a functioning job because of the time and commitment devoted to training. “Many of us were amateurs or semi-pro,” says Kakamousias. “Alex hired us even though we had zero restaurant experience.” And yet Sugo has developed a cultlike following since it opened only two years ago. “There’s a genuine vibe here,” says Kakamousias. “Many of us got a second chance at life. A lot of us were in rough spots, a few of us were recovering addicts.” Despite the lack of industry experience, they more than make up for it with dedication and hard work. It’s just one of the reasons McCallum loves the place.
Go-to item 1: Mozzarella sticks
Tasting notes: “That cheese string pull, though! Who doesn’t love mozzarella sticks? It’s a food I grew up with as a child, so for me, they’re a must-order every time. And the marinara sauce is a perfect counterpoint to temper the richness of the cheese. It’s the perfect combo.”
Go-to item 2: Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce
Tasting notes: “For me, it’s nostalgic. My mom was a single parent, so this was a quick and easy dish she could feed our family with. It tastes like home—especially when you’re enjoying it in a space like this, a family-run operation with a fun atmosphere and throwback checkered tablecloths.” McCallum likes to spice up his spaghetti with chili flakes sprinkled on top. The sauce is for sale by the jar, and the restaurant sells over 700 litres of it every week.
Go-to item 3: Rigatoni with rosé sauce and a side order of garlic bread
Tasting notes: “The house-made rosé sauce is what makes this a winner. It’s creamy, comforting and classically delicious. The noodles with little ridges are the perfect shape to latch onto the sauce.” Instead of a fork and spoon, McCallum uses the thick, crusty garlic bread to pick up the noodles and mop up the sauce. “When you forgo utensils you know you’ve entered a new realm of dining.” Everything at Sugo, according to McCallum, is not only flavourful but offers excellent value. “There’s a reason why this place is so popular. The food is delicious but the portion sizes are massive, and the prices are very reasonable. The best is when you have leftover pasta and eat it cold straight from the fridge later.”