The Indian Rice Factory has been a fixture in the Annex for over 43 years. Earlier this month, owners Aman Patel and his wife Deepa opened the Indian Rice Factory Chai Bar as an extension of their existing business. Located just steps from the restaurant’s long-standing Dupont Street location, the grab-and-go café is operated out of a quaint wooden barn connected to the restaurant. Offering a variety of coffees, teas, pastries and a pared-down lunch menu, the Chai Bar is intended to cater to a hurried lunch crowd.
While it focuses on speed and efficiency, the spot’s big draw is its 40-seat back patio. Save for the occasional siren from the nearby fire station, it’s surprisingly serene, despite its location near the train tracks. The eating area is lined with magnolia trees, perennials and white wisteria, and the bubbling koi pond (the Patels’ pride and joy) supplies a soothing soundtrack. The patio was originally only open to dinner guests (the Indian Rice Factory opens at 5 p.m.), but the Patels were eager to share their oasis with more people. According to Aman, the staff and students at the nearby George Brown campus have already become patio regulars.
The menu features traditional Indian beverages as well as a few coffee shop standbys. The traditional masala chai ($4) is Chai Bar’s specialty: ginger, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, peppercorns and more are ground before the customer’s eyes in a mortar and pestle before they’re steeped in Tea Emporium tea. The spice blend can even be customized to suit the drinker’s taste. Macchiatos ($2.75) and Americanos ($2.50), meanwhile, are made with Reunion Island coffee beans. The snacks on offer range from locally sourced Indian cake rusks ($1) to Dufflet pastries ($3.50), with Greg’s ice cream coming soon. The lunch menu consists of a vegetarian option and a chicken option ($9 for a take-out bag or $10 for a sit-down meal), both of which change day-to-day. Each meal comes accompanied with lentils, cucumber and tomato salad, a papadum and basmati rice. Patel is also looking to add vacuum-packed entrees and prepackaged jars of garam masala for those eager to set up their own little rice factory at home.
3 thoughts on “Introducing: Indian Rice Factory Chai Bar, a new offshoot of the Annex institution (with a great patio)”
this site really needs to start using google maps api.
Had the chai over ice the other day… pretty bland. Would try it again hot, over the fall/winter to give it a second try… Space is great though, love the patio! Bonus: If you ask to use their bathroom you get a little tour of the kitchen on your way.
Went for lunch with 3 friends on a Friday at 1:30 p.m.
In a nutshell, won’t go back.
The patio is lovely, but on our visit most of the good things ended there.
Service took nearly 30 minutes… this from a menu with exactly 3 lunch items on it: veg plate, non-veg plate and pakoras. On top of that my lunch was nearly forgotten. I guess it’s normal for one person to sit there waiting and waiting. I was especially ticked off when another table got their two plates while we had one waiting. And this on top of our pakoras coming out after as well. By the time I corrected this problem with the cook who brought my meal out, the papad was clearly scorched in their rush to finish meal. Lastly, nobody seemed to be able to stay on top of getting 4 sets of cutlery and napkins out to our table.
The food is not exceptional, although the pakoras are worth it. The plates themselves for $10 + tax are two curries, rice, a papad, and some cold sliced tomato and cucumber. The tamarind dipping sauce for the pakoras was not the usual jarred sweet kind, so that was a bit nice.
All in all the owners/management need to make a choice. They either add some staff who can pay attention to what is going on at the tables in the garden behind the coffee bar so that service is not a joke, or they figure out how to speed up service on what is otherwise a very simple lunch, and not convey that you are getting something more special than it is.
I was resistant to leaving a tip back at the counter, but my friends went all Canadian on me. Frankly the gab in service between the front of house and the kitchen is so glaring that a further payment for service is really unjustified. Needs much improvement.
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