Introducing: O&B Canteen, Oliver and Bonacini’s restaurant in the eye of the TIFF storm

Introducing: O&B Canteen, Oliver and Bonacini’s restaurant in the eye of the TIFF storm

Jason Bangerter at O&B Canteen (Image: Karon Liu)

After eight years at suburban Auberge du Pommier, chef Jason Bangerter was called downtown to head up Luma and O&B Canteen at the soon-to-open Bell Lightbox—the new King West epicentre of TIFF. The former is not yet running, but the latter is open for business. “Auberge du Pommier was strictly French and high-end but [at O&B Canteen] I’m doing breakfast sandwiches and coleslaw. I went from $50 entrées to $12 main courses,” he says. “The biggest challenge is not making it too fancy.”

Fancy is the last adjective that would be used to describe Canteen. The open-air, sleek wood and metal space designed by KPMB (the firm that’s also building the Lightbox) looks more like a high-end cafeteria. In fact, this is where the 200 TIFF staffers order from the grab-and-go menu, which makes the name Canteen all the more appropriate. Bay Streeters with loosened ties, families with tots, tourists and the cast of Rock of Ages also can be found here ordering pizzas, sandwiches and all-day breakfasts.

Despite the simple and low-priced breakfast and dinner menus (most dishes are around the $10 to $15 mark, and the most expensive item is the steak frites at $21), this isn’t regular cafeteria fare. Bangerter spent two weeks researching how to make a better breakfast sandwich and came up with five versions (all under $6), with such ingredients as homemade ketchup (spiced with cinnamon, coriander and celery seed), five-year-old Quebec cheddar and maple mayonnaise. There’s also a vegetarian one consisting of apple, alfalfa sprouts, tomato and cream cheese.

As for Luma, the more formal lounge and dining spot upstairs, it’s still under construction. Bangerter walks us through the dusty space. It’s hard to imagine eating a $27 lobster burger here or on the cluttered patio overlooking King and John, but we’re assured that the space will be ready for the public on September 12—that’s day four of the festival.

O&B Canteen, 330 King St. W. (at John St.), 647-288-4710.