Introducing: Smith, the gay village’s new destination for both grubbing and clubbing

Introducing: Smith, the gay village’s new destination for both grubbing and clubbing

Looking out onto Church Street from inside Smith (Image: Daniel Barna)

Smith may be one of the less Google-able of Toronto’s new restaurants, but owner Renda Abdo is counting on sharp design and a menu of updated takes on comfort food to lure in the masses. “Smith is for anybody that enjoys good food, good music and good atmosphere,” the Wish and Black Skirt boss says of the newly opened three-level restaurant, which took over the space formerly occupied by Straight, one of the gay village’s more popular clubs. But just because it’s a restaurant, don’t expect things to go quiet at night.

Though more focused on dining than its predecessor, Abdo insists that Smith—which features a DJ booth and a dance floor on the third level—is still likely to transform into an all-out rager spot, if that’s what guests want: “We’re not interested in confining it to a label. We’re prepared to stay open until four or five in the morning if people want to continue their night.” It’s a see-what-happens attitude that’s par for the course in the teeming Church Wellesley Village, though Abdo is intent on appealing to the neighbourhood’s burgeoning community of people who “can appreciate detail and well executed design”—not just partiers.

The design was a collaborative effort between Abdo, partner Shanker Bhardwaj and the team at Commute Home (Nyood, Colborne Lane, Briscola). The result combines homey antiques and mismatched china with polished concrete floors, white exposed brick and a dramatic light fixture made of metal rods arranged like twigs. Along one wall, there’s a large installation that looks like some kind of robotic circuitry.

Executive chef Peter McKnight (who also worked with Abdo at Wish) focuses on familiar regional American cuisine; whimsical dishes inspired by his childhood, like boneless fried chicken with collard greens and ham gravy ($17) and pan-seared halibut in a beetroot beurre blanc ($26) should attract seasoned foodies and curious newbies alike. Other Toronto comfort standards, like a charcuterie board (market price) and a classic poutine ($6), are available for sharing. The menu, presented like a newspaper and designed by Toronto Life designer Tracy Ma), is set to change seasonally. And, of course, there will be brunch on weekends.

Start the slideshow »

Smith, 553 Church St., 416-926-2501,