Introducing: The East Ender, Leslieville’s new spot for “stepped-up” comfort food

Introducing: The East Ender, Leslieville’s new spot for “stepped-up” comfort food

Chef and co-owner Greg Argent (still in his civies) readies the bar for a busy Friday night service (Image: Signe Langford)

The landlord of 1212 Queen Street East wasn’t the only one to lose out when the owners of Tomi-Kro packed up and left; the neighbourhood also felt the void. But with the arrival of The East Ender in the space, the healing has begun—after all, what can’t a pork belly slider make right? (That’s the hope, at least.) Chef and co-owner, Greg Argent (Rain, Cru, Forte Bistro), with co-owner Hieu Nguyen (Forte Bistro, Cru) have moved into the 55-seat space, and, says Argent, the team has “done a lot of cleaning, but didn’t change too much.”

Inside, both rooms retain the same genteel rustic feel: exposed brick walls, splashes of sage green, worn, glowing plank floors and comfortable silvery-green banquettes. Gone, however, are the white linens: “We wanted to make the room more family-friendly and casual,” Argent told us. “We got rid of the tablecloths, and we’re picking up some highchairs today, so families feel more welcome here.” It’s been open since the end of April, the place has been packed most nights—Argent believes his formula of offering reasonable prices for “stepped-up” comfort food will serve him well in this neighbourhood.

Argent describes his menu as “global cuisine with influences from North Africa, Asia and Canada.” Everything on the menu is under $20, and most wines are under $45, and are all available by the glass. The ethos is local, sustainable and naturally raised wherever possible. “I go to St. Lawrence Market and buy what’s freshest, what excites me,” he says. “I buy my seafood from Diana’s, game from La Ferme, Japanese ingredients at Sanko, Asian at T & T, and my meat from a butcher just up the street.”  When Argent cooked at Cru, diners took note of his bison carpaccio with truffled popcorn, and his whimsical handling of luxe ingredients is still very much at play here. Seared, pole-caught Albacore tuna from B.C. sits on a tangy Asian slaw, with a few cheeky wasabi green peas dotted around the plate ($11). Desserts (all $9) are executed by another Rain (and Ame) alum, Robert Gonsalves, and include a flourless chocolate torte with peanut butter foam, raspberry coulis and candied peanuts (don’t get too attached, though: Gonsalves is only on board for the launch). Once Argent returns from a honeymoon trip to Scotland, brunch will start and he’ll finally get to realize his dream of a self-serve Caesar bar, laden with all manner of extras for a truly custom hair of the dog: pickled quail eggs, pickled veggies, poached shrimp, dulse, wasabi, smoked salts and, of course, an array of hot sauces.

The East Ender, 1212 Queen St. E., 647-346-3278,