Backlash menus: some Toronto restaurants go rogue during Winterlicious by serving up their own prix fixe
Summer- and Winterlicious are divisive topics among those in the restaurant biz: some enjoy the increased business, while others hate working within the city’s rules. This year, however, there seems to be a surge in non-Winterlicious events—or, as it’s known in the Twitterverse, Antilicious.
The Samovar Room, for example, is holding Vodkalicious, with a three-course vodka-inspired menu for $30. “It was simply too late to apply to be a part of it,” said Samovar’s Rumen Dimitroff, whose vodka bar opened in late August (the deadline for this year’s applicants is August 10). “Winterlicious is a great event, and I still wanted to do something special around the same time.”
Ian Sorbie, president of Il Fornello, has been going rogue for the past five years with his own winter prix fixe special, Winterdelicious. “We were quite upset that we weren’t let into Winterlicious in the beginning. We couldn’t do it because we’re a chain restaurant. They now let chains in, but they only allow one outlet to participate. For us, that didn’t work because a lot of our locations are in the core of the city and it wouldn’t make sense if we did just one location.”
This is why Sorbie created Winterdelicious (he says the event’s original logo said “Winterlicious” with “de” crudely inserted as a cheeky nod to the city), a three-course $25 dinner menu available at seven Il Fornello outlets.
“Winterlicious isn’t a cash cow, but it totally kills the other restaurants that don’t participate. People working at those restaurants can see the drop, so they hold their own programs,” says Sorbie. “I would encourage people to do the other -licious places because they offer real value and don’t have to follow the city’s guidelines.”
We’re hardly ones to turn down a Yorkville meal at a Kensington price, regardless of if it was sanctioned by city hall. Check out Toronto Life’s “Best of Winterlicious” for our picks of the participating restaurants, but here is a cheat sheet of similar events throughout the city:
• Cowbell is holding Sausage Party (their title, not ours) on January 26 with a five-course sausage meal (with beer pairings) for $30.
• Slow Food Toronto is hosting an Ontario Game Dinner night on February 2 at Hank’s with a seven-course meal for $60.
• Cava is hosting a pork-cooking contest with such participants as Mark Cutrara, Grant van Gameren and Michael Steh.
• Grace has just launched its $20 TV Dinner Thursdays.