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What’s on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale’s new snack bar that’s Italian by day, Taiwanese by night

By Liza Agrba| Photography by Ebti Nabag
What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night

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Name: Simpl Things Contact info: 269 Dunn Ave., 647-872-6402, simplthings.ca, @simplthings.to
Neighbourhood: Parkdale Previously: Nice Nice Owner: Evelyn Chick (Ahma) Chefs: Cody Wilkes, Betty Chia Accessibility: Not fully accessible

“I wasn’t planning on opening a restaurant, but when this space went on the market, I just fell in love with it,” says Simpl Things owner Evelyn Chick. “I wanted to curate something that’s excellent both day and night: a fantastic experience based on great service, nostalgia, and simple but well-thought-out flavours. It usually takes me a while to name things, but Simpl Things just came to me.”

Chick wears many hats. Her company, EC Projects, spans event curation, bar consultancy, custom cocktail kits and now two brick-and-mortar venues hosting innovative food and beverage concepts. Ahma, her other spot, is a gorgeous pop-up and event venue on Queen West with a bespoke catering and beverage program.

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
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What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
Evelyn Chick in Simpl Things

Simpl Things runs on something of an atypical model. From day to night, the menu does a complete 180 thanks to the creative energy of its two chefs-in-residence, who have virtually complete control of their respective food programs. By day, there’s Italian comfort food by chef Cody Wilkes; by night, chef Betty Chia serves up a menu of Taiwanese street food.

As you may expect from the woman behind a veritable beverage empire, an ultra-creative cocktail program—including house-canned cocktails and uncompromising non-alcoholic options—hums along in the background.

The food

Wilkes, who runs the daytime menu under the name Pasta Cartl, speaks enthusiastically about the chef-in-residence model. “I’ve never had so much control over my food,” he says. “It feels really good to bring my vision to the table.” Carbs make up the backbone of Wilkes’s menu—things like red wine–braised short rib pappardelle and a bread bowl brimming with focaccia and sourdough.

When the sun goes down, Chia’s Taiwanese street food hits the menu. She started Eats by Betty during the pandemic, serving up house-made dumplings and chili oil at pop-ups across the city. Tasty snacks and creative flavour bombs abound—think blistered shishito peppers with kimchi salt, a kung pao cauliflower bao and Szechuan beef tartare spread on bone marrow.

There is some crossover between the kitchens: Chia’s chili crisp makes its way into the compound butter accompanying Wilkes’ bread basket. Meanwhile, Wilkes makes the dumpling wrappers for Chia’s spicy wontons. Fusion or not, it’s certainly symbiosis.

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What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
A sampling of Wilkes’s day menu. Clockwise from top left: the house bread basket, the Cartl Beef Sando, a wedge salad and mushroom tagliolini

 

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
A bread bowl of focaccia and sourdough served with a chili crisp compound butter made with Chia’s own XO sauce. $7

 

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
A textural marvel of a wedge salad, complete with pumpkin seeds, cashews and—wait for it—corn nuts. This version subs gribiche sauce—a punchy mix of roasted garlic, house mayo, hard-boiled eggs, and house bread-and-butter pickles, among other things—for the typical blue cheese dressing. $12

 

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
A triumphant beef sandwich: house-made focaccia stuffed with tender braised beef, roasted peppers and onions, and provolone, served with a cup of beef drippings for dipping. $17

 

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
Wilkes’s house-made pappardelle (left) and tagliolini

 

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What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
Wilkes’s house pasta—a blend of semolina and 0 (that’s right, just one zero) flour—peppered with the best of mushroom season: meaty Ontario oysters and wild BC chanterelles. Butter, black pepper and pecorino make up the silky, emulsified sauce. It’s essentially a cacio e pepe with mushrooms. $18

 

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
A sampling of Chia’s Taiwanese street food. Clockwise from the bottom right: spicy chilled silken tofu, Szechuan beef tartare on bone barrow and spicy wontons in “XO Bomb” chili crisp broth

 

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
This dish packs a serious punch. Pork-and-shrimp wontons are laced with chili, scallion, cilantro and Chia’s own XO sauce, then finished with sesame oil, soy sauce and peanuts. $25

 

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
A block of silken tofu serves as a canvas for a vivid medley of bolder flavours: gochujang, black vinegar, garlic, ginger, chili and crumbled century egg. Scallion and sesame add texture. $14

 

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
Chia’s Sichuan beef tartare pairs tenderloin tips with roasted bone barrow, mustard greens, chilies, salted duck eggs and of course, Szechuan peppercorns—a decidedly Taiwanese take on tartare. It’s served with crispy chicharrones seasoned with house kimchi salt and finished with chilies and scallions. $22

 

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What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
Left to right: Wilkes, Chick and Chia

 

The drinks

Unsurprisingly, given Chick’s background, Simpl Things boasts one hell of a cocktail menu—but, keeping true to its name, it steers clear of gratuitous complexity. Like the food menu, there are separate day and night drink programs. During the day, house-canned cocktails, like the St.-Germain-and-Fino-sherry-infused Flower Power, are served alongside bracing tipples, like a hibiscus and pink peppercorn spritz. The night brings reinvented classics, more house-canned goodies, and a Colours of Simpl menu that lists vibrant, easy drinking bevies.

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
On the left, we have the Gold Crush, a drink from the night menu’s Colours of Simpl section. Old Forester bourbon infused with Asian pear is blended with white port, spruce and lemon for a bright, easy-drinking delight. $16 Photo by Ebti Nabag

 

The space

The place is split into two rooms, each with its own distinctive colour palette, and space-age vintage is the vibe throughout: think rounded corners, knick-knacks, bright hues and mood lighting. Chick scoured the province for vintage furniture, including a set of steel-coated ergonomic stools from the ’70s.

What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night
What's on the menu at Simpl Things, Parkdale's new snack bar that's Italian by day, Taiwanese by night

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