What’s on the menu at the recently revamped Old York Tavern

What’s on the menu at the recently revamped Old York Tavern

The 50-year-old spot now skews French

A spread of bistro-style French dishes and wine at Toronto's Old York Tavern

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Name: The Old York Tavern
Contact: 167 Niagara St., @theoldyorktavern
Neighbourhood: West Queen West
Owners: Katie Bradley, Saad Ali and David Le
Chefs: Saad Ali and David Le
Accessibility: Not fully accessible
 
The Old York, open for more than 50 years before shuttering last year, was a Toronto institution. Now, it’s found a second life under the care of a new team—co-owners Katie Bradley, David Le and Saad Ali, who worked together for almost a decade at Côte de Boeuf and then Milou before joining forces to open their own spot. The Old York’s previous owner, who met Bradley through a mutual friend, convinced her to take the reins—and since she wasn’t looking to open her own restaurant, it did take some convincing.

From left: co-owners David Le, Katie Bradley and Saad Ali.

“But, once I got a good look at the space, it was an easy decision,” says Bradley. “With its history, corner location and weird angular construction, it gave me the romantic vibe of a New York tavern. With Saad and David, I envisioned what it could become.”

And while the restaurant’s nostalgic elements and name (with the addition of the word Tavern) have carried into the reopening, this is a fresh concept. Leaving behind the ultra-casual ethos of the original spot, the new Old York Tavern has a new, chef-driven menu with moderately fancy takes on bistro classics.

A sign on a window at the Old York Tavern in Toronto

The food

Think timeless American bistro fare with a French lean. It’s an all-day affair with a few scaled-back breakfast offerings, lunch, dinner and a big brunch on weekends. There’s smoked salmon tartine made with sourdough from Lev Bakery, meltingly tender grilled octopus with pearls of fregula pasta and Tuscan kale, and a signature grilled burger that fully embraces the synergy of beef and onion. Elevated but approachable enough for a casual night out, this menu is purpose-built to sustain the restaurant’s spirit as a habit-forming neighbourhood institution.

Waffle-cut potato chips with a delectably onion-forward dip of green onion, scallion, crispy shallot, and shallot oil in a yogurt aïoli base
A menu mainstay, these are waffle-cut potato chips with a delectably onion-forward dip of green onion, scallion, crispy shallot and shallot oil in a yogurt aioli base. $16

 

Chicken liver mousse piped onto grilled Lev Bakery sourdough with sweet apple butter compote and a sprinkle of Maldon salt
Luscious chicken liver mousse is piped onto grilled Lev Bakery sourdough, over sweet apple-butter compote and beneath a sprinkle of Maldon salt. $13

 

The base of this uncompromising vegetarian dish is whipped chevre with sumac and salsa macha, or pumpkin seed chili oil, with crispy lentils, acorn and butternut squashes
The base of this uncompromising vegetarian dish is whipped chèvre with sumac and salsa macha, or pumpkin seed chili oil, with crispy lentils and a squash duo (acorn and butternut). It’s rounded out with a sprinkle of dill. $19

 

A plate of fried calamari
A take on a recipe from Le’s childhood, this is fried calamari seasoned with a mix of Sichuan, white and black peppers and laced with lemon, shallots, garlic, and lemon and lime juices. Everything that comes out of the deep fryer at the Old York is gluten free, dredged in a mix of cornstarch and rice flour. $17

 

A grilled burger on a sesame seed bun and a side of fries
Initially, Le was disappointed that his new kitchen didn’t come equipped with a flat-top. Then he realized his burger tasted better on the grill. It’s a dry-aged patty made with a beef-chuck blend and layered with pickle, shaved onion and some charred-onion aioli on a sesame-seed potato bun. It comes with fries and a guindilla pepper garnish. $26

 

Octopus, poached and grilled to tender perfection and served on a bed of fregola pasta with a verdant kale pistou and sautéed Tuscan kale
Here we have octopus, poached and grilled to tender perfection and served on a bed of fregula pasta (similar to pearl couscous) with a verdant kale pistou and sautéed Tuscan kale. $38

 

Whole pork belly set over fried Brussels sprouts and topped with almond coriander crumble and pickled chilis
This whole pork belly is marinated in a mix of tamari, maple syrup, coriander, paprika and garlic. It’s braised with aromatics and set over Brussels sprouts, fried and tossed with zippy sherry vinegar, and topped with almond coriander crumble and pickled chilis. $25

 

Conestoga eggs soft-scrambled with butter and cream, thick-cut double smoked bacon, a green salad with pickled red onion and a lemon caper vinaigrette
This is their signature breakfast plate: golden Conestoga eggs soft-scrambled with butter and cream, thick-cut double-smoked bacon, and a green salad with pickled red onion and a lemon caper vinaigrette. $21

 

Crispy pommes dauphine with aïoli and chives
These crispy pommes dauphine are available only during brunch. The spherical deep-fried hash browns with aioli and chives are crispy two-bite delights. $9

 

Soft-scrambled eggs with herbed chevre, smoked salmon and pickled red onion on sourdough
Soft-scrambled eggs over sourdough and herbed chèvre are topped with smoked salmon and pickled red onion. A neat, satisfying little tartine. $24

 

This indulgent lobster benedict marries East Coast lobster with spinach and Conestoga eggs on a Lev Bakery challah base
This indulgent lobster Benedict marries East Coast lobster with spinach and Conestoga eggs on a Lev Bakery challah base. On the side: a frisée and gem lettuce salad tossed in a lemon caper vinaigrette. $36

 

The drinks

There’s a tight, classics-driven cocktail menu, including a caesar served in a hurricane glass and garnished with a big stalk of celery, a steak-spice rim and a guindilla pepper. There are a couple of Irish brews (Guinness and Kilkenny), Stella, Hoegaarden and other familiar macro beers on tap, plus bottles from Burdock and a few large-format beers and ciders. As for wine, there’s a focus on food-friendly classics, with a few funkier natural bottles in the mix. And fans of the pickleback shot will dig the punchy Pepperback, made with whiskey and guindilla pepper brine.

A bottle of Biere Vivante de Savagnin 2023 from Brasserie des Voirons, a brewery in Lucinges, France
A bottle of Bière Vivante de Savagnin 2023 from Brasserie des Voirons, a brewery in Lucinges, France

 

A bottle of Chinon Rouge Les Picasses, a natural cabernet franc from the Loire region of France
A natural Cabernet Franc from France’s Loire region

 

The house martini is a riff on a Vesper, made with gin, vermouth, Lillet, orange bitters and Tio Pepe sherry
The house martini is a riff on a Vesper, made with gin, vermouth, Lillet, orange bitters and Tio Pepe sherry. $17

 

A proper bistro caesar, heavy on the Worcestershire, with a steak-spice rim and guindilla pepper garnish
A proper bistro caesar, heavy on the Worcestershire, with a steak-spice rim and a guindilla pepper garnish. $16

 

The space

It’s a warm, inviting room that feels like the kind of homey neighbourhood spot perfect for lingering over eggs, bacon and coffee. There’s a black-and-white checkered floor, dark wood finishes and windows that let in plenty of natural light. Outside, there’s a patio—currently decked out with Muskoka chairs, heaters and blankets, and decorative snowshoes and toboggans for a sugar shack feel.

Inside Toronto's Old York Tavern

The dining room of Toronto's Old York Tavern

The Old York Tavern's dining room

Muskoka chairs line the patio at Toronto's Old York Tavern

The covered patio at Toronto's Old York Tavern

A sign outside of the Old York Tavern, a bistro in Toronto

The exterior of the Old York Tavern, a bistro-style restaurant in Toronto