What’s on the menu at the recently revamped Old York Tavern
The 50-year-old spot now skews French
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.