What’s on the menu at the recently revamped Miller Tavern, a North York restaurant with a 166-year history

What’s on the menu at the recently revamped Miller Tavern, a North York restaurant with a 166-year history

Hanif Harji gave the long-standing Hoggs Hollow hangout a glow-up

A spread of new dishes at the Miller Tavern in Toronto

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Name: The Miller Tavern
Contact: 3885 Yonge St., 416-322-5544, themillertavern.com, @themillertavern
Neighbourhood: Hoggs Hollow
Owners: Hanif Harji, Terry Tsianos
Chef: Ilan Shpigel
Accessibility: Partially accessible (the lower level and patio)
Originally built as a hotel (with an adjoining barn for horses), the historic Miller Tavern has been a Hoggs Hollow fixture since 1857. And while there is indeed comfort in the familiar, when Scale Hospitality CEO Hanif Harji took over the reins with his partner Terry Tsianos two years ago, he felt that it was time for the uptown mainstay to feel a bit more, well, downtown.

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Ilan Shpigel, the executive chef of the Miller Tavern
Executive chef Ilan Shpigel

But “downtown” doesn’t mean karaoke rooms and table-smoked cocktails. Harji’s intention throughout the long and arduous renovation was steadfast: “I wanted to make it special enough to attract customers from outside the neighbourhood but still approachable and familiar for locals.” Now, classic design elements like tufted velvet banquettes, Victorian floral curtains, herringbone floors and saloon-sized bars (of which there are three) are contrasted with more modern cues, like towering wine fridges and glossy marble countertops. And though the plates coming out of executive chef Ilan Shpigel’s kitchen aren’t cooked over binchotan coals or sprinkled with pea flower dust, they are intelligent, crowd pleasing and just relevant enough.

The sign at the historic Miller Tavern in Toronto

The food

The new menu, with both surf and turf options, is something of a mash-up between a classic British steakhouse and an American brasserie. There are nibbles (smoked Marcona almonds, truffle potato chips), a beautifully briny selection of goods from under the sea (oysters, crudos, a luxe seafood tower) and mains that include moules frites, roast chicken and some meat-free options like a spring pea risotto. While everything is treated with a respectful hand, the beautiful bovine selections are the stars, with high-end cuts on offer.

Scallop ceviche and tortilla chips at the Miller Tavern in Toronto
The scallop ceviche is a raw bar standout. The fresh shellfish is chopped with pickled honeydew and cucumber; cured in aji amarillo, coconut and lime; and finished with crispy shallots and lime zest. Tortilla chips dusted with paprika and cayenne are served on the side for scooping. $25


The Miller Tavern's French onion soup
The rich and unctuous French onion soup is made from a classic beef bone broth, caramelized onions, garlic and herbs. A thick slice of Thuet’s baguette is hidden underneath a blanket of bubbling cave-aged Gruyère. $22


The salmon at the Miller Tavern in North York, Toronto
The Ōra King salmon is a beautifully fatty, sustainably raised fish from New Zealand that Shpigel refers to as the “Wagyu of salmon.” It arrives on a velouté of puréed sweet peas, parsley, vegetable stock and cream. The dish is finished with parsley oil, dill, crème fraîche, living mustard greens, parsley and pea shoots. $48


The bone-in ribeye steak with broccolini and a tureen of house jus at the Miller Tavern in Toronto
The 20-ounce bone-in ribeye is covered in a dry rub (garlic, onion fennel seed, nutritional yeast, mustard seed, dill seed, salt) and served alongside broccolini garnished with pickled red chilis. On the side: a tureen of house jus. $95


The Miller Tavern's take on sticky toffee pudding
What would a steakhouse be without sticky toffee pudding? This one is soaked in toffee sauce, served on crème anglaise and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. $16


A spread of new dishes at the Miller Tavern in Toronto
And a whole steakhouse spread
The drinks

A dauntingly lengthy list of wine and beer is joined by a selection of familiar cocktails. (Isn’t it refreshing to order a sidecar?) Still, some of the oldies are hidden behind fancy names: All the Flowers, for instance, is the house’s remix of the Moscow mule, a sweet and tart blend of pear-flavoured Grey Goose vodka, lime juice, ginger beer and flower water.

The Midnight Train to Montenegro is the Miller Tavern's take on a classic old fashioned cocktail
The Midnight Train to Montenegro, the bar’s take on an old fashioned, is a stiff blend of Tanqueray Seville gin, Amaro Montenegro and smoky barrel-aged bitters. $20


The Accidental Sunshine cocktail at the Miller Tavern
Designed for patio life, the Accidental Sunshine hints at the tropics with its blend of dark rum, Mionetto prosecco, pineapple juice and cane sugar syrup. $20


The Win, Place, Show cocktail at the Miller Tavern in Toronto
In honour of the horses that guests once tied up in front of the tavern, the Win, Place, Show is a celebratory drink of bourbon, lime juice, cucumber water and cane sugar syrup. $19
The space

The 20,000-square-foot multi-level venue, washed in colours of autumnal Ontario, is divided up into three sections: a lower-level lounge filled with leather banquettes, a dining room with an all-season patio upstairs, and an outdoor patio with a huge fireplace and its own bar. While the space is undeniably big and bold, it’s not a place for cowboys anymore. With its luxuriously comfortable furnishings and romantic lighting, the overall theme here is old-school elegance with a bit of new-world flair. Keep the horses at home, folks.

Just one of the many dining areas at Toronto's recently revamped Miller Tavern

Some banquette seating in the recently revamped Miller Tavern in Toronto

The bar at the recently renovated Miller Tavern in North York, Toronto

One of the many recently revamped dining rooms at the Miller Tavern

A bright and airy dining room at the Miller Tavern in Toronto

The exterior of the Miller Tavern a historic restaurant in North York, Toronto