Where Bar Reyna owner Nicki Laborie gets to-go cheeseburgers, soft-shell crab tacos and seafood paella

Where Bar Reyna owner Nicki Laborie gets to-go cheeseburgers, soft-shell crab tacos and seafood paella

Laborie, at Reyna on King in Corktown

More Takeout Diaries

Like many others in the restaurant industry this year, Nick Laborie had to get creative. In the summer, Bar Reyna and Reyna on King pivoted to sell everything from pre-made picnic baskets and vac-packed cocktails to boozy freezies and gelato. The busy entrepreneur had plans to open an events and catering space in March (ouch) so to cover the rent, she created a pop-up store in the space called Reyna Bazaar that sold locally crafted goods and Mediterranean pantry items. And now that we find ourselves in yet another lockdown, Laborie has started Reyna on the Rocks, selling DIY cocktail kits filled with everything you need to play bartender at home, as well as monthly cocktail subscriptions.

When it comes to her own mealtimes, Laborie says that she does order takeout once or twice a week. “I also sometimes order to the restaurant for our team. While nobody is enjoying the pandemic, it did put many restaurants who wouldn’t normally do takeout, online. This has been great for people to try places they’ve always wanted to try. And right now all restaurants are depending on takeout and delivery, so it’s important to support our favourites to keep them in business!”

The Haam

342 Adelaide St. W., 416-977-7258, thehaam.ca, @thehaamto

“Sometimes a woman cannot make up her mind, and I discovered this place when I was in one of those moods. It’s a fusion of Japanese and Mexican cuisines. Who knew this could be a thing, but I love tacos and I love sushi. I love that I can order my favourite sushi and a taco from the same place. It makes me very happy.”

Go-to item 1: Monstruo soft shell taco
Tasting notes: “The soft shell crab taco is amazing. It’s loaded to the brim and, because of the panko crust, the crab is super crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The taco is finished off with all the usual toppings: guacamole, poblano cream, pickled red onions and queso fresco. And while I don’t usually like cheese with seafood, this dish works for me.”

 

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Go-to item 2: Salmon and unagi ochizushi
Tasting notes: “I also order the salmon and unagi (freshwater eel) pressed sushi. The quality of each is always on point.”

 

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Labora Restaurant

433 King St. W., 416-260-9993, labora.to, @laborarestaurant

“This is one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. I was thrilled to see they stayed open through the entire pandemic and chef-owner Rob Bragagnolo managed to execute his already perfect paella into a perfect takeout paella.”

Go-to item 1: Grilled octopus and red prawn paella
Tasting notes: “The paella is everything you would expect it to be: the flavourful rice, perfectly cooked seafood, artichokes, capers, baby peas and the saffron-lemon aïoli make magic in your mouth. Once you start eating it, it’s hard to stop. And the portions are generous, too. I got the four-person serving for three people once and I was eating paella for days!”

 

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Go-to item 2: Spanish cheesecake
Tasting notes: “I actually hate cheesecake but this is unlike any other cheesecake I’ve ever tried. It’s addictive. The light creaminess of the inside is accentuated by the bruléed exterior, and the side of spicy strawberry marmalade cuts the richness of the cake. While I typically like to have just one bite of dessert, I lose all control when it comes to this cake because one bite is just not enough!”

 

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Richmond Station

1 Richmond St. W., 647-748-1444, richmondstation.ca, @richmondstation

Ryan Donovan and Carl Heinrich’s financial district restaurant, known for serving farm-fresh cuisine, has branched out into hosting virtual events. “Aside from making the perfect burger, all of their dishes are done really well. Their menu changes regularly and it’s always creative.”

Go-to item 1: The Stn. Burger
Tasting notes: “I don’t crave burger often but when I do, it’s gotta be Richmond Station’s. In my opinion, it’s the best burger in the city. The beef is grass-fed, organic and cooked to perfection. And the sharpness of the aged cheddar paired with the beet chutney and pickled onions provides a perfect balance of sweet and savoury flavours. While I am usually the type to split a burger with someone, I eat this one all by myself. You can also buy the beet chutney on its own, it’s great to use on a cheeseboard or on fish.”

 

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Go-to item 2: Whatever’s for dessert
Tasting notes: “The zucchini cake they were serving in the summer, along with whipped mascarpone, burnt honey and pumpkin seed, had the perfect amount of sweetness to it. And the different textures made every bite interesting.”