Little Italy has seemingly taken a backseat on our culinary radar in recent years thanks to the emergence of quick favourites on/off the Ossington strip to the west and Leslieville to the east. It has returned recently, however, thanks to the revitalizing new places that have opened, the never-ending winter that has us craving College Street’s ample ice cream and gelato selection, and a recent visit to Habits Gastropub. Since it opened in the summer of 2012, Habits has become a neighbourhood favourite and is a new go-to for us as well. Here’s why…
First and foremost, we must define gastropub. The British term is used to describe a combination of gastronomy and a pub, or high-quality pub fare. In other words, the best of both worlds – a pub feel with better food. With its exposed brick and warm, home-like feel, Habits has that welcoming, unpretentious pub vibe without the nightly line of typical token, drunk and washed up regulars at the bar, lingering scent of cheap cleaner in bathrooms, or food that you will regret eating hours later. Not to mention, it looks as welcoming in broad daylight for their delicious brunch as it does once the sun goes down.
The Spins on Comfort Favourites
Whether for a hangover lunch or to indulge with your significant other after a long day at the office, the best part about pub fare is the shameless comfort that comes from chowing down on the food. Just because the food is more refined than your typical neighbourhood pub doesn’t mean that it won’t make you feel warm and comfy. The menu is constantly changing by season, but there are staple items that do not change… mostly the pub favourites. Far from typical, greasy grub, all items have fun spins. Case in point: Mac and cheese with woodland mushrooms, double-smoked bacon, black truffle, Asiago and Parmesan cheeses; eggs Benny on jalapeno cornbread with chorizo, avocado, pickled onion and a chipotle hollandaise; grilled cheese on raison bread with triple-creme brie, house-cured and smoked bacon, and a decadent brownie made with smoked chocolate. Habits also offers an assortment of options for those craving a high-end restaurant dinner, including charcuterie and cheese selections, salmon served two ways (cured slices, smoked mousse on crostinis), rack of lamb and bone marrow, among others.
The Whiskey and Wine
If you’re a whiskey lover, it looks like you have found your new watering hole. Habits offers over 320 whiskeys, which is actually the third largest selection of whiskey in the GTA. Even if whiskey isn’t your thing, the spot makes a great, unexpected place to take whiskey-drinking clients, friends and parents (Father’s Day, perhaps?) In another clear difference from your typical pub with its very limited wine offerings, Habits offers over 40 international and VQA selections ($35-265), many of which are available by 5 oz ($7-9) or 7 oz pours ($10-12).
The Quality Local Entertainment
The people at Habits have an eye for quality local talent. Not only does the place offer an assortment of live music 2-3 nights per week, it also features (our favourite) live comedy every Thursday. In terms of the live music, don’t expect too many cheesy, used up cover bands like your pub down the street. Instead, Habits offers an assortment of jazz, blues, swing, folk, and, of course, rock and roll. Also happening on the last Sunday of every month is the Charcoal Sketch Cabaret, which draws an assortment of loyal guests each time.
Who doesn’t like to save a buck or two when it comes to casual dining? On Monday through Wednesday, for example, their beloved tacos are only $4 and can be paired with $5 pints of Stone Hammer beer – that’s dinner and a drink for less than $20. Also, the last Monday of every night is industry night, where all drinks (no exceptions) are half price.
Check it out for yourself. Habits Gastropub is located at 928 College Street West.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)