Small Town Food Co. (1263 Queen Street W) only opened its doors to the public five days ago, but we can already tell that its big heart is gonna do just fine in this city. From the moment you walk in, there’s something instantly inviting about the newly renovated space. The curved bar nearly greets you at the door and turns gently in toward the restaurant, leading you past a small collection of tables toward the open kitchen operating in plain sight. There’s a method behind this design; it’s not simply coincidence that you feel like you’re walking into your friend’s kitchen.
Owners Stephen McKeon (Wrongbar Manager) and Cameron Hutton (Drake Hotel Bartender) have been friends since their teenage years. In fact, a brief history of their time together can be found in the cocktail list. The I-go-down-way-too-easy Remington & Bigelow (Aperol, aged rum, fresh lemon, sugar, cracked pepper, egg white), for instance, took its name from the last names on the friends’ first pair of fake IDs. Want more? Order a round of Vintage 1984 – the year both McKeon and Hutton were born. The point is, Small Town Food Co. is filled with the kind of warmth that small town history breeds. Heading here feels like heading home, a fact emphasized even stronger by chef Tallis Voakes’s electric stove. Anything he cooks here he wants you to feel as though you could cook at home yourself (though we doubt it’ll be anywhere as good). Not only that, the openness of the kitchen was created because he wants you to feel free to ask any questions you might have about the eclectic menu or just watch the whole process unfold.
Small Town Food Co.’s menu is split into three simple sections: Sharable, Meat, and From the Sea. We’ve only stepped in for a quick bite so our introduction starts with the Raw & Cooked Salad. It’s seasonal root vegetable (today that means beets) and falafel balls. The beets have been done two ways; one pickled, one raw, and each slice is interspersed with fresh radishes and grapefruit, all of which is underlined with a house-made tahini sauce. It’s deceptively simple, easy to enjoy, and the perfect amount for a starter. Next we’re given a delightful dish, or should we say skillet, filled with Popcorn Alligator (confit, buttermilk, spicy mayo). Warning: this is as addictive as its namesake (the popcorn part, funny guy). It’s basically like eating candy, but good candy – none of that knock off Bulk Barn stuff your parents used to try and stiff you with.
The fact that Small Town Food Co. keeps its kitchen open til 1am every night of the week (except Tuesday, when they’re closed altogether) means that we’ll certainly be back soon to try some of their larger plates, including the Rabbit Bolognese, Ox Cheek, and their Panko Crusted Albacore Fish & Chips. Though we also hear their Scotch Egg is already one of the best in the city… So whether it’s for an early cocktail, a full dinner, or a late-night snack, Small Town Food Co. has officially become a must-try Parkdale destination.