It’s time to put some crispy, savoury, mouthwatering grub back on Ate by Ate! And what better way to do so than to introduce everyone to one of Bay Street’s popular work week diners, The Gabardine, where the taps are flowing and the food is droolworthy! Located at 372 Bay Street at the corner of Bay and Richmond smackdab in the downtown core of the city, The Gabardine is a work-week only establishment. Open from 8am-10pm Monday through Friday, the warm and welcoming diner caters to the work crowd, the university student crowd, and those who happen to have a hankering for really fab diner “grub” and a weekday off – like me! With menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Gabardine positions itself as a casual, comforting space for hungry mouths in the morning before work, ravenous appetites midday, and relaxed and happy tummies at the end of a long day for hearty meals and drinks. With stools at the bar, tables for two, and long booths for groups, it’s a great place to eat and unwind, especially when you’re in the mood for delicious comfort food.
Which is, you know, always.
I made my way here for lunch during one of my Eaton Centre and underground PATH walking days knowing exactly what I wanted to eat which was quite the accomplishment considering my indecisiveness over all things yummy. Given how I agonized over the menu online before coming, I really didn’t have any excuse for hemming and hawwing but when a menu reads like a food bible, all decisions have the potential of flying out the door; I’m used to it.
The Gabardine’s lunch menu (served from 11:30am-3pm) is split into 3 categories: snacks and salads, sandwiches (served with a choice between fries or salad greens), and mains. Most items ring in between $10-$20, but of course, there are few $6 and $9’s and a few $20+ but you get the idea. I suggest you arm yourself with a napkin because you’re going to have to mop up some drool after reading the list of menu items. Yummies include deep fried beer cheese croquettes with maple mustard ($13), roasted beet and farro salad with ricotta, grilled pickled onions and everything bagel spice ($15), the ever-growing popular ploughman’s lunch platter ($24) which in my mind is a nifty farm-to-table twist on the charcuterie board, Chinese bbq pork on a bun ($16) with mayo, scallions and napa cabbage slaw (with the option of substituting the pork for tofu ($14) – yum to both options!), chicken pot pie with herbed pastry crust ($19), a daily vegetarian risotto special and SO MUCH MORE. There are items for hearty appetites, for vegetarians, for sandwich lovers, greasy spoon lovers, artisinal food lovers, the list goes on. But the common thread is comfort food.
So what did I decide on before parking myself down at their window seat at 11:30am sharp that day? The incredible-sounding shrimp po’ boy with butter lettuce, tomato relish and aioli ($16). COME TO MAMA. I have wanted a po’ boy sandwich for so long so seeing this on their menu made me break out into a happy dance! BUT! Instead of shrimp, the chefs were trying out something a little different for their po’ boys that day: crispy fried cod fish. “Does that still sound tasty?” asked the nice waitress tentatively. “Oh, for sure, that’s fine!”
What I really wanted to say was “HECK YES!” Pft, shrimp, cod fish, it’s all heaven to me. I freakin’ love my fish sandwiches and tacos.
This meal was all sorts of fantabulous. Not only was the portion huge (I wouldn’t be surprised if folks pulled a jaw muscle trying to fit the po’ boy into their mouth), but the quality and flavours were wonderful. It’s easy to brush diner grub off as unhealthy, greasy, and well, cheap. But this was none of the above. The roll was soft and chewy, my salad greens were crisp and dressed perfectly (who wants soggy salad?), the butter lettuce was big and bright (who wants pale stuff that only covers half the bun?), and the fish was crispy, savoury, and to-die-for. The cod fish chunks weren’t greasy, they were meaty, white and fleshy, and oh-so-delicious, and they were piled on high! And combined with the tomato relish and creamy aioli (which functioned like the fish sauce), everything just worked.
It’s funny, when you’re eating something super savoury or super sweet, you tend to get a bit tired of it half way through because the flavours just get too overwhelming for the palate. It’s not that you’re feeling full, it just gets to be too much with some foods. But with this cod fish po’ boy with tomato relish, you consistently get bites of savoury fish between bites of acidic and sweet flavour from the relish to break things up so you don’t feel weighed down or bored with the same flavours throughout the meal and I totally appreciated how the aioli wasn’t glopped on. It was a meal of crispy, yummy happiness and one I enjoyed during those elusive weekdays off. If you have the chance, go. It’s worth it.
The Gabardine is located at 372 Bay Street at the corner of Richmond Street West in Toronto’s downtown core. They are open 8am-10pm, Monday through Friday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Visit their website at http://www.thegabardine.com/ to view their menus, beer, and wine lists and follow them @thegabardine on Twitter for the latest.