I heard about Dishcrawl via Twitter a few months ago and it sounded like a fun concept: tour and sample dishes from different restaurants in specific neighbourhoods with like-minded foodies. The catch? You don’t know the restaurants until you arrive at the meet-up spot! Throw caution and control to the wind, show up where you’re told and try some new things.
My girlfriend and I anxiously awaited the email telling us where to head for our first destination, having bought our tickets weeks in advance. The day arrived and we went down to Thor Espresso Bar (35 Bathurst St.) where fifty other Dishcrawlers had gathered. Co-owners Patrick and Tom provided espressos and americanos to everyone there, a welcoming sight on a very cold evening. The guys use a mix of beans from South and Central America and they make for a wonderful, rich drink. They also feature some lunch options and snacks like the incredibly sinful looking donuts. One of the Dishcrawlers couldn’t help but buy one for the road and I can’t say I blamed her.
When we had all gathered, Gretchen (half of the fabulous Dishcrawl team), led our group to Wabora, a swank Japanese restaurant located at the Thompson Hotel (550 Wellington St. West). We were seated in front of the very busy sushi chefs and were greeted by Wabora’s charming manager who explained what we would be eating that evening. He was quick to point out that Wabora was not strictly sushi restaurant, but also featured a hot kitchen to provide a delicious meal to satisfy any taste. Plates of crispy fried chicken pieces smothered in a sweet and spicy sauce arrived at the tables moments after and were quickly devoured by the hungry guests. Next up were the fresh salmon and dynamite rolls from the sushi kitchen. I thought the sushi was great: the fish and crab were fresh and the dynamite roll was spicy and had lots of crunch. My girlfriend and I agreed, though, that there was too much mayo for what was served, but that’s a matter of personal taste. Finally, an unexpected dessert course came to our table: four spoons with ice cream and deep-fried, chocolate-filled cigar cookies. Our table went silent except for the occasional, quiet, “Oh my god” followed groans of culinary happiness.
So where does one go after Japanese food? Why, a German sausage hall, of course! Wvrst opened this past summer and has been on my hit list since (609 King St. West). Featuring everything from pork to elk to kangaroo sausages and duck fat fries, this place is an original in Toronto. Great, relaxed vibe, friendly staff and an excellent variety of beers on tap – it’s no wonder this place was an instant hit. It’s no frills food, attitude and atmosphere and I can’t wait to try it again. We were told that it was much busier in the restaurant than they’d expected, so the service was delayed longer than we’d anticipated. No one seemed to mind too much, though, as friends old and new chatted away happily over pints. The fries arrived first in paper cones with ducks drawn on the front, served with several dipping sauces. Not too long after, rounds of rabbit and beef sausages with sides of jalapenos, sauerkraut, red peppers and onions started showing up at the table. I opted for the rabbit sausage and was not disappointed. In fact, I will likely have that again in addition to the kangaroo which I’m told is fantastic.
Sushi and sausage cravings filled, it was back down Bathurst to get a sneak preview of Cheesewerks (56 Bathurst St.), an artisan grilled cheese shop scheduled to open in a couple of weeks. A funky little joint making great grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade soups, the owners have clearly put a lot of thought and hard work into their venture. I was particularly excited to see that they had Red Fife wheat bread on their menu! The menu is exclusively cheese-based and they have thought out potential dietary restriction issues by providing cow, sheep and goat cheese as well as gluten-free bread. When we reported back to a friend that these options would be available, she was so thrilled! She hadn’t allowed herself to get excited about the place but is now very much looking forward to checking it out.
To wrap up the night, we got adorable little packages of cookies from Wagamama (766 King St. West) to take home. (The shop was long-closed before we could get there.) Tasty, homemade cookies were an excellent way to end a night full of delicious food!
As for Dishcrawl itself, I think it’s a fabulous idea that only has room to grow. I might suggest that they take smaller groups in the future if only to alleviate the crush on the kitchens. Wvrst was unexpectedly busy the night we went (likely due to the Leafs game on TV) and that put both groups behind on time. When we’d reached our final destination, you could feel some of the energy from the beginning of the night start to wane. Having said that, I think it’s a fun way to check out restaurants in an area of town you might not frequent that often and meet some new, like-minded people. I’ll definitely keep it on my radar.