Sharing a laugh, enjoying great food at The Edmund Burke

The Edmund Burke

Family-owned gastropub that welcomes you as a friend

If you’re looking for an unassuming place to enjoy wonderful food, a decent pint and good company in the City of Toronto, The Edmund Burke is the place.

Conveniently located at the western end of Toronto’s Greektown, within a block of Broadview subway station and its many bus and streetcar routes, The Edmund Burke is a small, family-run gastropub that seems to have one mission: make its customers feel welcomed and satisfied.

In fact, I hesitate to call it a gastropub as that comes across as more pretentious than this place is. Visiting The Edmund Burke is like hanging out with your closest neighbours, because in many ways, you are.

The husband-and-wife team—Ginger & Russ—that owns the place live in the neighbourhood and can be found behind the bar or clearing tables at all hours. Their goal is to enliven and enhance the neighbourhood, and they do this in spades with a quick smile and attention to detail. And to add to the family feel, Ginger’s brother John serves as head chef and culinary mastermind.

The food is simple, both in range and presentation, but that simplicity works to its advantage. Chef John understands his ingredients and lets them do the heavy lifting in his cooking.

With none of his dishes are the taste buds overwhelmed; rather, they are cradled by a few flavours, each having a specific place and purpose.

A good example of this is his recently introduced pulled pork sliders. Where others might take the delicately cooked meat and smother it in a sauce that screams spice, Chef John allows the flavour to come from the meat itself, keeping sauces at arm’s length.

He then tops that with a subtle apricot slaw that offers just a hint of sweetness coupled with a crunch to balance the meat’s tenderness. Given that I generally dislike apricot, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the slaw.

SONY DSC

Owner Ginger Robertson pulls the perfect pint

The chicken schnitzel is lightly crusted with the moisture sealed in, keeping the meat tender. And it sits atop perfectly prepared seasonal vegetables and a generous helping of spaetzle (a soft egg noodle). Although I quite enjoyed the chicken and vegetables, I have to admit to being so-so on the spaetzle, but that may just be me.

The Chicago-style beef burger with fries was completely solid, however, and a wonderful mix of flavours from the aged cheddar and garlic aioli. You may wonder how you make something as simple as a burger pop. Chef John does.

The pub itself is cozy without being claustrophobic, like so many Toronto restaurants, so you can draw together as a group or sit apart for quiet dining. By the same token, it can get a little loud should you be sitting near a particularly boisterous table.

The one aspect of the place that throws me off a bit is the choice of dining tables, which seem better suited to a rural truck stop diner than an urban gastropub, and particularly when set in contrast to the beautifully finished bar and beer taps. That being said, everything about this place is delicious, and you’ll be so focused on your meal that you’ll never see past your plate.

And finally, in keeping with the neighbours-looking-after-neighbours theme, Russ and Ginger have done everything they can to keep Chef John’s food reasonably priced without sacrificing on ingredients or his skills, and prices are more than competitive with the bars and restaurants in the area. Their menu would never be classed as cheap eats, but given the mastery that goes into the food preparation and the portion sizes, I’m ecstatic to pay $16 for the schnitzel or burger.

See also:

dine.to’s The Reveal – The Edmund Burke

Pints galore

Taps to tantalize all tastes

12 Days of Gratitude – Derek

Derek

I’d like you to meet my friend Derek (the tall one), although the word “friend” seems too small, while buddy, pal and fellow-reprobate don’t quite fit either.

Although Derek and I have no blood ties, he is easily a brother to me, a constant companion for the last 20 years or so; a man who enjoys a good laugh, a quick pint (or several) and a jovial nod and wink.

If you ever get the chance, come say hello to Derek and see how quickly he invites you to the perpetual party that is his life.

 

(Part Seven of my 12 Days of Gratitude…because the rest of the news sucks)

Long weekendless

It’s a long weekend, this weekend in Canada. We’re celebrating Victoria Day, which is a celebration of either the capital of British Columbia, a previous Queen of half the planet, or a friend of mine who blogs Victoriously.

Regardless of what we call it, however, it is a celebration of Spring (welcome to Canada) and of drinking beer on patios and at cottages—the May Two-Four weekend, as some of us older folks recall it (commemorating the Canadian single-serving case of 24 bottles).

What makes this year’s version a little odd for me is that for the last year or so, every weekend has been a long weekend, for I am a freelance writer. On any given Monday or Friday, I can choose not to work. Likewise, on any given Saturday or Sunday, you are likely to find me working. Day nomenclature has ceased to hold meaning for me.

For all intents and purposes—and I have plenty of both—the only real difference between a Wednesday and a Saturday is how many of my friends can come out to play at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. And most of my friends are in entertainment, journalism or science, so even that constriction isn’t very strict.

Admittedly, I am less likely to hold an interview for an article assignment on the weekend, but those are few and far between.

Now, my freedom comes at a price…or lack of a price, as the case may be. My pay packet is smaller than it once was. I have no health benefits but what the government gives me (welcome to Canada!). I often have to make myself go for a walk to ensure I get some exercise.

However…I don’t attend meetings. If my boss is an ass, I’m probably looking in the mirror. My commute is maybe two metres. And my drinking problem doesn’t seem to be suffering (phew!).

This morning, I seriously argued with myself as to whether I was going to work on a feature due next week or take my camera out for a walk…and it could have gone either way (I strangely decided to work on my feature).

I have no family about whom to worry or of whom I need to take care, so I understand I have a luxury of options that many feel they cannot afford.

At the same time, I watch many of my responsible friends—typically the ones who can’t come out to play at either 2 o’clock—and see them dig themselves an early grave, fighting to give their families everything except the one thing their families probably want most of all: themselves.

I may die tonight—exercising that drinking problem—or I may live for another hundred years. I don’t know. But either way, I’m not worried about it. I don’t have a timer on things to accomplish.

That’s a nice feeling.

All y’all have a great series of days that may be a weekend!

Image

Shoot where the goalie isn’t

I’ve spent a lot of time in ice rinks watching beer-league and kids hockey and one thing that has amazed me is how often players will shoot the puck into the goalie’s chest. We all know that the object of the game is to get the puck past the goalie, but for whatever reason, our shot is drawn to the goalie rather than to the net. It is as though the goalie secretly inserted a small metal bar in the puck before the game and is now wearing a strong magnet under his or her pads.

Image

 

(American Hockey League; Toronto Marlies vs. Hamilton Bulldogs)

I’ve also decided that on a typical office trash can, the rim of the can generates a gravitational well. I say this because, no matter how often I throw a wad of paper into the can, from whatever angle or distance, I am more likely to hit the rim of the can than I am to sink the shot or miss completely. Something must bend space because if you look at the volume of the universe taken up by the rim and compare that to the rest of the frickin’ universe, it doesn’t make sense that I would hit the rim so often.

Of course, another explanation for both of these phenomena is that humans have an instinctive fetish for what we can see; that we are unconsciously drawn to the tangible to the detriment of the intangible.

The reason I wax on about this is because I believe what is true for trash cans and hockey games is also true for creativity.

After rehearsals for a sketch comedy show for which I write, I was drinking with some of the actors and one of them asked me how I came up the ideas for my sketches. How did I take a relatively mundane scenario and find just the right moment and way to skew it to elicit humour?

For me, I said, it’s about perspective and being able to ignore the hard edges of reality to see relationships no one else has bothered to see.

Image

 

(Photo taken in Barbados)

Too many of us get hung up on what we see, what sits before us in all its light-reflecting, retina-stimulating glory. We see reality and get stuck on that being simply what is. Reality just is. There’s nothing else other than it.

Sitting across from her, I described the wide-eyed reality I saw.

In the foreground was sugar packets, salt and pepper shakers, the table, my beer glass, her beer glass. Slightly behind that was her, the barely restrained frenzy of her hair, her facial expression, the curve of her neck, shoulders and arms, her clothes. Behind her, a table of four animated people sharing a night out (won’t go into details) and behind them, a window onto a busy Toronto street; sidewalks, pedestrians, traffic, storefronts.

I then squinted my eyes and all those hard edges faded away to be replaced with a visual melange. I could not tell where my friend ended and the woman behind her started. Vague shapes of pedestrians blebbed out of her head, like animated thoughts or alter-egos escaping into the night.

Image

 

(Photo of a fountain on Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition grounds)

My perspective had changed, so my reality had changed. I no longer saw a goalie blocking my shot or a trash can rim siphoning wads of paper from the vaster universe.

However it is accomplished, I think this is what separates open creatives from the rest of humanity, and by creatives, I mean not just artists (writers, painters, photographers, etc) but also entrepreneurs and technology innovators. They understand the lowercase nature of realities rather than Reality.

The altered perspectives are there for anyone to see—and everyone’s perspectives are going to be different—but it is the creatives who choose to look for them. We can see where the goalie isn’t and choose to shoot there.

Image

(The Toronto Marlies beat the Hamilton Bulldogs at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre)