There is nothing better than a great home cooked meal, but let’s face it, most of us are cooking challenged or are too overworked or tired to come home and prepare a good meal. Thus, it was with great excitement and enthusiasm that I went to Pantry in Rosedale, just 3 days after it opened in September 2016. This is a new enterprise by Adrian Niman of the Food Dudes, and his partners Matt Blondin and Brent McClenahan. I happen to be a big fan of the Food Dudes, as I have used their catering company to great success as well have enjoyed dining at Rasa, and still want to try Omaw which is on my list. The Pantry is located at 1094 Yonge Street on the corner of Roxborough Street. The new place will attract people from Rosedale, Summerhill, Midtown and Yorkville. The crowd is educated and discerning patrons and, judging from the lines and the busy tables, I would say that they have a hit on their hands. The area is obviously starving for a place with this caliber of convenience and taste. Let’s face it, Pusateri’s offers convenience, but their readymade food is pretty tasteless and overcooked. Sorry, I still love you Pusateri’s.
There was no signage outside when I visited, except for a small sign on the door, which was open at the time, so you couldn’t see it. The place is finished in light and blond woods, with black and white accents. There are some booths as well as a communal table at the front window with bar stools. There is also a small but lovely patio on the Roxborough side. How Pantry works is, you line up and you pick your combo, pick your protein, and pick your sides. The proteins included: sirloin steak, roasted salmon, grilled chicken, veal ricotta meatballs, pork, ribs, and bbq brisket or chicken (they bought a smoker from Texas). The combos are priced differently depending on your protein and how many sides you choose. Some sides to choose from are: sweet potato puree, potato salad, Brussel sprouts, kale Caesar, Israeli couscous, quinoa, grilled veggies, green beans, and macaroni and cheese. The choices change daily. If you are a vegan or vegetarian you can do a veggie box, with three veggie choices.
There are also some pretty delicious dessert options. I tried the chocolate chip cookies and I have to say I was impressed with how good they were, still fresh and chewy from the oven. The carrot cake was another yummy choice. The banana cake was extremely moist and full of flavour. They also serve donuts, sticky buns, chia pudding and other cookies.
The staff was super friendly, engaging and helpful. The lines move quite fast, and the pacing of the buffet style service was pretty sound.
All the food is well-seasoned and they are not afraid to add some spice to some dishes, which I find refreshing. The veggie box that I selected had bold and distinct flavours. The veal and ricotta meatballs were tender and tasty. I thought the Brussel sprouts were done well in a sweet sauce, but the brown colour was not that appealing to the eye. The macaroni was too reminiscent of a generic buffet. The sauce on this dish was too thin, but I assume it is difficult to have a rich thick and gooey, cheesy sauce reheating in a warming tray.
When I returned for dinner we tried the smokehouse combo at $28, which is the most expensive item on the menu, but it can easily feed two to three people. The platter contained smoked brisket, turkey, sausage, and ribs. You can pick three sides with this dish plus the platter comes with rounds of pickled cucumber. I am no expert on the merits and notable highlights of barbecue, I have perhaps have tasted better elsewhere, but I still think overall they did a very competent job and each dish was infused with an aromatic smokiness. I thought the sausage, in particular, had some dynamic flavouring. I personally like my ribs and brisket with a sweeter sauce – theirs is more savoury, but it was good nonetheless. The ribs are not the fall-off-the-bone type, but were meaty and chewy. We enjoyed the smashed potatoes and the chopped salads as sides, and they make a terrific potato salad too. If barbecue isn’t your thing there are other proteins as I mentioned earlier.
Once they obtain their liquor license they will serve wine, beer and ciders. They will also be extending their hours.
They are also open for breakfast from 7 to 10:30 am, where they serve eggs done a few ways like scrambled and poached and then you can add a protein like bacon or a sausage and a side. For $9.99 you get a cheddar biscuit, eggs a protein and a side. They also may extend those breakfast hours on the weekend but they have to see how things go for now.
They still have a few kinks to work out but I predict that the Pantry will be a mainstay of the area and service hungry Torontonians.