Single-Concept Restaurants in Toronto

Once upon a time, a chef could only be respected in Toronto for working at one of the city’s finer restaurants. Nowadays, they need only a small space, a simple concept, a limited menu, a couple of seats and a winning recipe. More and more, the city’s best meals are inexpensive, low-market and straightforward. Here are a few newish spots around that aim to do one thing, but well.

The Burger’s Priest
Toronto’s “gourmet” burger shop fad started the respectable hole-in-the-wall fad, but the consensus best arrived late to this game. The Burger’s Priest doesn’t claim to be gourmet; instead it calls itself an “American cheeseburger joint.” There are no frills here, just fresh-ground, charcoal-ground beef, simple buns and classic toppings. It’s located way out between Leslieville and The Beaches and it still attracts lineups round-the-clock. That’s gotta tell you something. 1636 Queen Street East, 647-346-0617.

Porchetta & Co.
When former Drake Hotel sous-chef Nick auf der Maur broke off to start his own restaurant, he didn’t opt for white tablecloths or gourmet cuisine. Instead, he got himself a nice little space on burgeoning Dundas West, a couple of seats, and devoted himself to all things porcine. Porchetta does pork sandwiches. Their slow-cook recipe is intricate, but proudly displayed on their website, and it’s one of the most delicious $6 meals in the city. 825 Dundas Street West, 647-352-6611.

Poutini’s House of Poutine
Poutini’s succeeds by limiting its reach. Where Toronto’s other “big name” poutinerie, Smoke’s, hides a mediocre base with an overextended menu, Poutini’s perfects the basics — fries, gravy and cheese curds — and builds out from there. There are a few special poutines, but you don’t need pulled pork or bacon here; with its squeaky curds, handcut fries and perfectly thick gravy, traditional is the way to go. 1112 Queen Street West, 647-342-3732.

Drake BBQ
This BBQ shrine next to the Drake Hotel was originally slated to be a pop-up restaurant — a few months open, then onto something else. At least that was the plan, but Drake BBQ proved popular enough to ensure semi-permanent status. Once people stop buying the southern-style pulled pork shoulder and Texas chopped beef brisket, they may change the concept, but until then you can enjoy it as much as you want. 1150 Queen Street West, 416-531-5042.

There are plenty of burger joints in the city, but when it opens this week Wvrst will be the first exclusive sausage spot. Owner Aldo Lanzillotta is calling the King West restaurant a “beer hall,” and it does have an admittedly impressive beer list, but the real draw is the 20-odd sausage card, which includes everything from duck to venison to wild boar. We’re hoping this one lives up to its promise. 609 King Street West, 416-703-7775.

Image courtesy of One Off Man Mental.

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