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Restaurants

Dr. Augusta's Samitorium

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Listed on September 20, 2012 / review policy

dr augustas samitorium torontoDr. Augusta's Samitorium opened on the southern fringes of Kensington Market a little over a week ago, and their particular brand of sandwiches has already developed regulars in the neighborhood. The shop is manned by Chris Bobbitt and Vlad Vujovic, who met many years ago at Canoe. In the trenches of fine dining, they'd joke about becoming legitimate sammie-slingers.

dr augustas samitorium torontoThe vision was "old-school soda shop meets sandwich shop," Bobbitt tells me, and the result does a good job of approximating this--by way of Twin Peaks. Think tall black-leather-and-metal stools, a sprawl of black-and-white checkered floor, a large black counter, and bold red trimming throughout. There's also the occasional bonsai, and a neat row of pickles doing their thing in mason jars.

dr augustas samitorium torontoThe space is considerable, but only has 9 seats (thanks, ye pesky city codes), lending itself to take-out more than eat-in. Bobbitt is quick to sing the praises of his purveyors: Blackbird Baking Co., whose chief baker Simon Blackwell operates out of Soma and provides an array of breads ranging from rye sourdough to ciabatta rolls, and Sanagan's Meat Locker.

dr augustas samitorium torontoBobbitt takes credit for the "crazy" idea of homemade sodas. I try the ginger beer soda ($2.75, or $5.75 as a float), and it's a straightforward mix of ginger, sugar, and a hint of cayenne for bite; it doubles nicely as a tantalizing sinus decongestant. Bobbitt hints that the current roster of flavours--stand-bys like cream soda, grape soda (made with seasonal Concord grapes) and root beer--is just the beginning, and cites his use of classic 100-year-old recipes.

dr augustas samitorium torontoFirst is the cobb salad ($9.75), which sees romaine hearts, poached chicken, goat cheese, thick chunks of avocado, fresh tomatoes, bacon and pickled veggies stuffed in a cardboard box--just about the kitchen sink. The champagne dressing provides a touch of lively zest, but it's a remarkably well-balanced dish. Praise goes to the chicken and goat cheese, neither of which are exceedingly salty, and rather blend in for textural surprises.

dr augustas samitorium torontoI'm going to spare you the suspense: they make damn good sandwiches. The roasted pork ($9) is loosely comparable in taste to a banh mi. A (maybe-too-small) ciabatta roll holds roasted pork shoulder brushed with grainy mustard, and topped with kale slaw, a simple pan jus, and crisped leeks.

The bread's freshness and quality is evident even from the smell, and the kale slaw (also available as a side for $3.50) provides a burst of freshness to offset the sandwich's only failing: the pork shoulder is too fatty. I understand it's the nature of the cut, and provides the mixed blessing of keeping the meat moist, but there's something tragic about a fifth of it ending up inedible on the plate.

dr augustas samitorium torontoIt's the second sandwich that hooks both my boyfriend and I; a vegetable wrap ($7.85) that takes its cues from Indian, French, and loosely, Middle Eastern cuisine. Inside a fresh roti, you'll find salad greens, house-pickled veggies, olive tapenade, and Bobbitt's European take on a falafel--panisse, a chickpea fritter with a texture that more closely resembles polenta.

Those flavours alone come together beautifully, but what elevates the wrap is Bobbitt's herb yogurt dressing (I murmur "I taste mint" a half-dozen times between bites), which brings us back around to Indian cuisine's raita sauce. For a vegetarian dish, it's lush, filling, and leaves us both staring sadly at the empty wrapper.

dr augustas samitorium torontoTheir ambitions are high: a lobster roll enjoyed short-lived residency on the menu before becoming cost-prohibitive, and a shrimp po' boy on pain au lait, and braised oxtail sandwich are in the works. I'd like to see them tackle baked goods, as one of their big hits has been a homemade buttermilk biscuit ($7.65) topped with braised pork belly and a fried egg.

dr augustas samitorium torontoThe price is, for an average sandwich, a bit high, but average these ain't. You can taste a chef's sensibilities and careful consideration of flavor profiles in every bite, and they don't buy in bulk; everything is made fresh daily. Moving forward, Bobbiit says that they're looking for some decor (the walls are Spartan at the moment), a jukebox, and a milkshake stand. I say, bring on the po' boy.

Discussion

29 Comments

HOMEMADE SODAS!!!!! / September 20, 2012 at 11:23 am
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who cares.
Ken / September 20, 2012 at 11:29 am
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Great write-up, love the detailed description of the food, and honest opinions on where they could improve.
Gillian / September 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm
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Get that milkshake stand in there ASAP!!! So excited to check this out.
Binky / September 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm
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Can hardly wait to try it. The exterior signage is low impact and might not draw the desired attention. Otherwise sounds fantastic.
JLT / September 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm
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Prices seem average. Cobb salad actually seems like a pretty good price.
George / September 20, 2012 at 01:38 pm
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They really could have used bringing on a designer... both for the sign and the interior... talk about bland, put some shit on the walls at least!
Ad F / September 20, 2012 at 01:58 pm
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Had the pleasure of eating there last Saturday for breakfast and the breakfast sandwich was delicious! The cream soda was great as it's not too sweet and has a bit of spice. Beats a sub any day.
Mikey / September 20, 2012 at 03:04 pm
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Looks honest. Can't say that about too many places these days. You CAN say that about White Brick Kitchen, where the fried chicken is Best-in-Class (or at least on par with Stockyards, where the batter is very handsomely season).

We could use more places that make tasty food, on the affordable.
Wes / September 20, 2012 at 04:15 pm
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Been to this place a few times, the sandwiches are top notch, fresh ingredients and awesome bread.
Highly recommend it for a reasonably priced quick meal
Kay / September 20, 2012 at 04:45 pm
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When Bobbit offers to cook, you never ever turn him down.
chris / September 20, 2012 at 05:31 pm
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awful signage - on par with the bar next door...
crumbs / September 20, 2012 at 06:16 pm
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Looks tasty.

"Samitorium" reminds me too much of "Santorum" though.
Irritated / September 20, 2012 at 07:02 pm
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Does the journalist know to put an address in the article so we can find the place?
moralia replying to a comment from Irritated / September 20, 2012 at 07:18 pm
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Do the readers take the time to actually go through the information and not just skim through the pages? The journalist even took the time to put a map for you on the top right of the page.
Cassie replying to a comment from Irritated / September 20, 2012 at 08:40 pm
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This comment seems to come up on almost every food review. This ultimately is a result of poor UI design. I can understand why so many people are confused, the map and location details are under a web banner and looks a bit disjointed from the main content column. So most people probably presume the side panel is just for ads. Perhaps an easy solution would be to make the heading "Information Location and Contact Details" stand out more.
joe mama / September 20, 2012 at 09:31 pm
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That's a steal compared to Druxy's.
c replying to a comment from Irritated / September 20, 2012 at 09:55 pm
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602 Dundas St. West (647.748.5522). There everything's ok now Grumpy pants

Melissa / September 21, 2012 at 05:28 pm
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That veggie wrap is really delicious. I'll be back soon.
barb / September 21, 2012 at 08:18 pm
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can't wait to try it.Looks really CLEAN!
Graeme Quinn / September 22, 2012 at 01:00 pm
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Just finished eating there and was quite impressed. Had the roasted pork sandwich, and everything about it was great. The bread was really soft and fresh. The meat was tender, cooked well, and was of great quality. The kaleslaw was quite nice, and a unique touch.

I had the ginger beer which was quite tasty, and according to the person who works there has half the amount of sugar as normal soda.

Would definitely go back. There are just too many really good affordable places to eat in Kensington Market!

I agree about the signage. If it wasn't for this write-up and the fact that I live so close, I don't know if I would have gone in there. From the outside, it just looks like another random dive business on par with the rest of the businesses on that strip of Dundas, but it certainly isn't a dive at all.

They should think about putting a sign out in front showing what they are offering inside, and try to somehow get rid of that $6 hair cut sign that is currently there.
tripleddd / September 24, 2012 at 10:12 pm
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had the pork sandwich and lemon soda the other day. the soda was so good. not too sweet. i like the vibe of the place. i like seeing young ppl doing their thing. balls and work ethics. that's what it takes to open a food business in this city and hats off to these boys.

onto the sandwich. although the bun and all other ingredients were fresh and healthy, it was just to plain jane for that price. $13 and change for a sandwich and soda. the kale slaw is just an acid base slaw. didn't add much crunch or texture. the roasted pork is just that. not much complexity. i guess that's why the grainy mustard was added.

in the end, i just thought it was the type of sandwich that anybody who cooks at home even once in a blue moon would be able to whip up.

the service was very friendly. i can see the boys trying to put out a good product so i will be back to try some other sandwiches but for my taste, the pork sandwich is just missing alot.
Brandon / September 26, 2012 at 01:45 pm
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Went there today with a friend. Had the chicken sandwich and kale slaw, she had the po'boy and green salad. My sandwich was excellent - very tasty and the bread was super fresh. The slaw was also very good, but they could've given a bit more of it considering it was $2.50 extra. I had a bite of the po'boy, and it too was also very, very good. She got a bit more salad (they filled the bottom of the box rather than just a small cup like with the slaw). Didn't try the sodas, but would definitely go again.
Graeme Quinn / October 21, 2012 at 01:02 pm
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Just went there again for the 3rd time just now and had the breakfast sandwich. Definitely the best thing I've had there so far, and it's possibly the best breakfast in Kensington market. Everything from the biscuit, to the pork belly, to the eggs was done just perfectly. Highly recommended.
Love the food... / November 27, 2012 at 05:09 pm
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Love the sandwiches here, in particular the breaded shrimp po' boy! Great soups, too: the butternut squash with apple in it was really nice and unexpected. Root beer float is old time good.

But I have to say, the place looks terrible. If it wasn't for seeing reviews online in a couple of places (including this article on blogTO), I would simply never have gone in. People above have already mentioned the off-putting signage and the clunky, slightly macabre name. The place itself looks more like a barber shop or a clinic than a restaurant. When I step in, I feel as if I've entered one of Tim Burton's animated shorts. Some people might like that. But not me, at least not when I'm eating.

I'm not saying this to put the guys down. I really enjoy their food, and I think these people have mad kitchen skills (more so than many so-called chefs), and so I want them to succeed. Therefore, I hope they hire a decorator or designer who can help them conjure up a better look. At least get rid of the bright flourescent lighting...it's too clinical.

Best of luck guys!!!
Graeme Quinn / December 11, 2012 at 09:06 pm
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I have gone back to this place numerous times and it really is quite awesome. Everything they have on the menu is really good, so it's often hard to chose what to have. It has the best breakfast in the market, and is one of the only places to get a quality salad in the market as well. Whatever your desire is, Dr. Augusta has you covered.

What prompted me to write a 3rd review is the fact that I just ate their salad for the first time tonight. All the ingredients were very fresh, the ingredients (of which there are many) worked well together and the portion was just right. I had my favourite Ginger Soda, and to my delight it was extra Gingery this time which is what I prefer.

As a plus, in my brief encounters with the two guys who own the shop, they seem to be standup gentlemen and I wish them well in all their endeavours.
Name required / January 15, 2013 at 10:37 am
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half of these places shouldn't be under 'cheap eats" including this one. over priced.
design nerd / January 15, 2013 at 09:17 pm
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I've been past here SO many times and have never even thought about going in (yeah, I thought it was a barber shop). As many others mentioned, the cheesy name and sign tuned me off, but I'll make a return trip!
Mmmmmm / April 13, 2013 at 02:12 pm
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Food is good. Place is scary.
Colm / May 12, 2013 at 09:01 pm
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I had a po boy and a root beer at this place today.

At $13 or so for this combo this definitely isn't a cheap place.

The sandwich was quite tasty, but a bit on the small size. More of a snack than a meal. I headed up to Sanagan's for a 2d sandwich. The root beer was OK, but nothing special, and seemed a bit flat.

So overall, this place doesn't quite make the cut for me.

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