Eastside Social is a neighbourly new spot from Joey Skeir, formerly of Ruby Watchco, and HGTV personality Cherie Stinson. The duo hails from the east coast, and aims to introduce coastal comforts and warm maritime hospitality to Leslieville.
Taking over the site of what was formerly the Upper Crust, the 52-seat restaurant and bar occupies two storefronts and is divided into a dining room and bar. Enter through the bar and parade past the open kitchen enroute to seats at tufted green leather banquettes or plaid-upholstered bistro chairs. Navy wainscotting wraps around the walls while wood cabinetry and a collection of nautical regalia give the room a homey character.
In the kitchen, chefs Chris Mentier and Stefan Skeene work neatly, dishing up a casual seafood-centric menu that double-majors in comfort foods like fried chicken ($14) and from-scratch Hamburger Helper ($13).
To start, there are snacky options like pickles and chips ($8), a play on that classic flavour combination of salt and vinegar. Root chips in a bowl offer an assortment of crunchy, salt-dusted taro, beets and parsnips, while on the side, beets, radish, yellow beans and cauliflower are each brined in different types of vinegar - infused with vanilla pods, in one instance, or turmeric and chili in another.
Served in a skillet, I also try the mushrooms on toast ($11), a thick slab of house-baked molasses bread spread thick with mushroom pate and served with a garlicky sauté of mixed mushrooms in a sage-scented brandy butter.
Surf 'n' turf tacos ($11) come in pairs, both on soft corn tortillas. One is filled with braised beef brisket, red cabbage slaw and creme fraiche; the other comes loaded with golden-fried tilapia, napa cabbage and apple slaw, pickled red onions and chipotle aioli.
Skate schnitzel ($17), seasoned and dredged with panko, emulates a pounded chicken breast - only it flakes apart with just a fork. White wine butter with lemon juice and capers is still sizzling as is carried to the table, while a baby red potato salad on the side offers a cool contrast, packed with bold flavours of dijon and dill.
The bar menu offers a brief wine list with options by the glass priced at no more than $9. The house punch bowl ($21 for 2, $35 for 4) served in a small silver vessel and ladled into crystal cups, is a blend of gin, vodka, port and rum with grapefruit juice and chamomile syrup. On tap you'll find Keith's IPA, Murphy's Irish Stout and Creemore lager and pilsner.
Eastside Social is currently open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5pm. Licensing for a couple patio seats out front is on the works while a backyard patio is set to open by summer's end. Take-away orders are welcome as are weekday reservations.
Photos by Jesse Milns