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Restaurants

Hey!

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Reviewed on September 28, 2012 / review policy

hey roncesvalles torontoHey! on Roncesvalles has been open for just a week in the space that long housed the 100-seater coffee shop, Tinto. My boyfriend and I are former residents of the area, so the trek south is loud with exclamations at the changing neighbourhood, and much wonderment about how Hey! might've re-interpreted its somewhat dowdy new address.

Truly, nothing could've prepared us for the freshly white-washed stucco exterior, on which the words Hey! are written (misleadingly, but more on that later) in the same cursive script as its (purported) sister-restaurant in Little Italy. Thinking we were in for more of the same incredible meatballs (a statement that I sincerely thought I would never make), our enthusiasm is doubled.

hey torontoThe interior has been gutted, re-plastered, and coated in rustic kitchen accents--we rudely walk around 'ooh'ing and 'ahh'ing at the changes before a server flags us down. The dominant decor theme here is old country, with bleached wood tables, exposed brick, and glass cabinetry throughout. They've made beautiful use of the space, with a full dining room upstairs (with additional picnic bench seating in front of the mostly open kitchen downstairs), and a juice bar and bar seating downstairs.

hey torontoWe choose a booth, each of which is outfitted generously with large pillows in playful, barnyard animal prints. It's cozy, and at the end of the day, a tempting place to rest my head. But I'm too confused for that. It begins when we sit down--bordered by children and infants, eerily good-looking twenty-somethings, and intellectuals.

You can chalk that up to Roncesvalles--a neighbourhood that's home to young families, older Eastern Europeans, and a bustling dining scene that's flypaper for a let's-suggestively-call-it-hip demographic.

hey roncesvalles torontoTo drink, there are fresh offerings from the juice bar, and homemade sodas, as well as draught beer. Sleeman's Original will set you back $7. The menu is also a head-scratcher. There are polite nods to the neighbourhood's heritage with the potato-and-cod soup and the seems-slightly overpriced chicken schnitzel. There's the pizza and pasta that one would expect from an Italian restaurant--which Hey! allegedly is--as well as plain ol' country cooking in the form of the a pork loin dish and sides of warm green beans and Ontario corn. Then there's the cheeseburger with house-made ketchup ($13.50), but that's its own brand of mystery.

hey roncesvalles torontoFirst up is the Caesar salad ($9.25). It, too, is unusual. In place of romaine is crisp kale, and in place of croutons are pickled shallots. A generous sprinkling of pecorino cheese and what-seems-to-be-uncooked bacon tops it off, with the whole thing tossed in a very light vinaigrette. Chef Bowers, you intrigue me. It's, at best, a remarkably fresh-tasting interpretation of a traditionally heavy salad. The pickled shallots are almost candied, and lend an unexpected touch of both sweet and tart to the dish.

hey torontoThe braised short rib ravioli with tomato sauce ($14.75) sounds straightforward, and is eagerly anticipated. Unfortunately, it's the night's most disappointing dish. In my books, fresh pasta is meant to be soft, but the ravioli is al dente, and the short rib filling is sapped of the succulent flavour that braising should impart. The plate arrives cool, and while the basil in the sauce is fresh, the sauce itself is too simple--perhaps relying on the meat to deliver a punch.

hey roncesvalles torontoNext up is the mustard-crusted pork loin with kale and tomato cassoulet ($17.50)--simply spectacular. The cassoulet is appropriately rustic, amply spiced, and the white beans are perfectly cooked. Halved baby tomatoes and beets are lightly roasted, and complement the texture of the dish. Unfortunately, our servers are charming, but unable to answer questions about the dishes.

The menus rotate daily, and with three meals on offer beginning at 6 a.m., they're understandably frazzled by nighttime. I don't really mind not knowing exactly what the rich, tender squash-like vegetable on my plate is--the taste, after all, speaks for itself--but my curiosity still nags me.

hey torontoThe meat is a decent cut of smoked pork loin, and makes for sheer indulgence, despite the fact that I can't really isolate the mustard crust. The consistency is drier and tougher than you'd expect from a cassoulet meat, but the flavour makes up for it.

hey torontoThe desserts--an array of baked goods--are cleverly displayed downstairs. They're made fresh each day by local baker Leslie Cairns, and you spot them on your way in and mull on them throughout the meal--or, if you become addicted, you can hit up the on-site display for a take-out snack. We try a coconut creme pie with chocolate crumble crust ($4), and a tart filled with almond creme ($2). The former is the obvious winner.

hey torontoBack to Hey! scrawled across the restaurant's front: it's a misnomer. Perhaps they appear on a different day's menu, but the eponymous meatballs of the College St. location are nowhere to be found on our visit, and I, for one, am sad. That said, the pork loin remains memorable.

Discussion

32 Comments

KY / September 29, 2012 at 01:52 am
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Yay! Can't say enough good things about this place. This neighbourhood has been missing such an establishment. I went in last Friday and tried the Beaver Pie! What's that you say? Well, it's pizza dough lightly fried, topped with toppings (ours was flor di latte, sausage and tomato)and baked. A-mazing!! We have followed Rodney for years and he is the KING of comfort food. Wait staff are super pleasant too. Welcome to the hood, Rodney!!
Patricia / September 29, 2012 at 12:09 pm
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My family and I went last night and maybe it was the evening we chose to go on, but we were completely disappointed.
The service was awful (and we were almost the only ones in the place, at the time).
There wasn't any red wine on the menu.
The cheeseburger was small with maybe four potato wedges on the side (one was bad).
The chicken dumpling soup looked and tasted like cold tea.
There was absolutely no value to the meal.
For being in a family neighbourhood, there weren't any kid's meals on the menu.
Again, maybe it was the night we chose to go on, but I don't think we'll be going back.
Paul / September 29, 2012 at 01:15 pm
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I tried to go there last week. After standing in the front entrance ignored by the bartender and wait staff for about 10 minutes we left, quickly followed by another couple that was as unhappy as us. I couldn't believe it. There were 3 couples all standing there ignored. One couple said they had asked how long a table might be and apparently the response was simply "a while". They were the only one of the group that was lucky enough to be greeted or acknowledged.

There were at least 4 empty and set tables that we could see and a lot of staff rushing around but no one at the front door or even willing to look up and say hi.

I was pretty excited about the new restaurant in the neighbourhood but after that experience I doubt I'll ever be back.

We took our money around the corner to The Local on Queen.
mono / September 29, 2012 at 08:23 pm
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It is expected that a new resto has some wrinkles to iron out when newly opened. I would recommend to the owners/chef here to quickly get the iron out and get working. Was there last night with a group of friends. The service was very poor, dinner came at different times and one of us got the wrong dish. The waitstaff was completely un-apologetic and un-sympathetic. Some of our dinners were on the cold side.
Hey, so overall..... strike 1. Will give it another shot soon because food taste was good, we liked the menu and atmosphere.... but if there will be a strike 2, ... your out.
Bill / September 30, 2012 at 10:11 am
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Food was way under seasoned, almost as if they forgot to add any spices, or salt, or oils, on any of their dishes.

I hope the potato wedges are temporary. Deep fryer on the way?

I was excited when I saw the amount of beers on tap, but was dissapointed to find the extremely poorly thought out selection. Chefs: design a beer menu like a food menu. You can't have an all chicken menu, can you?
Tony / September 30, 2012 at 08:41 pm
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Got nothing but love for Rodney and all of his endeavors. Go get 'em!!
bugeyed / September 30, 2012 at 10:45 pm
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I think they are still ironing out the kinks, i went on Friday with my wife, the service was a little slow, and I agree with the beer comments, they need some more variety! I also thought there was a lack of seasoning, no salt/pepper was offered, nor any kind of condiment, so the wedges were pretty bland. There was a sparse mayo based sauce on the cheese burger, maybe this was the house made ketchup?

My starter was missing a component, no biggie, but amazed it got missed, but was removed from the bill anyway, so kudos for that, I wasn't expecting it to be removed, I just wanted them to be aware.

The sausage pizza was delicious, I just wish it had been bigger ( perfectly willing to spend more btw).

I have had previous experience with Citizen and Rosebud, both good, so will comeback to this one in a month or two, hopefully things will have settled in a bit more.

brian / October 1, 2012 at 01:22 pm
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the food had zero taste
it all came cold, if it came at all (they forgot one of the people at our table completley) it was very uncomfertable
and the waitress was a miserable bitch
mayor dodge replying to a comment from brian / October 1, 2012 at 02:09 pm
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It sounds like the named the place after all the shouting you have to do to get half-decent service. My friends and I will definitely AVOID this lame joke of a "restaurant".
ker / October 1, 2012 at 06:04 pm
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this is like a Homer Simpson restaurant review. snark for snark's sake.

just give it 7 thumbs down and move on.

(to be fair, they do need to work some of the kinks out, but even the fact that the "reviewer" here couldn't tell the resto's exterior is bright blue tells me she wasn't REALLY paying attention).
jaggerman replying to a comment from ker / October 2, 2012 at 02:15 pm
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So ker, maybe you want them to change the name to: DOH! I bet it's the noise their servers make every time a customer walks in and asks them for something.
ker replying to a comment from jaggerman / October 2, 2012 at 09:43 pm
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Have you been in? I've been there a few times already, and the servers have all been very nice to us. The food is excellent and I just find this review comical. She doesn't like al dente (aka the proper) cooked pasta, so therefore it's not good?

And as a sister restaurant to Hey Meatball on College, why MUST it have meatballs on the menu every night? If she wants meatballs, she should go to the MEATBALL RESTAURANT.

Just found the review silly - especially since a reviewer worth their grain generally doesn't go into a restaurant less than a week after it's opened.
Clarice / October 4, 2012 at 10:37 pm
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My grits were cold in the center. The whole team of staff seem to have this aloof and half-baked air about them. I've had positive experiences at Hey Meatball, but I'm not sure if I'll go back to Hey!…
Jessica / October 7, 2012 at 05:41 pm
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Wewent for brunch this am - i had walked by a number of times, and was looking forward to trying out a new restaurant. We sat upstairs beside the open kitchen to give my 2 year old daughter a view while we ate. Placed our order (wait staff was very genial, a bit disorganized) - waffles with apple and omlette. We wandered up and down the stairs to keep my daughter moving until the food arrived - we enjoyed grooving to the music in the basement for a few minutes. Out food arrived quickly, and hot. And we were delighted - the waffles were light and not too sweet, balanced nicely with the apple. The omlette wa fantastic, with big pieces of mushroom, oozing with a lovely goat cheese, nicely seasoned and very fresh tasting. The best surprise were the fresh peas, which were delicious. And, seeing my daughter there, the chef sent her a little treat all her own, which was very welcoming!!! This was their third brunch.. My husband and i continue to miss B's - it was great to find a brunch replacement that opens so early and offers such fresh, yummy food. We'll be back for sure!
Laura Peanut / October 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm
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I was happy when Tinto closed - with its rude service and haughty atmosphere...
And then I got to watching the neighborhood yuppies salivate as Hey was preparing to open over the summer. I also watched someone who works there paint the church pews on the sidewalk - with nothing under them to stop the paint from getting all over the sidewalk.
When I found out that Hey was Hey Meatball's sister restaurant, I decided to give it a try - it looked cute and clean, so why not?
They had the same amazing home made ginger ale as Hey Meatball, but that was the only nice thing about the meal. Overpriced for the portion size, forgettable food, no red wine, and the place was teeming with flies. I also think that eventually, those cute little throw pillows will be nice and bacteria filled.
But ya know what? It fits right in - in Toronto's yuppie epicenter.
general / October 13, 2012 at 07:47 pm
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we will avoid this place like the plague. excited at the new addition to the neighbourhood to major disappointment. service was abysmal if you could call it even that. pretty sure our server forgot to place our order so after waiting over an hour and not being addressed at all she only came over after we waved her down. barely an apology (and the resto wasn't busy at the time - we were one of 4 occupied tables in the place) the food came and was even more a disappointment than the service. always willing to give another chance to a new local but this one is certainly undeserving.
Dave / October 13, 2012 at 09:13 pm
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Don't let the negative reviews keep you away. I can't help but wonder if many of the negative reviews here are fake. Seriously. Perhaps part of a campaign by frightened competitors creating bad reviews in an attempt to sink this place, before it takes their customers away. Or maybe the classic truth that people who have had a negative experience are more likely to post on the internet. In any case, if you have been here and had a bad experience try again.

I have lived in the neighborhood for over 10 years and Hey may be my new favorite restaurant. I have been there twice. Once when it was "semi-open" during the Polish festival and again this past Friday for dinner with my wife. In fact we like it so much we are planning to meet friends there for Brunch this Sunday.

Love the great relaxed atmosphere in the place and awesome, open, decor.. Food has been very tasty - all of it. Just like the Chef describes - refined comfort food. Any place can have growing pains, but our service based on my previous 2 experiences has been genial and competent. I have no doubt that if there are glitches in the food or service, the owner will take them seriously and work to fix them.

Try it out, and if you have been there and had a bad experience - give it another chance. If you are there tomorrow morning for Brunch - see you there !
cam replying to a comment from general / October 22, 2012 at 10:42 pm
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i think some one needs to find a better way to spend there time .i see an array of compliments and mad raves .to each there own i say .bad service ,lack of choices of wine ,slow cold meals ,so dont go back .But dont bash the place he liked the area enough to open a decent place give the guy a chance to get organized .i dont think he expected to be as busy as he is no one did .and to the nothing underneath the church benches ,i didnt here you say it was needed .good advertising for future jobs .the cute little pillows are cleaned .and as for the flies ya what flies .constant complaining get a life and give the guy a chance .after all you were curious enough to go in something pushed you .so stop, walk by dont go back none of you ,you're not worthy and when the place is a hip and happening place i say stay out he doesnt need your business that bad .the place is packed on weekends so this blog isn't hurting him a bit .and i feel the same as Dave i think some of the complaints are the same people .after all since you mentioned it ,it stopped .or maybe they have found some where else to put down .either way i like it .
jess / October 23, 2012 at 05:24 pm
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i love when people say that restaurants should have a kid's menu because it's in a "family neighbourhood" - why?! no one told you you have to bring your kids there. why don't YOU go to a family restaurant, since you're a family?
macdonell replying to a comment from jess / November 3, 2012 at 06:22 pm
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As a woman with a kid, I agree completely. "Kids' Menu". Give me a break.
Pat Dixon replying to a comment from ker / November 4, 2012 at 01:35 pm
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Right on. This is a great addition to the neighbourhood!
Pat Dixon / November 4, 2012 at 01:39 pm
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I was a little leery because of the number of negative comments, but thought, what the h..., I'll give it a try. Doesn't usually happen, but now by coincidence I've been there three times in two weeks, and I'd give it three thumbs up! Out of three meals with four other people, every thing was above average - especially the flapjacks today - except for one thing: in salads, one salad didn't have enough dressing (could have asked for more), and I felt there was a little too much kale on the menu, no doubt because it's all the rage at the moment. Apart from that, I am now downright grateful that they've come to Roncesvalles Village!
Lisa F / November 11, 2012 at 04:09 pm
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Think it's been 9 visits now. The atmosphere and food are great but the service is still slow from sitting down to trying to pay the bill. Each and every time. REALLY hope they can figure out the service piece-fast!
Weiner / November 19, 2012 at 03:57 pm
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Four of us had weekend brunch there and each meal was fantastic--really delicious food and very friendly service. Stopped in mid-week for an Americano and cookie and had the opposite experience--unfriendly service, extremely weak coffee, and dried out cookie. Guess I need a third visit to break the tie.
V / November 23, 2012 at 05:52 pm
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Fresh pasta is meant to served al dente. You should know this as a food reviewer. Certainly not a fault on the part of the restaurant.
cam / December 20, 2012 at 11:49 pm
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its hard to keep good service when there is no praise when a job is well done .the moral is low and staff are leaving or being fired .the boss is rarley there .
paul / January 1, 2013 at 11:57 pm
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loved our meal here.. loved it.
Katie-Lynn / January 22, 2013 at 07:20 pm
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We went a few weeks ago and while the prices were a little high for the quality of the food we enjoyed the meal as well as the atmosphere. These bad reviews seem a little exaggerated the staff we had was nice. Over all I would suggest trying the restaurant for yourself and don't judge the place by its bad reviews. The food is good and worth a shot.
Rob replying to a comment from KY / March 24, 2013 at 09:15 am
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Dined at Hey! last night. The experience was terrific.
First, the ambiance. Warm, welcoming, friendly.
Second, the service. Our waiter was very knowledgeable, friendly and provided good recommendations.
Third, the meal. The service is very fast. Waited no more than 15 minutes for our entrees. And it was delicious. The brazed short rib (special $19) was superb, as was the 'Ronfather' meatball sandwich ($14).
Fourth, reasonable prices. Dinner for two, including drinks, entrees, desserts, and cappuccinos came to $70 including tip.
Verdict. On a Saturday night when other local restaurants such as Barque, the Westerly and Foodliner require a reservation well in advance, Hey! provides a very welcoming, warm and friendly atmosphere without compromising quality and service, and often is much less pretentious than the aforementioned establishments.
Jen / April 18, 2013 at 05:11 pm
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I have been here 3 times now....each time like many reviewers have said....you think they are going to iron out the kinks.....each time it gets worse. I know Rod, I really want this place to work but i am telling you it is doomed. He is never there, and you must be there all the time when you open a resto....sorry big boy but cut your loses and move on....it just does not work.
Jess / June 25, 2013 at 05:37 pm
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I find it funny when people complain about prices of food and don't take into consideration that they are being served premium local food prepared by talented chefs.
jameson / August 15, 2013 at 08:46 am
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Had a pretty good meal at this place last night. Would like to have seen more veggie items on the menu. Which will more than likely hold us back from returning...

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