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Restaurants

Hopgood's Foodliner

Posted by Sarah Mackinnon / Reviewed on March 1, 2012 / review policy

Hopgood's FoodlinerHopgood's Foodliner serves such impeccably executed fare that I scarcely realized the last time I had crab dip so delicious was at Aunt Dolly's church potluck. While the restaurant's name references a grocery store owned by the executive chef's Maritime grandparents, the offerings aren't strictly tied to his Nova Scotia background. The hospitality, on the other hand, is. After our meal, Hopgood paused from expertly wrestling a pig carcass in the kitchen to bring us some house-made milk liquor and share some future plans for the restaurant.

Hopgood's FoodlinerThe simple menu lists meat and seafood options, void of the excessive details that can have you tripping over your adjectives as you attempt to order. What wasn't evident was clarified by our waitress, who was excited enough about the charred broccoli that I knew immediately that I had found a kindred spirit.

Hopgood's FoodlinerWe started with the donairs, which are imprinted in my childhood memories as having the magical appeal that many kids feel about hamburgers. I can say with certainty that these were authentic and every bit as delicious as I remember from growing up in Nova Scotia. Two chewy, house-made pita breads, piled with beef and pork cooked on a vertical spit, topped with chopped onions and tomatoes and a sweet garlicky sauce made with evaporated milk ($12).

Hopgood's FoodlinerNext, we tried the spot prawn cocktail ($15) which was served chilled on chopped iceberg lettuce and radishes, with sliced button mushrooms and a mild and creamy Marie Rose dressing. The last time I had this dish was definitely at a potluck. It seemed a bit surreal to be munching on it in this sleek, urban space and without a molded gelatin marshmallow salad to accompany it, but it was also great.

Hopgood's FoodlinerRight up there with Tupperware parties and smocking, the hot crab dip was classic throwback to 1985 (and before) domestic bliss. Creamy and rich with a delicate crab flavor, it was topped with bread crumbs and served with warm Triscuits. It struck us as slightly humorous to be served crackers on a $15 platter, but the irony of elevating simple, peasant flavors to a high art status has been working since van Weber spun folklore melodies into German opera, so why stop now?

Hopgood's take on the classic boiled dinner was superb: thick slices of corned beef, presented with turnip served four ways (see lead photo): raw and slivered as a garnish, roasted, greens and pureed ($24). The corned beef tasted faintly of star anise and cinnamon and was tender and rounded in beef fat, "as it should be," in the words of our hostess.

Hopgood's FoodlinerAllegedly inspired by a Seinfeld episode, the scallops were paired with a few chunks of pork shoulder, reduced to cubes of chewy, delicious meat ($22). While the scallops were quite large — and admittedly well-executed — they were sourced off the coast of British Columbia. All things considered, it might be nice to use Digby scallops. This dish was drizzled with honey mustard, sprinkled with almond dust and garnished with broccoli, both charred and pureed.

Hopgood's FoodlinerWe finished with the crispy toffee bar ($8), which arrived at our table in a brown paper package, tied up with string. This little bundle of joy was a Rice Krispie bar, layered with soft toffee, dipped in white chocolate and sprayed with cocoa. It creatively combined elements of trailer-park goodness, executed with the precision of a dedicated professional.

Assured that the menu will change seasonally, based on fresh produce grown on a farm outside the city, I have every intention to return to Hopgood's Foodliner for my East Coast comfort fix.

Hopgood's Foodliner

Discussion

48 Comments

Fatty / March 1, 2012 at 10:17 am
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I have read good and not so good things about Hopgood's and hope that the pans will be ironed out as the restaurant matures.

It looks like this place has an opportunity to use higher quality ingredients for the prices that they're charging. I too can make a Kraft crab dip using Triscuits...
Khristopher / March 1, 2012 at 11:07 am
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$12 for a donair is steep, even for a sit down restaurant. I hope they're big. I love donairs, and would LOVE to have one again, but that's kind of high. I'll try em anyway.
Andy Silver / March 1, 2012 at 11:22 am
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why do all the photos look like instagrams?
Matt / March 1, 2012 at 12:43 pm
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As the reviewer said, it might be nice to use Digby scallops. It might also be nice not to charge 22 freaking dollars for three scallops and a couple of bits of broccoli.
jenny / March 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm
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Is the picture of the scallop dish accurate? Does it really cost $22 for TWO scallops?

Too bad the donairs are a bit on the expensive side, too.
pat / March 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm
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Would be good to post hours.
Tim / March 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm
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The scallop dish in question also contains Lamb Shoulder (below the scallops), I believe.

I've had it, it's great. I think it has more like 5 or 6 scallops. Price might be a little high.
Shelly / March 1, 2012 at 03:40 pm
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Nothing for the vegetarians in the neighbourhood?
james / March 1, 2012 at 04:05 pm
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The scallops are also served with pork shoulder that is braised, then formed into cubes and deep-fried and it's delicious. Anothe scallop wouldn't kill them but it's more than just '2 scallops and a bit of broccoli"
Parker / March 1, 2012 at 04:19 pm
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If anyone remembers a Seinfeld episode even tangentially related to pork shoulder or scallops, please enlighten me. The reviewer's casual reference is driving me crazy because I can't recall such an episode.
oph replying to a comment from Parker / March 1, 2012 at 04:52 pm
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I was about to post something similar. The only possible episode I can think of is the one where Kramer stinks up Elaine's mattress because he had been recently swimming in the East River. Elaine explains to the guy she's seeing, who gave her the mattress, that the mattress smells because she scallops.
Sarah MacKinnon / March 1, 2012 at 09:57 pm
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You'll have to take up the obscurity of the Seinfeld reference with Geoff Hopgood. It was in conversation with him that it was mentioned offhand. The hours are as follows: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, 6-11pm.
lol / March 1, 2012 at 10:31 pm
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another overpriced trying to be trendy resto in this area??? what a suprise!
Kj / March 1, 2012 at 10:40 pm
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I'm thinking it was the charred broccoli that was Seinfeld inspired...
Mike / March 2, 2012 at 08:33 am
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A quarter chicken for $26? Come on, man.
Coffee Chris / March 2, 2012 at 01:25 pm
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trailer park food at yuppie prices....
mike / March 3, 2012 at 04:04 pm
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glad i read this before i went- Over priced Comfort food is Over
tdhd / March 3, 2012 at 08:31 pm
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what is house-made milk liquor?
tdhd / March 3, 2012 at 08:32 pm
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what is house-made milk liquor?
Hopgood / March 4, 2012 at 11:41 am
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It's the honey mustard and broccoli from the Kenny Rogers roosters episode. Newman hates the broc and needs honey mustard to chase it down
Parker replying to a comment from Hopgood / March 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm
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Got it! I remember that episode perfectly well. Newman slams the counter as he pounds back the mustard, like you would after a shot of booze. So the Seinfeld reference has nothing to do with the seafood at all. The sentence in the review is misleading.

Thanks for the explanation.
Barbara M / March 5, 2012 at 06:37 pm
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I've passed by almost daily and to me it never seems very inviting; unlike some of the other restaurants on Roncesvalles.
Chuck / March 9, 2012 at 07:39 pm
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Gah! So many Negative Nellies on this thread. Ate at Hopgoods last night, and tried everything.

@Fatty Have you in fact been? Your assertion that it "looks like this place has the opportunity to source higher quality ingredients" is absurd, and clearly you haven't a clue. Get off your butt and go try the crab dip, and then tell us if you think this could be made better with your knowledgeable sourcing of "higher quality ingredients".

@Khristopher $12 for 2 donairs is a bit pricey, by street food standards. In a proper restaurant, where the ingredients are lovingly sourced, and the donairs made with care, from scratch in their entirety, $12 is still a bit pricey if those donairs aren't perfect. On the other hand, if they are, (and they were) $12 is a bargain.

@Matt, @Jenny Are you two Americans? I hear they have much bigger portions at Red Lobster. This sounds like the place for you both! Shitty food! Big portions! But be warned, there are some prices at Red Lobster that break $22.

@Coffee Chris And the place is full! But I didn't see any "yuppies" there. Maybe they left their "yuppie" name tags back in 1983, where they belong.

@lol zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, zzzzzz shit sorry fell asleep reading your comment.

@Andy Silver Instagram rules! All the cool kids are using it. You suck.

So really, here's the scoop (from someone who's actually been there!). Hopgood's is really, really good. And hopping. The food is sophisticated (despite the nostalgic nods to the chef's roots), surprising, delicious, and worth more than the Ultimate Feast at Red Lobster, but in fact costs less. Are we clear?
Kitty / March 11, 2012 at 11:55 am
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I went there last weekend and although it was pricey it was worth every penny. The portions are small, but it means you can actually finish your meal. I had the donairs for a starter, the chicken and mashed potatoes for my main, and the toffee bar for dessert. I definitely didn't leave hungry. The serving staff were also knowledgeable and friendly!

I would easily put the Foodliner in my top five restaurants of Toronto! Delicious!
Mike L / March 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm
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If this reviewer is the same Sarah MacKinnon I know from Lunenburg County NS, good choice Blogto! Sarah is not only super awesome and hilarious and armed with a razor-sharp wit, but it's now apparent she's a great food writer too. Proper to have an actual Bluenoser review this place, which sounds like its doing interesting things. Triscuits & dip and donairs? Looks some good. PS Hope to run into you back in the LBC sometime Sarah...
jim / March 12, 2012 at 07:44 pm
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blogto is the worst. seriously, the worst website in the world. this is a great restaurant and we have to read through the comments from the most annoying assholes in the world to get to an opinion that actually matters. you can criticize the place but at least sound intelligent. i'm never reading this site again.
George / March 23, 2012 at 11:49 pm
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Had dinner here tonight. Was really looking forward to it. Spent a lot of time in Nova Scotia and was really hoping for honest comfort food. Unfortunately I didn't get it. What I got was extremely contrived "deconstructed" dishes, which all were bland tasting. I'm disappointed and will not go back unless forced to do so.
Eric / April 2, 2012 at 04:25 pm
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Went this past weekend and was unfortunately not impressed. I’m a local resident and I’ve tried and supported pretty much everything on the ronce strip so please don’t cast my review off as another negative troll, this is just an honest opinion.

• Atmosphere. Loud, awkward table placement (sat in the front) where every time a fellow diner from another table needed to use the washroom we had to shuffle out of the way. Feels like they slapped a fresh coat of paint on former tenant Brads décor and left the rest. Not really acceptable for the level of restaurant they're aspiring to be.

• Cocktails. Awful. Tried a Bronx and another drink which I can’t recall the name of but it was expensive, tiny, and tasted like pinesol. Both drinks were uninspired soups of liquor that were clearly made by an amateur or by a pro who just wasn’t trying. For the price tag that’s just unacceptable. ($10-13 each)

• Food. We decided to skip appetizers as we weren’t overly hungry and went on just to mains. I ordered the steak and shrimp which were a good size, good cut and well cooked but nothing mind blowing (think Canyon Creek). Meanwhile my wife ordered the scallops and was less than impressed with their flavour or the portion size (tiny as mentioned previously and in the photos above).

For equal money may I’d suggest you instead go to Acadia, east coast inspired cuisine that is far better executed and excellent cocktails.
Trixie / April 16, 2012 at 11:01 am
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It's Donair Sauce not 'sweet garlicky sauce made with evaporated milk'.

I highly doubt this writer is from out East if she can't call it what it is.

And they upped the price I think... my Donairs were $14 for 2 tiny little pitas.

They tasted legit from back home but... they barely amounted to one full one you'd get at say Greco Pizza after a night at the bar.

The servers were snobby hipsters. Completely killed the 'down home' vibe if that is what they were trying for.

I agree with the other poster, it is just like Brad's just with a coat of paint and dimmed lights.
Rmac / May 16, 2012 at 02:45 pm
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@Trixie - if you get your donairs at Greco Pizza your opinion is clearly null and void.
Fartface 69 / June 9, 2012 at 10:20 am
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If you’re into paying $15 for store-bought Triscuits and a tiny ramekin of crab dip then this is the place for you!
Sam / October 15, 2012 at 04:31 pm
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I went here on Friday night with my boyfriend and we were BEYOND impressed and ecstatic with the food! Everyone that is knocking the crab dip has clearly never tried this recipe. Also, the portion they give you is perfect for two people!
When you go to a place like this, you just have to embrace the fact you will be spending a little extra for the food. Our bill was $150 but that is not much more than one would spend at the Keg, or a nice Italian Restaurant on College. The difference here is that you leave feeling full and satisfied, not like you want to crawl into bed and die from a food coma.
The toffee dessert was heaven on earth! We will be going back.
Agata / November 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm
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Ate there last night, and spent $140 (2 diners)
The food indeed was very good. The portions were very small. So we ordered a few apps and one main, because I didn't find a main that sparked my interest.
I would actually have the donairs as a meal, they are amazing, but we shared them as an app.
There is a lot of creativity going into these plates and the flavours are very well put together and I can recognize the thought and the love.
It is a restaurant where you're tasting and trying everything rather than going in to have a plate of food.

My only disappointment with this place which has nothing to do with the quality or price of the food is that they don't serve coffee for one.
Your only option is to get a pot for 4. Which I find bonkers and absurd.
The coffee is made in a Bodum french press and when I asked the waiter to just put enough coffee and water to make a cup he said that there isn't a button for that.
I found that idiotic. And got really put off by that.
He said I can get a cup but he will still have to charge me for a pot.
WTF?
It's kind of a deal breaker for me, because It's a way I like to end my meal. Coffee and dessert. In this case the toffee bar. I felt gipped and unappreciated as a customer to have nothing done for me. I wasn't trying to change or customize the food, I ate it as it was intended. But when it comes to the way I enjoy my dessert, give me a cup of coffee.
I don't like this type of attitude.
You would never go to someones house and be denied a coffee.
I find that so insulting. Especially when I spending that kind of money on a meal.
Seriously can't get over it.
I will be spending my money at a restaurant that allows me a cup of java without being dicks about it.
Sarah MacKinnon replying to a comment from Trixie / December 2, 2012 at 10:22 pm
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Dear Trixie,
I am, in fact, from the East. For those who are not and wouldn't know what to expect from the general term "donair sauce", I included a more detailed description.

Sarah MacKinnon
Norm / December 16, 2012 at 10:25 am
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4 of us went to dinner last night. Let me start by saying the food was fantastic and the service was great.

HOWEVER, portions were way to small and very over priced. My wife had the Donairs which she found to be just enough as she is not a big eater. I had the scallops served with pork sausage. I almost fall off my chair when I got them!!! 2 Lonnie size scallops on a very thin sausage medallion served with a sauce. WHAT $23.00 bucks for a have size appetizer. The server tried to explain to me what the sauce was, but the noise level made it impossible to hear her. I ended up ordering the Donars also. The Surf and turf was orderd by another member of our party. The surf was a bite of lobster and the turf was a beef rind similar to the pork rinds you get in the conner stor. It was served in a shrimp cocktail style glass. $20.00 WOW!!

I had a $15.00 glass of wine and another member of my party had a $13.00 glass of cider. My wife asked for a club soda for $3.00 and the server opened a can of Canada Dry at our table and poured it into a glass of ice. Deserts were a bit over priced also but not as bad as the entres

Needless to say $158 for 4 people, no apps 2 drinks and 3 deserts was way over priced and it is unlikly that we will not return
Lava / March 26, 2013 at 02:31 am
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The prices are excessive (even if it is located in Toronto). Having spent years working in the Halifax and many small towns in the Nova Scotia, I have come to appreciate a home cooked meal or a church basement lunch. Foodliner does not disappoint on the authenticity, quality or presentation of food. I know that rent on Roncy has shot up since the construction has been completed but one could eat at some of our well known, higher end places. I am not trying to take away from the food, atmosphere, chef or staff's attention to detail. I just can't bring myself to eat at this place frequently (despite my strong inclination to support local restaurants and welcome much needed new places on Roncy). At these prices I feel gouged and won't likely be eating here as often as at some of the other new places that have appropriately pushed the price bar up to justify the higher rent and unique or special culinary introductions to the neighbourhood. I do hope thus business corrects its strategy as I would love for Foodliner to stick around.
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Elle / May 30, 2013 at 06:05 pm
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Seriously over priced anyway you look at it. Food is below average, vibe is ok. Very noisy. Disappointing and will not go back unless there is a change in menu and pricing. Would not recommend this place.
Hi staff! replying to a comment from Chuck / August 4, 2013 at 06:19 am
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This place could be better. You don't need to attack people because they aren't impressed. There are a lot of magnificent places with similar portions for similar prices in this city. The significant difference is that the food is also great at these other places.
Kat / August 18, 2013 at 09:43 am
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I went to Hopgood's on Friday night, to celebrate my mom's birthday. The food was amazing, very well executed and had no problem with waiting times for it. Yes the prices are a bit high, but I don't have a problem paying for it if I know it's going to be very good (which it was).

The problem I did have with the restaurant was the service. 1.Our waiter was a sweet guy, but almost spilled wine on one person at my table twice and broke a wine glass on the edge of my table. 2.The music is too loud to have a regular conversation or hear the wait staff. 3. We were still finishing our wine, when we were basically pushed out of the restaurant by the staff. They were hovering over our table for the next table to sit down, who were staring at us from the bar. It's not the customer's problem if you over book the restaurant and cannot accommodate because of the size of the restaurant. For people who are coming there to have a great experience, this ruins it. Whatever feeling we had throughout the meal of the place overall totally changed with this change in attitude from the staff. People who pay a lot of money to eat and enjoy their night, and the staff should recognize this. Also if there are sittings for dinner's the guest should be notified better in regards to that.
james / October 26, 2013 at 04:24 pm
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food sucks!!!!
james replying to a comment from james / October 26, 2013 at 04:25 pm
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^ lies!!!!!!
Maritimer / November 22, 2013 at 04:15 pm
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The best donairs I've ever had in my life (in various establishments hailing from Halifax, Charlottetown, and St. John's) were maybe five dollars maximum. I will absolutely never pay for some sort of hip, artisanal donair.

I tasted a friend's purchase from Hopgood's, and just because somebody is claiming their food is Maritimes-inspired doesn't automatically make it good, I guess. The donair was particularly small (which was surprising, if the owner apparently knows about real donairs...), while the sauce was off and the price was ridiculous.

Safe to say, food trends are annoying and I won't be suckered into tastes of (my) home at some hipster hole again.
Another Maritimer replying to a comment from Maritimer / February 4, 2014 at 12:33 pm
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Hopgood are 7 dollars each...King Of Donair are 5.50 in Halifax. You should try them fresh & warm. Or just keep being a douche. Either way.
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