Museum Tavern is a stately new dining room that combines all the charm and nostalgia of a classic New York styled bar with a menu of old faves refreshed in their execution.
Co-owners and brothers Kyle and Glen Kristenbrun have deep roots in the Toronto restaurant scene – their father opened the El Mocombo and Bistro 990, amongst several others. Already, the young Kristenbruns operate the successful Over Easy breakfast joint on which the Museum Tavern sits atop.
The name is certainly a nod to the ROM across the street, but also a reference to the many elements of decor that were resurrected from their father's storage unit filled with relics from restaurants past (specifically Bemelman's, a New York styled bar circa the '70s and '80s – now the Bloor West Hugo Boss).
Together with architect Harvey Cowan, the space has been designed with attention to every detail. Dark wood paneling against checked floors create a handsome backdrop for decadent flourishes; an ornate tin ceiling, tufted leather banquets, gilded mirrors, marble tables, brass accents – the impressive space could stand in for a set on Mad Men.
In the kitchen, executive chef Stephen Gouzopoulos (formerly of L'Unità) offers an international twist on classic American fare. Admittedly, I want to eat every single thing on the menu; Lobster Rolls ($18) with bacon, Chop Salad ($16) with turkey confit, Stuffed Chicken Wings ($16) with bacon and blue cheese. Each is a take on a familiar dish, though elevated by quality ingredients.
The White Fish Tostada ($12) easily draws praise. A pair of crisp corn tortillas topped with red cabbage, pan fried white fish, avocado and drizzled with smokey adobo mayo and creme fraiche.
The Pulled Lamb Torpedo ($15) distinguishes itself with big flavours. A soft bun sandwiching rich, tender meat and pepped-up with harrisa, arugula pesto, goat cheese and green olives. Served alongside Tavern Slaw and super tasty fries the portion is generous and filling.
In keeping with the vintage theme, the bar program, developed by mixologist Moses McIntee, appropriately includes long-lost, forgotten cocktails like the Oak Aged Old Fashion ($14) and seasonal classics like the Peach Cobbler ($12). Additionally, there are ambitious plans to expand the already 40+ selection of single malt scotches to over 100 by this fall.
Now what could be more fun than a Museum/Museum date? Your pick on which Museum you visit first.
Photos by Jesse Milns