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The County General

Posted by Rebecca Fleming / Reviewed on October 8, 2011 / review policy

County General TorontoThe County General is Splendido's tattooed cousin from the South, with a penchant for rock music and bourbon. But don't let its tough-as-nails attitude fool you, because just like with any other cowboy, its all a facade to cover up a big heart. Open for just over a week now (in the space that used to be Oddfellows), I tried to go for brunch last weekend and it was jam packed. This place is already doing some serious business. Given my tendency to loiter I decided to go back at a quieter time, and that ended up being a Tuesday afternoon.

County General TorontoThe space itself is open and bright, fairly minimalist in decor, and heavy on the lumber. Two-by-fours extend down the length of the ceiling in some places, and the entire back wall is like a very cool shrine to Rona...or Jenga. I received a warm welcome from Julia (who also goes by Colonel in these here parts) and was served by Bobby who was equally friendly as he was informative about the food and the restaurant (there isn't a farm they source from that they haven't been to first).

County General TorontoTheir lunch menu is sandwich focused, while dinner has some of the same, with bigger dishes thrown in such as Grilled Flank Steak, Smoked Pork Belly, and Two Way Fried Chicken, with brunch being served up to hungry weekend folk. Seeing as it was 1:00 on a weekday, I perused the lunch offerings.

County General TorontoThe Heirloom Tomato sammie was very tempting, but I went with the Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich ($14) because eating healthy is important to me. For this same reason, I chose the side of frites as my vegetable. The chicken itself came on a buttermilk bun of slider size, given that chicken thighs aren't that big (lucky chickens...) and dressed with avocado chutney, coriander, and green onion.

County General TorontoThe chicken was very tender (Bobby informed me it was brined for two days), and although I'm not normally coriander's biggest fan, it and the chutney paired very nicely. All earlier facetiousness aside, maybe this sandwich isn't the most heart-smart option, but given its small size, it left me feeling full without feeling gluttonous or greasy. Really though, going to a place like The County shouldn't be about calorie counting, but about enjoying the comforts of Southern cooking. And I was comfortable.

County General TorontoThe frites came served in a lowball glass, sprinkled with spice and served with a smoked ketchup that's made in-house. There is a huge difference between good fries and great fries, and these were great fries. Crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside with enough heat provided by the spice to render a nice slow burn. Kinda wish they had been served in a highball glass.

I had a lot to choose from for the liquid portion of my meal. The County serves up Ontario VQA wines and locally crafted brews, but given their Southern roots, their passion lies in rum and bourbon. They offer 50 varieties of "grog" and "hooch", and even do flights of the stuff. My elbow twitched in anticipation of the bending it could do at a place like this.

County General TorontoGiven the warm weather, I had a hankerin' to quench my thirst with something a bit lighter from their cocktail list. The "Figgy Dew"($16) which Julia claimed as her personal favourite, is made with Bulleit bourbon, fig, cucumber, lemon, topped with ginger beer and garnished with a dried fig. It was "figgin" delicious, but given the price I could only "figgy do it" once... okay, I'm done now.

So having just quit my day job, as I sat sipping Bourbon (on a Tuesday afternoon) I realized that if it were 15 some odd years earlier, and there was a giant car wash across the street, I could have been the inspiration for a certain Sheryl Crow song.

County General TorontoFootnote: I returned later in the week for that County Heirloom Tomato Sandwich ($10) after all. Seeing as it was consuming my thoughts, I in turn, consumed it. Turns out everyone had the same idea, because tomato sandwiches littered neighbouring tables. Served on toasted crusty bread, and topped with Ottawa Valley cheddar, mayo and that ubiquitous avocado chutney, it was delicious, but messy. Very messy.

County General TorontoMy cute blue and white gingham napkin didn't know what hit it. I would consider it for take-out in the future, to be eaten in the confines of my own home, where a mixture of tomato juice and mayonnaise running down my arm is more socially acceptable. I had the spicy fries yet again... they were calling to me, I swear it, but this time I chased them down with a pint of Muskoka Cream Ale.



Aydin / October 8, 2011 at 11:52 am
Well written... you made me hungry!
Marlon / October 8, 2011 at 01:36 pm
This place is the bees knees! Get in line!
Ahce / October 8, 2011 at 02:57 pm
Great decor here! Two by fours are the best!!!
Jamie / October 11, 2011 at 04:14 pm
Hahaha, a very funny review, and a new place to check out!
Den / October 25, 2011 at 02:50 pm
great piece.. i'm going!
Lauren / October 25, 2011 at 03:58 pm
tried to go for brunch last weekend, put my name down on a waiting list, AND WAS NEVER CALLED! totally lame. why offer the waitlist as a voluntary service if you're not even going to bother calling?
Yac / October 26, 2011 at 11:55 am
Went this past Saturday.

Had the Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich and a pint.
Chicken was tender, toppings were first rate.
More fries would have been appreciated, but the portion was perfect for what we needed at half-three in the afternoon.

Overall was great, would recommend and will return.
CC / October 26, 2011 at 09:17 pm
My partner and I visited CG for brunch this past Sunday. It was fantastic. My partner thoroughly enjoyed the croque madam, and my omelet (which I'm sure sounds boring) was perfect, really really excellent. I thought the americanos were nice - I especially liked the ceramic mugs in which they were served: charming without being precious. The fries and homemade ketchup were exactly as this reviewer described them - Great! Check this place out. It's far from the cheapest brunch on offer in the city, but I think it's well be worth the extra cost.
GT / October 27, 2011 at 11:54 am
tried to go last night. Had 6 people which is a tight fit, admittedly, but we got a very rude and frosty reception. Called earlier in the day and was told no reservations (which has become the norm), but the response I got was so offhand that we went to Delux, had a great meal, were warmly greeted and were happy to hand over our $500. Too many good restaurants in town for that kind of attitude out of a new restaurant. Won't bother trying again.
Dev / October 28, 2011 at 01:41 pm
Can I get mustard on my coat?
Dave replying to a comment from GT / November 4, 2011 at 02:53 pm
Is there a page where servers can review customers?
cec / November 18, 2011 at 11:47 pm
I really really like CG's brunch. The staff is awesome, the room is cozy, the food is super! That said, on my last two trips my poached eggs have been just under cooked - the whites were translucent and tasteless. I know it's busy, but they won't take too much longer! Otherwise, great, great, great.
shmeh / January 13, 2012 at 02:44 pm
food was good, service was terrible
maya replying to a comment from cec / January 23, 2012 at 01:14 pm
Agree with cec, on our last visit on Sunday all three of us at the table ordered eggs benny and all three were completely undercooked. I like runny eggs benny, but on our bennys even the whites were completely runny and transluscent. Also they let a number of incoming people wait inside for their table which, in a spot that tight, meant that there were people standing around our table the entire time while we ate. It wasn't an intimate brunch experience as a result. Finally, the entire brunch from beginning to end took 30 minutes. Felt really rushed out by the server and the kitchen (as was demonstrated by our completely undercooked eggs).
James / February 5, 2012 at 10:35 am
Two of us were really looking forward to going to County General, especially after the rave reviews on here. However, we were mightily disappointed upon arrival. The reception was cold and bordered on rude. The attitude coming from the people who work there was pretty much "you want to come here? ...well good luck coz we're busy and super pretentious!".

A moment or two after saying we'd wait 15/20 minutes for a table, I accidentally lent on the dimmer for the lights - it was going to be quite a wait, so I wanted a lean. The same almost-rude waitress ran up to me and was abrasive and actually rude this time. I apologised and explained it was an accident. At this point me and my partner talked about leaving, but decided to stay ...that was until another lady came up to us and told us to be careful about the light-switch. Rudely. I got the impression it was quite a common occurance from the way she said it.

At that point we'd had enough and decided to leave. I said "you know what, a couple of you have been quite rude to us, we're going to find somewhere else". As far as I'm concerned this was her opportunity to apologise and persuade us to stay. But no. Nothing, not even a little "sorry". We left.

It's a shame this pretentiousness exists - it looks like a cool place, the food looks good, but I'm not prepared to sit through a meal where the staff are rude and act like you should be grateful they even let you walk through the front door, especially when it turns out there's a better restaurant two doors down. At this rate, Ursa will be doing swift trade with County General's ex-patrons.
Evan / February 17, 2012 at 12:05 am
Wow, your story really resonated with me James. Said no one.
KD / February 29, 2012 at 11:44 am
I made the mistake of going here again for lunch after a bad experience the first time around. Each visit I have experienced rude and unattentive service. The servers came off as very pretentious and uncaring. The food was not all that great either, the sandwiches are literally dripping with grease. What's with all the hype around this place?
moe / March 9, 2012 at 12:50 am
horrifying stories. i guess i wont bother. let's look for another joint.
Flynn Halibut / March 16, 2012 at 10:59 am
The tales of your collective woes have moved me. Never more will I venture out to risk my self-esteem on such a precarious adventure. Oh no, not me.
Patty Hewes replying to a comment from Dave / March 31, 2012 at 06:27 pm
No, there isn't.
Patty Hewes / March 31, 2012 at 06:29 pm
I went with 3 friends and must admit that the service was HORRID! Seriously awful. I will go back again just to be a bitch though. Hopefully I get the same little dirty waiter. teeheehee
Shane W / March 31, 2012 at 06:30 pm
Wow... I guess I won't go then. Sounds lame
Matt / April 9, 2012 at 09:47 am
I'm all for quality over quantity (the Chicken Thigh sandwich tasted great); however, $14 for what is essentially a glorified slider doesn't cut it. The scant cup (literally) of fries didn't help either. Leaving hungry left me severely disappointed. Will not be returning.
mayor dodge / April 9, 2012 at 01:00 pm
Sounds like some of the wooden decor has been knocking management and servers on the head. No wonder they are so rude and b1tchey. I'll stay clear of this lumberyard.
Skimmm replying to a comment from James / April 9, 2012 at 07:10 pm
Had the same poor experience some of the others had above.

The server we had was not only a poor excuse for a waitress, but she was seriously RUDE and condescending. Don't ask a question, because you're libel to get an eyeroll, sarcastic deep breath, and a short/snappy answer.

Do they even read these comments? (or care?) I'd understand if the place was brand new and they were still ironing out their staff - but they're not new anymore. Time to get your shit together.
RP / April 10, 2012 at 03:41 pm
Had a terrible service experience at The Country General this weekend.

Called in on Saturday around 7pm to see what the wait was like for 6 people, was told "around 45 minutes". Great, we headed right over.

Arrived there about 10 minutes later and was RUDELY told by a woman at the front that they don't seat groups of 6 and then was told that we needed to be "educated" in how this type of restaurant works (I could only imagine by "this type of restaurant" she means "pretentious"). When we tried to explain that we had spoken to someone on the phone who said it was perfectly fine and there was a 45 min wait, she continued to escalate the situation and embarrass us in front of our four out-of-town guests. We left.

Funny part is that this was the same server who we saw rolling her eyes at a EVERY single member of a table seated beside us the last time we were at TCG. We were thankful that we didn't have her serving us last time and funny we ended up having a run in with her at this, our second visit. Frankly, the food is pretty good, but DEFINITELY not worth that kind of attitude! As you can see from the reviews above, I'm not alone.

After giving a negative review on Twitter, I was contacted by Aja, one of their managers. She was proactive in trying to understand what happened, but realistically the response I got was "sorry that happened, give us another chance", which to me translates to "we still want your money, but are unwilling to get to the root of the problem". Though I appreciate the sentiment, I'm not really willing to go back and drop another $100/person to potentially get treated like I'm a moron. It was clear from our exchange that she wasn't going to fire that server (even though it was the same server who I can confirm was rude TWICE), so it's clear they don't take customer service seriously and are happy to have a disgruntled waitress serving/greeting their guests.

There are plenty of restaurants in the area that provide equally good food and actually value your business. I'd suggest stearing clear of this one. Try Enoteca Sociale if you're looking for somewhere hip with great food AND service.
Wandaa / April 16, 2012 at 11:07 am
Rude servers this weekend, not worth the hype. Pass.
Maureen replying to a comment from Wandaa / April 16, 2012 at 01:13 pm
Sounds like the wooden headed servers all have termites.
sarah / April 18, 2012 at 01:43 pm
I loved their chicken thigh sandwich, although I was still hungry after as it was more of a snack. Too expensive for two lol
sarah replying to a comment from Matt / April 18, 2012 at 01:46 pm
haha that's exactly how I felt
Hospitality is dead / April 26, 2012 at 09:06 am
I excitedly tried County General this week after hearing good things. I can understand 1, maybe 2 things going wrong in one visit, provided the food was great and the servers try to fix what's wrong. But this experience was all around horrifying.

1. Upon entry, the staff was too self absorbed and nurturing their Queen-St.-West-I'm-too-good-to-bathe look to greet us nicely. In fact, while our lumberjack-attired server took our order, he did not make eye contact with us once.

2. We received empty sharing plates. They were quite pretty. Especially with the half pound of food still stuck to them. I worked in restaurants long enough to know that a bad dishwasher about to get fired will spray plates and not sanitize them. You could get away with that for a while because people won't notice. But that much crud? What's worse is that it failed several layers of inspection, namely by our waiter who apparently doesn't look at his guests OR his dishes.

3. Why does McDonald's put your fries in open cardboard? so they don't get soggy. You put fries in a metal cup, you get a greasy soggy mess. Otherwise, well seasoned. Thanks, that was the best part of the meal.

4. We ordered a burger and the fried chicken thigh sandwich. The breading had a pale insipid uncooked appearance to it. I used my cruddy fork to pry it open, only to find that the chicken was raw. Pink, rubbery raw texture, unmistakable. My dispassionate server informed me that it is fine, that I was wrong, and it was cooked sous-vide. I refrained from telling him that I teach young chefs about this technique and returned the plate.

Here's the thing. If you are going to use sous-vide, which is a very risky method for cooking any protein because it keeps the food in a bacteria breeding temperature for long periods of time, you want to project to your customers that your establishment is as clean as an operating room.

And rule #1 of hospitality, is that the server, not the customer is always correct.

I went home waiting for the ecoli in my medium burger to kick in.
mayor dodge replying to a comment from Hospitality is dead / April 27, 2012 at 01:40 pm
OMG! The cook read a Japanese cookbook and is trying out chicken sashimi on the clientele! Hose the kitchen down with pine-sol and everyone in it quick!
Johnny / June 30, 2012 at 02:07 pm
My girlfriend and I had our worst brunch ever here on a Saturday. Here's everything that went wrong:

- When asking us which pretentious selection of water we'd like - sparkling, still or tap - they failed to mention it would be a bloody $6 bottle for still (our choice). Sidenote: still water?! That conjures up a nasty image of swamp water laden with mosquito eggs. Oy.

- The brunch menu. One of the first items I set my eyes on was "pig face". Again, not a pleasant image. We both decided on the eggs benedict as it's a staple brunch food so it would probably be good. BIG MISTAKE! What we got were two runny messes of severely undercooked, unseasoned eggs. I held back from asking for it to be remade but wish I didn't as it was a disgusting ordeal. Small portions too, which normally would upset me but here it was a blessing.

- The presentation was equally abysmal. These eggy slops were served on flat wooden boards as opposed to actual plates?! Ok we get it, wooden plates are cool but let's be practicality here. Our soggy meals were literally seeping to the edge and almost escaped on to the table more than once. Did anyone even have plating experience? Or go to cooking school?

- The worst part was the price. Two sad egg bennies, $6 bottled water and an Americano came to to $50 including tips. This could have easily fed 3 - 4 people elsewhere. They take for granted their popular spot and the fact that it's still full of patrons means it's highway robbery. But not for us, oh no. We would much rather spend money on upcoming brunches at The Drake or Gladstone.
Sha / July 14, 2012 at 01:11 pm
Yeah agree with Johnny. If you are going to offer water, I think it is reasonable to expect it to be free and not $6. Its a bit sleazy and presumptuous to think people want bottled water. Also a lot of the better restaurants are offering free still and fizzy water at no cost to its patrons.........Especially if they are trying to be as green as possible.
M. & K, Will Not Return !!! / July 22, 2012 at 03:32 pm
NEVER written a comment on any restaurant before this one. We totally agree with the previous UNHAPPY people like GT, James, Major Dodge & RP about 'TCG'. This was our first time there & definately the last. Did not even get to taste the food after over an hour wait. Our waiter informed us that they 'LOST OUR ORDER'and would we like to re-order it again. I think not, 'TCG' has lost our business, NEVER to RETURN !!!
Elly replying to a comment from M. & K, Will Not Return !!! / July 31, 2012 at 03:26 pm
WOW! It looks like the county general has lost the battle for TO diners business. Falling on a baguette sword is the only honourable thing to do, you so-called commanders of the kitchen.
d bowie / August 12, 2012 at 08:32 pm
One of the more unsatisfying brunch experiences I've had in Toronto. Unlike others posting above, the service was fine, nothing to complain about, although the waitress did forget what our table of 2 ordered in the 3 steps it took her to get to the computer and punch it in. No big deal, more funny than annoying and she was pleasant enough.

The food though, especially at the prices leaves a lot to be desired. The eggs benny, very runny, and served on what must be a very difficult to sanitize wood tray, were not very tasty, not very cooked, not very filling, and not very special for the 13 bucks. My french omelette for the same price was no better than a 4.95 greasy spoon omelette. Nothing special,with neither quantity nor quality to recommend it. So, not a lot of food for the price-we spent $44 for 2 brunches with coffees and came away hungry and dissatisfied. The tables for 2 are crammed into the space, so you really get friendly with the neighbours. Hopefully the hispster next to us eating alone enjoyed our conversation!

What does this place offer? A bit of style, a bit of a cool vibe. Seemingly popular with people that have more tattoos than taste buds. Nothing that compensates for mediocre food at the higher end of the brunch price scale. I've had better brunch for less at petit dejeuner, gladstone, Easy, Harlem U.,.... hell, even Java house hits a decent price/quality ratio.

Needless to say, they won't be getting any more business from me.
blm replying to a comment from shmeh / August 16, 2012 at 06:30 pm
Good food and bad service is becoming quite the norm here in Toronto.

Hepman / August 17, 2012 at 10:41 am
Does Dinesafe check out that ugly woodpile wall for bugs? There's gotta be some in there that could hop a ride on one of their ridiculous wooden plates. Bust 'em down to County Privates.
Jesse / August 25, 2012 at 09:40 am
- Tiny portions
- Shitty service
- Pretty decor
Michele / September 16, 2012 at 04:57 pm
Had a terrible brunch. Only the nice company of my friends made it enjoyable.

The service behind the bar was friendly, but the County Heirloom Tomato Sandwich had major problems. Most importantly, there were common hothouse tomatoes dominating it. One hothouse was small and ripe, and the other was large and unripe. I removed (what seemed like a) Yellow Brandywine tomato and ate it on its own to realize it had no flavor. Only the cheddar made the sandwich edible.

The fries were freshly fried and seasoned with salt and a bit of spice. The ketchup was tasty. Overall, however, I'd argue not only was this menu choice not delicious according to my own personal taste, but it was falsely advertized. Also, the sandwich took 40 minutes to arrive.

Glancing over at my neighbours eggs benedict made me not want to order it. I like my benny runny but this was too raw and the wooden boards didn't stop the runs from hitting the table. It looked so terrible I decided to order the tomato sandwich, to my chagrin.

As for the supposed "cool" vibe. It really depends on what is meant by cool. To me, it seemed so hip it hurt. It was trying too hard to be in line with this "austerity chic" trend: simple things with wood added. "Southern" it was not; missing the charming customer service and kitschy decorations. There was even a cliché "bird on it": as their logo on the door and menu. Shame!

Terrible brunch. Just as terrible as this likedy-like review.
Shlayzee / November 6, 2012 at 01:20 pm
Came last night for dinner, despite the terrible comments here.

Very glad I did, the staff were awesome - not pretentious at all. I ordered the white bean "meatball" sandwich and my partner had the burger and fries, we split the big salad and each had a cocktail. We both left stuffed, happy and dying to come back to try the rest.

jb / January 18, 2013 at 04:07 pm
this place is horrible everything about it is horrible never go here
Poopdawg / March 11, 2013 at 01:43 pm
Had a pile of chicken there on the weekend. It was ahw-zum!
Service was a-o-k and I loved the atmosphere. Will be back.
Jons / October 8, 2013 at 09:25 pm
Wow, looks like another mysterious case of TORONTITUDE spoiling a good dining establishment! Where do they get these substandard servers?

Guess it must be 'cool' to resent and piss off customers. Look, people work hard to pay your high prices, and they go out of their way to be your customers - now grow the hell up. Brats.
Gilded Rat replying to a comment from Jons / October 9, 2013 at 10:48 am
Try this when you are stuck with a brat-a$$ server. Give them their 'entitled' 15 percent in nickles covered in condiments and leftovers or at the bottom of a unfinished coffee/drink. Then move fast.
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Lindsay / July 26, 2014 at 08:44 pm
I'm Executive Chef, who was looking for a great place in TO to hang out, have incredible food and be able to have a great experience. The County General has an incredible array of specialty bevys and a small but flavour packed menu.

All this aside, the company that is kept here is questionable. Beware. We had spent a significant amount of money here, until the "owners father" arrived and threatened us several times. It was not provoked in any way. They were delivering fridges etc. while eating dinner on the patio, was interrupted and threatened. He was asked to leave, but ruined our evening.

Beware, as this is not the place you want to spend your evening and your money.... Disappointing at best.
Lemon Loaf / August 18, 2014 at 05:42 am
Me and my girlfriend ate here about two weeks ago. here's the play by play. (spoiler alert, I wouldn't go back)

- Enjoyed our server, found him to be very nice and attentive to us.

- the Caesar was quite tasty my girlfriend had, nothing special though. But my specialty drink was sub par.
The Sunday Picnic 12
El Dorado 5yr Rum, Averna
Cinnamon, Vanilla & Root Beer.

-found there to be to much vanilla, over taking the other flavors. which is disappointing considering this is one of their "specialty" drinks.

- as for our food. I ordered two "bites", the "pork bun" "little mac" was very tender but lacking in flavor. frankly the bun they had used was the best part. The "Devilled egg" with crispy chicken skin on top was by far my favorite thing I ordered, very good, just exploding with flavors.

- as for our main meals I had the "Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich" since that is what they are known for. Again disappointed found it to be VERY salty all I could taste was the salt (and I personally much rather something salty than sweet), same goes with their fries. salt,salt,salt by the end of my meal my lips hurt.

-Unfortunately My girlfriend didn't fair much better. Ordered the wings but turns out they had just switched them to "duck wings" they just hadn't had the chance to fix the menu. She still ordered them, our server said they had sold out of them the past two nights. High expectations were just slapped onto that order right then and there. *drum roll*

low and behold, salty... and to top it off their was a feather cooked into the batter, pulled it out no biggie. Now I did enjoy the flavor of them, once getting past the salt rock of a batter they make. Sadly though we were interrupted half way through our meal by a few hungry wasps who had made landing on the duck wings. which made for an early exit at the County General.

all in all. wouldn't go back. There are far to many other great places in the city to try out than give this place a second chance.
Rich / December 16, 2014 at 09:53 am
So lets start the dead pool clock on this hipster shit-hole... I say they don't make it through the Jan-Feb-Early March 2015 dead season (here's hoping)
CCass replying to a comment from Rich / June 25, 2015 at 10:23 pm
looks like you were wrong

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