The Crest Gastropub
The Crest quietly opened a couple months ago in Hillcrest Village from a team of childhood friends that grew up in the neighbourhood. Despite the slick exterior, it's a casual pub, looking to appeal to families looking for a quick but decent bite to eat and local sports fans looking for a game day destination.
The space has been stripped to expose the original brick walls and given a cosmetic facelift that employs a dark colour palette, warm wood accents and plenty of eclectic adornments. Inside, two parallel dining rooms are connected by the bar in the back and multiple big screens adorn every wall (there are are five TVs in the ladies room alone).
I meet part-owner Vito Tomasicchio, whose resume boasts numerous Toronto establishments (KiWe Kitchen and Maison Mercer) as well as involvement with the raucous festival circuit (Digital Dreams, BPM). This new effort is decidedly more tame.
The menu is full of familiar pub grub, starting with complimentary baskets of popcorn gussied up with truffle oil. The kitchen is helmed by chef Casey Cruickshank who turns out predictable staples with the goal of providing a little something for everyone. Atypical of most bar menus, special attention is paid to salads and lighter fare with selections like a Quinoa and Beet Salad ($10) or Pan Seared Fish ($20) featuring a Kolapore Springs rainbow trout garnished with warm grapes and glazed with a little melted butter.
More conventional are the barroom staples, intentionally selected for their game-day draw. There's Wings ($12) and the juicy Hillcrest Burger ($11), as well as Pork Back Ribs ($16, lead photo) that come painted with a thick, sweet sauce and a smattering of finely chopped fresh jalapeños for a little kick. The ribs are without the woody flavours that a smoker would have infused, but they're still quite good, nailing the moist, peel-off-the-bone texture via a slow braise before being finished on the grill.
Covering all the bases, there are also a couple desserts, like the Crest Louis ($8), a moist red velvet cake layered with sweet cream cheese frosting and dripping with chocolate ganache. Not a bad finish, though my sweet tooth was already satisfied after the ribs.
On the bar menu, beers are divided by caps and taps, with Amsterdam Lager and Granville Island Pale Ale among the latter offerings. I opt for the house cocktail, and am impressed with the super refreshing Crest Lemonade ($9), a vodka based drink flavoured with cucumber and basil.
In the front, a street-side patio accommodates 15 or so, but outback there's room for at least 35 more. Locals can also take advantage of a new Sunday brunch menu that puts a twist on classics with offerings like buttermilk pancakes topped with jalapeño butter with Cracker Jack crumble or a pulled pork benny on a homemade biscuit.
Photos by Jesse Milns