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The Emerson

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Reviewed on February 1, 2013 / review policy

the emerson torontoThe Emerson recently opened in Bloordale Village, lending ever more credence to the notion that this neighbourhood is on the upswing, particularly with the Whippoorwill opening up just two doors down (which means you should start trolling real estate rags for property in the area).

The Emerson is instantly cozy, and that's thanks in part to the casual service, and especially the obvious camaraderie you can glimpse in the open kitchen. The kitchen staff sport toques, and have friendly huddles between plating.

the emerson torontoOn a Saturday night, the space is bustling, but we're easily seated--thanks to the spacious dining room, which features communal tables, high-top and bar seating, as well as more intimate 2-seater tables in the back. It's dim, but not eye-strainingly so, and it has the same worn wood and exposed brick combo that seems de rigeur right now.

Never one to really be taken in by bikes hung on walls (which the Emerson has in spades), I admittedly think it's pretty cute to look up from your menu and spot all the nods to modes of transportation hidden around the room--it's an "I spy with my little eyes" of submarines and cars. There's even a motorcycle by the front window.

the emerson torontoThe drinks menu has some nice craft beers on offer (including Beau's, which arrives in its own oversized bottle), one or two wines by the glass in both red and white (and others by the bottle), and a short list of classic-with-a-twist cocktails (hallelujah). I opt for the Low Country--a blend of tart, sweet, and boozy thanks to spiced apple cider, bourbon, and a wedge of lemon ($11).

A word about the Emerson's menu: it's not especially accommodating to those with dietary restrictions (including, you know, vegetarianism). The focus here is on the meat, but starters like the kale and barley salad ($8) are a nice middle ground. The dominant flavour here was the truly unexpected dressing of anchovy and sunflowers, drizzled generously over a filling portion of kale, barley, and sharp shaved parmesan.

the emerson torontoI'm a fan of Emerson's option to make a meal (and a half) out of all the available sides--for $20, you get decent portions of everything from fries to greens, but we couldn't resist ordering the daily pie--a very simple Shepherd's pie ($13), with mashed potatoes on top of rich lamb.

It was paired with a savoury sweet 'dipping sauce,' which we left mostly untouched, and in fact, the dish as a whole was too large for us--that's a whole lot of lamb, particularly when not broken up by the usual pub fillers of carrots or peas.

emerson torontoFrom the menu of sides, we choose the cauliflower slaw and the frites ($5 each). The former is inventive--cauliflower does yield a lot of crunch (and I might prefer it to cabbage), and the creamy sauce was accented by pickles, carrots, and what were likely chives. The fries were thinly cut, nicely fried, and sprinkled with thyme, and paired nicely with the garlic mayonnaise dip.

the emerson torontoThen, there was the Emerson burger ($12). First, the good: the portion was well-sized, the Beemster cheese sauce was a surprisingly fitting complement to the meat, and although I might've liked the option to dress up the burger beyond lettuce, tomato, and the sliver of pickle skewered in the burger, the soft bun was fresh and fragrant.

Unfortunately, that same bun was no match for the dish's biggest drawback--I'm sure someone just got overzealous behind the scenes, but by the time I was ready to inelegantly chow down, the sheer amount of sauce had rendered everything soggy, and it became a knife-and-fork situation. A hurdle I put behind me, until I reached the centre of the patty and found it cooked rare--fine for some, maybe, but they should've asked beforehand.

the emerson torontoIn short, the Emerson has a few kinks to figure out yet, but the atmosphere is certainly a great base to build on.



laura / February 4, 2013 at 12:14 pm
not sure how a salad with fish in the dressing is a middle ground for vegetarians?
evan / February 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm
Reasonable prices?? That's pretty rare… I'm excited to try!
Paul / February 4, 2013 at 04:36 pm
Between the Emerson and the Whippoorwill, competition is stiff for best burger in Bloordale! Both are awesome, but I think the 'will gets my vote. I love the sweetbreads appetizer at Emerson.
Ken / February 4, 2013 at 06:24 pm
The craft beers and the shepherd's pie both sound enticing, though I'm not sure it would draw crowds from around town. Both the Emerson and the Whippoorwill seem like nice bistros for area residents and passers-through to dine at, rather than a must-eat destination.

The pool of red liquid at the bottom of the burger plate is very unappealing.

Thank you for the write-up Alex!
David / February 4, 2013 at 06:46 pm
Tried the Emerson twice and both time the food was great.
Their portion size is good and well priced...Way to go the Emerson!
Mark / February 4, 2013 at 10:53 pm
We tried it out a few weeks ago - really pleasantly surprised by how much flavour there was in seemingly ordinary dishes: lake Huron pickerel with fennel was insane, and the "Hunter's Pie" (game, think it was goose that night) was deep n' delicious.

Beer selection is good but a bit sparse, though the Mill st. stout is on tap and tasty. The house red was unmemorable and really overpriced.

Communal table up front looks awesome.
ChefAldea / February 5, 2013 at 01:41 am
I've been to The Emerson twice and enjoyed both times. First visit was the por the "Pies" etc and loved every bite. The Kale salad is killer. Second visit I played with the menu and was thoroughly impressed. Cocktails were great and the music/vibe was dope. If you're in the hood or around - check it out! Simple but satisfying - Bloordale is lucky!
Lansdowner Dude / February 5, 2013 at 03:27 pm
Another gem in the hood, been there many times since they opened and totally recommend it to those that have been there.
Great staff and food.
Josca / February 5, 2013 at 04:40 pm
Great food, nice ambiance, really nice staff. Excellent addition to the neighbourhood!
Matt / February 5, 2013 at 10:28 pm
Worst service I've had in a long time... Food was good though.
Rob / February 5, 2013 at 10:53 pm
Blog t.o. is loosing what little credibility it had in this city. No fact checking, writers that have no clue how to dine or write a review. Really you took more photos than menu items ordered. I live in Bloordale and have been to the Emerson a few times since opening a couple months ago. The food is Fantastic and the staff repeatedly show me and my friends a good time. They are not shy to let people know how they feel about the press in this city. This review and many more like it on your site certainly let me begin understand what they are talking about.

keep up the poor journalism blog t.o. word is out you have no clue what you are doing...


They have a lentil pie and five veg sides that my veg head friends can't seem to stop talking about. And Please show me a 'race car'? in the restaurant and i will happily pay for your staff to enroll in my journalism class. you can't just make things up! or can you?

Josh replying to a comment from Rob / February 6, 2013 at 12:51 am
RELAX ROB! Wow you found a restaurant you like that's great, other people are interested in it and have an interpretation of it too, what are you so angry about...
Welshgrrl replying to a comment from Rob / February 6, 2013 at 03:01 pm
And if you teach journalism, surely you know its lOsing and not lOOsing ...
Carmela / February 10, 2013 at 02:04 am
Just signed for one of the new condos at dupont and landsdowne, it's exciting to hear about all of the new stuff headed out this way. I'm going to have to agree with Rob here and say that this review had some issues. The comment that the server "should have asked" about the doneness of the burger threw me for a loop. Unless you are dining at a chain restaurant where most burgers come frozen thus have to be cooked all the way through, you should expect your burger to have some pink. From a reviewer and what I would have expected to have been an experience diner, this just seemed like a strange comment.
meh / February 20, 2013 at 08:52 pm
I am not one to cut down a new business but I wish this one was somewhere else. I like that Bloordale is not as "too cool for school" as this place. I went there - the food was quite tasty but the vibe was a bit full of itself. I fear that a place like this will swing the neighbourhood like Ossington, the locals leave to eat and others come.

If you are looking for something interesting - try Stella's $10 curry and quirky vibe - just a few doors down and a better neighbourhood fit.

O.G. replying to a comment from Ken / March 4, 2013 at 06:10 pm
Pool of red liquid? That's blood, KEN, blood. From a nicely cooked, but perhaps not properly rested, burger patty. Pure YUM.
MT replying to a comment from O.G. / March 5, 2013 at 12:28 am
Sigh. Actually, it's not blood, O.G., it's a mixture of water and myoglobin, a protein found in muscle that's responsible for the red colour of beef.

If you're going to lecture, at least try to be correct.
GL / March 16, 2013 at 05:49 pm
This is a general grumbling but, why don't places put some semblance of a menu online in this day and age?

Just a landing page with a snapshot of what you serve. Is that too much to ask?
O.G. replying to a comment from MT / April 7, 2013 at 03:44 pm
Pretty sure I wasn't lecturing, but thanks for your words of wisdom, MT. Next time I want to sound pedantic, I'll make sure to inform everyone of my knowledge of water and myoglobin!! What fun!
wowduh / April 19, 2013 at 09:13 pm
WOW this review is ridiculous for the single reason alone that YOU ARENT SURE IF THOSE ARE CHIVES ON THAT SLAW . wowowowowow if you cant identify that STOP writing food reviews - period
DEB / July 22, 2013 at 04:42 pm
went to this place for my birthday. food was great. reminded me of home cooking. would highly recommend.
JAKA / July 26, 2013 at 11:15 pm
My wife and I just dined here. It was fantastic and we enjoyed everything thoroughly. We each had lobster burgers which George priced just right! Delicious. All potions were generous. The service was outstanding - the waitress was pleasant and appeared to be backed up by two other servers all of whom made sure everything was a near perfect experience. Other members of the staff also greeted us and checked in frequently.

I say near perfect because when it came time to pay, we were told they didn't accept Mastercard. Ok, that's a first, no probs, - how about Interac? "No, but there's an ATM in the basement." UGH. The Emerson presented itself as an establishment above a petty revenue stream from a non-descript bank machine. In other words we get charged $3.00 so you can make .50 cents.

That type of thing may pass with 20 somethings out at a bar but not us crotchety 30 somethings. As a 15 year veteran in the hospitality business I know from experience your final act during a service should never be to inconvenience your customer. Especially when they are happily trying to pay you for the wonderful meal you just provided.

We still highly recommend The Emerson. Just bring a Visa, or cash. And Emerson, please reconsider adding Mastercard (Yes, we've experienced the Mastercard set-up pain - It may mean you have to switch banks) but in the very least add Interact.

And ditch that evil ATM!

We're sure every one of your servers would back us up on these requests.

Keep up the good work.
gwen / December 15, 2013 at 10:14 pm
dont waste your time. the food sucks and the server drama is high.
don / January 8, 2014 at 03:39 pm
this place sucks and the guy cooking looks like a dirt bag.
Ali / February 6, 2014 at 12:54 pm
The bartender who looks like a bobble head is so rude. There are a bunch of wanna be hipsters trying way to hard. Calm down people, this is bloor and lansdowne, not yorkville.
Houston / February 14, 2014 at 05:47 pm
The racist and sexist Valentine's sandwich board says loads about this place.

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