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Two Bite Saloon

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Reviewed on November 9, 2012 / review policy

two bite saloon torontoTwo Bite Saloon opened up less than week ago, and is perhaps the most convincing argument for the recently much-touted growth of the Bloor and Ossington area. Directly beside Tallboys, it too offers craft beer on tap and in bottles, although owner (along with partners Charlie An and John Kim) and bartender Daniel Fortin (formerly of Mildred's and Circa, among others) tells me that there's only camaraderie between them.

two bite saloon torontoInside, it's eclectic. The former Ethiopian restaurant has been refurbished with occasional baroque wallpaper and dark wood, wall sconces and hanging bulbs, and polished wood flooring. The wraparound bar is ornately paneled, but the service is casual, the locals and (already becoming) regulars make friends at the bar, and it feels comfortable.

two bite saloon torontoWe start off with pints of Lake of Bays ($7), although beers such as Amsterdam 416 are also on tap, with bottles such as McAuslan Apricot available for $6, and tall cans of Kensington Augusta Ale for $7. The cocktail program comes courtesy of Fortin, and features both straight-up classics such as the old fashioned ($9), and creative departures such as the mojito-meets-sidecar-by-way-of-bourbon Wishing Well ($9). The latter is refreshing, although undeniably more suitable for summer.

two bite saloon torontoThe menu has definite Southern leanings and chef Nathan Jones' (The Saint, Ultra Supper Club) passion for Southern food, and his patience and ability with a smoker, shine through in each dish. As for the sliders? Fortin tells me that he wanted to create a menu where people could "sample a little bit of everything."

two bite saloon torontoThe ribs ($17, with side of fries and kale salad) truly rank among the best-tasting I've encountered in the city. They're moist and tender, yes, but exceedingly so, thanks to Jones' commitment to slow-smoking, then chicken frying, which batters them somewhat to ensure that the juices remain intact, but doesn't come across as chalky or fried. The Carolina-style BBQ sauce is the perfect marriage of sweet and savory, and comes generously slathered on the 5-rib portion.

two bite saloon torontoThe kale salad ($5) threw me a curveball. Even the most set-on-murdering-you-at-the-table-with-grease Southern meals employ some type of collard green, but this was more of a stew. The kale is front and center (having been simmered in brown sugar for a bit of glaze), but the smoked ham-hock is unavoidable and rich, and the shavings of parmesan add a sharp, salty flavour. The portion isn't excessive, but don't be fooled: this is no dainty green salad.

two bite saloon torontoNext up is the generous portion of poutine ($6, or $5 as a side). Some restaurants will drown mediocre fries in decent gravy and call it a day, while others (I'm looking at you, Murray's) serve perfect poutine even when they're running low on gravy (mysteries without answers).

The fries begin as organic russet potatoes, tossed in herbs and house-smoked salt (details, people), and are then topped with green peppercorn gravy and cheese curds. The dish as a whole has an earthy, mushroom-y quality, without losing the underlying kick and crispiness of the fries themselves.

two bite saloon torontoTwo Bite Saloon bills itself as a slider house (following closely on the heels of newly-opened Slider Revolution), and it's what best sets it apart (on paper) from your run o' the mill pub. There are 5 options available (1.5-2 oz. each), and you can get any combination you want at $10 for 3, $14 for 5, $18 for 7, and $24 for 10. We're told the hands-down best-seller is the wild catfish (panko-battered and topped with chef-made tartar sauce), followed by the pulled pork (local and GMO-free pork smoked with apple and hickory, and crowned with buttermilk slaw). We try all of them, and the catfish is, indeed the best.

two bite saloon torontoA surprising runner-up is the organic tofu slider. Representing true commitment to even the (let's face it) likeliest-to-fail-in-a-pub-environment item on the menu, it's marinated in chipotle and maple, then maple-wood smoked, then battered in cornmeal and fried. Delicious, and a coup for vegetarianism. Other than the pulled pork, which bore the same sauce as the ribs, the other two meat sliders (beef chuck and slow-braised brisket), were entirely eclipsed.

two bite saloon torontoI was immediately tempted by the muffins ($4 per order of 2), having discovered my love for humble cornbread while in Louisiana. By the end of the (truly gargantuan) meal, we're full, but they arrive--deceptively small and dusted in powdered sugar--under the guise of dessert.

two bite saloon torontoThe sweetness of the yellow corn is offset by charred poblano chili, but the texture is perfect, and Jones sells me on a freshly-made batch of BBQ sauce for a dip. Decadent, but I prefer them naked (yes, they are pictured above, and yes, they're turned away from the camera to hide a heat-of-the-moment love-bite).

two bite saloon torontoThere's real passion behind the food, and it's a meal we were still talking about the next day--and that's sayin' something.



d / November 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm
Ken / November 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm
Great review of the place Alex.
Yet another place to add to my ever-growing list of places to try. Great work detailing the dishes.
Big Fuckin Mega Boat / November 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm
Looks awesome, I really shouldn't read these so close to lunch....
Paulina / November 9, 2012 at 03:30 pm
This place is delicious!!! Everything tasted amazing!! I will be back for more great food. The bathroom floors are also awesome.
Dad / November 9, 2012 at 07:12 pm
Wow so proud of these guys wish I had more to do with it(nothing but dirty work)but I did have a bite or two and maybe a pop and did enjoy it to the max. I do invite one and all to do the you guys
Local hood rat / November 9, 2012 at 09:32 pm
Great review!!! Sounds so delish!! Going there to eat NOW!
Finally something cool, tasty and a place to go in the hood!
Hopefully they do brunch as well need a hangover place on the weekends:))
Lynn / November 10, 2012 at 02:05 am
Those Dishes Look Fantastic, What A CHEF!!!! I have Known Nathan For May Years.... When He Used To Come To England And Visit Our Pubs That We Ran He was Always Popping Into My Kithen To see What I was Preparing... He has always Had A passion For Food... So with all My Heart He has made It & Will be a great Asset to the Two Bite Salon xxx
Gunslinger / November 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm
I'm pretty sure actual saloons didn't have tofu sliders or mojitos. Don't get me wrong, both look delicious, but where are the little swinging doors? And the spurs? Can we at least expect a few duels?
Paul / November 11, 2012 at 07:25 pm
Popped in over the weekend, the food definitely lived up to expectations. I had every variation(minus tofu, they ran out) of the sliders and could not pick a winner. Poutine was great and so was the slaw. Only suggestion would be to put up some sort of curtain in the front entrance to avoid the "cold draft of death".
Bjorn / November 17, 2012 at 01:26 pm
This place looks really cool... but is that really 17$ for three ribs?
Harpo / November 17, 2012 at 09:12 pm
Honestly, I could not have been more disappointed with this place! After seeing this review on blogto, I was expecting something great...and it's right in my 'hood. EVERY ASPECT OF THE PLACE WAS DREADFUL!!! They really need to try harder. The catfish, listed as the favourite, was worse than long john silvers. The tofu slider was terrible - dry brick of tofu, one thin slice of pickle and ZERO sauce. What the hell are they thinking? The beef "burger" was barely mediocre. The pulled pork was the best, but not saying much. The poutine was wretched. The fries are good, but as a dish it was awful. Beer selection was bad. I can't see this place lasting at all unless they get their act together. Very disappointing!!!!!!!!!
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localgal replying to a comment from Harpo / November 19, 2012 at 02:24 pm
Oh Dear Harpo - dreadful? mediocre? wretched? disappointing? It must be tough being you! Either you have an axe to grind, you're a competitor, or someone peed in your cornflakes. Cheer up Harpo - there's room for everyone and life isn't that serious. Two Bite is fun, good filling food, and it's new, cut some slack!

Sincerely - A satisfied patron also from the 'hood.
Captain America replying to a comment from get Laid in sacramento / November 27, 2012 at 05:50 pm
Do you speak English or just a form of drivel? terrible.
pascal / December 13, 2012 at 06:42 pm
Oh poor Harpo! Life must be hard on you! Specially if you expect something "great" when ordering a burger & poutine. May be you should start a restaurant consulting business for people who don't get their act together!
For everybody else "two bite saloon" is a nice place to hang out with good comfort food & reasonably priced.
fp / January 3, 2013 at 11:34 pm
I agree with Harpo.. I dont know what the hype is about the food. It is bar food at best, and not even that great bar food. We ordered the catfish sliders- bland, and pulled pork sliders- better, but not great. We also got the ribs- dry and hardly any sauce, and there were only 4 ribs, and the wings- which were thick and meaty, but once again, quite disappointing. Also, $17 for 5 wings! That is quite a rip off

The ambiance is cool, but not one to rave over.

Overall, I would put this resto at a 3/5. Not some place I would go out of my way to eat at.
suri / January 11, 2013 at 07:53 pm
Better than regular bar food, poutine and sliders were pretty good. Tasted the fish, burger, pulled pork and have to say burger is pretty juicy. Bartender is very knowledgeable and atmosphere friendly. Would def go back as a regular considering price and service.
Nicole / March 4, 2013 at 07:27 pm
The brisket and fish sliders were very tasty but other than that it was a little underwhelming. it has the potential to be very very lovely. would love to see it thrive and succeed. i will try again. maybe avoid the collard greens.
Kal / July 2, 2013 at 02:34 pm
A great place to eat and hang out. It's not a five star restaurant but it is a above average slider/rib and more place. Throughly enjoyable and friendly staff. Simple, tasty and relaxing. What more do you want from a bar?
Geoff / August 15, 2013 at 09:16 pm
Went last week for the first time. Great spot, food and drink were great. Go again for sure... New Bloor it
Ginnifromdablock / July 22, 2014 at 09:22 pm
Ok seriously!!! Why have I not come here before!! I live around the corner and I always went to tallboys (which I still love) but theFOOD!! Such yummy southern BBQ food reminds me of when I was in Memphis! and it is just awesome and the atmosphere is cool too not hipstery or the next fad, so sont worry if you don't have the right hair cut or wrong tank top with skinny cut off shorts. It's super chill and good music and booze too! Super stoked!
Beer Drinker / January 23, 2015 at 11:43 am
Here's a fun bar game for all you beer drinkers! Find a friend and meet at Two Bite Saloon. Order and enjoy your first round of pints. Drink at opposite speeds so one of you finishes your pint faster. Flag your waiter and request another round. When it arrives, take the "20 oz pint glass" that you ordered and watch how it will neatly fit inside your companion's glass. THAT'S RIGHT! Your second round isn't a pint at all.. it maybe ranks at about 16 oz? It's pretty clear that Two Bite Saloon is banking on drunk people not noticing that their glasses are getting smaller as the night goes on. I've seen it happen twice now. Not cool, guys.

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