Inter Steer

Formally a dusty old restaurant that appeared to be called "Romantic Place" and whose facade looked like it dated back to 1970, Inter Steer underwent a big makeover a few years ago and re-emerged as one of Roncesvalles' most popular watering holes.

The bar's floor-to-ceiling wood paneling (post-makeover), enduring popularity with older, grizzlier drinkers, and brisk trade in Labatt's 50 attracted hipsters like a sale at American Apparel, who did more for the bar's reputation by word-of-mouth than its shiny new digs ever could. But Inter Steer remains popular because of its surprises in the culinary department, where it smartly under-promises and over-delivers.

Classic rock on the jukebox and sports on the TV aren't exactly heralds of haute cuisine, and Inter Steer's inexpensive menu of pierogies and other fried comestibles seems fairly standard. Give it a chance, though, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the delicious pub-food-meets-traditional-Polish fare that is the legacy of Susur-trained chef Bart Murawiecki (and owner Eva Radwan's nephew). Murawiecki has since moved on, but Chef Mike Cross, former sous-chef at Rain, has been filling those large boots since May.

The nacho pierogies, probably the caloric equivalent of four or five meals, are a personal comfort food favourite, although the sticky fingers - much the same idea over potato wedges - are probably the most popular menu item. The Steer Cigar, beef goulash wrapped up in a crepe, sounds a bit odd but is thoroughly tasty. Meals run in the $8-$15 range.

The servers, a handful of Polish ladies of varying ages, have a friendly and unstressed demeanor that hints at nepotism. Beer, wine or cider are the preferred drink order, although shooters always make the rounds among rowdier guests. If you order a cocktail, you'll have to be able to explain how to make it (and consider the garnishes; I once got three olives in my chocolate martini, but drank it anyway because my server was so nice).

One unusual house specialty that's worth a try is the Apple Pie dessert shooter: Bison Grass vodka served with a slice of apple and a pretzel. Altogether, the taste is like apple pie - one that's been soaked in vodka, of course.

Once you're tucked up into one of the cozy booths with your Polish fusion food and your Zywiec, you can pretend to watch one of the old silent films playing over the bar while scoping out Roncesvalles/Parkdale's weird and wonderful, from Bettie Page-style pinup girls on first dates with carefully disheveled shoe-gazers, to older, blue-collar fellas who've been keeping the barstools warm since lunchtime.

Writing by Jessica McGann

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