Pray Tell is a snack bar at College and Ossington that aspires to become as indispensable a part of its neighbourhood as has its sister spot, the much-vaunted Track & Field .
Occupying what was most recently a Buster Rhino's , owners Dustin Keating ( Montauk, Track & Field ) and his partner Nickie Minshall (Track & Field), along with Sonia Mondino ( Nota Bene, Porchetta & Co , Patois , Home of the Brave) opened up and transformed the space by hand with a series of loving, inventive, and frequently adorable touches.
Greenery dominates a hand-built west wall shelving unit that serves as the restaurant's dominant feature, while copper piping shrouds the wiring for Keating's light fixtures.
Although the table tops and upholstery have been made-to-order, everything else is their own design and execution.
Keating's track record so far suggests that the two could easily make a living designing bars for other people, but they both seem happier to enjoy the fruits of their own labour.
For the food, Sonia Mondino has created a menu of small snacking plates that are easy on the wallet and even easier to dive into. Mondino was travelling through Japan prior to launching Pray Tell and the Asian influence is clear in her menu.
Crispy Dumplings ($8) live up to the billing. They're fluffy pillows of pork and sauerkraut on the inside, but with a delicate shell encrusted around the otherwise soft dough.
The delicious beef jus dip they come with is a by-product of the fantastically tender Braised Short Ribs ($12), themselves served up with pickled ginger and scallions.
The King Cold Roll ($7) continues on the Asian theme. Double-wrapped in rice paper, they're positively stuffed with king oyster mushrooms and pickled vegetables, and filled with a rich peanut sauce.
The Pocket Pizza Supreme ($8) and the Roasted Garlic ($6), on the other hand, show off Mondino's Italian heritage in spades. For the former, crispy fried pizza dough is stuffed with mozzarella and bolognese, and subsequently slathered with herb oil.
For the latter, garlic is roasted until spreadably soft, and sweetened with a touch of honey and clementine-chili oil. The bread to spread it on is supplied from Prairie Boy , a few doors up the street.
For the drinks, Keating and Minshall have turned to Max Brunke, a precocious talent they unearthed at Track & Field.
He's taken the bar manager role with gusto, and crafted a natty list of beautifully balanced drinks, like the Make Nice ($12), an egg white sour with pisco, passion fruit and rose-infused Cointreau.
Also worth trying is the B-Side Track ($12), with tequila, jalapeno shrub and strawberry. There's a short selection of well-picked beer from the likes of Brimstone and Left Field ($7-12), and wines (all $11 b.t.g.) are chosen in collaboration with GM Johnny Kountouri (Soos).
I'm really impressed with this bar. As the couple have taken the opportunity to move away from the party-bar scene into something a little more mature.
This is the kind of spot that you drop into regularly, whether it be to catch up with friends, or to casually grab a plate after work.
There's no theme to speak of, other than providing a great atmosphere and a pretty space to enjoy some tasty food and drinks. Who could want more than that?