seafood boil bars toronto

Boil bars race to take over Toronto's restaurant scene

Restaurant trends usually run amok in Toronto. From epic ice cream cones to tea served in light bulbs, we're home to some pretty kitschy concepts.

One of the latest trends racing across the city and surrounding areas are restaurants specializing in Cajun-style seafood boils. These eateries seem to be popping up all over the place ever since the first one opened up about a year ago.

The Captain's Boil got its start in North York in November 2015. It already has eight restaurants in the GTA as well as two in Montreal and one in Richmond, BC. By the end of this year, it'll open up three more outposts in the Toronto area.

Company spokesperson Wes Newbold explains that most of the Captain's Boil locations are franchised out. After the first one opened, requests from potentional franchisees came flooding in via direct messages on Facebook and Twitter. “There’s really been a huge organic demand to franchise out," he says.

Amy Ha and her husband own a Captain's Boil franchise. They opened their store in Little Italy this past August. They fell in love with seafood boils after eating at The Boiling Crab while on a trip to Las Vegas.

She left her career as a project manager in the pharmaceutical industry to be her own boss and to introduce others to the seafood boil experience. Three months in, she says she already has regulars.

“The concept is very different because you eat with your hands and you get messy and you’re encouraged to really dig into your food," she says, reflecting on the Captain's Boil's popularity. "It’s something fun for groups of people to do and we get a lot of dates here.”

The Boil Bar is another seafood boil restaurant. It has two locations in Toronto and differentiates itself by focusing on its bar as well as on alcohol-infused sauces, says spokesperson Closs Tong.

In Vaughan, Mississauga and Waterloo, seafood lovers can also go to L.A. Boil.

Some critics say these types of restaurants are wasteful, and it's hard to deny that. Food comes served in plastic bags and guests wear plastic bibs and gloves when they dig into their food. Both The Captain's Boil and the Boil Bar say they're taking steps to reduce waste, but neither restaurant has firm plans in place just yet.

And while the Captain's Boil continues to expand its reach ("Millennials love it!" says Newbold) across Canada and possibly into the United States, there might be signs that the trend's starting to wane at home. Boil King at King and Peter opened and closed pretty quickly, and on a recent weekend night, the Boil Bar at Yonge and Wellesley looked surprisingly empty.

Still, many of these seafood boil spots remain buzzing as Torontonians clammer to get messy and eat with their hands.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez.

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