Aloette, a casual but elegant little sister to its tasting-menu relation Alo upstairs, can be found on the ground floor of the same Queen & Spadina building as its elder sibling.
This 38-seat à-la-carte gem that’s somewhere between a bistro and a diner doesn’t accept reservations. It's walk-in only.
Occupying a space that was previously a nail salon, this sleek spot feels like a quasi-futuristic take on an old-school train dining car; general manager Christian St-Pierre fittingly describes it as “Kubrick meets Lynch.”
Everything here is about the details, and what lovely details they are: outfitted with a mix of wood and leather, plus penny-tile flooring for good measure, there’s a barrel-vault ceiling, swivelling stools at the bar and booths with custom-made benches.
Commute, the same company behind Alo’s design, is also responsible for the look of this place.
Simplicity is key, with single-page menus each for food and drink. Owner/executive chef (of both restaurants upstairs and downstairs) Patrick Kriss has appointed Matthew Betsch, his former sous, to be chef de cuisine here, and Betsch tells me the offerings are their take on diner fare.
It’s open for lunch (except weekends) and dinner (except Sundays, when it’s closed), and the goal is to serve fun, tasty food, while sharing a similar mentality with Alo (at a lower price point): good ingredients and attention to hospitality, but not so fussy that it’s stuffy.
One of Betsch’s – and my – favourites is the beef tartare ($14), with horseradish, dijon and capers.
A fresher rendition of the classic version, it makes for a perfect bite when scooped into a piece of crisp gem lettuce, with the fried onions on top providing a satisfying contrast to the flavour and texture of the beef.
Every diner needs a burger, and Aloette’s ($18) has quickly shot up my list as one of the best in the city.
The patty is topped with stringy sauteed onions, shredded lettuce, mayo and fried Beaufort cheese all on a soft house-made bun. It’s served with a side of incredibly addictive fries, Russian dressing and a pickle.
For dessert, the apple pie sundae ($10) is a sweet treat of contrasting temperatures, with layers of warm caramel sauce, apple pie filling and crumble alternating with cold Chantilly, whipped and ice cream.
Head bartender Patrick Groves worked with Alo’s bar manager John Bunner to develop the mixed drinks, which all come in highballs ($12 each), while sommelier Christopher Sealy has curated a short wine list with about half available by the glass.
There are also a couple of local craft beers available on tap ($9 each) to round out the alcohol offerings.
The highballs are representative of low-ABV aperitif-style drinks, with five different creations that have a range of influences. I try two of them.
Kir Breton, a play on a rustic French aperitif, contains Cassis, Calvados cordial and Coat-Albret cider. While all the highballs are supposed to be low-octane drinks, this saccharine blackcurrant-and-apple concoction surprisingly tastes pretty darned alcoholic to me.
As does the American diner-inspired Bramble Shake with Tanqueray Rangpur gin, raspberry and coconut. This boozy milkshake is lovely to look at, and pairs nicely with the Aloette Burger (as well as dessert).