Hastings Snack Bar
Hastings Snack Bar might just be the cutest lunch counter in Toronto. The wide but shallow eatery features just a single row of stools along the counter looking into the open kitchen and coffee bar.
The place is owned by Karolina Conroy who also helms the adjacent barbershop on the corner of Queen and Hastings just east of Leslie.
She's enlisted the "best chef ever," her mom Ania Garbos, and the two are serving up a concise menu of family recipes that stay true to their Polish heritage.
The newly refurbished diner has entered its new phase after former owner John Chong retired after 53 years as a short order cook last spring. The place has been gutted but the peach patterned counter top is original, as are the newly reupholstered stools.
The chalk-written menu hangs overhead and bills just a handful of dishes available exclusively from Thursday through Sunday.
The rest of the week the shop is open for coffee, tea and select baked goods from Pain Perdu.
Options include kielbasa ($7/2), pierogi ($5/4, $8/8) stuffed with potato and cottage cheese, beef or blueberries, and cabbage rolls ($8) with beef, pork and rice filling, or made vegan with lentils, rice and mushrooms.
The best way to sample it all is to get Hungry Tata's Lunch Plate ($13). It's packed with all the aforementioned good stuff and served with rye bread, pickles and tangy sauerkraut slaw.
The cabbage roll is indeed delicious. The tomato sauce that smothers it all is sweet while there isn't a hint of bitterness in the cabbage. The slippery hand-pinched pierogi are good too. The dough is slightly chewy while the potato filling is perfectly seasoned. Thick sour cream on the side is a welcome condiment.
There's a daily soup ($5) too. Today it's split pea with sausage, but I'm told the pickle soup is the most popular.
The only thing left to try is the Polish breakfast ($9) before conquering the whole menu. The morning meal features farm fresh eggs (perfectly cooked, by the way) along with parowka (a Polish weenie), potato pancakes and bread.
It's cheap, cheerful and comforting. It's very easy to like. Thankfully there's a few benches outside and they'll do take-out when all the stools are full.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.