Oakwood Hardware is a special restaurant in the sometimes overlooked area on Oakwood north of St. Clair. I went to high school on Oakwood, so the neighbourhood has a down home, untouched feel to me.
Chef and owner of Oakwood Hardware Anne Sorrenti has been everything from a Chopped champion to a single mother to a political assistant. Growing up in Kensington with a German mother and an Italian father, and now married to a Trinidadian, food has always surrounded her.
A ladder strung with lights hangs from the ceiling, an antique hand-operated drill serves as the house beer tap, and knick knacks are buried in a bar top that emulates a sandbox or archeological dig.
Bartender Nick Watson (formerly of Parts & Labour, The Wren, and The Shore Leave) has created an often-changing cocktail list ($12 - $14), with drinks like the Plum’s the Word: house spiced plum shrub, Woodford Reserve bourbon, Dolan vermouth, a bit of lime and maple and Autumn Bog Cranberry bitters from Bittered Sling over crushed ice with a sprig of thyme.
The Yellowtail is a lovely take on a margarita with Tromba Reposado tequila, spicy and herbaceous Strega, sweet black pepper and fennel honey house syrup, lime juice, and egg white to make it a kind of margarita sour with an aromatic sage leaf on top.
A charcuterie board (market price) comes out laden with spicy sopressata, liverwurst, strong seed mustard, sharp Stilton, truffle and ancho potato chips, pickled eggplant and preserved mushrooms.
They serve a standard burger ($14) to which we add double smoked cheddar and crispy double smoked Ontario bacon, a nicely coarsely ground brisket and chuck mixture.
A hearty vegetarian shepherd’s pie that isn’t losing anything without the meat, still offering up the standard expected flavours of sweet corn and creamy potatoes, with lentils and a formidable cheese crust.
Corn arepas ($10) are topped with nopales and a BBQ brisket that’s been braised in the Wellington house lager for a little bite that’s airy and rich.
Pork done two ways features a chop and crispy, fatty pork belly with red cabbage, apple, stewed plums and braised onions, which create a sweet and savoury interplay that reminds me of a homestyle chops and applesauce pairing.
Korean fried chicken is a boneless thigh brined in buttermilk overnight, sometimes for a day and a half, until it’s sublimely tender, topped with house kimchi. The Korean element is right on, not too overpowering, just has that lip-licking spicy quality of gochujang.
The name Oakwood Hardware has always been on this 1928 building, and the inside of it speaks to that. A piece of an old fireplace frames the entrance to the washrooms which are complete with old baby bathtubs for sinks.