Ronnie B's Southern Kitchen
Ronnie B's Southern Kitchen & Taps opened in Cabbagetown about a month ago in the space formerly occupied by Omi Japanese Restaurant . The sushi bar has been converted into a liquor bar, offering up creative cocktails and craft beers instead of raw fish on rice, and the kitchen now serves Southern-style, Cajun- and Creole-influenced cuisine.
For those wondering, yes, there actually was a Ronnie B. Co-owners Ronnie Beckett Jr. and Jane Somers decided to name the restaurant as a tribute to Beckett's father, who passed away earlier this year.
Inspired by culinary trips down to New Orleans, Somers' brother Mike Jeffery cooks up a taste of Louisiana (and then some) in this 41-seat space.
Mac'n'cheese spring rolls with pork belly bacon and housemade ketchup ($8; $6 without bacon) make for filling starters. The ketchup contains secret spices (I'd hazard a guess one of them is cinnamon) that definitely sets it apart from your run-of-the-mill Heinz.
A New Orleans staple, the shrimp po'boy ($14) arrives nicely spiced on a crusty baguette with lettuce, pickles and tomato slices, along with a hefty side of hand-cut fries.
More Louisiana classics come in the form of chicken & sausage jambalaya ($16) with jalapeno cornbread.
There's also blackened catfish ($16) with rice, seasoned veggies and Creole sauce. Like the app and the sandwich, the portion sizes continue to be generous.
If you can, save room for the deep-fried bread pudding with bourbon glaze ($7) as dessert. Three huge skewered pieces (sharing is definitely encouraged) of soft and warm, boozy and banana-y bread goodness enclosed in a crispy, battered exterior is def the way to finish off a meal.
Somers, who was a bartender for over 20 years, has created seven signature cocktails for the joint (if you manage to drink them all, you'll be rewarded with Mardi Gras beads and a spot on the wall of fame they're setting up). The highlight is the Bean & Bacon Caesar ($8.15), a mix of vodka and Clamato with housemade pork belly bacon and spicy string bean garnishes in a "redneck wine glass."
There is also the Homemade Hurricane ($8.75) - rum, passion fruit, pineapple and orange juice with an upside-down parasol garnish and the Mississippi Mudslide ($8.15) - vodka, Kahlua and a float of Baileys topped with milk.
As for the taps, there are seven Ontario brews (Great Lakes Blonde, Muskoka, Mill St. Organic, Steam Whistle, Mad Tom IPA, Beau's and Eephus by Left Field) plus Pommies Cider.
So far, a few well-known faces have stopped in to dine, including Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies and do-gooder Craig Kielburger, of Free the Children and Me to We, whose offices are a few doors down. Somers and Beckett are hoping Ronnie B's will be a neighbourhood hangout, with daily specials and live jazz on Saturday nights.
Photos by Jesse Milns.