Simpl Things is a new casual restaurant and bar in Parkdale that serves a distinct Italian comfort menu during the day and focuses on punchy Taiwanese-influenced street food at night.
The all-day food and beverage concept is owned and operated by drink expert Evelyn Chick. An industry veteran some might recognize from now-shuttered The Harbord Room and Pretty Ugly, Chick is an active part of the Toronto hospitality community via her bar consultancy, plus West Queen West pop-up and event venue, Ahma.
"People are eating and drinking differently now," Chick tells blogTO.
"Simpl offers great, simple cocktails that aren't defined by a particular genre. During the daytime, it's a cicchetti bar. You come in and have snacks or pasta. It's spritzy and easy. At night, you come in and it's cocktails and a snack bar."
Chick has created a drink-friendly environment with different dining experiences spread across two distinct rooms.
Both spaces are tastefully decorated to evoke feelings of nostalgia. They’re comfortable and unpretentious but have their own ambiance.
The cozier north end is washed in colourful wall murals and faces the space's bar.
Here, shelves are lined with glass pieces in a variety of hues that were inspired by Chick's mother's cabinet, and the room is furnished with vintage pieces including steel-coated ergonomic stools from the '70s that were sourced from auction.
The south end is clean and understated, with seats that flank Simpl Thing's open kitchen.
This is also where you'll find a refrigerator case filled with homemade pantry goods that can be purchased for takeaway. Just outside on Dunn Avenue, Chick shares plans for a veranda-covered patio that seats 32.
Chick has recruited two chefs in residence who operate the daytime and nighttime food programs independently.
During the day until 6 p.m. every Wednesdays to Monday, Cody Wilkes, who worked at Mattachioni and Gusto 501, runs his Pasta Cartl menu that features an assortment of homemade bread, pasta and chicchetti that incorporate local, seasonal, and ethically sourced ingredients.
Known for his pastas, Wilkes' handmade Tagliolini ($18) features Ontario mushrooms (meaty and glorious wild chanterelles on our visit).
This vegetarian-friendly option is hearty and delicious, with fresh springy pasta noodles that are coated in a voluptuous sauce made of butter and a shower of grated pecorino.
The Cartl Beef Sando ($16) stuffs juicy and tender braised beef in homemade focaccia which has been adapted from a 250-year-old recipe that was passed down to Wilkes.
The former is topped with provolone then silky sweet roasted peppers and onions that are refreshed in the same beef drippings that's served alongside the handheld wonder.
Made to 0rder, it's become the menu signature that's found a harmonious balance between the sweet vegetables, supple melted cheese, and flavourful beef sandwiched by a semolina-spiked focaccia bun (semolina gives the bread a slight crunch).
A showstopper, Wilkes' Butterflied Whole Perch ($33) is a delight for all senses. Here, a gluten-free tempura batter shields the delicate whole perch sourced from Affinity Fish that's dressed with a braised kale salad with salsa verde.
Betty Chia oversees the evening menu that starts at 7 p.m. until close every Thursday to Monday.
Some of those Taiwanese-influenced snacks and punchy flavours can be found here, such as the Spicy Wonton in XO Broth ($25/6 pieces) which dresses handmade pork and shrimp wontons with bomb chilli crisp, scallion, cilantro, and Betty's XO sauce.
The flavour bomb is finished with sesame oil, soy sauce, slivered scallions, cilantro, sliced fresh chilli pepper, and peanuts.
The drink- and share-friendly snacks range include everything from charred shishito peppers to Szechuan beef tartare spread on bone marrow.
Vegans and meat-eaters would equally enjoy the Popcorn Mushroom ($17) which dusts Ontario mushrooms – palm-sized oyster mushrooms in this case – with a gluten-free coating seasoned with five spice powder, ginger, garlic, and whole Thai basil leaves.
Kissed with Sichuan chili, the finger food is served with cilantro cream and is great enjoyed solo or with a drink in the other hand.
Spicy Chilled Silken Tofu ($14) christens creamy cool silken tofu with a flavour-packed sauce composed of chilli, gochujang, black vinegar, plus minced ginger, and garlic.
The simple dish is given an extra layer of complexity with the addition of crumbled century egg, then freshness with sliced scallions and cilantro. And if that wasn’t already a party in the mouth, Chia adds sesame seeds to the mix that's not only aromatic but add a slight crunch.
It shouldn't be surprising that the beverage program at Simpl Things is full of creative, forward-thinking options that are simple in nature but delicious through execution.
In addition to a selection of beers, ciders and a lineup of changing small producer wines, there are house-canned cocktails, plus thoughtfully crafted alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks that differ during the day versus what's offered at night.
Expect lighter, spritzy numbers during daylight hours including Simpl's espresso martini on tap or a mimosa. For canned pre-batched numbers, the Fig Poppa' ($13) is a takeaway option that's made from Martini Fiero, Martini Bianco, fig, Bittered Sling's plum and root beer bitters, along with prosecco.
In contrast, the evening drinks menu features original, super crushable numbers listed under Colours of Simpl Chick's reinvented classics such as the Mellon Baller ($15) that pairs Dillon's melon gin with fino sherry, apple, fennel, and lime juice.
Simpl Things is open every day except Tuesdays. Reservations can be made, but walk-ins are encouraged.