The Passenger is the latest venture from Michelle Vella and Heather Osler, the duo behind The Beet , an organic cafe and market across the street on Dundas West.
Occupying a corner lot once home to Hakim Optical, the new spot draws on the history of The Junction for its industrial-meets-deco-inspired design, created by Marco Pekota .
The menu, from chef Kahle Flaherty, is set to change frequently and, when possible, sources ingredients hyper-locally from the Junction Farmers' Market. The charcuterie board ($18), for instance, offers a seasonal selection of cured delicacies from Hogtown Charcuterie. On my visit, the assortment features a generous slab of venison pate, smoked duck and grilled pork sausages, and an entourage of chutneys and pickles.
From the mains list, I try the berbere spiced chicken ($20), which features dark meat braised until the tender flesh nearly falls from the bone. Served with Israeli couscous, roasted vegetables and topped with herb-flecked labneh, it's a satisfying plate.
For dessert there are options like vanilla cardamom pound cake or brownies with stout ice cream, each priced at $8. The maple tarte au sucre offers a buttery, flaky shell, sweet filling, a garnish of salty bourbon-toasted pecans, and an accompanying scoop of ultra-firm whipped cream.
The bar offers two-ounce cocktails ($12), including a whole gang of classics; Rob Roy, Moscow Mule, Sazerac, etc. I try the Boulevardier, essentially a Negroni that substitutes gin for bourbon, with lipsmacking results. Pints ($7-$7.50) are poured from a dozen local craft draughts; eight will be permanent fixtures, while four will change up frequently to feature smaller breweries and seasonal beers. The selection of bottles ($5.50-$8.50) mainly goes international.
The Passenger can currently accommodate about 45 guests, though pending permits could add 80 to 100 seats on a boulevard patio. Currently, the restaurant is open for dinner and drinks daily at 5pm. Sunday brunch hours will roll out in the coming weeks.
Photos by Jesse Milns