TuckShop Kitchen is exactly what it sounds like - a small neighbourhood tuck shop and kitchen - specializing in made-with-care takeout sandwiches. It can be found "tucked" away on Edwin St., at the northwest corner of Dupont in the Junction Triangle .
This rustically charming brick-and-retrofitted-tin-roof space with cute Where's Waldo? cutouts for decor is inspired by classic summer camp and boarding school tuck shops - a smart idea, since there are a bunch of schools in the vicinity.
A non-functioning old-school fridge is filled with Fun Dip, Pop Rocks, surprise bags and more, while a small working freezer above it holds ice cream sandwiches ($2.50 each) made with Kawartha Dairy ice cream.
Everyday convenience/general store items, from Harmony Organic milk and Kraft Dinner to Advil, batteries and playing cards, can also be purchased.
Partners - in business and in life - Robb Eng and Glen Willows actually live in the building (their adorable dog Miles might poke his head through the upstairs patio to say hi.)
The shop used to be a storage garage/Glen's man cave before they decided to convert it into what they hope is now a warm, nostalgic experience for adults and a fun destination for kids.
Robb and Glen want it to be a place where they're on a first-name basis with their regulars, where someone can come in for a cup of drip Propeller Coffee ($1.50), pick up some necessities and grab a made-in-house sandwich ($7.50).
The pair, who first bonded over music, also happen to be obsessed with sandwiches ( This Fred Penner song is a fave tune).
Both men are clearly foodies, and they're part of a dinner club that has members in the restaurant industry, like pastry chef Reiko Stewart, who came up with the recipes for their freshly baked cookies ($2 each) that include chocolate chip and oatmeal toffee.
She also hooked them up with chef Jake Taylor, who came over from St. John's, Nfld. for a month to help develop a short menu of what Glen likes to call "comfort sandwiches" along with accompanying sides that are mainly available for lunch.
Plans for take-home dinners include adding shepherd's pie, lasagna and soups to the roster soon as well.
There are also daily specials like pot pies and grilled cheese lasagna (?!) offered in addition to the permanent menu, and just about everything except their bread, which they get from local bakeries, is house-made. Kitchen manager Kelly Ferguson helps Glen with the food prep and pastry work, while Robb handles the business side of things.
But back to the sandwiches. Their BLT is a classic done well, with house-cured bacon, lettuce, tomato and basil mayo on multi-seed bread (gluten-free bread is available for $1 extra). You can opt to add house-roasted and smoked turkey ($3) and sliced jalapenos (50 cents), which I do. Everything is fresh and well seasoned, making for a satisfying combo of flavours.
"I want bacon in every bite," says Glen. The bacon, which is smoky, fatty and just plain delicious, is the obvious star of the BLT. Making it is a time-intensive process: it's cured for a week, air-dried for two days and then smoked over hickory on the premises.
They're getting better at gauging how much to make in advance now, as they ran out quickly at first.
For vegetarians, there's a veggie pulled pork sandwich (there is also an actual meat version), which can be made vegan if requested. Tofu skins marinated in a smoked veggie BBQ sauce simulate the look and texture of pulled pork, which comes with coleslaw and shaved fennel on a white roll.
While tasty, the tofu skins don't really taste like pulled pork, and maybe that's a good thing if you don't eat meat. For $1.50 extra, you can turn any sandwich into a Lil' Buddy combo, which tacks on a side of coleslaw and a bag of chips.
A Big Buddy (+$2.50) lets you add any one of their sides (Chipotle baked beans, quinoa salad or potato salad) along with the chips.
Glen took months to perfect the recipe for their Tuck Burger (and understandably needs a little break from eating burgers now), but the effort has paid off, because it's seriously a contender for one of the best in the city. It takes 10 minutes to serve an order, and it's well worth the wait.
I can tell the juicy, flavourful hand-formed patty is freshly made. A mix of local Ontario house-ground brisket, pork shoulder and smoked back fat, it's topped with lettuce, tomato and chimichurri mayo in a sesame bun.
Caramelized onions (50 cents) are optional, but adding bacon and a slice of two-year-old Balderson white cheddar ($1 each) is highly recommended.
With the goal of bringing affordable eats to this up-and-coming neighbourhood, this is a great "mom and pop" (or "pop and pop," rather) addition to the area. It's interesting to note that Robb is originally from the city while Glen is from a small Ontario village of less than 300 people.
A "Don't Stop Believin'" Journey sign hanging over the drinks fridge is a reminder of their urban-rural dynamic; "I couldn't convince him to move to the country, so I had to bring it here," Glen explains.
Closed Sundays. Photos by Hector Vasquez.