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Looking to catch up with a friend in Toronto, we were drawn to Fire on the East Side after hearing about some amazing fried chicken on waffles. Upon getting there and scanning the menu with no sign of the dish, it proved to be totally elusive. According to our server, the dish had never existed at the place. I won’t lie, we were pretty disappointed, as we had chosen the place based solely on the possibility of eating that specific dish. We contemplated leaving for a few seconds, but the thought quickly vanished as we took the first few bites out of the house made banana bread. Moist and soft, the little square of sweetness bolstered our appetites and we sat on.
Walking into Joe Beef, one immediately senses a kind of warm intimacy few restaurants are able to successfully achieve in terms of both physical space, ambiance and decor. The space out front is quite small; tables are set one next to the other with only a few inches separating diners from one another – for those who sit on the inner banquettes, tables must be pulled out for them to exit gracefully. Even in such close quarters, fellow diners have been the most friendly and cordial I have ever met. The owners have recently closed their luncheonette next door (McKiernan’s) in favor of expanding Joe Beef, creating an oyster bar in its place while at the same time increasing its capacity for more people to stop by. Due to the popular demand for the restaurant’s exquisite food, the terrasse out back has been opened up as well. I had actually never been in the area before and our lovely waitress Vanya was nice enough to show me around. The garden where ingredients are freshly grown and harvested lines the terrasse; adjacent to this, a separate plot of land is sectioned off by a fence – here they house a large metal smoker where they treat some of their meats and fish.