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Prairie Ink restaurant at new McNally Robinson bookstore?

Just heard that a new independent bookstore opened at Lawrence and Don Mills (McNally Robinson) and that it has a real restaurant in it called Prairie Ink. Anybody tried it yet? Or know anything about the menu? They have menus from two other stores posted on their website, but not for the Toronto store yet. I think it's just been open for a week or so. Thanks!

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  1. My understanding is that they snagged a chef from Perigee.

    1. They have a website that includes the menu for the restaurant...not sure if they've updated and included the Don Mills location yet...when I checked they just had the Winnipeg and Saskatoon locations but it will give you an idea of the kind of things they serve...


      1. My daughter and I checked out the new centre yesterday and had lunch at Prairie Ink. Wished we hadn't; should have gone to Linda instead.

        I don't want to be too negative given that they only opened a few days ago. Suffice it to say that the waiter who served us was totally inexperienced and continously made fun of his own inadequacies (kind of humourous, actually), the food was mediocre but has potential, the ambiance is almost nonexistant.

        I'd recommend waiting a couple of weeks to let them iron out the kinks. The menu is interesting and quite varied and, to their credit, they're making a concerted effort to use locally grown/raised and produced food. We did enjoy our soups -- a West African spicy peanut soup -- but our mains needed work (the beet and goat cheese salad, which was very bland with an excessively sweet vinaigrette, and the duck confit sandwich, which was tasteless and quite meagerly filled and was served with limp sweet potato fries).

        1 Reply
        1. re: Tatai

          I spoke to someone who had lunch at Prairie Ink today, and he said it was not good, that they still need to do quite a bit to make the place work.

          The bookstore, however, is worth a visit.

        2. Just came back to from this place with my sister and 4 of my cousins. Seeing as it's been about a month since they've been open it seems they have NOT worked out a lot of the kinks...AT ALL! It took about 15-20 minutes for a waiter to come and talk to us and take our orders, and about 45 minutes before the food came out. (Word of advice, the Bison Burger takes a really long time to cook, which was the apparent cause of the delay). We complained to the manager and he offered us free desserts which turned out to be 2 complimentary desserts. This also took a very long time to arrive along with the bill.

          It was also the case that we were not the only ones having problems. The table directly to our right with 7 people were waiting for a long time for the bill, and were upset, the table to our left (2 people) were having a very animated conversation with the manager as we were leaving, and the table behind me was asking around if someone would take their orders.

          The food itself was okay, decent. But based on this experience (which made us feel like we were on an episode of Hell's Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares), I will never return to this restaurant again.


          FYI This is what we ordered:

          - Warm Asparagus Salad
          - Bison Burger
          - Veggie Burger
          - Sweet Potato Perogies (starter)
          - Chicken Wrap
          - Fish Wrap

          5 Replies
          1. re: booyahchild01

            ok people...it is a cafe in a bookstore, 7 people, 5 people....i've been to the one in saskatoon, not here, maybe not fair to compare, but based on the western experience, it is ok for lunch while shopping but not for a dining destination....

            1. re: robgm

              When we got to the outdoor mall, it was suggested by one of the mall information staff members that it was a good place to eat for dinner. So we went on his word since the mall was only 40% open and very few restaurants to choose from. As well, we wanted to try something new, so naturally, this was a good option.

              The food really was pretty good. It was just a very frustrating experience with the service, and how long it took to cook it. After looking at what I posted earlier, and having some time to cool off, I really should give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe given a bit more time their service will work itself out. The place started filling up at around 8pm and most people were actually there for dinner.

              The bookstore itself is really nice. Very organized.

              1. re: robgm

                They have been promoting this place as something special and not as a typical bookstore cafe. The menu is very large and sounds tempting. They claim to have hired a chef from Perigee. They should have trained the staff before they opened. At the very least, they could have offered a limited (if not discounted) menu for a soft opening period.

                As to the bookstore, I welcome any competition to the loathsome Heather. Nevertheless, I was disappointed. Yes, it's nice, but the stock is limited and the prices are high. The idea of matching restaurant specials to cookbooks on sale is a good one. It would be better if they could prepare and serve food more capably. The cookbook selection, itself, is very limited.

                1. re: embee

                  I've got to agree with you on the disappointment I felt walking around the bookstore, embee. The stock is, indeed, very limited. My go-to first section in any bookstore is always the cooking section, and this one was dismally small and uninteresting. Too bad...

                2. re: robgm

                  I disagree completely - this place has been heavily promoted as being 'special' and different... a cut above, so to speak... if the experiences described are accurate, it is not acceptable. Do it will or bugger off is my new motto! :)

              2. Am I the only one who views a menu of that length (the Winnipeg one was 12 pages) and frowns? If you try to do too many things, in my experience, everything suffers. Focus on doing a few things very well, and your dishes are more likely to shine.

                3 Replies
                1. re: vorpal

                  From your typing fingers to the eyes and ears of every restauranteur in the world! Bar none, this is a huge part of the reason that some places are just awful!

                    1. re: tjr

                      Have been to the Wpg one many times. the restaurant can be hit or miss. it is this bookstore that is truly the destination!

                  1. I did end up going and trying it recently... and was really unimpressed, even though I was just looking for a decent lunch while shopping. The service was laughably horrendous... They had about five or six people working, the patrons consisted of me and one other table of two, and it was still impossible to get anything. I ended up being in there for about 90 minutes just to eat a sandwich and a cookie.

                    I had an egg salad sandwich that was less than decent -- and quite expensive given that it was just a thin layer of egg salad between two pieces of bread. It came with a tiny portion of the African spicy peanut soup, which was interesting for a couple of bites, but then I just found it way too heavy. The chocolate chip cookie was fine. :-)

                    Things I liked about it: One wall is all windows and it's on the 2nd floor, so there was a lot of light. They have a rack of magazines you can read while you're eating.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: katsongs

                      I seem to be the first person here to have enjoyed my lunch.
                      No service issues either
                      We were all satisfied with the food.
                      I particularly enjoyed the fresh beet and goat cheese salad.
                      The greens were fresh and crisp.
                      The dressing just right, with a sprinkling of nuts..
                      We hesitated to enter, because the place looks like Mission meets High School Cafeteria.
                      Lunch is quite moderate, but noticed the price of the entrees at dinner.
                      Much higher, and not an atmosphere conducive to dining.
                      I will return for lunch.
                      My lunch at Prairie Ink was a far superior experience to the disaster of Lunch at Lindas, My favorite Thai...no longer.

                      1. re: erly

                        What happened? Did you post somewhere about it?

                        1. re: Full tummy

                          Hi Full tummy,
                          I didn't want to judge before having dinner at Lindas.
                          We did, and it was good, but not what I would consider the best in Toronto any longer
                          We are going to give it another try..
                          The lunch disaster was something else.
                          Friendly service.
                          No complaints there.
                          My Chicken Curry was so bad that I couldn't believe it.
                          It tasted like someone had microwaved shreds of Chicken til they were nuked , and put them in a tasteless sauce.
                          After a few bites, I just left it.
                          At dinner, we chatted with Linda, and while telling her that we did enjoy our meal, but our lunch a few weeks back was really bad.
                          She asked if we had the lunch "specials", which I did, and her answer was that this explains it???

                          1. re: erly

                            How "special"... How does that explain anything? There's no point having crappy lunch specials, as many people will not go back after such an experience.

                      1. re: Googs

                        "The second visit to Prairie Ink is a thousand times better than the first, upgraded all the way to plain lousy". Gotta be the best line ever!

                        1. re: Googs

                          Wonder what happened to teh chef and where he ended up...

                          1. re: OnDaGo

                            Probably the classic tale of "when artiste meets bad businessman". See "The Garden @ Eleven" in the dictionary.

                            He'll pop up eventually I'm sure. Cream always rises.

                        2. I went to check out the bookstore last week on a Wed afternoon. I then noticed the restaurant and went in to take a look. I dunno about the food but the place is lacking ambience. I would go there to eat if I happened to be hungry when I was in the bookstore, but I sure wouldn't go there as a dining 'destination'. That will likely kill them as it really will be used more as an impulse place to dine rather than a destination dining place which means that they won't get the traffic they need to make a profit.

                          Actually I think their whole bookstore/restaurant idea is ill-conceived. The bookstore has no street presence, being tucked away in the back of the plaza and, let's face it, there are tons of other bookstores around selling the exact same thing with even better selections (Indigo). Their marketing program of having writers speak and sign books at the store is admirable and interesting, but I don't think it's going to give them the traffic they need for either the bookstore or restaurant and I predict the place will be closed within 3 years.

                          1. The Toronto Star has a review of this restaurant today and they give it one of the worst ratings I have ever seen (and 0 out of 4 stars):


                            1. I went back near the end of May and I found the food to be decent but the service was HORRIBLE. The guy who served us was not friendly at all. When I asked a question about the soup (the Peanut soup which I really enjoyed) he was rude and dismissive (I was asking him a question about the ingredients or something, as I really liked it)... I also liked the beet salad that I had (although portions were small considering the price!)

                              As the review said, I can imagine the room getting very loud. The night we were there their was music playing too but better music than Chris from Toronto Star found it seems!

                              Overall, all of the options in that plaza are expensive food wise. I would consider returning for the event there or maybe a drink, but, besides that would probably avoid.

                              1. A friend and I went for lunch today at the new "Prairie Ink" in Don Mills.
                                I am bewildered by any negative reviews of this place. We had a great lunch, at great value.
                                I had an egg salad sandwich on incredibly satisfying grainy bread, a cup of their african peanut soup, a side of coleslaw. a very fresh, large and delicious shortbread cookie filled with raspberry jam, and a bottomless cup of coffee.
                                This cost me all of $12.00.
                                The service was great.
                                Before naysayers dismiss me.....2 other sets of friends who went at diiferent times had a similar experience to mine.
                                And yes....we do know good food.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: lynne guthrie

                                  Well, either you were lucky, or they've benefitted from the negative reviews and are working to turn things around.

                                  1. re: lynne guthrie

                                    What other restos do you think have good food, lynne guthrie?

                                    1. re: lynne guthrie

                                      We stopped in for dessert at Prairie Ink on thursday after a disastrous lunch over at Linda's Thai food in the same area and we were so pleased with what we got. We sat out on their terrace with a lovely view and we are definitely planning to go back for lunch soon. I think that they may well have improved since they opened because the food that was being served to the other diners looked lovely. Maybe you should all give it another chance.

                                    2. Was there the other day, and wasn't too impressed by the restaurant's food or the items in the "bakery". Product was very inconsistent on both fronts. Nothing fun or interesting from the bakery but maybe there is normally? The display was very empty looking, and the sandwich I had was some what disappointing. it lacked flavour and I doubt it was made on in house bread.
                                      Probably will not return again

                                      1. Not that anyone seemed to be impressed with the place, but just in case: Prairie Ink is now closed, along with McNally Robinson. The chain has filed for bankruptcy protection, and closed two of their four stores, including the Toronto location.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: gregclow

                                          Yeah, trying to open a bookstore during a downturn while trying to compete against Chapters-Indigo-Coles and of course Amazon... just wasn't a battle they had any chance of winning. I wondered how long they'd last, and gave them a year. They lasted 8 months.

                                          1. re: TexSquared

                                            I had very good lunch(es) there and am very disappointed that they will be closing. A real shame.

                                            1. re: TexSquared

                                              Crazy they tried to enter the Toronto market on such a large scale. Too bad to see them go. I wonder what will fill that space. it was suppose to be one of the anchor tenants.

                                            2. re: gregclow

                                              I was giving this bookstore about a year before hanging the out-of-business sign but it turns out even that was optimistic. I didn't read the Star article but like the bookstore Prairie Ink was a disaster from the get go in both food and service. But still, it's sad to see another one biting the dust as I can't remember Toronto's restaurant scene being in such sorry state.

                                              1. re: syoung

                                                Surprise they lasted as long as they did. Restaurant and Bookstore combined in TO , sorry, not going to work in . The Don Mills area is ground zero for retail, the demographics in this area, and I live here, are old and older, unless you're selling hearing aids or wheelchairs, forget it. McNally Robinson will be the first of many, whose next, McEwan