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Oct 2, 2011 05:19 AM

The County General - simple food, prepared beautifully

I was at The County General for an early dinner on Friday with my DH and two friends. We ordered about 85% of the menu to share:

- deviled eggs
- frites
- bean and ham soup
- fried chicken thigh sandwich
- the county burger
- smoked pork belly steamed buns
- chicken fried two ways
- heirloom tomato sandwhich
- cupcake
- cookies
- apple pie

I suppose that at first glance, the menu comes off as simple home cooking or comfort food. But the quality of the ingredients and the execution raise the food to a wonderful level. First off, I'll say that I never order chicken out at restaurants because it's inevitably boring and dry. But The County General has chicken nailed -- flavourful, juicy, even a bit pink in the middle. The fried chicken thigh sandwich was one of the favourites of the night for all of us, but the chicken fried two ways deserves a mention as well. It's two enormous chicken breasts, each with a different preparation, deep fried, sliced and served with an array of fresh toppings and condiments and bibb lettuce to make lettuce wraps with.

Everything else was equally excellent. The soup was a perfect bowl on a cool fall day -- delicious and hearty and almost a meal unto itself. The deviled eggs were creamy and tasty and a deal at $1.50 for two halves (Origin is up to $6 or $7 now, I think). The county burger was cooked a beautiful medium -- totally pink and juicy with a great crust. Simple and beefy and delicious, said my DH (and at $12, including frites, probably the best "upscale" burger deal in town). The steamed pork buns were another tasty treat. 3 in an order, each with a different set of toppings: one with coleslaw, one with kimchi and one with avocado and cliantro (I think).

The star of the night, however, was the heirloom tomato sandwich. Gorgeous thick slickes of tomatoes with a white cheddar, mayo, avocado and fresh basil between two slices of rustic bread, oiled and grilled. The tomatoes were so perfectly ripe and tomato-y that you wonder why you ever bother with the nasty, mealy, out-of-season tomatoes from the store. It was like eating a cross between the perfect caprese salad and the perfect bruschetta in sandwich form. Sadly, Victor told us that they were getting their last shipment of tomatoes from the County today -- the County had frost the other night, so that is probably the end of tomato season. So if you love good tomatoes, go this week before they have to change the menu.

Desserts were equally homey and delicious. The salted caramel chocolate cupcake was easily my favourite cupcake I've had in Toronto in ages (I bought two to bring home with me). The chocolate cookies were really nice, too -- crisp and slightly chewy with a nice salt edge to it. The apple pie was a nice rendition -- good apples and not too sweet, with the crust perhaps not as flaky as my personal preference, but tasty nonetheless.

Cost for dinner for four: all of the above, plus a drink each and my to-go cupcakes came to $160, before tip. A pretty great deal, consider the sheer quantity of delicious food we ate and the provenance of the food (Vicky's Veggies, Cumbrae's meats) and the kitchen (Splendido).

I'm looking forward to going back and trying new items as the menu changes. But I really hope I get back there before the tomatoes are gone.

481 Church St, Toronto, ON M4Y, CA

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  1. A couple of pics from dinner:

    2 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo

      Is that a full-sized burger? In the picture, it looks more slider-sized.

      What's "the County"?

      Menu looks interesting. Thanks for the post/review.

      1. re: grandgourmand

        Oh, sorry, the burger didn't make it into the photos. The burger is an 8 oz. burger, ground on site I believe. And "the County" is Prince Edward County, where the restaurant is currently getting their produce from.

        The picture on the left is of the tomato sandwich. The picture on the right shows, clockwise from the left: the steamed pork buns, the fried chicken thigh sandwich and the chicken fried two ways.

    2. What the heck is a d.h.?

      This place looks very good, and being Splendido owned I'm sure the quality will be great.

      My only problem is that I'm getting tired of the "general store" feel for every new clothing store, restaurant and bar that's opening nowadays. Started blowing up in nyc and now everybody is doing it.

      Personal pet peeve, has very little to do w/ this place.

      3 Replies
      1. re: aser

        Completely agree RE: "general store" theme. I'm sure the food is delicious but the menu seems to be a take on Ssam/Noodle/Milk Bar. Nothing wrong with that, just doesn't excite me.

        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          Neither the theme or the menu's relationship (or lack thereof) to David Chang's restaurants bothered me one way or the other. Other than the preponderance of raw wood in the furniture and ceiling, there wasn't much that was "theme-y" or kitschy about the decor. And other than the steamed pork buns and the simple desserts, I didn't see a lot that overlapped between the restaurants. But like I said, it wouldn't bother me if he was inspired by Milk Bar or any Momofuku restaurant. If anything, the vibe I got from the place was "this is Victor Barry's playground, where he gets to have fun do all the home-style stuff that he can't really do at Splendido".

          Having said all that, I can understand not being excited by the menu, as it really doesn't read all that exciting. But I liked it. :)

        2. re: aser

          DH is a term that women use to say "dearest husband" instead of just saying husband.

        3. After my brunch at County I can't say I'll be going back. The room is small and tight. They have to get a curtain for the front entrance because when the temperature goes down a little more, that room will be freezing. Service seemed a little flustered even though the room can only get so busy.

          The food is adequate and nothing more. Portion sizes are small, when my burger arrived, my girlfriend asked if it was a slider. The burger, on their website, is listed as 8oz, it looked more like 4oz to me. The fries come in a just filled rocks glass. The meat to bun ratio is a little off and it needs a slightly bigger bun. The burger itself was juicy and flavouful but dead simple. I'm all for simple food, but with all the competition doing something extra, they need to step things up. There are several places I would put ahead in terms of burgers and all of them offer a larger portion. The burgers at the Harbord room and E11even are much juicier; Fanny Chadwick's, the Queen and Beaver and Gabardine's are more flavourful, have great bacon, and Fanny makes its own ketchup; Marben's burger is better thought out as far as the whole thing being rich and melting in your mouth.

          The omelet and apple pie were good but small. The pie is $5 but once you add ice cream it goes up to $8. The cupcake had a very good butter icing.

          My girlfriend and I each ordered a main, dessert and a cupcake in order to feel somewhat full. Brunch is usually a main and split a dessert affair. Maybe there is a lack of options in the area but I'm sure there other places were two can have brunch for less than $75 before tip. I know they have been open only a week, hopefully things improve.

          488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

          147 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1H1, CA

          Fanny Chadwick's
          268 Howland Ave, Toronto, ON M5R 3B5, CA

          1 Reply
          1. re: dubchild

            I had a similar experience at brunch with service issues (they forgot our coffee and tea a bunch of times) - but given that it was their first brunch service, we will probably still go back because the food was very good. The portion sizes were quite inconsistent though - hopefully things will improve.

          2. Thanks for the lengthy report. I am not sure where you are going for chicken, that it is always dried out/boring. Are you referring to churassco places? If so, I understand your complaint for the most part but have to say there are a million great places for juicy tasty chicken in the city! CG is not the only spot by a long shot!

            1 Reply
            1. re: justsayn

              justsayn, curious- what would be your top 3 chicken dishes or places for juicy, tasty chicken in the city? I don't want to hijack this thread- so I started a juicy, tasty chicken thread here:

            2. Oh man just had the fried chicken two ways for 2 at The County General and it was brilliant. For sure, a Momofuku ripoff, but equally delicious so who cares, really? Oh and the OP was right about the devilled eggs, not sure how that's only $1.50 but it's a great deal.

              4 Replies
              1. re: childofthestorm

                We were there tonight too and left just before 8p! I'm hoping my shots turned out better than my first visit.

                First visit faves were:
                - Tomato sandwich
                - Soup
                - Chicken sammy

                Second visit faves
                - Cupcake! Really good.

                If anyone has a chance, try their El Dorado flight. I really love the 21-year old and it's interesting to be able to taste the differences age makes.

                  1. re: szw

                    Not at 6, but by 6:30 there was a wait.

                1. re: childofthestorm

                  "Oh man" is right - made it to County General the other night for the fried chicken 2 ways and it has got to be one of the tastiest and most fun dishes in the city right now.

                  One large breast of fried chicken, crispy fried and perfectly juicy inside, the second large crispy-skinned breast with a soy glaze and fresh red chilies, both served on a large wooden board and surrounded by ramekins with a selection of mix 'n match toppings - guacamole, kimchi, fresh ginger, fresh coriander, red chilies, pickled red onions, diced green onions, bbq sauce and chopped radish as well as a bunch of bibb lettuce leaves to roll it all up in. It was such fun to play and around with different options, my favourite being the fried chicken with guac, green onions, coriander, radish and kimchi. We started with a wedge salad - very large wedge of iceberg lettuce with creamy blue cheese dressing, some fried pork topping (pancetta maybe?), crumbled blue cheese and croutons. Really good and a very generous portion. Alongside a few beers, it was a perfect meal for 2 with a grand tally of $70. I agree with many that at first glance, the menu isn't too tempting but I would return in a heartbeat for this dish alone and the other sandwiches they were serving looked good as well. Large cocktail list, great tunes and super sweet waitress rounded out the package. It doesn't strike me as a place to linger for a long meal but for late night or early evening bites, or to satisfy some supreme fried chicken or tasty sammy cravings, it's spot on.