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Hopgood's Foodliner?

Despite the buzz, I didn't see a thread so here we go:

-Simple, warm upgrade of old brad's on roncesvalles- nice, appealing touch to have an illuminated photo of one of the food stors at the bar.
-Girls with hipster bangs and vintage clothes may add to the vibe but didn't deliver good service. no-one seemed to be in charge of the front of house.
-Main course before the appetizer - staff just smiled and blinked and had nothing to say or offer.
-Wine overpriced - the smallest five oz pour we've ever seen. Normally I hate those glasses with the name as a cute measure but maybe they should try it.
-And the food? Good but not great. halibut with potato escabeche - nice flavours on the escabeche; fish a bit salty. scallops with pork shoulder - the parts were better than the sum.
The food is promising but it isn't subtle enough to be surprising nor homey enough to feel like the contemporary comfort food it's been hailed to be.

That said, happy to have them in the hood, have faith they will work out the bugs and ratchet up the menu and and will probably try it again.

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  1. Where else would you recommend?

    1. I was there over the weekend - some highlights but the food didn't reach the lofty heights of Hoof Cafe.

      The apps were better than the one main I had - the Donairs were fantastic and the bone marrow special was great as well (hard to screw up marrow though).

      The much lauded crab dip was tasty, but not revelatory. I wanted to try a main and was leaning towards the scallops with pork shoulder, but the guy serving us said that his faves were the stew with sweetbreads and the chicken - I tried the stew and it was slightly too sweet for my taste, nothing special.

      Those donairs were killer though. Great cocktails too.

      2 Replies
      1. re: themiguel

        Can you provide some details on these donairs? What kind of meat? How were they served? Accompaniments?

        Thanks :)

        1. re: radiopolitic

          Ummm it was a bit dark but as I recall the order comes with two donairs on top of a paper bag, not inside, which is surely a nod to their take out roots. They make these great little buns in house that are almost reminiscent of the asian steamed buns used to wrap pork belly, then the east coast style "loaf" of beef shaved off, then topped with the incredible sweet garlic sauce

      2. I went last week, felt the bang for buck is better at the hoof. Portions were small for the price here.

        Had a scallop special at $17, on the half shell w/ roe attached, covered w/ crab dip a la baked clam. Sounds great, you only see scallops served w/ roe in Chinese joints. It gets dropped on the table and it's one solitary scallop. $17 for one scallop is not a good deal any way you slice it. Tasted good, thanks to the crab dip, albeit overwhelming the actual scallop.

        Main I had the scallop and pork shoulder. The pork shoulder is cooked, pulled, then cubed and fried, something he also did w/ pig tail at the hoof cafe. 3 of those on the plate, to go along w/ 3 scallops, some broccoli topped w/ fried something (chicken/pork skin turned into powder?), a green veg puree and a mustard based sauce. The broccoli had a nice smokey flavour from the powder garnish. They served the scallops with the abductor muscle attached, on all of them. I don't see that happening too often, rather amateur mistake. I did leave the 3 pieces on the plate, waitstaff didn't pick up on the clue.

        Gf had the sweetbread stew, which sounds better than it is. You think sweetbreads you want creamy, well it felt more like an unmelted cheese curd sitting in a stew. It wasn't bad, but it definitely was not great. Some heat in the dish would've worked well, throw some chili flakes, n'duja, something.....

        Red racer for $6, a $3 beer @ lcbo, a very reasonable markup as Grand Electric has it at $8. The wine list wasn't particularly interesting, but it's a tiny space so you can't expect much.

        Service was on point, warm and friendly. Water refilled by various waiters, they weren't focused only on their sections. Yeah they're hipsters, big whoop, as long as they do a good job.

        I know dude is talented, I was a huge fan of hoof cafe. I'll return, maybe wait a little while for them to get into a groove. Will be there in a second whenever brunch starts.

        2 Replies
        1. re: aser

          Went this past weekend. The space is a nice warm up of Brad's. First off, the flavours of everything we had were were excellent - subtle but delicious. The donairs - well let's just say i could have eaten several more orders of those they were so good. In fact one of our party had three orders of them, in quick succession. Which is a good segue to my chief, um, beef. The portions are quite small for the price. We left a bit hungry. The vibe is nice but I would prefer it if the music was just a little quieter - ok, ok the place is full of hipsters, but don't hipsters like to converse over dinner? I also found the extremely short menu to be just a bit limited. As mentioned everything was executed very well and service was pretty good and certainly friendly. But it would be nice to have - if not a vegetarian option (I know the chef's roots) - at least a way to incorporate a few more interesting veg options into the overall experience. I'm sure a couple of hipsters like vegetables :) Nice to have the addition to the 'hood and hope they continue to evolve as there's lots of great potential.

          1. re: sochow

            That's my main peeve - not even a single vegetarian salad. Come on, at least give us one token dish!

        2. I agree with Sochow. Enjoyed dinner for four last Friday at Hopgood’s. Overall we experienced very good service and good food. Beer selection was minimal, nothing on tap but the mixed drinks were delicious and packed a nice punch.

          Had the donairs as my ap – they are Halifax authentic, delicious and I could have eaten 10 more of them. In fact we ordered more for dessert! Why? Well they were they mouth-watering and I was still VERY hungry after my teeny tiny main. Had the scallop and pork which consisted of three or four medium sized scallops (decent but no better than what I make myself) and a couple of dried out pork cubes that tasted like sawdust (yes I have tasted sawdust don’t ask). At $22 I felt ripped off, no question.

          The chicken main and the corned beef went over much better and looked slightly more filling. But if I could go back in time I would order the donairs for all three courses with a side of the delectable toffee crisp dessert. I am still thinking about it, every bite was a dream.

          The back dining room is a poop (sorry) brown box with some Triscuit boxes and Campbells’s soup cans as décor. A couple of Nova Scotia prints might liven it up a bit. The front has a nicer vibe but was a bit cold – the curtain wasn’t helping much. Very smooth wait staff and I appreciate that they didn’t rush anyone in the room, professional all the way. We will certainly go back.

          9 Replies
          1. re: A flock of seagulls

            So you felt ripped off , left hungry , but you still will certainly go back? What am I missing here?

            1. re: terrycar

              In the first paragraph the poster says that overall they experienced very good service and good food. It seems the issue was only with the scallops and pork belly dish. Apparently they loved the donairs and the dessert.

                1. re: jamesm

                  Okay it's a case of different strokes I guess. If I left a place where the standout dish was a donair and still felt hungry and ripped off, I'd probably just head to College Falafel next time.

                  1. re: terrycar

                    College Fallafel has gone down hill in the last year i've found.

                    1. re: LexiFirefly

                      Oh too bad, all this has given me a donair craving. Any other suggestions on where to get one- for less than ten bucks.

                      1. re: terrycar

                        I think it is a testament to Hopgood's that I would definitely go back even though I was disappointed in my main. I DID NOT leave Hopgood's hungry as I had more donairs and dessert which were both delicious, In fact, I used the word delicious delectable and mouth-watering throughout my post. Yes, I feel my main was a rip off at $22 for three scallops and two or three bite sized pieces of pork but I felt VERY comfortable paying my overall bill: drinks, appetizers, dessert, service were all well above average. I look forward to trying a different main next time. I think this was all conveyed in my original post.
                        As for donairs - Hopgoods were the closest I have found in Ontario to Halifax donairs which are my favourite. There is a Halifax Donair in Milton that is similiar to Halifax style donairs but it uses a different style of pita and the meat is not spiced quite right. Usually I make them myself if I want one for less than $10. There are plenty of recipes on the internet. College Falafel's donairs are not Halifax style, but they make a decent spiced meat sandwich.

                        1. re: A flock of seagulls

                          A request for recipes for donairs has been split to the Home Cooking board. You can find the discussion here:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/838553

                          1. re: The Chowhound Team

                            I went tonight for dinner with a friend. We had the donairs, chicken wings (a Monday specialty), the boneless ribs, octopus with potato escabeche and the chocolate toffee bar.

                            We really enjoyed the chicken wings, they were juicy, smokey and served with a maple syrup sauce. The donairs were a nice novelty, as mentioned before the house made pitas reminded me of steamed chinese buns and the sauce drizzled over the donair was delectable. We were less than impressed with the charred octopus, it was too chewy and didn't merit the $20 price tag. The boneless pork ribs were delicious too, they reminded me of old chinese-canadian favourite back west-dry garlic ribs only these featured a barbecue rub. The toffee bar was a little sweet for my friend but I enjoyed the mix between crunchy, sweet and salty.

                            All in all, a tasty meal but nothing that bowled me over. I'm still interested to see what else they can come up with though. Service was friendly and attentive.

            2. Went yesterday, the meal was one of the best I've had all year in this city. Two of us, had 8 dishes, we definitely did not leave hungry!

              Had the pickled shrimp (served in a mini mason jar), chowder, smoked mackerel on oatcakes, donairs, pork hock, scallop with white sausage, sweetbreads, and finally the crisp toffee.

              Now the prices are on the high side, I would say slightly higher than Black Hoof. The cheapest items: the pickled shrimp was $10 and it was simply a jar of shrimp with crostini on the side. But the flavors and execution was spot on, and there is nothing I wouldn't order again. Even the shrimps were perfectly pickled, and the crostini perfectly toasted. It's these little things that make a restaurant stand out.

              Now, maybe because of the things we ordered, the meal became quite starch and protein heavy. All four "apps" had bread of some sort, and the "mains" didn't have much vegetables either. The scallop and white sausage had a bit of pickled radishes on top of pomme puree, two perfectly cooked scallop with three pieces of sausages (not sure what the name of it is, it's the drier more crumbly kind). Pork hock was brined, braised, shredded, rolled into a log then deep fried, served with some cabbage, my friend said it reminds him of pan-fried Spam and he meant it in the most positive way! Sweetbread was probably one of the best sweetbread dishes I've had, served with shaved cauliflower and truffled cauliflower puree.

              Again, maybe we should've ordered a salad, but we're pretty anti-salads to begin with. And I do love how they just stick with bread or potatoes as their main starch.

              The crisp toffee was a small chocolate bar, it was a good end to a meal, but it's not as complicated as they made it out to be

              Two of us, $260 before tip, think we each had 4 glasses of wine plus one cocktail. About the same I spent at Ici, Acadia, Edulis and Jabistro this year, so I consider Hopgoods to be in the same price range of these restaurants.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Inkou

                Great review, I havn't been back since the opening month. Must check it out

                1. re: Inkou

                  Lest anyone be scared by the prices, let me reassure you it's possible for two people to eat for less than $100. We've been here several times and racked up a much lighter tab without feeling deprived. An app, an entrée and a drink each, no problem. (We're not big on dessert so I guess that's a saving, but still.)

                  1. re: piccola

                    An app and a 'main' would leave me hungry - the mains are fairly small (i.e. would be called sharing plates at most places in this category). I think a realistic budget for two would be $150-$200. Which makes it on a par with most of the competitors (e.g. Chantecler, Hoof, Ursa, Grove) and a bit below Ici, Edulis, Acadia.
                    In its category I'd put it in the top 25%. Food is good although a bit variable - but it's on my 'return to' list.
                    My bill (for one with two glasses of wine) was over $90.

                    1. re: estufarian

                      Obviously appetites vary, but I'm basing my comments on several dinners with my BF, who is quite the hungry gentleman. (But then again, he always gets the donair as a main, so maybe that's the trick?)

                      In any case, I just meant that we're frugal diners, and we've gone to Hopgood's several times, not necessarily for special occasions. It's approachable.

                2. I liked it. Two of us shared 3 apps and a main + 2 desserts and 2 drinks. Tab was ~$125.

                  Nobody here mentioned the Shrimp and Grits. They were *outstanding*. Smokey, just fatty enough - really delicious. Midsized portion. Could have eaten another order...

                  The desserts (toffee bar and maple square) were really good too - not overly sweet; creative; decently priced ($8).

                  My main (personal, subjective) complaints would be:
                  -almost all cocktails riff on the theme of savoury herbs
                  -portions might not satisfy a big eater
                  -few veggies on offer (or tea, for that matter)
                  -service was *over-done* (we couldn't talk or eat without being interrupted by servers - about 10 times throughout our visit)

                  1. I was there on the weekend with 3 others. We are pretty big eatters, I would say 2-3 dishes per person works. Our problem was we ordered 4 bottles of wine and it worked out to about $100 per person. Loved the sweet breads, I think the best I've had, Shrimp and grits excellent, surf and tuff was good but the beef tenton was deep fried and reminded me of shrimp chips, donairs yum yum, Digby Scallop were good. The toffe bar was excellent but don't think it's worth $8.

                    All in all we enjoyed the meal and would go back but back off on the wine next time.

                    1. Went this weekend and enjoyed 3 apps, 3 mains, toffee bar dessert and Nouveau Mot cocktail (a little too lemony). Food is consistently good, simple, nothing mind-blowing but clean and approachable. Found the sweetbreads tad too salty - they are done dusted deep-fried style. Steaktail served medium-rare is tasty but a bit tough. I've had the donairs in the past, but this time we stuck to seafood apps: mackerel, bacon-wrapped scallops, and crab dip. Overall, the mackerel and bacon-scallops were the winners in terms of balance of flavours and not too salty. Dessert was just right. Shared dishes arrived one at a time, nicely spaced out to enjoy each course, and we weren't rushed at all. Service was attentive but discreet.

                      Overall, plan to spend $80 per person for 1 app, 1 main, 1 cocktail and 1 glass of wine (and 1/3 of a dessert).

                      1. Vice did the Munchies treatment to Hopgood's Foodliner, with a visit to Chantecler which looks stellar, and to this place Hole in the Wall in the Junction which seems like a Chowfind? Has anyone talked about this spot yet?

                        http://www.vice.com/en_ca/munchies/ho...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: childofthestorm

                          I love Hole in the Wall - they changed to a different menu which is extensive and lots of small portions that are shareable. Yorkshire pudding, lobster rolls, Hong Kong style bacon tomato and peanut butter sandwich, cauliflower mac 'n' cheese and the longest list of bourbons ever. They had me at bourbon. Takes reservations.

                        2. Dr John and I finally got out to Hopgood’s last night. Thought we would revive this thread with an updated review. We were relieved not to have the type of abysmal service experience we had read about (our waitress was friendly and gave us clear and accurate information about the food), though the food certainly came out randomly from the kitchen. We had two “snacks” and five “dishes”; the first four came in quick succession, then we dallied over the salad for about half an hour, then the two hot dishes came separately about 20 minutes apart.

                          The smoked mackerel on oatcakes lived up to their excellent reputation… smoky, sweet, tangy from the crème fraîche, with a delicate pile of baby fennel greens. The molasses bread was gorgeous – slightly crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, sweet but not too sweet, with a clear note of molasses, mmmm. That said – three dollars for two slices of bread? Really? How about bread on the house? We tried the mussel special – steamed Gallo mussels marinated in a tomato sauce and served very cutely in a jar, with crostini. The mussels were pleasant, but so mild that the strong-flavoured (slightly charred) toast overpowered them. The cold ‘leeks and sweet shrimp’ was another hit – juicy sections of leek in a sort of béarnaise sauce (with tarragon maybe?) garnished by a very tasty shrimp, sweet as promised. The baby basil and mix of deep-fried and fresh shaved-green-something (??) on top was delicious. We absolutely loved the garlicky, creamy, mild, almost nutty Brussels sprout Caesar salad – Dr John approved as well, and it’s his least favourite vegetable!

                          The pork chop and fried egg special was good, especially the mapley barbecue sauce, though not that remarkable. The chop was nicely done, not dry, but we were a bit turned off from it being half fat – it was too dark in there to be able to trim it cleanly.

                          We (mainly me) were getting full by the time the famous donairs arrived but they too lived up to their reputation – ah, memories of Pizza Corner.

                          For dessert we went with the doughnuts and ice cream special – 6 very cute, crisp and light-textured cinnamon-coated balls, with a smooth and flavourful coffee ice cream. The banana nut crunch was also fun, with Nutella, salted caramel bits, chocolate ice cream, meringue, banana cake and a brown butter sabayon. Perhaps a little small though – when splitting it you only get the smallest taste of the different components. Also – no possibility of decaf coffee! Who does that?!

                          A total of 7 dishes plus two desserts was quite a lot of food, we definitely didn’t leave hungry. We didn’t bother with drinks and our tab came to $145, which we thought was pretty pricey for comfort food. Overall it was a really enjoyable experience, but not sure we will be a in a rush to drive all the way across town for it again soon.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Klafouti

                            Yes, I agree it's very good food but I also was surprised how quickly the bill totted up.
                            Mine was $80 pp (before tip) including a glass of wine - which is pretty close to your tab.

                            1. re: Klafouti

                              I will only pay those prices for uncomfortable food! Comfort food should be close to free!

                              1. re: justsayn

                                Haha, uncomfortable food! But it isn't a comfort food place, really. There's a reason it's on all the top ten lists. It isn't a diner or a meatloaf place by any stretch of the imagination or taste buds.

                                1. re: Food Tourist

                                  It's NOT on the only top 10 list that matters!

                                  1. re: Food Tourist

                                    Agreed that it's not diner-or-meatloaf comfortable… how about semi-comfortable? ...high-falutin comfort food??

                              2. A weekend dinner once again reaffirmed my love for Hopgood's.
                                I have been a big fan of their take on seafood - everything I have tried had been well thought out and delicious. (Amazing scallop crudo with cherry, minimal treatment of the deliciously fresh steamed clams).

                                I want to point out their house-made boudin noir. Pillowy soft, packed with flavour, served with medley of wild mushroom and hen's egg - every bite was heavenly. My plate was licked-clean (almost literally).

                                Also, an amazing cocktail I had with pig's blood -their take on sour whiskey. Addictive, and went down too easy.

                                Lastly, in my opinion, they still have the able and knowledge servers in Toronto.