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Apr 25, 2013 06:04 PM

Hipster restaurants?

After reading this brief article/op-ed in the G&M (, wondering what everyone's thoughts are. Now, I'm not in my 50's, or 60's, or even 40's, but I think the article makes a mountain out of a molehill, by implying all trendy restaurants these days are obnoxious.

To me, in Toronto's dining scene, there is only - what, maybe 10 (or less) restaurants that can be considered 'hipster' locales, that define themselves by offering "eardrum-perforating ambience, unchewable house-cured offal" (along with some other attributes). I generally avoid them, and I don't think it's as much of an epidemic as this writer would like to pretend.

I also think there's a lot of 'trendy' restaurants that aren't what I would consider to be obnoxious and/or pretentious, that I'm very comfortable in, for I too, despise deafeningly loud music while eating, or menus featuring 20 different preparations of offal. What is everyone else's opinion?

Which restaurants does everyone think matches this description? For me, it's places like Black Hoof, Grand Electric, Rock Lobster... Which others am I missing? Is it more an epidemic than I'm aware?

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  1. I'm not sure...what I do know, is that in the last 6 months or so, I have come to two conclusions: 1) I don't like music so loud that I have to yell to have a conversation at my table, and 2) I don't line up. There are plenty of excellent restaurants happy to take my money that will also provide me with a reservation. I have neither the patience nor the interest to line up for food, and frankly, I value my time too much. I guess that relegates me to old stalwarts.

    I am neither old, nor do I consider myself un-adventurous, but to me, a meal out is about a good wine, good food, good service and good conversation. Someplace I can unwind from the stresses of the week and be taken care of a little bit.

    I'll send back my Chow membership card now. :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: CocoaChanel

      Over the past year, I've started keeping a set of earplugs in my handbag, in case the restaurant turns the music up over the course of a meal.

      I haven't been returning to restaurants that play music loud enough to leave me with a hoarse throat (from attempting to converse despite the noise levels) or ringing ears.

      Even though I'm part of Generation X, rather than being part of the Baby Boom, I already feel a little too unhip for a handful of places I've dined at in TO. Chantecler was the last place I remember visiting where I felt like a fish-out-of water relative to the the others in the restaurant. I also feel unhip and out-of-place at faux speakeasies and after 10 pm at most restaurants on Ossington.

      What I did find interesting, was that Patria on King W was filled with a mostly Baby Boomer clientele last Friday. The vibe was energetic, but not ear-splitting loud. I've never seen a Charles Kharbouth establishment draw such a mature crowd, and I've never seen a restaurant filled with such a large proportion of Baby Boomers on King W. What a change from the King West of 2005.

    2. Without dismissing everything that it said, I think the article itself was obnoxious.

      5 Replies
      1. re: kwass

        To clarify, I agree with almost everything that the author of the article said. I too hate loud music in restaurants, and I also refuse to stand in line, but the article itself had a very pretentious tone.

        1. re: kwass

          Standing alone the article is complete pretentious twaddle, as a response to the Jen Agg/Chris Nutall-Smith love-in radio interview where Mlle Agg repeatedly espoused the point that she wasn't running a restaurant for everyone, a little less so.

          1. re: kwass

            The author also said he hasn't been to a non-Asian resto other than Gallery Grill in the last 10 years.

            1. re: MissBingBing

              Yeah that was the part that floored me. So basically he has very little interest in eating out other than sticking to a few favourites. That's fine, but why begrudge people who are into restaurants as a scene? I rarely eat out myself, and I'm not interested in lining up either, but I do manage to try a few new spots, because I'm interested in seeing what's new/what all the fuss is about. That's my interest not his problem.

        2. Restaurants are the new nightclubs. Sometimes more highly rated for the scene and the degree of difficulty to gain access than they are for their food and service.

          8 Replies
          1. re: hal2010

            But they really aren't, I'm trying to say. There's probably less than 10 restaurants in TO that fit that bill, and countless others in Toronto that have opened recently that do not. Where are these night clubs you (and the author) are referring to?

            1. re: justxpete

              As a recent example - Gio Rana's in Leslieville. We're told on arrival that there are no reservations for groups under 6 and it will be a half hour wait. We wait for an hour and watch a number of couples who obviously know the hostess walk in ahead of us and get seated. One hour and a half later about double the number of people who were ahead of us in line have finished their meals and departed but we haven't been seated. We ask again how long and are told the place is full so maybe another hour.

              1. re: hal2010

                There is no excuse for that type of service! Why did you wait? You should have just left and called the manager the next day to complain. That's ridiculous to be expected to stand in line for 21/2 hours while other people walk in ahead of you!

                1. re: hal2010

                  Gio's has been around since the 80s. It's always been like that.

                  1. re: MissBingBing

                    Why on earth do people put up with that sort of treatment? I just don't get that!

              2. re: hal2010

                I agree with Hal that some restaurants are rated for the "scene and the degree of difficulty to gain access". Where I disagree is that "the scene" has greater relevance than the food. I don't think any of the places that match the description in the original article have mediocre food.

                1. re: hal2010

                  But they really aren't. I'm trying to say - there's probably less than 10 restaurants in TO that fit that bill, and countless others in Toronto that have opened recently that do not. Where are these night clubs you (and the author) are referring to?

                  1. re: justxpete

                    Bar Isabel
                    Grand Electric
                    Rock Lobster
                    Electric Mud
                    La name a few

                2. La Carnita suffers from this syndrome.

                  27 Replies
                      1. re: kwass

                        You may have had a different experience than I did - but I brought my two year-old daughter, and they were incredible with her - very accomodating, and sweet... It was at lunch, so maybe it's a little different than dinner - but i've got nothing but positive things to say about the people at the Dupont location...

                        1. re: andyb99

                          It's only a negative connotation to some - it doesn't mean that the staff are evil people... ?

                          1. re: andyb99

                            Oops. i didn't mean to say Dupont. I meant to say Dundas W. I've gone to the Dupont location for lunch several times with my mother and had a similar experience to yours.

                            1. re: kwass

                              Yeah I hear the Dundas West location is insufferably cool and hip. Which is sort of a contrast to the Dupont location.

                              I wouldn't expect anything less for a Taco bar on Dundas West, NOB ("North of Bloor").

                        2. re: kwass

                          I think the trick for those who want to avoid the ear-splitting noise/attitude/whatnot is to go early-bird with some of these places. Won't work with the ones that line up at 5, though.

                          I didn't find Patria overly loud, but I was there 6-9 on a Fri. Would think 8-10 on a Sat would be another story.

                        3. re: mnajji

                          I don't think La Carnita fits into that bucket at all. Grand Electric, sure, but I found La Carnita rather boring and corporate in feel. The music wasn't even close to loud and the crowd was much more middle aged ad exec's over hipsters.

                          I'm in my mid 30's and I tend to love places like Grand Electric and 416 Snack Bar as much as I like George and Splendido. I feel equally as comfortable in both and I think most of my friends would say the same.

                          For me I avoid and never feel comfortable in places like Ki or South of Temperance where I'm surrounded by suits taking about their bonus, cars or golf game.

                          1. re: JennaBean

                            How can you hear them talk about their bonus at Ki? Lip reading? :-) I avoid those places, too, because I don't like the vibe or the food. But they're loud enough that you shouldn't have to overhear what the suits are saying at the next table.

                            1. re: prima

                              It is a meatmarket. They actually try to engage you in the conversation - I wear a suit most days so they believe I'm one of them until I roll up one of my sleeves to show part of my sleeve. ;-)

                              I once had a guy there tell me I wasn't showing enough cleavage. I wish I was joking. I haven't been back since even if when my Bay street friends try to make me go for a Thursday night drink!

                              1. re: JennaBean

                                Was that guy's name Bill? (Just wondering)

                                1. re: prima

                                  It actually may have been! I do remember for sure he was a lobbyist. He was trying to impress me with that day's meeting list. *yawn*

                                2. re: JennaBean


                                  also <3
                                  "I wear a suit most days so they believe I'm one of them until I roll up one of my sleeves to show part of my sleeve"

                              2. re: JennaBean

                                I'm with you re: Ki and all those other-type-of-obnoxious places, and I like 416 snack bar - but I don't think it's the same as GE or the other places described in the article. Of course, I usually get to 416 after I've had a few, so maybe I don't notice as much... lol.

                                1. re: justxpete


                                  There is little to none aesthetic difference between GE and 416. 416 is ABSOLUTELY a hipsterish spot (as ridiculous as that term is) and if memory serves me right it actually predates GE in terms of it being a "scene"

                                  You simply like one and not the other.

                                  1. re: themiguel

                                    hmm... I'm going to have to go there sober, in that case... some day. ha.

                                    Seriously though, there's hipsters there? I don't know if I believe that... it's more of a bar, to me. Not a restaurant, per se...

                                    1. re: justxpete

                                      if you didn't notice them you've been assimilated ;)

                                        1. re: justxpete

                                          You're very funny! Have you ever seen the staff at 416? They are more hipster than most of my parkdale friends! ;-)

                                          1. re: JennaBean

                                            Lol, really? Maybe I should start paying more attention to stuff! They have these amazing smoked meat sandwiches though...

                                            1. re: justxpete

                                              No! Don't pay attention! Enjoy the food! Quick, pass it on.

                                              1. re: justsayn

                                                exactly. don't let trends dictate where and what you eat

                                                1. re: frenchcustard

                                                  Calm down. Once I like something, I wouldn't let a trend, just on principal, prevent me from continuing to enjoy it.

                                                  1. re: justxpete

                                                    sorry, it was meant as a general statement, not directed specifically at you. i should be more careful as i've been accused of doing things for reasons that are so far removed from my actual intentions.

                                              2. re: justxpete

                                                I LOVE the ruben. Really it is a heart attack on a plate and I don't care! The trini double is pretty darn good as well.

                                  2. just for curiosity's sake, is anyone on this board under 30?

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: disgusti

                                      Yes, many. Not me, but plenty of others. :)

                                      1. re: TorontoJo

                                        then I hope they make themselves known because pretty much every thread about a new downtown restaurant has almost everyone kvetching about noise and hipsters, it's all a little old (lol) by now

                                        1. re: disgusti

                                          I'm under 30, but I also have a kid so I dont count as cool or hip. :)

                                      2. re: disgusti

                                        I'm 26. But I partake in the noise complaints department.

                                        1. re: radiopolitic

                                          With you. I'm 28 I like to go out to dinner to talk to my companions surprisingly enough.

                                          1. re: radiopolitic

                                            Where do you people go that you have to yell at each other?

                                            1. re: disgusti

                                              Rock Lobster. Grand Electric. Supposedly Bar Isabel as well, according to NOW, among others. I was in Rock Lobster about 2 weeks ago. I have good hearing. I literally had to yell almost at the top of my lungs for the server, standing 1 foot away from me (literally) to hear me. I had to repeat myself 3 times. Who finds that enjoyable???

                                              1. re: disgusti

                                                Was just at La Carnita last night and had to speak really loudly all evening for others at my table to hear me. I also had to keep asking my friends to repeat themselves because I couldn't hear them.

                                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                                  I agree. La Carnita was very loud, and our conversation became quite repetitious, especially any cross table conversation. Our server used a fair amount of sign language.

                                                  We saw a lot of plaid. Most of the tacos, paletas and other foods we ordered were very tasty. It was very enjoyable foodwise, but the having to speak louder than normal and having to ask people to repeat, etc wasn't enjoyable. Of course, the place could be energetic but considerably less noisy if they weren't pumping up the volume of the music, but I'm guessing the pumped up volume is part of the formula that their repeat customers/regular customers like.

                                            2. re: disgusti

                                              I'm under 30! And have been participating in chowhound for most of my 20s.

                                              1. re: disgusti

                                                Me, and i've been on the board since the tender age of 19.

                                                loud places suck

                                                1. re: meatnveg

                                                  Our Chowhound names go well together...

                                                2. re: disgusti

                                                  I'm under 30, at least for a few more weeks, and I don't get the hate-on for the new restaurants. Not all are my scene -- I don't like to wait in line -- but a lot are churning out good food. Dismissing a place as "hipster" just because there's offal on the menu and the servers have tattoos is lazy and condescending.

                                                  1. re: disgusti

                                                    i'mi 27 and have been on CH since graduating from university and moving back to Toronto. i don't mind the loud places, but it does become irritating when you can't converse properly with your friends or server. this won't stop me (yet) from going to check them out though.

                                                    the way i see it, there are sufficient dining options to choose a restaurant based on the vibe you want/expect. for those on this board, the atmospheres are well-documented and those choices can be made wisely. personally, i wouldn't want tacos in an environment that is too subdued.