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Hipster restaurants?

After reading this brief article/op-ed in the G&M (http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/foo...), 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 Carnita...to 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.

                                                  2. The thing that gets me about that article is that the author comes right out and admits that he's never eaten at any of the restaurants he's talking about. So he's basing this article on... what? Peeking in the windows when he walks by? Reading about them on Yelp? Kinda ridiculous.

                                                    1. "hipster" is such a boring and meaningless critique of a restaurant (or anything for that matter). if you don't want to line up, eat offal or have your meals prepared by a chef with tattoos, don't. were there no pretentious restaurants prior to hipster?

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: frenchcustard

                                                        Sure, but pretentious to someone might be 'hip' to someone else, and yet 'hipster' to even another. It's all relative, I suppose - but I take issue with the implication that every 'trendy' restaurant these days is a hipster locale. Like Jenna mentioned, places like Ki (to me) are pretentious for a different reason - so I guess we all like operating in our own comfort zones, and when we have to deal with what we deem as obnoxious, we avoid them, which is what I tend to do. I've only waited in line twice - Schwartz's in Montreal, and Vij's in Van.

                                                        1. re: frenchcustard

                                                          Of course. There have always been it spots, and there have always been pretentious restaurants. Maybe some of the oldtimers can mention some of the pretentious restaurants of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

                                                          I think the big change in the last 10 years is the number of chefs with tatts, and the noise levels. In the old days (pre-2000), I remember line-ups, and pretentious restaurants with uppity hosts/hostesses, but I don't remember restaurants that would leave my ears ringing. The first super-loud restaurant experience I can remember was at the Brant House circa 2004.

                                                          I remember line-ups for other popular and pretentious restaurants in the 80s and 90s, and I'm sure most 50somethings of the 80s and 90s would have also been largely avoiding the popular, pretentious restaurants that were attracting the hipster equivalent of the 80s and 90s. I'd think the yuppies were the 80s and 90s equivalent to hipsters. Most hipsters I've seen appear to be yuppies in grunge clothing.

                                                        2. Guu belongs on the list as well.

                                                          12 Replies
                                                          1. re: kwass

                                                            No way Kwass! :-)

                                                            Izakayas are just loud and over the top. They are bars with snack food. It is supposed to be loud and fun and in Tokyo you see people from all over the map in the same place enjoying the same fried food and beverage in a very loud room.

                                                            1. re: JennaBean

                                                              I agree JennaBean. That's why I added it to the list. For those that don't like loud and hip, it is exactly that.

                                                              1. re: kwass

                                                                No, I'm not talking about loud - atmospherically, or hip as in cool.. I'm talking hip as in hipster, and loud as in music that makes you have to yell your conversation.

                                                                There's nothing wrong with hip restaurants, we're talking another genre entirely.

                                                            2. re: kwass

                                                              Guu, really? Solely for somewhat loud music? I don't know about that...

                                                                1. re: kwass

                                                                  Guu is hip, but not hipster... there's a difference.

                                                                  1. re: justxpete

                                                                    I feel dumb asking, but can you explain the difference?

                                                                    1. re: kwass

                                                                      Hipsterism is an entire subculture.. you know, like Emo's... they dress a certain way, listen to obscure music (the more obscure, the better, especially if no one's heard of them before), love LPs because they think retro is cool.. most have thick-rimmed glasses, some have tattoos... they like wearing plaid, growing 'ironic' mustaches or overgrown beards... a lot of them dress in 80's fashions, many ride bikes (the older, the better). They like wearing short shorts (even the dudes) and you might hear couple of the female variety in Trinity Bellwoods yelling "Big sale, check it out!"... even though it's just a collection of items from their closet, laid out on some retro bed sheets (true story)... I don't know, haven't you seen them???

                                                                      Hip just means cool, in general...

                                                                      reading materials:


                                                                      1. re: justxpete

                                                                        hilarious. something can be cool, but not so cool that it's hipster, then it's not cool anymore.

                                                                          1. re: justxpete

                                                                            And I love the links you provided...I'm still laughing!!

                                                                            1. re: justxpete

                                                                              i have two great shirts that take a jab at hipsters

                                                                              one says "i listen to bands that don't even exist yet"
                                                                              the other has a picture of two bike gears with a chain going around and inside the chain it says "all hipsters should be fixed"

                                                                  2. If you want to avoid the "scene", the key is going @ lunch for those restaurants that happen to be open for lunch...or as prima said earlier, to go for an early dinner.

                                                                    1. Not directed at anyone specific, unless you feel the monocle fits...

                                                                      But I just can't believe this topic that gets so much air!

                                                                      Judging and begrudging the flavours of our city to this extent is incredibly disappointing to me. And then on the other hand, you read all the moaning of how generic the food in our city is.

                                                                      Go or don't go. Enjoy the food if you do.

                                                                      Kwass has the right idea....never even noticed "why" that guy had too much facial hair...cuz who the hell cares!

                                                                        1. re: aser

                                                                          Agreed! But boy is this thread getting a lot of traction.

                                                                        2. So Offal is hipster to you? Lol

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: szw

                                                                            Offal is 'hip' (I don't see how offal could be 'hipster' unless it was wearing plaid or a toque), 'exotic' and even exciting to some of those who didn't grow up eating offal (especially exciting to people who grew up eating boneless skinless chicken breast, I think), comfort food to some people who grew up with it, and disgusting to others (which would include people who grew up with it, people who have tried it once or twice, and people who have never tried it).

                                                                            As someone who grew up with offal, it's not a big deal. Some types of offal are comfort foods for me, but I do avoid kidneys, lungs and spleen.

                                                                            1. I mentioned this on another thread, but there's a theory making the rounds that loud music encourages patrons to drink more. And seeing that a restaurants profits are more dependent on booze sales than food and that a lot of these joints seem to be selling a drinking experience as much as a dining one, well I guess it was inevitable. Not exactly new though. I remember La Hacienda being that way 25 years ago though they were more the exception.

                                                                              1. I think the columnist has missed the bigger story. The restauranteurs are only reacting to the tidal wave of 25-35 year olds pouring into the west end to occupy the condos we are throwing up at an alarming rate. I don't think there has ever been such a large influx of "immigrants" to such a concentrated area in such a short period of time. I've lived in Trinity Bellwoods for 13 years so was part of the gentrification but the change in the last 4 years has been incredible. The "hip" restaurants, coffee shops and clothing stores have driven out our produce store, the butcher, the roasted chicken take out place and even my bank. My kid's school is closing. It's becoming a one note neighbourhood with no diversity.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: crawfish

                                                                                  I mean, I don't disagree with this and I'm as against the condo boom as anyone, but gentrification is an unstoppable monster. You could have said the same thing about yorkville or williamsburg or whatever other neighbourhood you pick - people need places to go and as communities shift, the needs addressed by those communities also shift and people and businesses are displaced. The "brooklynification" of the world, as an article I read recently termed it. There's not much to do about it except adapt, or move. I bet you could move to the junction now and get like, 3 or 5 years before they reach the tipping point.

                                                                                  1. re: disgusti

                                                                                    You're about 15 years too late on the Junction. Try Hamilton.

                                                                                    1. re: MissBingBing

                                                                                      I mean, I know fools who have moved to Hamilton and whatever in the past few years, but I also know cats renting storefronts in the junction right now. It's definitely not even close to what the bellwoods-west queen west-ossington-dundas west area has become

                                                                                    2. re: disgusti

                                                                                      I've lived in downtown Toronto since I was a kid and have experienced gentrification in many neighbourhoods including Yorkville. None happened as fast as this one and with such a narrow demographic.

                                                                                  2. This article is hipster-trolling for page hits. It could have just been a complaint about modern dining experiences, but that's been done a million times before, so. I'm so tired of the term being used as a blanket insult. It's not just lazy and condescending, it's narrow-minded and irrelevant to the discussion. It seems to me that it should be obvious that it is offensive to assume someone's taste in restaurants, or ability to prepare great food--or their acceptance of you as a patron!--on how many tattoos they have or what bands they like.

                                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Manybears

                                                                                      Yet it is perfectly fine to judge someone with grey hair and wearing a suit... Everyone judges people based on looks: Ginos, Bay St Boys, Frat Boys, Hipsters, 905ers.. the thing is most Hipsters actually embrace it... my freind is dating a hipster.. .and he knows he is a hipster and goes out of his way to fulfill the stereotype..

                                                                                      People are just pissed because they are being excluded from these new trendy restuarants not by some door man, or by some membership but by the fact that the owners know that most people will not put up with the music (and volume) that is played and the no reservation / lineup situation.

                                                                                      I have not been to Grand Electric or any of these other places because personally I hate lineups.. but I also hate making reservations so I do not go to places either where I have to make a reservation... If I cant just at a whim walk in and eat I will keep walking till I find a place that I can...

                                                                                        1. re: justsayn

                                                                                          Ah but it is... you would be surprised of the undiscovered gems that are out there.. A CHOWhound is not a person who just eats at all they trendy restaurants.. it is a person who appreciates food in all its forms and shares their experiences good and bad with others..

                                                                                          1. re: pourboi

                                                                                            Chowhound was originally about finding off the radar authentic places. Line ups and reservations are not chowish at all.

                                                                                            1. re: crawfish

                                                                                              I disagree...it is about finding the best food there is no matter the conditions nor distance...

                                                                                            2. re: pourboi

                                                                                              Sorry, my point was lost. If this site was about finding trendy restaurants it wouldn't have to exist, would it...

                                                                                        2. re: Manybears

                                                                                          If hipsters like independent thought and go against the mainstream why do they all dress the same and hang out at the same restaurants? Or has the author confused your average urban 20-30 something with hipsters?

                                                                                          1. re: hal2010

                                                                                            I think it's pretty normal for peer groups to have similar values and to socialize together. I doubt most hipsters find it important to be different from their own friends.

                                                                                        3. I have been travelling and (fortunately) missed this thread - who cares?!

                                                                                          Please end it by watching this video.


                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: estufarian

                                                                                            Sometimes it's fun to discuss, as opposed to argue. :)

                                                                                            Also, this is mostly hilarious.