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Peoples Eatery

307 Spadina Ave
(416) 792-1784
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Brought to us by the same folks at 416 Snack Bar, People's Eatery features an eclectic menu by Dustin Gallagher and two floors of swanky space, smack dab in the middle of Chinatown....
Brought to us by the same folks at 416 Snack Bar, People's Eatery features an eclectic menu by Dustin Gallagher and two floors of swanky space, smack dab in the middle of Chinatown.
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Peoples Eatery The Menu
The Menu

Review: Let my People go

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on July 24, 2014

All I can say is thank Buddha that the newly opened noodle house Kobo Nobu had practically nothing to serve on their menu or I might not have ended up at the Peoples Eatery on the same night. That doesn't bode well for the former, but for the latter I'm stunned that I waited so long to write about this little Spadina Ave gem.  Well, slap me with a wet noodle for the unforgivable oversight.

The team behind the 416 Snack Bar on Bathurst may have kept the name of the former restaurant (someone must be awfully superstitious and/or cheap), but rest assured there was a dramatic departure with the menu redesign. The result: an homage to the Jewish culture and cuisine that ruled Spadina long before there was a Chinatown. From wallpaper with archival pics of the original Shopsowitz's, the original Shopsy's deli, to propaganda leaflets of the ‘60s extolling the evils of extending the Spadina Expressway into downtown, People's Eatery honours the past yet seamlessly makes it a fun and vibrant place to be right now. And hey, I haven't even started on the food.

Now I certainly loves me a menu with focus. Though some may say this limited micro menu is a little too focused. But with dishes this inventive and so perfectly plated, it takes the snack bar concept to a whole new level. Expectedly, all dishes are bite sized, and priced accordingly. But you've never seen snack food like this before.

Truly authentic potato latkes ($6) might even be better than your bubby's. Sorry to offend, but it's true. Insanely crispy, topped with pastrami-smoked trout, sour cream, dill and salmon roe, this refreshing take on lox and cream cheese on a bagel is one for the cookbooks. You could easily inhale 50 of them. I think I did.

A chopped liver delight ($9) has my mouth watering just reading the ingredients: silky foie gras sits atop hearty chopped liver spread with onions. And the crowning glory? It's served on toasted challah (egg bread for the goyim), making it Jew nirvana.

Now before you go ahead and get all squeamish on me, you must sample the fried tongue sandwich ($7). The texture is so velvety you might mistake it for roast beef. Piled high on a browned pretzel bun smothered with French's mustard (sorry Kozlik, but it's a classic) and pickles, it even beats the city's beloved Bar Isabel version.

Whitefish salad ($7) towers on bagel toast with clusters of wasabi tokibo that looks like something Richard Burton might've clasped around Elizabeth Taylor's neck. The flying fish roe pop like Willy Wonka Nerds that further underline the extreme attention to texture, flavour and presentation: a true trifecta.

General Tao-Fu ($4) is described on the menu as "sticky, spicy, crunchy." And though it could stand a bit more heat, these pillowy soft tofu nuggets with a delicate crispy exterior are quite simply, divine. As is a watermelon salad ($5) that's gorgeous enough to serve at a black tie reception. Cubes of pink fruit are topped with feta, mint and avocado. As refreshing and light as it is, it manages to deliver an intense taste sensation.

Sabichi ($7) is a Mediterranean delight of eggplant, a perfectly cooked quail egg and herb salad on a pita. And it's worth every sloppy moment. Panipuri ($4), described as crispy, spicy water bombs, are like the lightest, airiest samosas you've ever set eyes on. A bite-sized flavour explosion. A char shiu bao ($5) bun is packed with barbecue pork, garlic-cucumber and cress, the chewy bun, though not too doughy, has enough heft to hold all the ingredients without breaking apart. There's no stopping the brilliance out of this kitchen so far.

A  Peking duck platter ($25/2, $40/4) is another extraordinary experience.  It all starts with a small cup of duck consommé with a lovely tapioca treasure at the bottom. And oddly enough, thank you, it isn't as salty as you might expect but with enough depth for intrigue. And though the portion of bird is smaller than you'd want for the price, and a bit too fatty, as a whole the platter is quite generous when you take into account a mind-numbing fried rice mixed with scads of shredded duck, fresh peas and edamame. Yummy squared. Doughy wraps are also included, but to prevent overstuffing, red lettuce leaves are also present for a healthier wrap option. But why bother, Gwyneth.  And let's not forget fermented black bean paste, julienned cucumber and Asian pear for added crunch. Even desserts end on a high note: grilled pineapple ($4) with lime, coconut cream and cookie crumb will have you swooning in your seat; banana fritters ($4) not so much. Over fried yet undercooked, it's the one minor misstep in a sea of superb execution.

Spadina has never seen such understated cool. Could People's usher in a whole new kind of Dundas West hip to encroach on the ubiquitous Chinese restos of this well-worn strip? Even so, People's Eatery stays true to the neighbourhood's cultural influencers, offering Chinese lessons while you tinkle. 

Owners Adrian Ravinsky, Matthew See and David Stewart with co-owner Dustin Gallagher do everything so bang on boffo. Let's just say if everyone performed like this I'd be out of a job; there'd be no need for food critics if every place was guaranteed to be this good. Like their 416 Snack Bar, People's Eatery is a snack bar like no other, elevating food and service to a level you'd expect from only high-end dining establishments, minus the pretention and high prices.

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
All meals are paid for, including all taxes and gratuities. All reservations are made under assumed names. Menu items, prices and individuals mentioned in this review may not be up to date. Dine.TO encourages its users to share their feedback.

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