It's little surprise that 416 Snack Bar's website reads like a blog. Adrian Ravinsky, a former food blogger, decided it was time to put his money where his mouth is. And with barely a budget, $25,000 to be exact, Ravinsky teamed up with his good friend Dave Stewart and transformed a tired burrito joint into a hip urban niche for a quickish nosh 'n nibble.
Their DIY design is a surprisingly warm mingling of the industrial with a smidgen of kitsch. Mismatched communal tables of varying heights
- one possibly a reclaimed marble shower surround - are paired with what looks like chairs plucked from someone's basement or a grade 10 science lab. Linoleum is even missing in some places, but that is all just part of the charm, that and a booth with an easy chair and a rotary phone. Don't know what to do with your coat and purse? No problem - stow it safely in a locker made from repurposed hydro box doors. Call it inexpensive wall treatment or an art installation, but a chalkboard features the TTC subway route with markings to indicate, not stations, but where they were inspired for each of the menu's tasty offerings.
Open just barely a couple of months, 416 are still ironing out some minor wrinkles: when we call outside of business hours, a message tells us that voicemail has not been activated. But that has had little impact on getting the word out. The place is bustling with disgustingly beautiful 20-somethings who've perfected the art of F2F conversation while texting.
But make no mistake: this is a snack bar. Practicing strict caloric control before any review repast, we arrive hungrier than a hypoglycaemic Andes plane crash survivor. Problem is, unless you order everything in quadruplicate, you might find yourself at the corner Pizza Pizza for a post-meal snack. Pace Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock, the portions here can be measured out in coffee spoons. But again to be fair, the moniker is one to be taken at face value. True to their blogging word, the boys at 416 definitely represent delicious. The clip board carte is a diverse array of culinary snacks. And don't ask for cutlery cause there is none.
Bites may be bantamweight, but they are definitely a knockout. The rotating menu of microscopic munchies list 10 selections that range from $3 to $7, but include taxes. The service, though friendly, is leisurely if a bit on the slow side, and that can be a problem if you're hungry enough to eat your napkin, but every sample is worth the wait. Although your bubby might plotz at the thought of serving you two latkes ($5) the size of Tam Tam crackers, she'd challish about these one-biters with a shmear of sour cream, a pickled onion and a twist of lox. The Jamaican beef patty ($4) may be the size of a lemon wedge, but irie it is, mon. And, yes, you could easily stop at a 7-11 for one five times larger at half the price, but what awes here is the effort and finesse to turn out such tiny artisanal treasures that includes beautifully flaky hand-rolled dough.
A grilled hot dog ($3) is so puny it would make Brett Favre look hung. Made from pork back fat and beef short ribs stuffed into a Merguez casing, this snack bar staple, topped with pommery mustard and sauerkraut, is an impressive take on fast food that proves conclusively size doesn't always matter. A deep-fried pork belly bun ($5) rubbed in duck fat with hoisin sauce surely satisfies as does a Napolitano pizza pocket ($4) oozing with messy, gooey goodness of fresh basil, mozzarella and a homemade tomato sauce. But the tofu hand roll ($5) stuffed with enoki, shiitake, properly-vinegared rice and sweet fried tofu strips, is what you will be fighting over in between servings. Equally enticing, and probably the most substantial dish, is the Vietnamese mini sub ($4) a happy marriage of mortadella pork shoulder, chicken liverwurst, cilantro, julienned carrots and bird's eye chillies.
The 411 on the 416 is that this is indeed a dining destination if all you are looking for is something to coat your stomach while downing a few drinks. If not that, then come by for one of their custard tarts ($3), as good as or better than any you will find at a Portuguese bakery. Not bad for a pair of young dudes who not too long ago met bussing tables at Ferro.