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Tradition’s on the menu at this upscale Riverside gastropub, along with chicken and waffles, pan-seared trout, and lobster and wasabi deviled eggs. The red-and-black checkerboard floors and barnboard walls lead patrons back through the cozy sitting area up front, through the handsome booths of the restaurant proper in the middle, and right back to a little stage and dance floor in the rear. Chef Dustin Gallagher, an erstwhile Top Chef Canada semifinalist and former Susur Lee protégé, delights with a whack of homey, inspired comfort dishes. And there are loads of local microbrews, in both bottles and on draft, with which to wash them back. Rubbing shoulders as it does with the Opera House, this Queen East standard has lots to offer as a cool-io destination for a rocking crowd.
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Review: This ain't your typical pub

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on November 08, 2012
It know it may seem like an insignificant detail to some, but for me an outward demonstration of pride in one's property is one of the greatest assets any small business can possess. So charmed I was to see a barkeep sweeping a little patch of pavement outside the Riverside...
It know it may seem like an insignificant detail to some, but for me an outward demonstration of pride in one's property is one of the greatest assets any small business can possess. So charmed I was to see a barkeep sweeping a little patch of pavement outside the Riverside Public House lest a patron possibly slip on a few fallen leaves. But efforts like that are usually a pretty good indication of the amount of care and concern proprietors of this pub dish out daily. And my intuition about this place was bang on, because this is a gastropub to be taken very seriously indeed.

Oh yeah, and I guess it doesn't hurt that the kitchen corps is lead by none other than Dustin Gallagher, a name garnering a lot of favourable press lately. The former exec chef at Grace and Season One contestant on Top Chef Canada is no overnight sensation. I mean this is a guy apparently slaved in kitchens from the age of 13, working his way up from fast food jockey to a six year stint as sous chef/protege for Susur Lee. So little surprise that the Riverside Public House - a pub ferchrissakes - is one of the best restaurants in town today.

Situated smack dab in Leslieville, right next to the Opera House, RPH looks more like a cross between a French bistro and a pub, adorned with all the requisite rustic elements like barn boards, filament lighting, sink-in banquettes, tea towels for serviettes and, well, you get the picture. But it's Gallagher's flawless farmhouse comfort food that will have everyone, including me, coming back. His Grace fame alone should be enough for devoted foodies to follow him here, but dare I say this is his finest hour.

Practically every ingredient on every plate is made in house, right down to the teeniest of garnishes. And after a month of dull and disappointing dining experiences, I am thrilled to report that my palate is alive and well again. Stirring it from its slumber is something as simple as a ploughman's platter ($18) that includes homemade sauerkraut and pickles without the vinegary-bite of store-bought varieties, a classic curried piccalilli, and a raisin rhubarb spread that puts HP sauce to shame. And these are just the accoutrements! The board also includes a rustic country pate, a light, velvety smooth chicken liver pate, homemade pork sausage and a blood sausage that might get Anthony Bourdain to second guess what his last meal on the earth might be. Add to that a perfectly coddled egg, a huge block of aged cheddar, some homemade apple butter and slices of crisp palate-cleansing green apple and you'll be wanting to verify if the advertised price is correct or if the owner's gone completely mad.

A classic cobb salad ($14) might look like a blue plate special, but don't be fooled by its diner-like presentation. First off, it comes undressed with a little bottle of homemade vinaigrette. Finally, someone who understands that not everyone wishes their greens to be drowning in salad dressing. With ingredients this spectacular who would want that? Arranged with vertical precision, like soldiers in formation, this opener includes thick slices of avocado, large crumblings of blue cheese, new potatoes cooked and chilled to perfection, freshly grilled chicken, eggs, tomatoes and crispy lardons. In my experience, a salad this sublime, with nothing I can nitpick about, is about as common as a straight set designer.

So far so great, but can a little neighbourhood pub continue with such perfect plates with no slip ups, not a one? Yep. To prove it, all you have to do is sample some of its country fried chicken ($14). It is the best you've ever sunk your choppers into. Moist and tender flesh enveloped in a thick and crunchy skin that isn't over-seasoned. But the true miracle here is that the crispy coating never falls away from the meat no matter how many times you cut into it. The popular but pricier Paulette's Chicken and Donuts just down the block doesn't even come close. Value is also worth a mention here, because in what galaxy do you get two large breasts and a leg, including sides like garlic smashed potatoes, kale and an awesome gravy that actually tastes like the real drippings of a holiday turkey for that price. Not this one.

Not impressed yet? Then a whole stuffed and trussed cornish hen ($28) more plump than Goldie Hawn's lips should do the trick. It still succeeds, despite being a tad overcooked, its nicely browned and crispy skin is surrounded by crispy potatoes, brussels sprout leaves and a springing of fresh herbs. The winning streak continues with a sliced tri-tip steak ($28) served pretty in pink. A Yorkshire pudding as fluffy as a B&B pillow alongside toothsome asparagus and a lovely heap of sliced mushrooms make this dish the definitive Sunday supper for any day of the week.

Every step of the way the Riverside Public House awes. And desserts are no exception. A vanilla custard ($5) is a steal for the price, its sublime and skillful jiggle blends beautifully with rum-soaked raspberries. And though a chocolate layer cake with sprinkles ($5) may be an ironic tribute to Mom's homemade birthday cake, it's also a bit of a non sequitur compared to all the other stellar items exiting this kitchen. I certainly don't know what one Globe and Mail food writer was referring to when he wrote that Leslieville was stuck in the '90s. Hmm, not sure how many times you've ventured into these environs in the past years, but with places like Ruby Watch Co, Glas Wine Bar, Table 17 and myriad others, this area is experiencing a kind of new food revolution. No wonder chef Gallagher is always so damn smiley. He has lots to be happy about. Bravo!
Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
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4 Comments for Riverside Public House Restaurant & Bar

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By Sarah Stallan

Sarah Stallan made a comment about Riverside Public House Restaurant & Bar

While I disapprove of the use of "ain't", I 100% support the recommendation of this establishment :)
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By Martha McFarlan...

Martha McFarland made a comment about Riverside Public House Restaurant & Bar

Dustie Rawks! :-D
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By Stephanie Lawre...

Stephanie Lawrence made a comment about Riverside Public House Restaurant & Bar

Fantastic restaurant. The burger is amazing!
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By Penny Stallan

Penny Stallan made a comment about Riverside Public House Restaurant & Bar

This is the number one spot in the hood! We've been several times - and it just keeps on getting better. Great food and great service - what more do you ask?
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 Please select only one reason why you would recommend this business.