The only bad thing about Fabarnak that I can possibly say is that it will not have nearly enough room for the numbers of people that I expect to crowd their doors. This small resto-café has been open for less than a year, and can be found in downtown Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village. As such, it is within walking distance of countless competitors. Yet, there are so many reasons that I believe Fabarnak will flourish.
Let us begin with the food, shall we? The food is divine. The meats are perfectly seasoned and tender, and the sides are bursting with surprising and delightful flavour combinations. Like most smaller resto- cafés, the menu is fairly petite. It includes a handful of salads as appetizers or mains, six main dishes (poultry, red meat, fish, and vegetarian), a few small desserts, and a daily special. To top it off, all of the food arrives more aesthetically pleasing than those dishes found in most resto-cafés.
Speaking of presentation, the interior design of Fabarnak is downright adorable. The cheery lime chairs and a couple of turquoise tiled walls are paired with the more muted wooden tables and blue-gray walls. The overhead lighting is softened and dispersed by using large, upside-down turquoise umbrellas for lampshades, adding that element of quirk. Against all this, large windows allow plentiful sunlight and a view to the pedestrian-friendly Church Street.
Based off all that I have said, you may be expecting some moderate-high prices, but in fact, the current prices are outrageously low. For dinner last week, I paid $14 (+ tax and tip) for a generous portion of 12-hour braised short ribs, smashed potato, house-made tomato jam, and mixed vegetables. It was delicious, and if I didn’t know any better I might have paid double what they charged.
Now onto what, in my opinion, elevates Fabarnak from a very good restaurant to one that is truly excellent. Fabarnak has what they call the “double bottom line”. Fabarnak’s economic goal, for now, is to break even. As they become more established, attract regular clientele, and build a reputation – and I have no doubt they will do all these things – prices are expected to increase moderately. At that point, the economic goals will likely shift, and this leads us to the second bottom line. I am enormously impressed with Fabarnak as a socially conscious enterprise. Perhaps I should not be, given that it is an initiative of The 519, a highly regarded community centre. Once Fabarnak does become more profitable, its proceeds will benefit The 519’s services.
Fabarnak also has a staffing program that provides training and employment opportunities to people that have experienced barriers to employment. Eventually, the staff will also run public workshops on daily and holiday cooking, and making preserves. Furthermore, in keeping with a growing awareness of food nutrition and politics, Fabarnak offers a menu that is over 80% locally and sustainably produced.
I think that tonight I will have the Ontario trout, seasonal vegetables, braised white beans, red pepper rouille, and tomato broth, as well as a butter tart for dessert.
Fabarnak is located on 519 Church Street, Toronto.
Hours of operation:
Mon – Tues: 07:30 – 16:00
Wed – Fri: 07:30 – 21:00
All photos courtesy of Fabarnak.