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Casual is fast becoming the new normal. As a result, a snackie micro-scene has developed of late. Curbside food trucks parked in front of tasting rooms dangle gourmet appeal in take-out boxes and brown-paper wrap. Inside, smart young liquor aficionados dole out handcrafted small-batch spirits or select niche brews.
Here, four forerunners that have opened up their rooms to engage patrons in a quirky street-food scene. Grab a napkin, your drink of choice, find a table, and dig in.
The vibe: Coffee bar meets…well…bar. All white-washed walls, potted succulents and gauzy outside light, with shabby chic furniture and weathered wood galore in a Scandinavian-cool white space. Good-looking young people (guys with beards and plaid; girls in chambray and high-waisted shorts) chatter over standing tables and one long-table. Live Mariachi on Friday nights, and mellow indie tunes and old-school DJ remixes, round out any lulls the rest of the time.
Eat: First out of the gate with the food-truck program, founder Josh Michnik updates the daily roster of food trucks weekly. Fat Duck is a favourite, as are Community Pizza’s wood-fired pies, Tacofino (a classic), and Disco Cheetah with its spin on the Korean tacos.
Drink: Brewmaster Dave Varga left major player Red Truck Beer to help produce the unusual 33 Acres of Sunshine, a Blanche that is silky smooth and subspiced with orange peel, coriander, and anise seed, pairing perfectly with the golden days of summer.
The Vibe: Brassneck Brewery honours the days of unfinished basement bachelor pads with distressed wood in hues of copper, coffee, and ivy, while infusing the spot with Silicon Valley austerity with utilitarian stools and concrete foundations. In other words, you get the “lone cabin in the woods” feel without the dirt and grime. It’s just you, your buddies, and a quality brew.
Eat: Handpicked food trucks rotate weekly, arriving daily at the sweet spot for snackish cravings. Korean Mama Express spices up the daily grind with bibimbap, as does Guanaco’s El Salvadoran deep-fried pasteles (think calzones with oomph), and Super Thai Food delivers pad Thai that’s, well, genuinely super.
Drink: Brewmaster Conrad Gmoser has made the choice for summertime suds a no-brainer. Today’s growlers are filled with a single malt, single hop India Session Ale: the Little Pony Smash I.S.A. Thanks to their ingenious “Blichmann Gun”—which essentially ensures a state-of-the-art fresh pour by connecting the growler directly to their conditioning tanks—you’ll be doing “cartwheels after the first sip,” they claim.
The Vibe: You won’t find iPhones littering the tables, nor will you see hipsters craning their neck to see if they’re being seen by other hipsters. This joint attracts honest, beer-loving folk who come for a Happy Hour catch-up, some laughs, and, obviously, a class-act brew. Pull up a stool at one of the bistro-style tables and contemplate the necessity of a portrait of yourself on a horse, such as the one of brewmaster Mike Sleeman, which stares down, regally, from the wall.
Eat: The folks at Parallel 49 enjoy changing things up on the food-truck front. They aim to bring as many as they can to the curb out front; to date, Reef Runner’s signature jerk chicken poutine (featured on Food Network Canada’s You Gotta Eat Here) and Fliptop Filipino Fusion’s Flippin’ Adobo “Fili” Cheesesteak (if you think that’s a mouthful, try eating the thing) have proved popular.
Drink: The taste of summer starts with Seedspitter Watermelon Wit. A seasonal beverage (meaning once fall arrives, you can expect a chorus of nostalgic sighs for the “good ol’ days” of a few weeks prior), this Belgian-style Witbier packs a crisp, refreshing punch in any chilled glass, with a hint of the promised melon.
The Vibe: Like someone’s loft apartment, but with a distillery in back instead of a bedroom. The eponymous wooden table acts as the bar, a place for young professionals to unwind on Gin & Tonic Fridays, while the lounge area beckons patrons to make themselves at home.
Eat: At every G&T Friday, one of ten food trucks serves up something mouth-watering to munch. Leave the workweek behind with one of the namesake specialties from Mama’s Fish & Chips, curry from Vij’s Railway Express, a taco from Tacofino, or BBQ pork skewers from Fliptop Filipino Fusion.
Drink: The highlight of Friday nights at Long Table is building your own gin and tonic. Choose from two of owner and distiller Charles Tremewen’s small-batch gins—cucumber or London dry (make it a single or a double)—then pick your tonic. We recommend the house-made stuff, made with organic cane sugar.