By Lori Bosworth
There is a little enclave of shops and restaurants that is proliferating at Greenwood Avenue and Queen Street East in Toronto. This Leslieville corner features a moms-and-tots yoga centre, a bulk food shop, a cafe/comic book shop, an airy art studio and a few health-conscious restaurants. We stopped by The Green Wood, a restaurant that prides itself on providing locally-sourced meals. The Green Wood is devoted to sustainable eating and this is evident in the menu. [Disclosure: We were provided with complimentary meals in order to complete this review.]
On an unusually warm Monday in September, my dining partner and I entered the plant-covered entrance of The Green Wood. A few steps down led us into a light-infused industrial-style room, warmed with an abundance of windows and thriving greenery. We were warmly greeted by our server, who took our drinks order. I spotted Greenhouse Juice Co.’s cold-pressed juices on the menu and ordered the Kale, Cucumber, Lemon Juice and Ginger juice, $9. My dining partner ordered the Freshly-Squeezed Orange Juice, $5. Both juices were incredibly refreshing on a humid day.
Our friendly server quickly brought over our drinks while we perused the menu. I was eager to try one of their bowls so I opted for the Tel Aviv bowl with house-made falafel, chickpea salad, cucumbers, tomatoes, greens and olives with tzatziki, $15. The bowl is served on a base of rice or quinoa…I chose quinoa.
My dining partner ordered The Green Wood Burger with fries (the burger comes with fries or greens).
While we waited for our meals, we noticed the gorgeous display of plants near the entrance. The plants fill the entire wall on both sides and get light from the south-facing window. The self-watering trough ensures that the plants always stay moist.
Our server informed us that The Green Wood sources their ingredients from a 100-kilometre radius, ensuring a low environmental footprint. In addition, the restaurant’s food ingredients come from food purveyors such as Hooked, a local fish shop that carries only seafood from clean waters and healthy stock, and VG Meats, which specializes in small herd, high care beef that has never been fed antibiotics.
My Tel Aviv bowl arrives and I’m pleased at the sight of it. The tomatoes are juicy and ripe, with the perfect firmness. Cucumber has been cut into spirals for some visual effect while the kale is fresh and unadorned. A lightly dressed chickpea salad provides additional protein. A large dollop of creamy tzatziki rests in the center of the plate for dipping. As much as I enjoy the fresh veggies, the outstanding feature of this plate is the housemade falafel. It’s crispy and satisfying and its texture perfectly complements the softer vegetables.
My dining partner really enjoyed her burger, which comes with all the works, and was glad that it wasn’t too big. [Although my dining partner ordered fries with her burger, the chef also placed some fresh greens on her plate for photography purposes.] The tasty greens included fresh radicchio, beets, carrots and arugula among others and the light dressing had a hint of honey to pleasantly offset the bitterness of the greens.
Let me put you on notice: The fries at The Green Wood are killer. My dining partner was impressed that they stayed warm much longer than most fries. I tasted a few of these addictive morsels and they were crispy and lightly seasoned. I don’t think you’ll taste better fries in Toronto.
As a preview of brunch, our server let us taste some of the Mennonite bacon that is served with several brunch dishes. This bacon will have you returning to The Green Wood…it’s much more meaty and much less salty than regular bacon and the flavour is earthy.
I’m so pleased that The Green Wood Restaurant is located in my neighbourhood. I hope it attracts more of its ilk to Leslieville.