Toronto is chock full of restaurants that serve food from all corners of the world, but have you sampled Canada's own traditional recipes? A brand new Eastside restaurant, Tea-n-Bannock, offers up meals that are popular in Canadian aboriginal communities. Unlike the aboriginal-French hybrid restaurant Keriwa Cafe in Parkdale, or the trendy Oliver & Bonacini's Bannock, this food is intended primarily for First Nations customers seeking a taste of home.
Tea-N-Bannock opened just three weeks ago at 1294 Gerrard Street East (see map below), just a few blocks west of Little India. Stepping in from the street, it feels like you've walked into a tranquil oasis—the room is decorated with birch tree branches and snowshoes, and a recording of birds cooing in the wilderness is playing.
The menu, posted up on a stretched out animal hide, consists of classic staples of aboriginal communities. Health food it ain't, but it'll keep you going if you're trekking around in the bush. "You can't get any more Canadian than this," explains staffer Timothy Peltier (below), an aboriginal from Manitoulin Island.
The restaurant sells fried bannock—a traditional native bread with Scottish roots—as well as a baked version, which is more common in northern Ontario. The bannock forms the base for dishes such as the blanket dog (a fried hot dog in bannock) and Indian tacos (fried bannock served with ground beef, chili spice, lettuce, cheese and tomato).
The corn soup ($4, above left) is a heavy, tasty meal, with gravy-like broth full of hominy (dried, processed maize kernels), beans, tender flakes of pork and chunky potatoes. The trapper's snack ($3.50, above right) is two airy, fresh pieces of baked bannock topped with slices of Klik, a spam-like processed meat that tastes like a super-salty hot dog.
Around three quarters of Tea-n-Bannock's patrons are aboriginal, and the restaurant also serves as a gathering space for native events on the weekends. The restaurant is only open until 7pm right now, but there are plans to create a full dinner menu and add new items such as smoked deer wild rice soup.
Tea-n-Bannock is located at 1294 Gerrard Street East. Telephone: 416 220 2915. Hours are Tuesday to Friday 11 to 7; Saturday 12 to 7.
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