Best Casual Chain 2014
May 1, 2014
GOLD: CACTUS CLUB CAFE
Silver: Joey | Bronze: Hapa Izakaya | Honourable Mentions: Earls, Guu
Cactus Club Cafe (Gold) leads the chains, thanks to the can't-miss addition of 500 seats at Coal Harbour. It's transformed downtown and further established chef Rob Feenie as a master of mainstream excellence-sophisticated plates within reach of the average diner yet several leaps above same-old. Standouts: tuna tataki, of course, but also the ravioli prawn trio. If that weren't enough, wine director Sebastien Le Goff's bottle list, across 25 locations, adds a welcome worldly jolt to suburban cellars. Joey (Silver) is the most traditional of the casual chains, with an emphasis on quality cooking and decent value (and, thankfully, more with-it servers than some places we might name). Stick to the strengths of burgers and salads-Asian dishes are better found at Bronze winner Hapa Izakaya, which continues to roll out its boisterous brand of North American-friendly Japa-pub-grub, juicy cocktails, and a warm cheer that's found favour not just here, but for the last 18 months in Toronto as well. Next month: Calgary.