Dave Steadman and Cindy Wilkes live only a couple of blocks from Brooklyn Avenue, the Leslieville street which ends at the front door of their Queen East restaurant and helped provide inspiration for its name. In nearly two years in business, Brooklyn Tavern has been embraced by the neighbourhood for its superb comfort food as well as its cozy, casual atmosphere. It's the kind of place that's equally suitable for a night out with family and friends or a quiet drink that lends itself to sparking up a conversation with Dave and Cindy, who are as full of warm and colourful stories as the old photographs that hang from the walls of their restaurant.
WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND BROOKLYN TAVERN?
Brooklyn Tavern is a true North American neighbourhood gathering spot: A place to spend some time eating, drinking and meeting with friends. A place to bring the family for brunch, get together with friends and colleagues for a tasty meal, or drop in to enjoy the game and stay for a late night glass or two. All in a warm and comfortable room with great music and friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Fun fact: All of the photos in Brooklyn Tavern are family and friends or favourite collectables. We wanted our families to connect to the local families. Everyone loves a story and our pictures all have stories, just ask us.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SET UP YOUR RESTAURANT IN LESLIEVILLE?
Quite honestly, my partner Dave and I were looking all over the city at a few different neighbourhoods. We found this location and were quickly drawn to the charm of looking up Brooklyn Avenue right from the front window. Hence the name.
HOW DID YOU GUYS BECOME SUCH A LOCAL FAVOURITE OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS?
It does seem like we have been open longer. Sometimes it just takes a quick text from a local enjoying a beer and before you know it half a street can arrive! Where else can you sit with your baby at the bar and watch a game?
We recently hosted a “surprise” wedding on our back patio from a couple that also got engaged at Brooklyn Tavern last year. The guests thought they were coming for a rehearsal dinner and the couple surprised them with the actual ceremony.
We're hosting a 25-year staff reunion party for a restaurant I owned years ago. We've had many showers, birthdays, anniversaries, book signings, television premieres here so it does seem like we have been part of the community for much longer.
WHAT CAN PEOPLE EXPECT COMING IN TO BROOKLYN TAVERN FOR A MEAL?
Thoughtful food all made with fresh ingredients, unique flavours and presentations. From weekend brunch to Sunday roast dinner, the approachable menu offers something for everyone. With local craft beer, VQA and new world wines, the
drinks list is focused on Ontario offerings, complemented by our signature cocktails.
WHAT ARE YOUR SIGNATURE DISHES?
Our Brooklyn Brisket Burger is the best–selling dish on the menu. We're very proud that our customers recognize the quality of this burger. Every day, we take whole beef briskets and grind them to make fresh patties which we are happy to cook to order. The burger comes with fries that our customers love. We have had many people tell us that this is the best burger and fries in town!
Since we opened, we have been recognized for our roast chicken. Chicken seems like a simple dish but it takes the skill of a great kitchen team to keep it moist and flavourful.
The item on the brunch menu that gets the most questions is Divorced Eggs. This dish features two poached eggs, one with ancho-guajillo salsa and one with tomatillo salsa verde separated by our in-house black pot beans. The eggs still share the same plate so I guess it was an amicable divorce!
YOUR SPACE HAS BECOME POPULAR WITH FAMILIES — WAS THIS ALWAYS IMPORTANT?
Yes, the neighbourhood is full of families and we love to have them in for brunch and dinner. Our menu is very approachable and our kitchen is flexible for children. I give out markers and paper and have a special wall where we encourage our kids to post their artwork. They are so proud to have their special drawing with their name on it on our
wall right next to our big colorful butcher painting.
HOW DOES YOUR ESTABLISHMENT FIT IN WITH LESLIEVILLE'S EVOLULTION?
It's exciting to see and hear how much people visiting our neighborhood fall in love with the quaintness, warmth and friendliness of the people that live here. I see many new businesses in Leslieville’s future and that will bring more people and more growth, making us a well sought after destination.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES WITH RUNNING A BUSINESS IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD?
The biggest challenge in running a restaurant anywhere is getting customers. Then, of course, good food and service. In Leslieville the challenge becomes even more so because there is a lack of businesses to draw from. While the neighbourhood is growing more and more I still feel that the growth of restaurants is faster. This is a good thing in that the increase of restaurants in the neighborhood will make Leslieville even more of a destination.
HOW DOES A PERFECT DAY IN THE 'HOOD GO FOR YOU?
I love to sit on my front porch or one of my neighbour’s porches and share a glass or two of wine at sunset. Or stop in to visit with my friend Peter at Ascari or Angus at Goods and Provisions for a glass. Wandering the 'hood for a good find at many of the local clothing and antique stores is a good day off, too.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR BROOKLYN TAVERN?
We hope to grow with the neighborhood and work with the community to contribute to a booming Leslieville for the future.