Food and Wine

Best Restaurants 2012: No. 6 Hintonburg Public House

Young Cuisine Hot 10: No. 6 Hintonburg Public House

The Dishes: Assorted bar snacks include (clockwise from top left) potted chicken liver with crostini, spicy beer nuts, Blue Ermite cheese with beets and crostini, pickled eggs, marinated cheese curds, and country sausage with mustard and crostini

Young Cuisine Hot 10: No. 6 Hintonburg Public House

Kris Kshonze

Walk into the homey Hintonburg Public House at, say, noon, and pull up to the bar on a painted blue chair. Then stay there until 2 a.m., and you’ll witness a microcosm of the changing nature of the neighbourhood. Waves of people come and go: young families, blind dates, retirees, hipsters, students, artists, amateur musicians, crafters, crews of co-workers, post-Pilates people, lunching ladies, late-night revellers. The HPH — as regulars call it — has indeed become just what owner Summer Baird envisioned when she chose the name: it’s the very essence of a neighbourhood local, an old-school hangout with a modern twist. Baird has taken to calling it a community pub — and for good reason. Where else can babies and barflies so seamlessly coexist? HPH teeters between several worlds: a notch up from the average watering hole or burger joint and a notch down from casual fine dining — a realm intimately understood by Baird, who was once co-owner of upscale bistro The Urban Pear. The downside of being a pioneer in a relatively rare restaurant category is that inevitably some customers will have trouble curbing expectations.Unlike its more food-centric counter-parts (think The Wellington Gastropub or The Whalesbone) HPH is not based on the traditional three-course format. The doors stay open all day, every day of the week, dishing out the same pub(ish) menu for lunch and dinner (plus a brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday). Kids can get scaled-down cheeseburgers or a souped-up pizza with double-smoked bacon and kale, with a side of (bless them) broccoli. The HPH also serves up a late-night menu that’s especially popular with the city’s cooking community in search of a pint and a bite after their shifts. People swing by for open-mike nights, beer tastings, dance parties, and art exhibits. For those who pull in for a beverage between meals, little bar snacks are always available — pickled eggs and marinated cheese curds that go down easy with the local microbrews or a glass of wine. Baird has created a fluid and flexible space with warm, modern-vintage decor that behaves like a living gallery space in which every visitor contributes to the evolving scene. If that means the food doesn’t blow away the critics, that doesn’t bother Baird. I imagine she has learned a thing or two over her career about making compromises (after all, between her two restaurant ventures, she ran a home daycare).

1020 Wellington St. W., 613-421-5087, www.hintonburgpublichouse.ca.

Above: (Images: photoluxstudio.com/Christian Lalonde)

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