At Food & Liquor, there are many exceptional ways to soak up your booze — Photo courtesy of Food & Liquor
If you happen to enter Food & Liquor during its earlier hours, you will have your choice of barstools.
Vincent Ng and Nigel French – the chefs and owners – will be meticulously chopping in the back open kitchen. The bartender will laugh a little when you ask honestly, "What is Falernum?" (Short answer: a sweet syrup.) You will groove to indie music and feel as peaceful as you will ever feel in a bar in Toronto.
Clean, spacious and ready for serious boozing — Photo courtesy of Food 7 Liquor
Yet the early hours are obviously not the specialty of a nightlife hotspot. Vincent Ng declares that Food & Liquor does the most business between 12 p.m. and 2 a.m. They are open until 2 a.m. every night of the week, when night owls, shift workers and chefs gather to put their hungry bellies at ease.
They're certainly ready for you to pull up a barstool — Photo courtesy of Food & Liquor
Wrought iron barstools perch the maximum number of drinkers. Each table is decorated with a wooden pencil box that's filled with cutlery and chopsticks, silently encouraging you to look beyond the formidable cocktail list.
Food and cocktails shift seasonally. In the winter months, there was a serious affinity for Wild Turkey Bourbon, which made its way into several cocktails and a place on the chalkboard by the bar, which encouraged a taste for a mere $3.
The latter of the "food and liquor" — Photo courtesy of Food & Liquor
Even drinks that could be yawn-worthy get the royal treatment. Gin and Tonic with homemade tonic? Now they are just showing off.
It would be a travesty to enter this brick-lined bar and not have a nibble. Plates are sharable and generously proportioned for tapas.
Commonly on the menu is the lamb, cumin and fennel dumplings, which are beautifully crispy and served with a spicy tomato tapenade. Escargots are delightfully inventive (not that we would ever get bored of butter), with Asian influences permeating the perfectly rubbery morsels.
This looks as friendly as a cafe . . . during the day — Photo courtesy of Food & Liquor
The real winner, however, for under $10, is the cauliflower rice with pork belly. The cauliflower rice is rendered creamy like a risotto, and the skin of the pork belly delightfully crackles between the teeth.
At any time of day, this is food that could stop conversations.
Dumplings are certainly elegant bar food — Photo courtesy of Food & Liquor
Food & Liquor is slightly west for the downtown crowd, but it's certainly worth the trek, with amazing prices for well-crafted food (and liquor). It certainly isn't in the most glamorous area, with a laundromat right across the street, but a single chandelier ironically helps ring in the fancy.
During the summer, the space doubles with a phenomenal patio.
To your left when you walk in against the slate bricks is an "exit" sign dangling from chains. Don't worry about that sign – you can ignore it all you want. This is the kind of place you come to stay awhile.
Food & Liquor's sign makes it clear what it specializes in — Photo courtesy of Food & Liquor