170 Spadina Avenue
Tuesday – Saturday: 11 AM – 8 PM (be warned – this can be whimsical)
If you’re geographically minded, one of the toughest things about dating is having to pass by landmarks that remind you of former flames. Nothing is quite as bittersweet as glancing inside a restaurant that used to be “our” restaurant and seeing happy couples at the tables. Come and Get It 416 neatly sidesteps that romantic conundrum by offering “Temporary Deliciousness.” Located at Queen and Spadina, this funky little joint is made possible by the wild-and-wooly condo development scene: the address has been sold to developers, but before they break ground this fall, Come and Get It 416 has moved into the street-level storefront to offer a few months of date-worthy food. The rent is cheap, the decor is decidedly temporary – particleboard counters and spray-painted lighting fixtures – but it feels bright, cheerful, and well thought out.
Walking up the counter to order, we pointed out some of the funky touches – the bright pink walls, the rough-hewn counters, the portrait of Optimus Prime in an alcove. It’s bright in there, and with a garage door that faces onto Spadina, noise levels will run a little high in the warmer, busier months. Design-wise, the ongoing late-80′s/early ’90s nostalgia kick continues unabashed: there are Archie digests on the tables and the cutlery is nestled inside New Kids On The Block lunchboxes. The seating is high stools and counters, and lower tables towards the back. The place offers plenty of conversational kick-starts if you’re feeling a little shy – start with Toronto’s rapidly growing condo scene, and move on to which Archie character was your date’s favourite.
As we ordered, we chatted with owner Jon Polubiec about the menu. Everything is made in-house, including a vegetarian gravy option for the poutine. Ordering is simple: start with your choice of salad ($9), sandwich ($8), or poutine ($7), and then choose a topping. It’s heavily weighted towards carnivores – we have Chipotle Beef Short Ribs, Hawaiian Pork Belly, Granny Smith Chicken Caesar, and Herbed Crunchy Green Beans – but meals can be balanced out with a with a side salad ($4), or made even more cheat-on-your-diet delicious with a side of poutine ($5) or fries ($3). There’s a cooler full of Coca-Cola drinks ($1.50) and water to wash it down. They don’t have a liquor license, but there are a few places nearby to grab a drink after your meal.
My boyfriend ordered a combo, including Chipotle Short Rib sandwich, poutine and pop ($13), and I ordered the Hawaiian Pork Belly salad. They were served in biodegradable takeout containers, so everything gets pitched in either the green or blue bins. Service was speedy, and soon I was happily munching on crispy pork belly crackling, warm hoisin-flavoured pork, crisp iceberg lettuce, subtle shaved fennel and colourful red onion. When my boyfriend generously offered me his sandwich, I greedily ate three bites of the moist, well-seasoned ribs. The poutine’s fries were a little overdone, but the squeaky cheese was just right. When Polubiec came out to check on us, which was a unexpected and thoughtful gesture, we just gave him the thumbs-up and kept eating. We can’t wait to go back to try the rest of the menu – I’m intrigued by the green bean poutine. Don’t be fooled by the portion size: we both left feeling mighty satisfied.
Once the weather warms up, Polubiec plans to stay open later and snag some of the late-night bustle. With so much going on in that area – it’s steps away from The Toronto Underground Cinema, the Horsehoe, the Rivoli, and dozens of shops along Queen West – Come And Get It 416 is a great spot to begin your date. However, if sparks don’t fly and things don’t work out, Come and Get It 416 isn’t going to be around forever: Polubiec gets just 30 days notice to move out before condo construction begins, probably sometime this fall. Then the only reminder of your night out will be yet another condo in downtown Toronto. My advice? Go and get some while the getting’s good.
Photo credits: Erika Szabo & Come and Get It 416