Nestled in the corner of Bloor and Crawford is a little bar I visited for the first time about two years ago. At that point, Northwood would have been a little over a year old, but was already known for some of the best damn cocktails in the neighbourhood. The young Northwood with the stellar drinks and a paltry menu has started to come of age with a new chef with killer skills, and the new Northwood General store to establish itself as a lasting fixture of the Christie Pits neighbourhood.
While the drinks have always been great, the menu was somewhat lacking, until the arrival of Nathan Jones almost 4 months ago. Needing the right person to amp up their culinary game, Jones brought his Toronto born and bred cooking chops (The Saint Tavern, Two Bite Saloon, NAO Steakhouse) to bring some life into the simple and static dining options. Jones’ roots in the local food community show in his influences of nearby Koreatown and Ethiopian markets, as well as good old Ontario goodies through his creative specials. When he tells me that his Ethiopian Fried Chicken was so damn delicious that he had a local market vendor offering him a passport to their homeland, I’m inclined to believe him. The first taste I had of his Lake Erie Smelts reminded me of my Italian roots, but Jones reminded me of how very Ontario(ian?) these little fish are. These crispy treats were jazzed up with a szechuan salt that delivered a quiet kick to what can sometimes be a relatively boring fried fish. Also on the menu that day was Honghap Jjim Frites, his own take on the classics mussels and french fries with a Korean twist, which also went down very quickly. One of his lastest offerings, Jones’ take on a New England Clam Chowder laid bare, was a sumptious spread of sea salty clams, cream sauce and chunky lardon. Seriously, I had to resist the urge to lick the plate clean. All this to say that Jones has made the Northwood a worthwhile culinary visit, in addition to their already fantastic cocktails.
That first visit I made to the bar was for the purpose of drinking exclusively – I believe it was my friend’s birthday, so a certain level of intoxication was expected. Having never been there before, I let my table neighbour help me pick a drink. The cocktail menu has a healthy assortment of creations to choose from, as well as a well-rounded offering of Canadian and International craft beers. I settled on a Northwood Original that help put the bar on the Christie Pits map: their Lady Grey Sour. The concoction is simple enough, with rye and lemon, with a dash of black pepper for a surprising little bite. But it’s the studded infusion of their own Earl Grey blend into the rye that elevates the drink to a must-try, and I’d double dare you to have a second. It’s easy to have more than a couple and find yourself unfit to drive, but that’s okay because they’re worth the subway ride home.
And if you still have the energy after stuffing and drinking yourself silly, you’re going to want to (safely) cross the street and visit the newest member of the Northwood family, Northwood General. The fledgling storefront houses a cute kind of minimalist eclectic vibe, but I expect they’ll fill out pretty quickly. There are offerings from local and Canadian artisans (18 Waits, Stay Home Club) as well as some fun popular finds (Kikkerland), and they’ve set up their online shop so you can peruse while staying in your undies. The goods vary from libation-centric finds, as well as clothes, stationary, and all sorts of baubles. And, if you’ve got Monday night free, they’re having their grand opening celebration on December 7th, and I’m sure there will be treats.