Story by Bruce Sach
TORONTO, ONTARIO — Having been spotlighted on an A&E series, the Wahlberg family has taken their act — namely, the Wahlburgers restaurant concept — north of the border to SoHo Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Toronto.
With a prime entrance on Blues Jays Way — just a nine-minute walk from Rogers Centre — Wahlburghers appears ready to make a big splash in the Big Smoke. The restaurant is steps away from Wayne Gretzky’s sports bar and the iconic comedy club Second City. When the restaurant, which features a quick-serve counter and a full-service restaurant and sports bar with a seating for 80, officially opened in November the Wahlberg brothers were out in the wind greeting fans and restaurant-goers.
Hailing from Dorchester, Massachusetts, the Wahlburgs may not be Canadian but many Canucks will be familiar with the work of at least three of the nine children. Mark Wahlberg is an actor, model and former rapper who began his career as Marky Mark. Mark has also appeared in a number of successful films including Martin Scorcese’s Oscar-winning “The Departed” and “The Fighter”. A former member of the band New Kids on the Block, Donnie Wahlberg today can be seen on the hit show “Blue Bloods” alongside Tom Selleck, Bridget Moynahan and Canadian actor Len Cariou. He also can be found playing himself in A&E’s “Donny Loves Jenny“.
You won’t find Paul Wahlberg on the big screen or stage, but he has made a name for himself as a chef and co-star on the Wahlburgers show. In an article in the Globe & Mail, Paul Wahlberg explained that Mark has “all kinds” of experience working in Toronto and that their partners Henry Wu, Mike Wekerle and Larry Houghton are from Canada (Wu is one of the owners of the SoHo Metropolitan and he has years of hospitality experience).
“I really love Toronto,” said Paul Wahlberg. Judging by the crowds at Wahlburghers, Torontonians seem to like his restaurant just fine as well.
The menu at Wahlburgers includes many options, but it’s safe to say that you can’t go into this restaurant without trying a burger. The menu lists a section called Wahlfaves that’s a good place to start. The BBQ Bacon Burger ($9.95) can be enjoyed with bacon or beef. The burger is topped with white cheddar cheese, bacon, avocado, fresh jalapeños and barbecue sauce. The Double Decker ($10.95) is described as nearly a half-pound double-decker, “like our friend’s house down the street.” Another favourite is the Thanksgiving Burger ($9.95), which according to the menu is like holiday leftovers on a bun. The burger features fresh ground seasoned turkey, stuffing, Paul’s orange cranberry sauce, roasted butternut squash and mayonnaise.
And, of course, there are dishes on the menu for those who aren’t interested in loading up on burgers. Options include the Crispy Haddock Sandwich ($9.95), Portobello Cap Burger ($9.95) and Spinach Salad ($7.95).
Toronto Hotels Cater to Condo Lifestyles
It isn’t just the food services that make downtown hotels like the SoHo interesting. There are countless properties that combine hotel amenities with condo living, including five-star gems like the Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-la and Trump Tower. While those better-known name brands are in the heart of downtown, the SoHo Metropolitan is in an intimate hideaway just east of Spadina Avenue. It is away from the sometimes tacky restaurants and attractions on King Street West, where visitors tend to be drawn once they arrive for shows and events at Roy Thomson Hall, the Princess of Wales Theatre and the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
The good news is that not all is tacky. The TIFF Bell Lightbox movie complex is an attractive building that — along with offering an eclectic selection of films — has two top restaurants. Los Colbris, sandwiched between the Princess of Wales Theatre and the Royal Alexandra Theatre, is the city’s first, and therefore finest, upscale Mexican restaurant. Veracruz native Elia Heerrera, who started as a pastry chef, is in charge of the kitchen. Try her bunuelos, doughnuts like you’ve never seen or tasted before.
Back the other way in a westerly direction you have cool eateries, Susur Lee’s eponymous restaurant and Neuf Café just off Spadina Avenue.
But let’s say you want to enjoy the big-city hotel experience — like in the good old days, when people sometimes chose to live in hotels.
Cocooning in the SoHo Metropolitan is easy. For starters when you stay in this hotel you’re sharing facilities with both condo owners and those in the hotel for short-term rentals, typically lasting one month. So, there’s a feeling of living in an established, permanent community. You share pool and gym facilities with these folks and the bar at Luckee, Lee’s newest restaurant. The bar is right off the lobby, and has become one of the local haunts for the residents of the hotel. This is good news because when the restaurant was not open, this bar area, was on occasion quite empty.
This should not dissuade you from trying Luckee. Designed by Lee’s wife, the restaurant has a look vaguely recalling a Hong Kong Park apothecary, with larger tables that can accommodate groups big and small. Among standards that you must try is the Luckee Duck, the Har Gow shrimp dumplings and the Shrimp Cheung fun rice rolls. Yes, you guessed it, Lee’s newest restaurant is more Asian fusion than anything else. Ever hankered for dim sum on a day other than Sunday? This restaurant has solved the problem as dim-sum choices are available at all times. Now mind you, you won’t find the variety that you’d find in a dim-sum restaurant on the Sunday morning.
MORE ABOUT WAHLBURGHERS
MORE ABOUT SOHO METROPOLITAN
Address: 318 Wellington Street West
MORE ABOUT LOS COLBRIS
Address: 220 King Street West
MORE ABOUT LUCKEE
Address: 328 Wellington Street West