1426 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M6P3L4
Zócalo may not be the perfect restaurant, but it is definitely one of my favorites in Toronto. I’ve been several times, and for the price, you don’t get a better meal. There is a slight emphasis on “for the price” in that sentence – Zócalo ’s hearty and rustic cuisine is sometimes a little too home-style for me (i.e. steamed broccoli and cabbage). Overall however, Zócalo has a solid, seasonally-changing menu that is sure to ignite your inner foodie.
Zócalo has a menu that matches seasonally available produce, meats, and cheeses. Staples of their menu include house made sausage, a Canadian cheese selection, and firecracker cornbread. Many of these dishes are served with their delicious flavoured butters.
While their menu is impressive, the location is understated. You might miss their north-side of Bloor heading into The Junction location, unless you see the “Z” in chalk on the blackboard outside. The restaurant boasts a capacity of 27 (including bar seating), most of which is around hard red tables. The walls were mostly bare during this visit, but the real candles on the table and happy customers around gave the place a cozy feel. Surprisingly, I’ve never waited in much of a line at Zócalo.
The service at Zócalo is friendly, knowledgeable, but NOT quick. The wait staff is usually only two people, so things can take awhile. The food is reasonably quick and, but really, there is no reason to rush out of this place.
Smoked Trout and Tarragon Celery Salad – $10
The trout was served with a strawberry and pink pepper cream and a buckwheat crepe. Honestly, when this dish arrived I was skeptical that I would like it. I’ve had fish with a cream only once before and it was one of the worst fish dishes I’ve ever eaten. When I tried the cream alone, I thought it was going to be too sweet. I was wrong. Put a little cream and a little trout on the crepe and the combination of smoky and sweet flavors balances nicely. Adding the salad to my cream and trout crepe made the dish even more delicious. No regrets here, it was tasty to be wrong.
House made Steak and Cremini Mushroom Sausage – $11
I don’t like mushrooms, but this was possibly the best sausage I’ve ever tasted. It was tender, juicy, and delicious. The roasted corn hummus was very different than the Middle Eastern-style hummus I’m used to, but it was no less flavorful. The fresh breads and salad with the hummus was a nice blend of flavors. I loved the potato and pickled red onion salad, but my dining partner wasn’t as fond of them. She loved the sausage too. Did I mention that the sausage was really good?
Lamb and Kale Meatballs – $14
The meatballs came in a tomato and caraway sauce with firecracker
cornbread and spicy steamed broccoli and cabbage. The meatballs were tender and the tomato and caraway sauce added a touch of sweetness and moisture. The cornbread was soft and delicious (my diningartner and I love cornbread). The spicy steamed broccoli and cabbage was a disappointment. It lacked spice and simply tasted like steamed broccoli and cabbage. Overall the dish was solid, but not one to rave about.
Chocolate Stout Loaf – $8
This chocolate cake was made with honey and locally brewed coffee porter. It was served with a mashed cherry and bourbon syrup. The cake was good, although I was hoping to taste more of the coffee porter, which I could barely discern. Unfortunately, we didn’t notice the bourbon syrup below the cake in the bowl. The syrup added a lot of flavor and was delicious! I wouldn’t mind re-devouring this again with the syrup to see if it changes my somewhat lukewarm perception of the dish.
Ricotta and Roasted Corn Cheesecake – $8
Although good, the chocolate cake was put to shame by this cheesecake. The cake was light and fluffy, with a touch of added sweetness from the roasted corn. It was served with a roasted plum and granola cracker and combining the flavors proved to be a brilliant move. This is a great ending to a summertime meal.
Well, it’s obvious I like Zócalo . Two can eat some really high quality food for under $50 total. It’s not a perfect place. The menu includes cornbread with too many dishes; it’s very possible that it will come with your appetizer and your entrée (in fact, I usually order in a way that ensures I don’t get two cornbreads, despite my inclination for cornbread). The service isn’t fast, and sometimes, you get some boring old veggies on the side of your otherwise tasty meal. Still, I will continue to recommend Zócalo to my friends interested in good food at reasonable prices.