February 15, 2017
he Junction is already home to many Italian, Thai, and Indian restaurants, so the recent arrival of southern comfort food restaurant Junction Local on Dundas West is a refreshing change for the neighbourhood.
Chef Chris Cantrell (formerly of Sparrow) comes to the cuisine by way of his father, who grew up in Kentucky. Many dishes and ingredients spend time in the kitchen's impressive Fast Eddy's by Cookshack 100% wood pellet-fired smoker.
The restaurant, celebrating its one-year anniversary in April, is already famous for their Smoked Beef Brisket ($25), Smoked Baby Back Ribs ($24), Jambalaya Linguine ($22) and Mac & Cheese ($10).
While comfort food dishes are not kept to a specific southern region, you’ll find a few Italian-inspired dishes such as House-Smoked Halloumi Cheese ($14) and Charred Artichoke Linguine ($19), in with the Creole and Cajun-tinged fare. Owner Gino Benevenga (former GM at Pinocchio Ristorante for 15 years) is from a small town in Italy, 70 km south of the Amalfi Coast, and wanted to bring a little bit of his tradition to the restaurant.
Benevenga also did all of the design, creating “a very comfortable, relaxing atmosphere.” He put in a new bar, lights, as well as custom-made tables. Barn boards from a log cabin in Beamsville, Ontario were brought in and hung on the exposed brick walls, adding warmth and interest to the space. Cool fact: In with the beams, Benevenga discovered old newspaper clippings from the early 1900s.
A lover of antiques, Benevenga also found an old wagon wheel - approximately 70 years old - in a nearby creek. It now hangs in the spacious dining room, on the opposite wall off where his non-vintage bicycle is on display.
The restaurant has a bright, airy feel thanks to large windows along the front, allowing for natural light, and tables comfortably spaced out so there are never crowding issues. The large dining room seats 118 (including the bar), but Benevenga sometimes converts the front corner and “most requested” table into communal dining. “In Italian culture, you share a table with strangers. It is food that brings people together,” he says.
The restaurant offers dinner six nights a week (closed Mondays), with brunch available on weekends (Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich $16 and Sweet Potato Waffle $12, anyone?). Prices are reasonable and portions are plentiful – it’s no wonder the neighbourhood resto fills quickly with locals. Wine, cocktails and 14 beers on tap can be enjoyed at the bar or in the dining room.
Soon to come: Live music on Thursday nights, a 56-seat patio, and "feature wall" to showcase local artwork.
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