King St. West, just west of the theatre district, is the new scene-to-be-seen for the twenthirty crowd. The twenthirty crowd with cash, that is. The less affluent (or less flaunting) crowd still frequent Queen west west, but if you have expendable income and no kids, King West is probably where you live. That said, restaurateurs want to cash in on the cash flow and have been opening up some incredible restaurants in the last few years. If you stroll King West, you’ll practically fall into about fifteen of them just by accident, but there is one that is just far enough off the beaten path it still feels like a hidden gem, even though it has been written up and frequented by most of the famous reviewers in the city.
The Niagara Street Cafe is tucked on a winding side street amongst row houses, itself being a little converted house.
There is also a pig slaughter house nearby that all vendors and residents of the King West area pretend doesn’t exist, but you’ll feel like a forager of the wild as you scavenge your way through the tangled streets, wrinkled-nosed from the vomit-inducing stench…okay, it’s not that bad. Niagara Street is just slightly rounded and the slaughter house only offers a faint smell when the wind picks up akin to the smell of someone farting ten minutes ago. It’s enough build up though to create that desired sense of relief you get when you’ve arrived home after a long hunt or pillage and you’re just looking for your boon, a good meal. The ambiance of Niagara Street Cafe is elegant — softly lit with candles and muted with dark woods and light table linens. Nothing flashy. The flash is on the plates, not on the walls, as it should be.
Chef Nick Lui’s menu is always changing so thinking I could pull the actual menu descriptions off the internet when I got home was a mistake, so I’m working from memory here, but I did have a salad ($12) that had a lemon vinaigrette that was lemony without being too tart. It was perfect. I followed that with the Roasted Nagano Pork Loin ($24) with brown butter spaetzle, pickled Ontario pecans, wild mushrooms and grapes that had been infused with red wine reduction (like candy; they were addictive!). My man Zee started with the blue crab soup special and followed that with a succulent lamb saddle. The table beside us ordered the Niagara Street Cafe’s signature Ribeye ($37 per person) that comes slices on a large wooden board with plenty to go round. On our next visit, we are definitely going to have a large wooden board of meat at our table, too. It looked and smelled too good.
The Niagara Street Cafe is open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner only starting at 6pm.
If you are dating someone, make a reservation and take them there. If you are not dating someone, call someone up, make a date and take them there. This quaint little place is the perfect date spot. It’ll look like you are one of those cool people that just stumbles across cool things in their lives and, really, who doesn’t want to hang out with those people? But you can’t actually “stumble” in because you’ll most likely need a reservation if it’s a weekend. Coolness factor taken down a notch, but still way higher than if you go to Alice Fazooli’s.
Five out of five forks.