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Guides / Spots

The Best 2020 Pop-Ups in Toronto

The Best 2020 Pop-Ups in Toronto

The Best 2020 Pop-Ups in Toronto

There was no shortage of pop-ups in 2020. With one too many restaurants shuttering for good and fine dining establishments forced to shift their offerings to be more conducive to takeout and the surging demand for comfort fare, there was a seismic shift in the industry. From laid-off employees discovering a passion for cooking to artisans finally able to devote the time and effort into their craft and highly skilled chefs forced to pivot to takeout-only friendly grub, the model of a pop-up just fits the constraints of 2020. Little overhead, built for takeaway and in favour of simple yet delicious offerings -- the pop-up defined the transformation that was taking place in the restaurant industry.

From pop-ups slated to be storefronts, summer patios, secret backyard pizza drops and chefs retrofitting pre-existing kitchens, here is a list of some of the most memorable pop-ups of the year. Some have come to an end, while others continue to operate but we all found a little joy in seeking out the latest and greatest.

Taco Beach

Taco Beach

Back in the summer, a lively Ossington Strip pop-up dubbed Taco Beach created the ultimate summer escape. A collaboration between The Last Resort (an outdoor space and bottle shop) and Dynasty plant shop, Taco Beach was a needed respite from quarantine fatigue. Jonathan Poon from Favorites Thai restaurant created the menu of ceviches, tacos, quesadillas and chips, as well as frosty cocktails and unique bottles of wine.

By Chef Nuit

By Chef Nuit

Famed chef Nuit Regular opened up a small pop-up By Chef Nuit, operating out of her more formal Thai restaurant Kiin. Happening back in the summer and fall, the menu featured Thai-inspired comfort food favourites such as the Chicken Satay Poutine, Laap, Pad Thai wings and a Pad Gra Pow Burger.

Don Pollo

Don Pollo

Grant van Gameren, a notable chef and restaurateur in Toronto, launched an exciting new endeavour dedicated to Sinaloa-style grilled chicken and sides this past summer. The takeout-only pop-up is operating out of Quetzal -- a Mexican restaurant helmed by Gameren that has been closed since the onset of the pandemic back in March. On the menu are a whole chicken (brined and slow-cooked), six-piece legs and a Don P Sandwich comprised of pulled wood-fire chicken on a brioche bun topped with slaw, escabeche onions, spicy mayo and pork chicharron. Available sides include a Don P Slaw, fire-roasted potatoes, charred pineapple, creamy avocado dip and Valentina hot sauce. The pop-up is still operating for both pickup and delivery on Uber Eats.

Nuoc Mam

Nuoc Mam

This Vietnamese pop-up landed in Toronto this summer and was met with resounding excitement. Helmed by chef Philip Nguyen, the chef specialist of OC Hospitality and Brian Nguyen of Toronto's acclaimed Vietnamese sandwich shop, Banh Mi Boys -- this pop-up brought Torontonians authentic Vietnamese street food.

Safta's Falafel

Safta's Falafel

Safta's Falafel was a pop-up created by chef Haan Palcu-Chang of Favorites Thai and his friend Jan, born from the inspiration from Jan's grandmother's falafels. Popping up all across the city, Safta's last took up residence at The Caddi, a patio pop-up created by the team behind Paris Paris.

Hawker Dessert

Hawker Dessert

Farzam Fallah and Louis Lim created this upscale five-course dessert tasting after previously working as pastry chefs at Richmond Station. Earlier this year, after launching first as a pop-up at Hailed Coffee and then a takeaway offering out of Oyster Boy, we hope to see Hawker return soon.

Mama Akua's

Mama Akua's

Mama Akua's popped up at Stackt Market back in October and was serving up classic Ghanaian foods like jollof rice, boiled yam, boiled plantain with spinach stew, groundnut soup with rice balls, waakye (rice and beans) with stew, and red red a.k.a. fried ripe plantain and beans. Run by Patricia Yeboah and her mother Akua Fosua, the duo promise to return in the New Year.

YAWD

YAWD

This pop-up took over Mahjong Bar's kitchen back in November and was dishing out modern Caribbean eats. Headed by chef Adrian Forte, the menu consisted of Caribbean favourites with a twist, including jerk chicken coq au vin, oxtail with cassava gnocchi and red wine au jus, vegan mushroom doubles and plantain beignets. Their Instagram currently says stay tuned for pop-up number two, so keep your eye out!

Mooby's at Kitchen Hub

Mooby's at Kitchen Hub

Mooby's, the fictional fast-food chain featured in the Jay & Silent Bob movies, popped up in Toronto this past fall in Etobicoke's Kitchen Hub. Headed by popular BBQ restaurant The Carbon Bar, Mooby's meals included their Beef Cow Tipper Burger, a double cheeseburger stacked high with their signature sauce, pickles and mustard, a vegan Beyond Meat burger, a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, a smoked brisket sandwich with espresso BBQ sauce, Hater Totz and a vegan or beef Mooby's Moo-tine -- special to the Canadian pop-up.

Afrobeat Kitchen

Afrobeat Kitchen

Run by Lagos-born Victor Ugeweke, Afrobeats Kitchen is a pop-up operating out of Caravan Cafe & Tea House Thursday to Saturday from 4-9 p.m. and Sunday 12-8 p.m. You'll find traditional dishes like hearty lentil soup and peanut stew with jackfruit and chickpeas, as well as spicy lamb burgers and West African melon seed chili stew with grilled shrimp on the menu.

DaiLo at HotBlack Coffee

DaiLo at HotBlack Coffee

Run by chef Nick Liu or a.k.a Ninja Chef of DaiLo restaurant, you could find a few of this chef's more casual iterations at HotBlack Coffee earlier this winter. Serving his famed Burger Bao and Asian Poutine, this pop-up took advantage of a sudden rise in demand for quick, comfort fare.

Crosley's

Crosley's

This venture launched in December out of Bar Piquette, serving up a short menu of two mains and two desserts. Crosley's is slated to open their own storefront soon, but for now, they are offering their meal to-go Friday through to Sunday, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Victory Burger

Victory Burger

This smash burger pop-up just opened this past week. Operating out of Piano Piano, this is one of many pop-ups launched out of an already established restaurant. Chef Victor Barry of Piano Piano and Cafe Cancan brings yet another delicious smash burger to the scene.

Ruru Baked

Ruru Baked

This gourmet ice cream pint pop-up had been owned and operated by Luanne Ronquillo since 2017 but this past summer saw the venture really take off. With creative flavours that typically sell out within the hour of dropping, it is no surprise that a brick-and-mortar shop is now in the works.

Nanoka Kitchen

Nanoka Kitchen

Three friends and former employees of Manic Coffee launched this pop-up back in September that has run out of Manic Coffee, Fix Coffee + Bikes and Grape Witches. The trio has offered everything from bento boxes, sandos, granola and most recently, a holiday cookie box!

The Best 2020 Pop-Ups in Toronto

Guides / Spots

23 days ago

The Best 2020 Pop-Ups in Toronto

Robin Winship

Robin Winship

Instagram

There was no shortage of pop-ups in 2020. With one too many restaurants shuttering for good and fine dining establishments forced to shift their offerings to be more conducive to takeout and the surging demand for comfort fare, there was a seismic shift in the industry. From laid-off employees discovering a passion for cooking to artisans finally able to devote the time and effort into their craft and highly skilled chefs forced to pivot to takeout-only friendly grub, the model of a pop-up just fits the constraints of 2020. Little overhead, built for takeaway and in favour of simple yet delicious offerings -- the pop-up defined the transformation that was taking place in the restaurant industry.

From pop-ups slated to be storefronts, summer patios, secret backyard pizza drops and chefs retrofitting pre-existing kitchens, here is a list of some of the most memorable pop-ups of the year. Some have come to an end, while others continue to operate but we all found a little joy in seeking out the latest and greatest.

Taco Beach

Taco Beach

Back in the summer, a lively Ossington Strip pop-up dubbed Taco Beach created the ultimate summer escape. A collaboration between The Last Resort (an outdoor space and bottle shop) and Dynasty plant shop, Taco Beach was a needed respite from quarantine fatigue. Jonathan Poon from Favorites Thai restaurant created the menu of ceviches, tacos, quesadillas and chips, as well as frosty cocktails and unique bottles of wine.

By Chef Nuit

By Chef Nuit

Famed chef Nuit Regular opened up a small pop-up By Chef Nuit, operating out of her more formal Thai restaurant Kiin. Happening back in the summer and fall, the menu featured Thai-inspired comfort food favourites such as the Chicken Satay Poutine, Laap, Pad Thai wings and a Pad Gra Pow Burger.

Don Pollo

Don Pollo

Grant van Gameren, a notable chef and restaurateur in Toronto, launched an exciting new endeavour dedicated to Sinaloa-style grilled chicken and sides this past summer. The takeout-only pop-up is operating out of Quetzal -- a Mexican restaurant helmed by Gameren that has been closed since the onset of the pandemic back in March. On the menu are a whole chicken (brined and slow-cooked), six-piece legs and a Don P Sandwich comprised of pulled wood-fire chicken on a brioche bun topped with slaw, escabeche onions, spicy mayo and pork chicharron. Available sides include a Don P Slaw, fire-roasted potatoes, charred pineapple, creamy avocado dip and Valentina hot sauce. The pop-up is still operating for both pickup and delivery on Uber Eats.

Nuoc Mam

Nuoc Mam

This Vietnamese pop-up landed in Toronto this summer and was met with resounding excitement. Helmed by chef Philip Nguyen, the chef specialist of OC Hospitality and Brian Nguyen of Toronto's acclaimed Vietnamese sandwich shop, Banh Mi Boys -- this pop-up brought Torontonians authentic Vietnamese street food.

Safta's Falafel

Safta's Falafel

Safta's Falafel was a pop-up created by chef Haan Palcu-Chang of Favorites Thai and his friend Jan, born from the inspiration from Jan's grandmother's falafels. Popping up all across the city, Safta's last took up residence at The Caddi, a patio pop-up created by the team behind Paris Paris.

Hawker Dessert

Hawker Dessert

Farzam Fallah and Louis Lim created this upscale five-course dessert tasting after previously working as pastry chefs at Richmond Station. Earlier this year, after launching first as a pop-up at Hailed Coffee and then a takeaway offering out of Oyster Boy, we hope to see Hawker return soon.

Mama Akua's

Mama Akua's

Mama Akua's popped up at Stackt Market back in October and was serving up classic Ghanaian foods like jollof rice, boiled yam, boiled plantain with spinach stew, groundnut soup with rice balls, waakye (rice and beans) with stew, and red red a.k.a. fried ripe plantain and beans. Run by Patricia Yeboah and her mother Akua Fosua, the duo promise to return in the New Year.

YAWD

YAWD

This pop-up took over Mahjong Bar's kitchen back in November and was dishing out modern Caribbean eats. Headed by chef Adrian Forte, the menu consisted of Caribbean favourites with a twist, including jerk chicken coq au vin, oxtail with cassava gnocchi and red wine au jus, vegan mushroom doubles and plantain beignets. Their Instagram currently says stay tuned for pop-up number two, so keep your eye out!

Mooby's at Kitchen Hub

Mooby's at Kitchen Hub

Mooby's, the fictional fast-food chain featured in the Jay & Silent Bob movies, popped up in Toronto this past fall in Etobicoke's Kitchen Hub. Headed by popular BBQ restaurant The Carbon Bar, Mooby's meals included their Beef Cow Tipper Burger, a double cheeseburger stacked high with their signature sauce, pickles and mustard, a vegan Beyond Meat burger, a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, a smoked brisket sandwich with espresso BBQ sauce, Hater Totz and a vegan or beef Mooby's Moo-tine -- special to the Canadian pop-up.

Afrobeat Kitchen

Afrobeat Kitchen

Run by Lagos-born Victor Ugeweke, Afrobeats Kitchen is a pop-up operating out of Caravan Cafe & Tea House Thursday to Saturday from 4-9 p.m. and Sunday 12-8 p.m. You'll find traditional dishes like hearty lentil soup and peanut stew with jackfruit and chickpeas, as well as spicy lamb burgers and West African melon seed chili stew with grilled shrimp on the menu.

DaiLo at HotBlack Coffee

DaiLo at HotBlack Coffee

Run by chef Nick Liu or a.k.a Ninja Chef of DaiLo restaurant, you could find a few of this chef's more casual iterations at HotBlack Coffee earlier this winter. Serving his famed Burger Bao and Asian Poutine, this pop-up took advantage of a sudden rise in demand for quick, comfort fare.

Crosley's

Crosley's

This venture launched in December out of Bar Piquette, serving up a short menu of two mains and two desserts. Crosley's is slated to open their own storefront soon, but for now, they are offering their meal to-go Friday through to Sunday, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Victory Burger

Victory Burger

This smash burger pop-up just opened this past week. Operating out of Piano Piano, this is one of many pop-ups launched out of an already established restaurant. Chef Victor Barry of Piano Piano and Cafe Cancan brings yet another delicious smash burger to the scene.

Ruru Baked

Ruru Baked

This gourmet ice cream pint pop-up had been owned and operated by Luanne Ronquillo since 2017 but this past summer saw the venture really take off. With creative flavours that typically sell out within the hour of dropping, it is no surprise that a brick-and-mortar shop is now in the works.

Nanoka Kitchen

Nanoka Kitchen

Three friends and former employees of Manic Coffee launched this pop-up back in September that has run out of Manic Coffee, Fix Coffee + Bikes and Grape Witches. The trio has offered everything from bento boxes, sandos, granola and most recently, a holiday cookie box!