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With a storefront three years in the making, the wait is finally over for one of Toronto's most highly-anticipated bakery restaurant concepts to arrive. Emmer, formerly known as "Emmer and Ash," announced their official launch with a soft opening over the weekend in Harbord Village. Met with ongoing lines of customers, eagerly awaiting to get their hands on some of the best bread and pastries in the city, it's clear that despite the shop not operating with a physical location over the years, the business' virtual presence has amassed a loyal following.
An accomplished career in the dental field by day, Philip Haddad is passionate about baking and once he acquired the space on Harbord with the intention to open Emmer, he started to post his recipe tests online. Naturally, Torontonians quickly began taking notice and were excited to figure out how they could try all he had to offer.
The signature item at Emmer is most definitely their sourdough bread, with the perfect chewy crust on the outside and fluffy, airy dough on the inside -- it's what catapulted interest in Emmer from the beginning. Haddad says, "Our bread takes from 24-36 hours to craft. It's a large loaf, scaled to 1kg before baking and sometimes 1.2 kilos." Understanding that oftentimes, individuals don't need a massive loaf of bread, he happily offers half loaves, "I felt that the scale of the bread creates the best product; therefore I decided that all bread will be cut to help a customer get the product without having to commit to an entire loaf. It will last a good 7-10 days due to the fermentation process."
Haddad notes that Emmer's flaky, buttery, golden-brown croissants are both a staff and crowd favourite. Making their chocolate croissants, in particular, even better is their use of the highly-acclaimed SOMA Chocolatemaker chocolate within them. You really can't go wrong with the selection here. Staple offerings aside, Emmer also has a savoury kitchen that will be pumping out "a la minute" goods throughout the day and Haddad says that many treats are being made that have yet to make an appearance, so this is only the beginning.
Aside from the core of the business being on producing items reflective of the team's passion for baking and pastry, Haddad says that the focus of Emmer is the customers and the staff, "It's a privilege to have someone choose our bakery/restaurant to spend their money and time and we owe it to them to give them an overall great experience."
In regards to his team, Haddad states, "It's a little unique in the sense that we do not have staff bake overnight. It's important that bakers have time with their families so we decided against night shifts and wholesale," he brings up a notable point in stating that, "Bakers and pastry chefs are often hidden in the background yet they often open a meal [with] bread service or close the meal [with] dessert service. At Emmer, we put the focus on that team." As you walk by the storefront, you can catch a glimpse of the crew baking away within the front window, as all products are created fresh throughout the day.
Since Emmer replaces the space which The Boulevard Cafe once held, a big mural located at the back patio is left behind on the walls, which Haddad hints will soon be changing into something savoury in design.
As finalization of the brick-and-mortar location was initially put on pause due to the start of the pandemic, the only other ways to secure some goods were through closely following the Emmer Instagram. Along with showcasing recipes that could make an appearance, sneak peeks of what items would be available for purchase were also revealed. Sometimes, Haddad would arrange for a select number of loaves to be picked up out of Emmer, but most times products were announced as being exclusively available for sale at Donna's restaurant along Lansdowne Avenue, as the owners are close friends of Haddad, "The Donna team are dear friends of mine. We did work together when they opened on some pastries for Donna's. I also tested a lot of products out of their kitchen over the years. Jed, Peter and Ann of Donna's are by far the nicest restaurant industry people I have ever met and I am thrilled and grateful that they have helped me with the opening of Emmer."
Not on delivery apps; the only way to try Emmer is the old fashion way through simply lining up. Despite potentially having to confront a long line, the bright side -- other than it being worth the wait -- is that everything is baked fresh as time progresses, so new products are often rotated into the starting line-up as the teams bakes different items throughout the day. So who knows, maybe the extra 5-minute wait means you'll get first dibs on a savoury treat that just popped out of the oven.
Right now, temporary shop hours are Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. As we further progress into the warmer months, Emmer hopes to adjust their hours to Wednesday through Sunday until late. Follow Emmer on Instagram to get confirmation of their hours for the week and get ready to drool while scrolling through all their dough content.