Hypothetically speaking, what if there was a place where you could kick off your day (sort of) early in the morning, with a freshly-made breakfast sandwich, a pistachio latte, and a relaxing, don’t-jolt-me-into-reality-too-fast vibe?
What if you could then stick around, working on your laptop, with time out for lunch, followed by another latte, maybe chai this time?
What if at 5pm, with happy hour on the horizon, you could grab a glass of local craft wine or local craft beer and ascend a staircase to have your hair (and/or beard) trimmed, maybe even styled and coloured, all the while nursing your drink?
What if you could then come back downstairs, in all your freshly groomed glory, for some cocktails and a candle-light dinner, or a few shared snacks, and then some more cocktails while a local stand-up comedian cracks you up from a small stage?
What if, as the night wore on, a DJ could suddenly appear and the amber-lit tables where you spent the day eating-drinking-working-and-chilling could fold up against the wall, Murphy-style, transforming the space into a dance floor where you could boogie down with friends and/or strangers until 2am?
Now imagine that this place isn’t hypothetical at all, but actually exists... in a handsomely renovated, two-story, former clothing store on Queen Street West, just east of Bathurst…
Open since October of 2023, this place is called Good Company – and for good reason.
As operator and co-owner Mandy Todaro explains, “When we were still in the planning stages, we were going through so many different names. And we felt, it’s not really the food, it’s not really the drinks, it’s how you feel when you’re in a space and who you surround yourself with. It’s about good company.”
Todaro speaks from experience. For over 13 years, she worked in the restaurant industry, moving from hostessing and serving to bartending, honing many of her skills during a decade-long stint at Earls. Although she always dreamed of working in a kitchen, Todaro didn’t want to relinquish the bartender’s privilege of interacting directly with customers. For this reason, she – and the good company of friends she recruited from former jobs to come work with her – prep both food and drinks from behind the long, sweeping wood-panelled bar that anchors Good Company’s large, and very convivial, ground floor.
In opening this decidedly hybrid bar/ber shop/cafe, Todaro herself is in good company. Her co-owner and business partner also happens to be her life partner, Eric Buzzeo. An experienced barber with 15 years of snipping and clipping under his belt, Buzzeo is in charge of the second-floor salon. Alongside a colleague, he provides cuts and trims, often to loyal clients who have followed him from far (Mississauga) and near (Queen West Barbers just down the street), not to mention from the days he worked out of his living room.
Although the barbershop space, with its brass fixtures and black leather barber chairs, boasts a man-friendly minimalism, Todaro is adamant that it’s not “a boy’s club.” The couple plans to add a colour bar and a hairstylist for women not to mention services such as facials and hair washes. While the salon is open from 10am to 7pm (and to 5pm on weekends), there’s the bonus possibility of booking an after-hours cut – “maybe not 3am, but definitely 10pm, 11pm or even midnight,” says Buzzeo – which pairs nicely with Good Company’s cocktails.
Speaking of cocktails, while Buzzeo knows his way around tapers and fades, Todaro has serious expertise in shaking and stirring.
Good Company’s bar menu showcases a handful of wines (by the glass, supplied by PEC’s Traynor Farms) and craft beers (Burdock is particularly well-represented), not to mention classic cocktails (Martinis, Negronis). But Todaro also put her years of practice – and personal associations – to excellent use in the creation a number of signature cocktails.
Nonno Peppe pays homage to Todaro’s Italian grandfather, whose lack of English didn’t stop the two of them from fiercely bonding over Italian card games. The nostalgic yet lively drink involves a Mediterranean melange of Cynar, Caffo Amaretto and Montenegro spiked with lemon juice and orange bitters.
A riff on a classic Painkiller, the Anesthetic is a heady mixture of spiced and white rum, infused with coconut-green tea syrup, pineapple, orange and lemon juice and sprinkled with nutmeg. This potent, flavour-packed punch may not numb you, but it will likely contribute to an all-round mellow.
Todaro’s own personal favourite is the Herbie Fully Loaded. It was named after the eponymous film, starring Lindsay Lohan and a Volkswagen Beetle “with a mind of its own.” which she saw on her first-ever date. The drink’s striking green hue betrays its intense herby-ness, in which tequila and mescal get fully loaded with Benedictine, cucumber-basil syrup, splashes of dill oil and a spritz of lime juice.
Accompanying the drinks is an ample snack menu that kicks into gear at 5pm. It consists of comforting, mildly retro classics that can be enjoyed as appetizers or, in some cases, light mains. Uniting them all is the fact that they’re served raw and at room temperature, when not outright chilled (fresh East Coast oysters anyone?). Exceptions to the rule are the marinated olives and the mortadella spiedino – mortadella wrapped around smoked mozzarella and garnished with salsa verde and spicy honey – both of which are served warm.
One of several dishes that skew Italian, a creamy ball of burrata arrives with a contrasting heap of black truffles and thick slices of toasted Forno Cultura sourdough to mop up all the luscious mess.
When it comes to size, there’s nothing remotely shrimpy at all about the shrimp cocktail, which makes an outsize impression thanks to the use of particularly juicy U-12 Jumbo shrimp (the second-largest size available). An old-school cocktail sauce, featuring horseradish and ketchup, adds piquancy to the sweet, succulent flesh.
Top quality is also on display with the steak tartare, which relies on AAA tenderloin for fresh beefiness. An egg yolk supplies the requisite creaminess and moutarde de Meaux packs some nice heat. A shower of alfalfa sprouts on top superficially camouflages all that raw carnivorousness.
The Caesar salad is another simple pleasure. Baby gem lettuce is gussied up with a crunchy bacon and panko crumble while anchovies and shaved Grana Padano supply welcome hits of umami.
Good Company’s daytime menu skews equally cool and classic, with a compact selection of sandwiches and toasts capable of satisfying breakfast, lunch and brunch cravings. One of the most popular “sandy”s, the Thick and Morty presents as a “tower” of mortadella, garnished with pickled chayotes. It’s served on a fluffy brioche smeared generously with pistachio butter and housemade aioli.
The toast category includes the super savoury “Lox on Dough”: shallot cream cheese, drizzled with honey, is topped with glistening layers of smoked salmon and salmon roe, and duly showered with capers, dill and red onions. On the sweeter side of the spectrum, the Romeo & Juliet features a happy marriage of bright honey-soaked blueberries and creamy mascarpone. The inspired union is celebrated with a confetti of fresh mint, lime zest and crumbled pistachios.
Both dishes are served atop thick slices of sourdough, but if you can’t choose between the two – and/or desperately desire toasted bagels instead of sourdough – you’re in luck. Both the “Lox” and the “Romeo” and all their myriad components (in deconstructed form) are included in the triple-tiered extravaganza that is the Bagel Tower. If Marie-Antoinette came back to life in the 21rst-century and got a sudden hankering for brunch, this is the kind of regal spread she’d want served to her at Versailles.
Back in the real world, you might want to toast the Tower with a fizzy mimosa. But its ingredients also pair nicely with Good Company’s specialty teas and coffees. The pistachio latte is spiked with pistachio syrup and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Decidedly more chill is the Cinny Bun shaken iced cappuccino, featuring iced coffee infused with cinnamon bun syrup and blitzed to peak frothiness in a cocktail shaker.
Nine a.m. to two in the morning are impressively long opening hours. A lot can happen in such a generous stretch of time, especially when you factor in a garage door that opens right onto Queen West, creating a coveted sidewalk patio. Yet, whether you come for a cut and a cocktail, a trim and a tiramisu (the sole dessert on the menu), or something else entirely – and there are a lot of something elses – chances are high (as a Bagel Tower!) that you’ll be in good company.