The following is an actual text conversation.
Me: “I’m off to have lunch in Regent Park!”
Friend: “Is that a joke?”
Regent Park is not really on a food-enthusiast’s radar, but Paintbox Bistro hopes it will be. The area doesn’t pop to mind as a place you’d venture to dine on grilled octopus and artichokes, braised short rib, or cured Georgian Bay trout with horseradish foam, fennel and cabbage ribbons.
Paintbox Bistro is an ambitious restaurant that gained attention for its socially responsible goals of hiring and training marginalized residents. Chef and owner, Chris Klugman has plenty of upscale restaurant experience. He opened Bistro 990 back in 1988, has worked at Rosewater Supper Club, with the Liberty Group, and as a personal chef to actress Geena Davis. Chris says of the five-month old restaurant, “My hope for the people who train here is that they escape the cycle of poverty and are successful in their chosen careers. We’re trying to make the world a better place.”
Regent Park is unrecognizable now that it’s in phase two of the revitalization project. Sleek new buildings and retail shops dot the area, giving a glimpse of what is to come.
The current lunch menu includes a hefty roast chicken sandwich ($10) with applewood smoked cheddar and salsa verde mayonnaise. Just as substantial is the messy-to-eat black bean vegan burger ($10) with avocado and faux bacon. Chris is tinkering in the kitchen to create a new menu that includes a delicious-sounding orange cardamom French toast with Nutella whip ($8) for their popular brunch service, and dishes with more of a Nordic influence.
Entertainment is offered several nights a week and because of this the lounge menu does well. Short rib poutine, tempura cheese curds, pulled duck banh mi sandwiches, and salt cod croquettes represent the new dining scene in Regent Park. The catering side of Paintbox Bistro has taken off, but they’re eager to welcome new visitors to the neighbourhood and to the bistro. It’s a restaurant that supports the community around it but hopes adventurous food lovers will come to support them.
Follow Paintbox Bistro on Twitter: @Paintbox_Bistro