Not too long ago I signed up for an account on Yelp and I noticed Fabarnak ranked quite high for many things on their site, including being in the Top 5 on Yelp for “Best Restaurant in Toronto” as well as “Best Sandwich in Toronto“. As a lover of good food AND sandwiches, seeing that the price range was quite low as well, it was a no-brainer to go and check them out. About a month ago I headed there for lunch with my (now) girlfriend Amanda to try it out.

Fabarnak is located at 519 Church St. in the 519 Community Center. They state on their website that they are a social enterprise and that money made from the restaurant goes back to help support the community. This is even found on the inside of their menu:

The menu itself was quite interesting and had a lot more surprises than I was expecting for what I thought was going to be more of a sandwich place. From things like “bone marrow brulle” to “Nova Scotia halibut cheek” I knew I was in for a fancier lunch than I anticipated. For items like these you would expect to pay much more at any other place, but the prices at Fabarnak were extremely reasonable. Here is the lunch menu from when I visited about 1 month ago:

After some tough decisions looking over the menu I decided to try the potato salad and the beef brisket sandwich (served with a butternut squash soup). Amanda, on the other hand, was much more adventurous and opted to try the bone marrow brulle and the beet and edamame salad.

The restaurant was not very busy at the time we went, but the food took almost 30 minutes to arrive which seemed quite long for a place catering to a lunch-time crowd that needs to get back to work. Fortunately neither of us had anywhere to be at the time.

When the food finally did arrive though I was quite impressed! Here are pictures of my potato salad & soup/sandwich combo:

Potato Salad ($7) - bacon, charred onion, apple, smoked cheddar, mustard seed vinaigrette

Beef Brisket Sandwich ($10) - pickled pepper sauce, pickled chili ginger slaw

First thing I tried was the soup which was excellent. One thing that was interesting was they added edamame in the soup which was different and delicious. They seem to have a thing with edamame here as it was in a lot of the dishes! The sandwich was also very tasty, though the brisket itself was a little tougher and fattier than I would have liked. The potato salad was also very tasty and I liked that they went with a vinaigrette based dressing over a creamy one with this dish. There were so many flavours with the bacon, apple and smoked cheddar and they all went together nicely.

Here are the pics of Amanda’s meal:

Beet Edamame Salad ($4) - walnut dressing, ricotta, greens, radish, citrus

Bone Marrow Brulle ($5) - mushroom conserva, toast

From what I recall Amanda really enjoyed her salad and I tried a bit which I also liked. It had a great very “fresh” taste. The bone marrow on the other hand was a bit more troublesome. The presentation looked quite impressive with the height they used, though I didn’t really get the spoon sticking out of the top. You were supposed to scoop the marrow out using this spoon, which was now quite hot as it had been sitting in the bone for some time. Due to the height of the bone, and poor tools (the spoon), Amanda had a very difficult time getting any marrow out of the bone and it made quite a mess with grease dripping out all over the table. Furthermore it was very hot and difficult to handle that she eventually gave up. She ended up sending the dish back because it was impossible to get anything out of it and got to be more trouble than it was worth. In future they should either cut the bone into a smaller portion or give u something that makes it easier to extract the marrow.

For dessert we had wanted to try out their cupcakes, which were the special of the day, but by the time we went to order they claimed they were sold out (even though we noticed a guy sneaking some back into the kitchen when we went to order).

The counter area at Fabarnak

Conclusion: The ambience is nothing special and has quite a “lunch spot” feel to it. The service was not the greatest. Amanda waited about 15 minutes for her drink because our server forgot her order. The food was definitely on point though other than the bone marrow experience. There is also great value here as their prices are really good considering you would pay much more for similar items at other places. Overall I will definitely return to Fabarnak as I would like to try a few more things on the menu and think we may have just had a couple bad experiences.

Score: 7.5 / 10