CLOSED: Parts & Labour (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada

Address: 1566 Queen Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner

I’ve always had the intention to visit Parts & Labour, but the commute to their ultra-Queen West location is so long that excuses to delay the visit were easily made. Still, a glance at their Winterlicious menu (and its delicious sounding options) bolstered my decision to visit; a reservation was made and a trek through the February chill commenced.

Upon entering, the cozy wood fireplace at the entrance was an immediate warm welcome. But, after glancing at the dining room my heart sank – oh no it’s communal seating!  The dining room is a series of rectangular tables seating eight with the only other options being sitting at the bar or some four tops in the kitchen (alas these were filled). Sure, call me old fashioned or even a snob, but is it too much to want some personal space? Really, when did eating in a restaurant become a food court affair and patrons are expected to get cozy with complete strangers?

We were brought to a table with only one other couple, so at first it didn’t seem too bad since an empty chair divided us. Unfortunately, this only lasted for 20 minutes and soon another couple was seated right in between us (in pretty tight quarters). My fellow guests noticed there were empty seats at tables further in the dining room (which never got occupied).  So, the arriving guests could have easily been seated elsewhere making the dining experience more comfortable for everyone. I can go on about this some more, but will sum it up with a warning – if you don’t like sitting beside strangers requiring you to talk over them to hear your guests, don’t visit Parts & Labour; it’s not the place for you.

Onto the food! After all, its delicious sounding nature is what drew me to the restaurant to begin with. To start I had to try the pork belly, a dish that is absolutely delicious when done right. Luckily, Chef Matheson knows his pigs as the pork belly was great. The cut was perfect with alternating layers of fat and meat and cooked slowly so the tough skin mellowed to a nice chew. Moreover, it was rendered well so what’s left of the fat wasn’t oily but just added a nice thick richness to the meat. The sweet glaze caramelized well and went quite nicely with the tart pickled shallots. For me, I found the smooth parsnip puree too sweet to eat on its own but went well when swiped onto the pork.

Originally, the maple-glazed cod was going to be my main. But, when the helpful waitress informed my husband that he could get the P&L burger instead I had to change my order.  And I’m so glad I did as this “best burger in Toronto” was delicious albeit an absolute mess to eat. Its brisket based patty was every ounce as juicy and full of flavour as I’d expect. But, if this weren’t enough there’s also lush caramalized onion with bacon, melted Monterey Jack cheese and mayonnaise topping it.  Really the soft milk bun could not hold it together and disintegrated in my hands; I switched over to a knife and fork to finish it off. 

The fresh shoestring fries were also good – hot and just the right amount of seasoning so it wasn’t overly salted. Mine just kept sticking together so it’s a bit hard to eat with a burger in your hand, but certainly not a deal breaker.  

The P&L Burger was a much better choice than the maple-glazed cod, in my opinion.  My friend offered me a taste and the overly sweet stock was not for me. Of course, it’s “maple-glazed” but I would have liked the dish to use a more savoury stock to contrast the sweetness of the glaze. If I had to eat a whole order of the cod I would have been very disappointed. Even my friend agreed that it was good for the first bite but after a while the sugariness was a bit off putting. But, if you’re a fan of sweet fish, this would be the perfect dish for you!

If you didn’t want a burger and sugary fish also doesn’t sound appealing, perhaps the flat iron steak would be a better bet. From what I could see from the two orders that came to the table they were cooked to a perfect medium and the individuals eating it were thoroughly satisfied.

The desserts all arrive in Mason jars, with a choice of lemon meringue pie, salted chocolate mousse or blueberry cheesecake. I opted for the later and was satisfied. The smooth cheese layer had enough flavour and went well with the graham cracker crust, while the blueberry sauce topping it had a pleasant freshness. All in all, not an outstanding dessert, but still a good ending to the meal.

Is Winterlicious worth it?

As a special feature to the Winterlicious blogs, I will attempt to calculate the savings being offered (based on my meal selection).

Winterlicious - $35

Regular menu - $37 - pork belly ($14), P&L Burger* ($15) and cheesecake* ($8)

Savings** - $2 or 5%

* The burger isn't on the official Winterlicious menu but otherwise I would have gotten the halibut (which based on the cod's price would also be $15).  The cheesecake isn't on their regular menu so price based on guess by me.
** Attempts were made to contact P&L to determine if my calculation was missing something as the savings appear dismal. No response was received so I'm assuming it's correct.  I welcome P&L to post a reply in the "comments" section should they disagree with the analysis.

Overall mark - 6.5*** out of 10

*** Based on the food, I would have given it a 7 but the seating situation such a turnoff that it's hard for me to say I'd return.

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Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!