Il Buco Ristorante

Music and lighting is soft and flattering. The view of Kempenfelt Bay is stunning and the chalk board assures diners that this venue is event friendly; accommodating communions, confirmations, weddings and baptisms.

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As co-owner Enrico Angelucci tells me, the Italian Community in Barrie will have every Sunday booked during the spring and summer months to celebrate joyous family occasions which makes the owners of Il Buco Ristorante very happy! The winter holiday season is another busy time at Il Buco, with family and business Christmas parties booking well in advance to assure their function is accommodated.

The Dunlop Street entrance is somewhat inconspicuous, but there is ample parking and wheelchair accessibility when entering at the rear of the building from the Simcoe Street parking lot.

I suspect that the condo dwellers nearby frequent Il Buco regularly given the location and the view! Enrico Angelucci, his wife Sue Varga and part owner Karl Sawyer have proudly operated from this second floor spot for seven years. They are most ably assisted in the kitchen by international Chef George Silva. With photographer daughter eager to accompany me, we each took a different approach to the menu, as at lunch there is the option of ordering a la carte or enjoying the three course Prix Fixe.

Beef Carpaccio is a favourite of mine and I was pleased to see it makes an appearance here; this thinly sliced rare beef tenderloin is served with mixed greens, drizzled with olive oil and topped with grated fresh Parmigiano cheese. Delicious.

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From the three course Prix Fixe, the Classic Caesar Salad was darling daughters choice to start. While substitutions aren’t generally offered, our server, owner Sue Varga, was most accommodating and graciously allowed the switch of gnocchi instead of Penne pasta, in the “Funghi Penne with mushrooms in a rosé sauce”. While the gnocchi is not made in house, it presents with a rich flavourful sauce.

I asked Sue Varga to choose lunch for me, her recommendation of Pork Scaloppini in a lemon white wine sauce with Italian salad was sized well, the light lemon zip of the pork was refreshing. Dessert is included with the Prix Fixe lunch and while I wouldn’t usually have sweets at lunch, Sue strongly suggested that I try the Tiramisu. I am glad I did; the portion size was just right and the coffee flavour a great ending to the meal.

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While a working lunch doesn’t lend itself to wine sipping for me, nor does my editor recommend this, the wine list selections complement the foods, although I always like to see more of our fine Ontario VQA wines represented.

I returned to talk with Enrico Angelucci and learnt just how committed he and Sue Varga are to the restaurant. Not many folks would commute from Muskoka to Barrie daily, but they do! When a friend showed them the location, they knew it would be ideal for a restaurant and the daily drive is taken in stride. The family is considering a move south to Barrie, as they have grown attached to the community that supports their restaurant and the waterfront at the doorstep too!

Il Buco supports local where possible, shopping for produce at Cancilla’s, Flying Monkeys brews are on tap, poultry and eggs from a Stayer producer and my personal fave Local Foods Mart, Enrico fondly referred to as “our emergency store, you need something you run out down there, and most of the time you find it”.

Menu changes are small and subtle as their regular clientele, who tend to come every week or two expect tradition, the “simple plates”. There are four or five specials added to the menu each weekend. “Osso Buco and Chicken Parmigiana will always be offered as people get attached to it.” “The day we stop, people complain”.

“Business is good; it has been growing steady since we opened”. As Enrico Angelucci proudly tells me, Il Buco Ristorante has been named as one of The Best 100 Restaurants in Canada, according to Open Table.

In his own words; “Food is part of life, if you enjoy it with a glass of wine, there is nothing better really to end a day of work, you have a good day, a good meal at night, if everything was good for dinner you go to sleep happy, and a good glass of wine is always good, good wine makes good blood”.
I’ll drink to that!

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http://www.ilbucoristorante.com
dining@ilbucoristorante.com
31 Dunlop Street E. Barrie, Ontario
705.735.9595

Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and local food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography

Crazy Fox Bistro

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Given that Crazy Fox Bistro has graced the city of Barrie with fine meals for thirty years they are entitled to high praise. From the original location on the waterfront where now sits The Farmhouse, to their present perch on Bayfield Street overlooking the bay, Crazy Fox Bistro has a strong following of regulars and a full house of new clientele who consistently return for the great food and the professional service.

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Coos and Lawna Uylenbroek spent time in Stanford Connecticut where he was the Chef at a luxury hotel. Fast forward a few years, when the pull to return brought them back home to Canada. With family in Barrie, the urge to settle here was strong. The cincher was seeing how quickly this fabulous city pulled together and got back on its proverbial feet after the hurricane of 1985; they felt Barrie would be a great place to raise their family and grow their business, so they set down roots. Crazy Fox Bistro exudes warmth and welcome; the glowing soft yellow walls, inspired by the owners’ love of a Californian lifestyle, a soothing soundtrack, the open kitchen, it all reaches out to customers in a most inviting fashion. White linens and generous lighting add sparkle to place settings, there is no pretense here, simply comfort and good food.

Darling daughter, aka my photographer and I cozied in on a recent Friday afternoon in the midst of a wicked January snowstorm, seeking said warmth and we were not disappointed.

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Dinner at Crazy Fox Bistro is delightful, I have enjoyed many fine meals here, but I recently discovered that lunch is lovely too! Many of the lunch menu items stick around for the dinner hour. As owner Lawna Uylenbroek explained to me, when her husband, Head Chef Coos Uylenbroek wishes to freshen up the menu, they have many “regulars” that request certain menu items stay available. So tweaks are made, or special evening events are planned, phone calls placed to let customers know that “their” special dish will be featured.

They listen to their customers at Crazy Fox Bistro and that is amazing service!

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I started my lunch with the Boston Pear salad, which features caramelized warm pear, pistachios, and a poppy seed walnut oil dressing. Beet chips were a vibrant splash of colour against the snowy backdrop of the winter day, the taste was wonderful, I was partial to the crunch of the pistachios and the aforementioned chips.

Darling daughter had inquired about availability of a small side Caesar salad, one of the Crazy Fox Bistro menu classics; served with lemon garlic dressing, herbed croutons, and parmesan. The kitchen was obliging and a mini version was provided for her.

Our server suggested we try the “Bang Bang Shrimp”; they are served with Thai chili sauce on slaw. These are a customer fave and are on the dinner menu also. The side stripe of cilantro was a perfect accompaniment for additional dipping, cilantro and I are good friends.

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My main was “Sushi Tuna prepared three ways; Sesame, Cocoa and Crusted pepper seared”, perfect and very photogenic too!

Pasta for the photographer please; “Spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese filled Agnolotti, with rose sauce, basil and parmesan”, a lovely stem of tiny perfect enoki mushrooms on top.

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We lingered over lunch, savoured every bite. Our most capable server highly recommended we try dessert, it was the “Cinnamon Flavoured Apple Phyllo Fold”, filled with dried cranberries and almond crumble, with a wee bit of ice cream on the side that tempted me the most.

Sous Chef Michael Forget had just arrived to prep for dinner, and he graciously fired up the oven to create this delicious ending to our luncheon.

We were not the only customers that enjoyed a leisurely lunch, it was delightful to while away the afternoon knowing we wouldn’t be rushed.

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While I didn’t imbibe, I perused the wine list; it provides a wide and thoughtful selection of vintages at various price points.

The restaurant is laid out on several levels, the upper dining area is ideal for private parties, and the multi layered design works in favour for unique events. Lawna explained that small weddings are often booked at Crazy Fox Bistro, with the wedding couple taking their vows on the balcony while guests gather on the lower level. The servers have plenty of space for champagne corks to pop! Crazy Fox Bistro participates in the twice yearly food festival that is Barrielicious; this is a great opportunity for those who may be unfamiliar with the restaurant to find a fabulous new favorite place to dine.

When I asked Lawna what message she would like to share with my readers her reply was right to the point and strongly echoes my personal views about supporting local business.

“You don’t have to stand in line somewhere to get a good meal. You can make a reservation and support your independent restaurateurs.”

Crazy Fox Bistro has been a landmark restaurant in Barrie for thirty years; Lawna assures me they aren’t going anywhere. I highly recommend you make this your new favourite restaurant!

http://www.thecrazyfoxbistro.com/home

Crazy Fox Bistro
135 Bayfield St., Barrie | 705.737.5000
@CrazyFoxBistro

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and local food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography

Kenzington Burger Bar

I first met owner Brandon Clark and his best friend and right hand man Neil Ornella at the ORHMA awards at the Nottawasaga Inn. They were alongside Marco Ormonde from The North offering diners classic Whiskey Sours, traditionally made with Crown Royal, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites and bitters. The attention to detail for a drink is unusual for a bar, but quality matters and they know it. The drinks were fabulous and I decided then and there, drinks and dinner at Kenzington was in order.

I rolled in first one Saturday night with a gal pal; we took our seats at the bar, this being one good looking, fully stocked, back lit, bar that serves up classic fresh made cocktails.

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We ordered our drinks and settled in with spinach dip for snacking, having observed the size of the loaded nachos and realizing it was far beyond the size of our appetites.

I don’t usually recommend drinks, but I can’t say enough about the cocktails shaken and stirred at Kenzington. The talented bartenders are mixing up classic signature cocktails, using fresh ingredients. Fresh makes the difference be it at the bar or in the kitchen, as Neil Ornella tells me “we use fresh squeezed lime juice vs bar lime, we do it properly”.

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The bar also houses the mighty iMac, with a playlist I would like to have. The music is the perfect accompaniment, it keeps the room humming until the live band starts.

Neil Ornella told me during our interview that he is responsible for the bar music, which is a compilation gleaned from their own playlists, carefully blended to suit the mood of the days. If it’s Saturday afternoon; it is going to be Blues and Rock, Stones and Faces, Led Zeppelin with a side order of Motown. Very tasty!

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Neil apparently takes to the stage to play music too and I am marking my calendar for the annual “Those Guys Christmas Spectacular”.

I returned to the Kenzington with an appetite to try the namesake burgers; taking two hungry teens with me. A first for me was the bartender’s creation of a namesake cocktail; the “Penelope” was to my liking, Grey Goose based, magic in a glass with a hint of lime, it had my taste buds primed for the main event. The menu is ably explained; step one, pick your style of burger, step two, pick your bun, gluten free options are available, step three, pick your meat, beef, chicken, turkey or veggie, step four, choose your side, perhaps you’re in a mood for fries or rings, or green it up with a salad.

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There are suggested favourites too; I went with the “Black & Blue”, Blue cheese, blackened spice and bacon”, on a Brioche Bun. The “Californian” is a popular choice; avocado, Monterey Jack, bacon and chipotle mayo. Feeling “Crazy”? That menu item requires 24 hours’ notice and includes 1 lb. of beef! For non-burger fans there are numerous poultry options, veggie wraps and the Canadian tradition of Poutine also appears in a plethora of incarnations. We three were pleased with our burgers and sides. The kitchen is small, so sip your beverages slowly, staff are upfront about this and your burger is worth the wait. As they say, this is “simple food, done properly”.

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Timing and longevity are partners for Brandon Clark; Kenzington has been a fixture on Dunlop Street for seven years now and we can expect to see cross branding with his purchase of Tropical North next store. This partnership is hot, bringing watersports and SUP rentals to the waterfront and these sports enthusiasts will logically bring their appetites to Kenzington Burger Bar.

Another appetite enticing option is for the Kenzington Food truck to come to you! What a great way to bring flavour and party atmosphere to your wedding or family celebration.

I wonder if it comes with the same great sound track.

Neil Ornella captured the essence of Kenzington when he said; “It’s a true testament to the bar, and all the integral components of what make it a successful business to have an independent restaurant, especially in downtown Barrie be a staple, and be a staple for as long as it has been and continue to be. It’s just starting for us, in all honesty within the last 8 months the amount of growth that the bar has gone through in regards to the food business is incredible, just incredible!”

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Well Neil and Brandon, I think business at Kenzington Burger Bar is about to become even more incredible! The famous Kenzington “Kitchen Sink burger” caught the attention of John Catucci, host of the Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here”, who came recently with the film crew to the resto and shot a segment for the series which will air during Season 4 in the new year. Big congrats! I hear mojitos are making an appearance on the summer menu, fresh muddled mint and lime, a fitting time to raise my glass to toast your continued success!

Kenzington Burger Bar
40 Dunlop St E, Barrie, ON L4M 1A3
(705) 725-1667
www.kenzington.ca

Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets
@penelopejmorrow.

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography