Trendy Brewpub Goes Local

Liberty Commons at Big Rock Brewery is a modern-day brewpub characterizing Toronto's trendy restaurant scene by serving comfort food with a gourmet touch and blending the traditional British pub with Toronto-inspired diversity.

A spirited collaboration between Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants and Big Rock Brewery, its culinary vision is driven by O&B Corporate Executive Chef Anthony Walsh, District Executive Chef John Horne and Chef de Cuisine Ryan Lister.

"We serve good, cooked-from-scratch food using as many local or Canadian ingredients as possible," says Lister, who was born and raised in the small seaside town of Weymouth, England.

The restaurant is inspired by the history of Toronto's Liberty Village neighborhoods and aims to encourage diners to come together over quality food and craft beer.

Set in a two-level heritage space, Liberty Commons restaurant occupies the entire lower level, with the main level housing Big Rock Brewery's beer shop and taproom.

Though the demographic tends to skew toward younger Millenial types from the surrounding condos, Lister says restaurant customers are a real mix. "We're packed during lunchtime and see a lot of local business people," he says. "We attract a good sports-watching crowd, brunch dwellers and lots of larger groups from ball teams to office parties."

Bringing Farm to the Pub

Liberty Commons seeks to break the stereotype of common pub food by incorporating significant and unique produce in its menu. The restaurant spends between $1,000 and $2,500 per week on produce purchases.

Lister sources from local suppliers and wholesalers, as well as independent farmers, to ensure a consistent, fresh, quality produce offering for his cuisine. "I always try to look for what is in season," he says.

Sourcing for Lister is all about quality and freshness, but he's not afraid to receive product in "just-picked" condition. "The quality coming has to be well packed and undamaged," he says, "However, if our vegetables turn up with dirt on them, it's no problem. It's worth the effort to scrub and rinse our produce clean to get those authentic fresh flavors." 

Article by Jodean Robbins, Produce Business, May 2017

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