Comfort foods like chicken penne, halibut fish and chips, juicy burgers, and poutine can be both soothing and nostalgic. Within Cabbagetown, in Toronto, there is a neighbourhood favourite that does just that: comforts you. Red Cranberries restaurant on Parliament Street offers home-style favourites in a cozy atmosphere with unabashedly friendly servers, making the entire experience from start to finish feel like you're being welcomed into someone's perfect home.
Chef and owner Siva Thambu had culinary training in Paris and Rome, which leads to an interesting mix of items on the menu — everything from chicken souvlaki ($12) to spaghetti and meatballs ($11). Although the restaurant primarily focuses on American cuisine, the Sri Lankan population that lives in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood and the chefs that work at Red Cranberries mean that hotspots like Red Cranberries do not shy away from trying dishes with an exotic flair.
They always have a variety of specials, but dishes to look out for include the half-pound real beef burgers ($8), Cranberries chicken dinner with boneless chicken breast glazed with in-house cranberry sauce ($14), and a very spicy lamb curry served with rice and papadum ($13). A crowd pleaser is definitely the wings and "Buffalo Butts" appetizer of fried chicken tenderloins tossed in a homemade mystery sauce, served boneless, tender, and a bit spicy with ranch dipping sauce.
They may be the best in the city. My favourite dish of the night had to be the chicken chimichangas ($13), a plateful of tortilla stuffed and layered with chicken, cheese, cilantro, and mixed peppers and served with salsa and sour cream. The portion was so large I had to bring half of it home, which made for a mouth-watering lunch the next day.
Red Cranberries pretty much has it all: large portion sizes and a shockingly low price for high-quality dishes. The décor itself is very welcoming, with a cranberry-red colour throughout and wooden dining furniture from the front window seats up until the bar at the far end of the restaurant. It is informal — like a pub — but with top-notch food.
After a hard day's work —or a day walking through the high-energy Toronto core — it's nice to hide away in a hidden gem like this. Locals pass through on daily, but if you're lucky enough to stumble upon this restaurant accidentally, do not hesitate to take a seat — you will be pleased with what you find.