A few years ago, I attended a birthday party for a friend at Empire Grill. Having never been before, and with the meager budget of a university student, my jaw dropped upon glancing the prices on the menu.
It was definitely the first time in my adult life that I was a patron at a restaurant that sold cuts of meat sans side dish. “What kind of hoodwinkery is this?” I thought. I fought the urge to order only a piece of steak, but it was truly painful agreeing to pay an extra $8 for broccolini when I knew I could get two McDonald’s visits out of that kind of cash.
Known now as simply Empire, this ostentatious philosophy is out the window. Still firmly dedicated to serving high-quality eats, the restaurant wanted to evolve with the changing nature of the market. Geared towards the fast-paced urbanite, the menu’s focus is on wholesome, hearty foods.
Aitken is eager for the new era of Empire. To do just that, he has been “…working closely with local suppliers and [his] talented crew [to] present a menu that is memorable yet familiar, delicious yet completely unpretentious in a warm, welcoming environment.”
Though changes have been embraced, lovers of the Empire Grill need not despair. The same spirit of luxury remains in their opulent dishes; they are just made more accessible and affordable.
The new menu features raw small plates (think beef tartare, and refreshing scallop ceviche), sharing boards, and robust main dishes. Fortunately, the new menu made room for their steaks, a specialty of the former Empire Grill. (Side dish included in the price of the entrée, much to my delight!)
Other menu stand-outs that are now on my To Eat list include maple-mustard glazed bacon, roasted sweet pepper and garlic spread grilled cheese, and the salt-stone baked halibut. Sweet tooth? Round out your meal with a tart lemon pie parfait.
Of course, any Empire visit is best accompanied by one of their signature cocktails. You can’t go wrong with a Rosa Sparks, a tasty mix of rose gin, tonic, and gingerbeer.
The renovated interiors match the more down-to-earth atmosphere. Exclusively Canadian designs and creations, the Clarence St. eatery utilizes natural materials and textures to induce a sense of luxury. Their cozy ambiance in the back of the restaurant is afforded by soft lighting and inviting seating options.
Head over to Empire to get a taste of their new vibe, and their new eats.