The moniker of “neighbourhood restaurant” implies an inoffensive establishment that lacks ambition. In the case of Wynona, however, they embrace this identity in a bid to reclaim it. Whatever Wynona lacks in ambition or scope, it more than makes up for in execution and comfort.
Wynona is located on Gerrard, just a few blocks east of Jones. Locals call the intersection “Gerrones,” which was coined by the team at nearby Pinkerton’s Snack Bar (it was even a trending hashtag on Twitter). Improved DVP access and the opening of a Walmart (woohoo!) contributed to the area’s recent growth. Still, Wynona sits in a block populated with rundown storefronts that you wouldn’t expect to see in close proximity to a high-end restaurant.
After walking into Wynona, I felt at ease in its cozy wood interior. The open kitchen creates a relaxed, non-fussy atmosphere that permeates into the service and subsequently the meal. The restaurant does not offer any cocktails or spirits; it instead focuses on local craft beer and organic wines. The oft-changing menu has a bevvy of appetizers as well as three kinds of pasta and three mains. There is some commitment to seafood, but not enough to steer away any non-fish eaters.
The first bites were an excellent house-made focaccia paired with sardines and red peppers. The focaccia is well-executed with a crispy crust and a doughy interior. The sardines are great but feel eerily similar to a dish at Bar Raval as they’re both doused with olive oil. The next dish, a leek terrine, was the lowlight of the meal. The idea was fun and playful as the leeks are served with small mounds of crab, dehydrated egg yolk and two kinds of onions. Unfortunately, the leek overpowered everything else. This item didn’t fit in with the rest of the menu.
The pasta course is where Wynona hits its stride. Stracciatella cheese and anchovies with spaghetti is an odd-sounding pairing so I had to try it. The spaghetti was perfectly cooked with a delicious but not overpowering saltiness and added crunch from breadcrumbs. I also enjoyed the cavatelli with chanterelle mushrooms but the flavour wasn't as exciting as the spaghetti. It’s very focused on the mushrooms and little else. For dessert, the custardy canelé blew me away. Served with dulce de leche, berries and cream, the caramelization and creaminess is perfectly cohesive with the harder bread and fresh fruit. It’s simple but a microcosm of what Wynona does best.
A restaurant that serves a blend of Mediterranean food with a few plates of pasta and a duck dish appeals to the masses. This is normally a red flag for food snobs like myself. But what separates Wynona is its self-awareness and desire for broad appeal that still satisfies foodies. If every neighbourhood had its own Wynona, there wouldn’t be much of a reason to leave.
Rating: 3 stars out of 4
Dinner and drinks for two: $120