Do you have a passion for pancakes? Try this popular new popup in East York

morning metroOur food guide, Suresh Dos, joins us every week to discuss one of the many GTA restaurants he’s discovered.

This week he spoke to Ismailia Alpha about a new pastry shop run by a Canadian-Vietnamese chef.

Ismaila Alva: We’ve seen two legendary pie shops close in Toronto recently. The new one is good news.

Suresh Dos: Yes, two of Toronto’s biggest and most important pie shops, Randy Patties and Fahmy’s Bakery, closed within months of each other. Pie is Toronto’s signature food. He is loved by all, no matter your walk in life or your background. So, when those places closed, I got a number of messages from people asking me where to go.

Ismaila Alfa: Which brings us to Phamily Eats.

Suresh Doss: That’s a great story. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a number of food-specific popups launched on Facebook or Instagram. Peter Pham was behind one of those. He has been in the food business in the past, but was on a construction job when we first closed. Then he started playing with pastry layers, pot pies, and pies.

He was sharing his techniques and recipes over Zoom calls with his friends and family while he perfected them. Then he inevitably started selling it to people online. It was an instant hit. I remember when I first had pancakes about a year and a half ago, they were really something special.

The beef pie filling at Phamily Eats tastes like it has a bolognese-like texture with a Scotch bonnet flavor. (Suresh Dos/CBC)

Ismaila Alpha: How is that?

So we have a number of mass-produced pancake companies in the GTA. But when something is made by hand and in small batches, you can easily spot it. The pancakes are half moon shaped with crimping, they look like they were made with love. And stuffing is a bad thing.

Peter was born in Canada but is known as a Canadian Vietnamese. So he inserted some of that identity into the padding. But you can expect ground beef, which is moderately spicy and very spicy.

It is a generous filling. If I could stretch here, it feels and tastes like Bolognese, something that gets cooked low and slow for several hours.

Peter Pham’s Phamily Eats opened in a small East York food court on Eglinton Avenue East. (Suresh Dos/CBC)

Ismaila Alfa: But with a different flavor, I guess?

Sure Dos: Yes, so are the Scots, and there’s a secret blend of other spices. Even a vegan pie has this comforting quality. It is cooked with kale, mushrooms, lentils, sweet potatoes and spices.

Ismaila Alva: So Peter has gone from sharing with family and friends to selling online and now it’s a real website. Tell us about the spot

Suresh Doss: This is great news. It was very difficult trying to order pies online because they would sell out very quickly! Sometimes, you just want a pie and you can’t seem to click fast enough. Fortunately now Peter has a counter in a small dining hall in Leaside where you can get pies individually or by the dozen. As well as pancakes. He has two great pancakes on the menu which I would recommend.

Ismaila Alpha: What are the flavors?

Chicken waffles and waffles are on the menu at Phamily Eats. (Suresh Dos/CBC)

Sureh Dos: These are puffy pot pies with lots of pastry layers stuffed with chicken and vegetables, like chicken stew. And there is the short rib pie, which is also very good.

ISMAIL ALFA: You said the store was set up in a small dining hall. What is this?

Suresh Dos: This is another epidemic food trend. We’ve seen food courts pop up everywhere before the pandemic. But in the last couple of years, there have been many of these smaller dining halls that have opened in inconspicuous locations. Sometimes it’s the size of one restaurant divided into a mixed food court and you have three or four companies on a lease to try to be successful.

So in this food court, you have Peter sharing the place with Conspiracy Pizza, Midnight Cookies, Churnt Up, and an ice cream bar. We’re seeing a lot of this because of rising rental costs. More importantly, it provides this unique platform for small startups who are able to try something without much capital.

Phamily Eats first opened as an online store with the occasional popup before establishing a permanent store in eastern New York. (Suresh Dos/CBC)

Ismailia Alpha: Toronto is full of mixed cultural foods. But what do you think of Peter’s work here; Remixing something as iconic as pie?

Sure Dos: The pie has shaped entire generations of curious food eaters. We would eat them after school, waiting for the bus at the station or whenever we needed a quick snack and had a few dollars in our pocket.

What Peter does is bring him back to the raw art form of homemade pies. And he leaves his mark, which is what it means to be Torontonian, that shared identity and mosaic. It’s where the pie is headed as we see a younger generation showcasing their own remixes.

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